With the 2010 MLB Draft just around the corner, and excitement in the air, many writers have been cautioning optimistic fans. Throughout the 1990's, very few first rounders contributed anything meaningful in the big leagues. However, I believe times have changed, and improved scouting and statistical analysis have lead to better draft choices across the board. To see this theory in action, we have to look no further than the stacked first round of the 2005 MLB Draft. Only five years after the fact, 18 of the 30 draft choices have posted a positive WAR in the big leagues. All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and MiLB.com.
1. Justin Upton: 5.7 WAR
Drafted out of high school, Upton has already made a big impact at the Major League Level, posting a .388 wOBA for the Diamondbacks in 2009. The team has locked him up, and he appears to be a superstar in the making.
2. Alex Gordon: 4.3 WAR
After strong showings in 2007 and 2008, Gordon has struggled in recent years, and the Royals have sent him down to AAA to learn how to play left field, where he is currently mashing minor league pitching (1.207 OPS).
3. Jeff Clement: -.4 WAR
Despite posting some decent numbers in the minors, Clement couldn't seem to put it together for the Mariners. He also struggled behind the plate, and was shipped to the Pirates where he is currently manning first base, quite unsuccessfully I might add.
4. Ryan Zimmerman: 21 WAR
Zimmerman has already logged 2783 PA's for the Nationals, and has contributed the most WAR of any player from the 2005 draft class. Not much else to say other than he is one of the top third basemen in the league.
5. Ryan Braun: 13.9 WAR
No one ever questioned Braun's bat, but defence was a big question mark. After a monster rookie season in which he posted a .422 wOBA, he was moved to left field thanks to a -27.7 UZR at third base, which cost him almost three wins in value. Much more comfortable swinging his big stick in left field, he holds a career wOBA of .402.
6. Ricky Romero: 4.8 WAR
The Blue Jays were widely criticized for taking the Cal-State Fullerton product, but the pick has turned out quite nice. Romero is arguably the ace of the Jays staff, and owns a 2.84 FIP so far in 2010.
7. Troy Tulowitzki: 13.3 WAR
Bryan Smith said yesterday that he could be the best college shortstop drafted in the last 25 years, and I am not going to disagree. Despite struggling in 2008, Tulowitzki is widely viewed as one of the top shortstops in the game, and is locked into a very team-friendly contract in Colorado
8. Wade Townsend - Did not pitch above AA
Despite a standout collegiate career at Rice, Townsend could not succeed in professional baseball. Control issues and an affinity for gopherballs were his kryptonite. He does not appear destined to appear in a major league uniform, although he did apparently earn a minor league deal from the Blue Jays for the 2010 campaign (but I can't seem to find any statistics for him with their affiliates).
9. Mike Pelfrey : 6.3 WAR
Through his first 480 innings of big league work, Pelfrey appeared to be nothing more than an average starter, which certainly isn't the worst prognosis for a 9th overall pick. He appears to have turned a bit of a corner in 2010, however, as he owns a 3.53 FIP. He will never been an ace, but can certainly be a contributor on a first division club.
10. Cameron Maybin: 1.3 WAR
A highly touted prep prospect, Maybin was drafted by the Tigers and traded to the Marlins as the key piece in the Miguel Cabrera deal. He has terrorized minor league pitching (his worst single season wOBA was .381 in AA in 2008), but has not been nearly as successful in the Majors. However, he is still only 23 years old, and has plenty of time to improve.
11. Andrew McCutchen: 4.6 WAR
After a healthy apprenticeship in the Pirates farm system, McCutchen debuted for the Pirates in early 2009, and has not looked back. So far this year, he owns a .318/.381/.469 triple slash and looks like a perennial All-Star.
12. Jay Bruce: 3.6 WAR
Bruce is only 23 years old and already has 1025 PA's and 47 HR's to his name. After suffering a broken wrist last season which robbed him of significant playing time, he has bounced back nicely this year, accumulating 1.2 WAR and posting a career high BB% of 14.0%.
13. Brandon Synder: Has not played above AAA
After being selected as a prep catcher, Snyder has moved counter-clockwise around the basepaths and now mans first base for the Norfolk Tide. Marc Hulet ranked him as Baltimore's 6th best prospect prior to the season, although he has struggled mightily this season with a .610 OPS
14. Trevor Crowe: .3 WAR
Already 26, Crowe does not profile as much more than a backup outfielder. After coming in as the Indians #15 prospect on BA's 2009 list, he saw 202 AB's for the Tribe in 2009, posting a triple slash of .235/.278/.333.
15. Lance Broadway: .6 WAR
After 55 undistinguished innings with the White Sox and Mets, Broadway has latched on with the Blue Jays. He currently owns a 6.19 ERA in 48 innings of work for Las Vegas, and it does not appear he will be back in the majors any time soon.
16. Chris Volstad: 2.3 WAR
After climbing through the Marlins farm system, Volstad jump right to the Majors from AA in 2008, and posted a 3.82 FIP. He struggled in 2009 with a FIP of 5.29, but has been a solid contributor so far this year, posting a FIP of 4.17. He should continue to be a reliable back of the rotation starter for the near future, and is still only 23 years old.
17. CJ Henry: Did not play above A+
After a brutal minor league career spent bouncing between the Phillies and Yankees organizations, Henry quit baseball to pursue a college basketball career with the Kansas Jayhawks. He averaged 3.1 PPG last season.
18. Cesar Carrillo:-.7 WAR
After making it to AAA in his first professional season, Carrillo's star has dimmed considerably. After ranking as San Diego's 20th best prospect in 2009 according to BA, he failed to make the top 30 this year. He currently owns a 3.14 ERA in 51.2 innings of work in AAA, so there is still some hope for him yet.
19. John Mayberry: -.2 WAR
Mayberry was a first round pick coming out of high school and college, but the 26 year old has failed to make an impact in the Majors. Marc Hulet had him ranked as the Phillies 9th best prospect prior to 2010, although he failed to make BA's top 30 list. He currently has a .847 OPS for LeHigh Valley, and could see some playing time next year should Jayson Werth depart through free agency.
20. Mark Pawelek: Did not pitch above Hi-A
Chalk Pawelek up as another draft bust. After three seasons with the Cubs in which he failed to pitch above A-ball, he signed on with the Reds before the 2009 season, posting a 6.09 FIP in Hi-A.
21. Cliff Pennington: 0.7 WAR
After ranking as Oakland's 17th best prospect before the 2009 season according to BA, Pennington posted a .332 wOBA in 229 PA's with the big club. He has struggled so far this year with a .290 wOBA but appears to be the short-term answer in Oakland.
22. Aaron Thompson: Has not yet pitched above AAA
Prior to the season, Thompson ranked as Washington's 12th best prospect according to BA, and is on the team's 40-man roster. He has spent most of the season accumulating a 5.51 ERA in AA, but also made one start for Syracuse in AAA. He is only 23 years old so he should get a shot with the Nationals eventually.
23. Jacoby Ellsbury: 7.9 WAR
After swiping 120 bags over the last two seasons as the Red Sox center fielder, Ellsbury moved over to left field in 2010 to move room in center for off-season acquisition Mike Cameron. Both players have been hampered by injuries, but Ellsbury recently returned to the lineup. Continue to expect 50+ steals and a 3-4 win player for the foreseeable future.
24. Brian Bogusevic: Has not played above AAA
Following a weak 2009 campaign in AAA which saw him post a .328 wOBA, BA downgraded Bogusevic from #4 to #21 on the Astros prospect list. He has redeemed himself a bit this year, increasing his SLG by almost 100 points, and should get a shot as at least a bench player.
25. Matt Garza: 9.3 WAR
After posting a 4.18 FIP in 83 innings for the Twins in 2007, Garza was shipped to Tampa Bay as part of the Delmon Young trade. Since then, he has won 24 games, and posted ERA's of 3.70, 3.95 and 2.97. However, the peripherals are not as kind, as he has not posted a FIP below 4.14 in his time with Tampa Bay. Overall, he is a solid addition to any pitching staff that just happens to benefit from Tampa Bay's strong defence.
26. Craig Hansen: -.4 WAR
Hansen quickly jumped to the Majors as a member of the Red Sox, but a 6.63 ERA quickly got him sent down to AAA before he was shipped to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay trade. He appeared sparingly for the Bucs in 2008 and 2009, but does not appear to have a future in the Major Leagues.
27. Joey Devine: 1.2 WAR
In my opinion, Devine has had the most interesting career of any first round pick from 2005. First, he began his career with the Braves by giving up grand slams in his first two major league appearances. Then, prior to the 2008 season, he was trade to the A's for Mark Kotsay. His 0.59 ERA that year would have qualified as the lowest in MLB history had he only pitched 4.1 more innings. He has since undergone Tommy John Surgery, and has yet to make his return to the big leagues.
28.Colby Rasmus: 3.2 WAR
Despite a mediocre 2008 season in AAA, the highly-touted Rasmus opened 2009 on the Cardinals roster. He rewarded them with a 2.3 WAR season, and was in contention for Rookie of the Year. This season, Rasmus has made a significant jump, posting a .375 wOBA on the strength of a 15.6% BB%. He will be a mainstay in the Cards lineup for several years, and a couple All-Star appearances is not out of the question.
29. Jacob Marceaux: Has not pitched above AA
After a non-descript three seasons in the Marlins farm systems, Marceaux joined the White Sox AA club for the 2009 season. He gave up 2 runs in 0.2 innings, and appears to be done.
30. Tyler Greene: -.1 WAR
After appearing at #16 on BA's prospect list for the Cardinals in 2009, Greene saw 116 PA's with the big club and posted a .272 wOBA. He moved up to #14 this season, and has seen another 28 PA's with the Cardinals. At age 26, he does not project to be anything more than a bench player or AAA placeholder.
Overall, these 30 players have already contributed 102.5 WAR at the Major League level, making 2005 one of, if not the most successful draft classes in recent memory. Other notable players from the 2005 draft include Tommy Hanson, Yunel Escobar, Austin Jackson, Kevin Slowey, Gaby Sanchez, Jaime Garcia, Brett Gardner, Clay Bucholz and Chase Headley.
2005 may just be an aberration, but I believe it speaks volumes of how far amateur scouting and projection has come since the 1990's. Don't let Erik Manning's or my previous writing scare you too much.