Best and Worst: Assessing Top 10 MLB Draft Selections Over the Past 30 Years

While it’s tough to judge MLB drafts until they are at least four to five years in the past, we have gone back to 1990 and reviewed the top 10 selections from each year’s draft to determine the best and worst selections.

While Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were top selections, their drafts are not included in either lists as we are looking at the totality of the top 10 selections. Also, overall drafts are not taken into account and therefore this will exclude analysis on those players selected 11th overall or later.

This list solely focuses on the top 10 selections in every year’s draft since 1990.

Here are the best and worst draft classes of the past thirty years while considering the top 10 picks.

The Best 


The Diamondbacks kicked off the draft by selecting Justin Upton at No. 1 overall. The Royals followed by selecting Nebraska outfielder Alex Gordon with the second pick. The Nationals selected Ryan Zimmerman fourth, the Brewers took Ryan Braun fifth, the Rockies snagged Troy Tulowitzki seventh, and the Tigers landed Cameron Maybin with the 10th selection.

Of the top 10 picks, only pitcher Wade Townsend, who was selected at No. 8 by the Detroit Tigers, did not appear in an MLB game.

All five hitters have appeared in over 1,000 MLB games each with 15 All-Star appearances, several Gold Glove awards, and almost 1,400 home runs between them. Toronto’s sixth pick, pitcher Rickey Romero, was an All-Star in 2015 and won 51 games in his brief MLB career. 


UCLA pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer were the first and third overall selections, respectively, followed by Dylan Bundy (No. 4), Anthony Rendon (No. 6), Archie Bradley (No. 7), Francisco Lindor (No. 8), and Javier Baez (No. 9).

There are quite a few All-Star games and highlights amongst this group and although not superstars, Danny Hultzen, Bubba Starling, and Cory Spangenberg have made their way to the majors, too.

Rendon, Lindor, and Baez have established themselves as three of the most dynamic players in the game today while Cole and Bauer are two of the best starting pitchers any given night. 


Chipper Jones was the Braves’ No. 1 selection and would not disappoint with a decade of division titles and eventual induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Detroit selected first baseman Tony Clark with the second overall selection; the current MLBPA president went on to hit 251 home runs during his MLB career. The third overall selection was catcher Mike Lieberthal by Philadelphia, who went on to catch over 1,170 MLB games and appear in two All-Star games. Alex Fernandez was the fourth selection by the Chicago White Sox and went on to record 107 victories as an MLB starting pitcher. Cincinnati Reds catcher Dan Wilson (No. 7) and New York Yankees outfielder Carl Everett (No. 10) both went on to have distinguished big-league careers.  

The Worst 


St. Louis selected Dmitri Young with the fourth overall pick but besides his inclusion among the first 10 players picked in this draft, the other nine selections made little to no impact at the major league level.

The Yankees selected North Carolina high school hurler Brien Taylor and his career never progressed beyond Double-A. He was eventually was sentenced to 50 months in prison for drug trafficking in 2012. The Braves had the second pick and outfielder Mike Kelly while the Twins drafted first baseman David McCarty with the third pick. Together, they combined for about 1,000 MLB games but neither could be considered impact players at the MLB level. 


The Mets selected Paul Wilson with the first overall pick, the Athletics took outfielder Ben Grieve at No. 2, and the rest of the top 10 featured third baseman Antoine Williamson, shortstop (and quarterback) Josh Booty, outfielder McKay Christiansen, second baseman Todd Walker, and pitchers, Doug Million, Dustin Hermanson, C.J. Nitkowski, and Jaret Wright.

While Walker, Wilson, Grieve, and Wright had some good seasons, none were superstars for a prolonged career and the tragic and premature passing of Doug Million in 1997 leaves a cloud looming over this top-10 group of players. 


While Adrian Gonzalez was the first overall pick in the draft and had a solid MLB career spanning much of the next two decades, the nine that followed were not as successful. After Gonzalez, the Twins selected pitcher Adam Johnson who was followed by shortstop Luis Montanez (Cubs), pitcher Mike Stodolka (Royals), pitcher Justin Wayne (Expos), outfielder Rocco Baldelli (Rays), pitchers Matt Harrington (Rockies), Matt Wheatland (Tigers), Mark Phillips (Padres), and Joe Torres (Angels).

Only Rocco Baldelli would have a substantial MLB career of any of the other top 10 selections in 2000 and Matt Harrington decided to play independent ball in hopes of a bigger deal in 2001 instead of signing with the Rockies for a $4 million signing bonus. That never happened for Harrington. 

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