MLB Draft Review: Which Draft Was the Best of the 2000s?


Now that we’re firmly in the 2010s, it’s time to look back at the MLB Drafts from the 2000s and determine which draft class was the best.

Baseball’s Winter Meetings start today and there will surely be a flurry of excitement to come out of Nashville over the next few days. The future of baseball, even beyond 2016 will be shaped by what happens there.

With baseball about to hurdle into the future, today we’ll be taking a look into the past to analyze the best draft classes from the 2000s–with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, of course. The best drafts of all time have been discussed many times, but I’m narrowing my focus. This exercise won’t be to determine which team had the best draft classes–an example of a great draft class by an individual team would be the Pirates’ haul in 2011–but rather which year produced the most major leaguers, both in quality and quantity. Here are some of the criteria I considered, in no particular order:

  • Number of Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winners to come from said draft class.
  • Depth of the draft class, and not just All-Star caliber players but also the number of good, dependable major leaguers.
  • Future potential. While a stat such as WAR can be useful–and was thrown into the mix–using it as the determining factor favors classes from earlier in the decade. Projection systems can be used, but that takes away some of the fun.

If you feel differently, I don’t blame you. There is plenty of room for debate here. With that, here is the No. 10 draft class from the 2000s…

Next: Number 10

Sep 19, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder

Adam Jones

(10) hits a RBI single during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

10. 2003 – No MVPs or Cy Youngs
Nick Markakis, Aaron Hill, Adam Jones, Andre Ethier, Shaun Marcum, Michael Bourn, Jonathan Papelbon, Matt Kemp, Ian Kinsler

Of all the drafts, this one is the most bereft of a legitimate superstar: the closest is either Jones or Kemp. Papelbon has been a great closer in the past, Ethier and Markakis have had steady yet underappreciated careers and Bourn was a great role player. Jones may be overshadowed by the likes of Andrew McCuthchen and Mike Trout, but he’s had an admirable career and is the biggest star to come from this draft. Kemp has also had a good career but always seems one step away from being a big-time player, other than the 2011 season when he should’ve won the MVP. Again, after that, there are plenty of good but not great major leaguers.

Next: Number 9

Sep 20, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher

Buster Posey

(28) breaks his bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

9. 2008 — 1 MVP (Posey)
Eric Hosmer, Buster Posey, Pedro Alvarez, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Crawford, Dee Gordon, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila, Lance Lynn, Ike Davis.

While the San Francisco Giants may disagree, this draft isn’t very high on the list. That can mostly be attributed to the fact that some of these players are just reaching their primes. It’s easy to see Hosmer, Posey, Kimbrel, Gordon and Lynn each having multiple All-Star caliber seasons ahead of them, but right now this is a collection of good major leaguers and Posey. Five years from now, if Posey, Hosmer or Crawford combined to win a couple more MVPs, this draft may move up a few rungs. Gordon blossoming into a batting champion adds a nice touch as well.

Both Alvarez and Davis were non-tendered last week, making them free agents. The likely jump to the American League for Alvarez may help him produce the power numbers that he is capable of while not letting his sub-par defense devalue what he brings to the table. Davis has a big year in 2012, but hasn’t come close to replicating that stat line since. 2016 will likely mark his fourth team in three seasons.

Next: Number 8

Sep 13, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman

Dustin Pedroia

(15) gets a hit in the thirteenth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

8. 2004 – 1 Cy Young (Verlander) 2 MVPs (Verlander, Pedroia)
Justin Verlander, Homer Bailey, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia, Wade Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Stephen Drew, Dexter Fowler, Neil Walker, Lorenzo Cain, Gio Gonzalez.

Verlander (Tigers), Pedroia (Red Sox) and Weaver (Angels) were absolute hits for their franchises and Cain has turned into one of the gems from the later rounds with his MVP-caliber season. But the rest of the players are average or above average but not superlative. Yes, Davis has been one of the game’s best relievers over the past three seasons, but we’re still waiting for Bailey to become an ace, Butler was a good run producer for a lot of bad Royals teams and Pence has been an above-average outfielder but never part of the MVP discussion.

Next: Number 7

Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman

David Wright

hits a two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game three of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

7. 2001 –2 MVPs (Mauer, Howard)
Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, David Wright, Ryan Howard, J.J. Hardy, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Kevin Youkilis, Dan Uggla.
Mauer and Howard aren’t as potent as they once were, but for a long time, they were really, really good. Howard mashed home runs for those great Phillies teams in the mid- to-late 2000s that won the 2009 World Series, while Mauer was the best offensive catcher in baseball for almost a decade. Wright was an incredible talent before injuries sapped his power and Teixeira has had a great career.

The pitchers don’t provide a ton of extra depth, but Haren and Wilson have had decent careers while Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks, has since retired from baseball.

Next: Number 6

Oct 10, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher

Adam Wainwright

(50) reacts after ending the seventh inning in game two of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

6. 2000 –2 Cy Youngs (Lee, Webb)
Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Yadier Molina, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Webb, Jose Bautista, Jason Bay, James Shields, Edwin Encarnacion.

While this draft may not have produced an MVP, it still had plenty of good major leaguers. Gonzalez, Utley, Molina and Sizemore each made multiple All-Star Games, and in his prime Utley was the best second baseman in baseball. Molina is a borderline Hall-of-Famer, depending on how voters will view his defensive prowess and leadership of Cardinal pitching staffs over the past decade. Bautista is one of the league leaders in home runs since 2010.

Meanwhile, Lee and Webb each had short but stellar primes, although Lee is looking to make a comeback in 2016. Webb won his Cy Young Award in 2006 in his age 27 season and lasted only two more years, but he had a combined 3.24 earned run average, 143 ERA+ and averaged 219 innings from 2003 to 2008. Lee was sort of a late bloomer who won his Cy Young Award in 2008 at age 29 and had a combined 2.89 ERA from 2008-12.

Next: Number 5

September 26, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) runs after hitting a single in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

5. 2009 –1 MVP (Trout) 1 Cy Young (Keuchel)
Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout, Shelby Miller, Nolan Arenado, Jason Kipnis, Brandon Belt, A.J. Pollock, Kyle Seager, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Leake, Matt Carpenter, J.D. Martinez.

The best player of his generation, Trout, was drafted this season, and that alone is enough to consider it an incredible draft year. Trout is off to a historically strong start to his career and isn’t even near what should be his prime. Goldschmidt is an elite first baseman. Arenado is turning into one of the best all-around third baseman in the game. Pollock received MVP votes this season. Belt and Seager are both underappreciated yet incredibly talented, and Carpenter has been one of the best all-around players over the past few seasons. (The Cardinals did really well in this draft, as Miller, Carpenter, Matt Adams and Trevor Rosenthal all were drafted this season.)

For the pitchers, Miller is turning into an ace, Keuchel just won a Cy Young Award and Strasburg, even with his litany of injury problems, has been an incredibly effective major league pitcher. Leake adds to this class as an effective No. 3 starter. If Belt can stay healthy for an entire season he could break out in a big way and push this draft class up the ladder.

Next: Number 4

Oct 13, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher

Clayton Kershaw

(22) looks for the sign against the New York Mets during the second inning in game four of the NLDS at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4. 2006 –6 Cy Youngs (Kershaw x3, Lincecum x2, Scherzer) 1 MVP (Kershaw)
Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Chris Davis, Chris Archer

This is the best pitcher draft class in recent memory. Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet and might be the best left-hander ever by the time his career is over. Lincecum hasn’t been the same pitcher over the past few seasons, but he was the best pitcher in baseball during the late ‘00s and won back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Scherzer won the AL Cy Young in 2013 and is still one of the best pitchers in the game, tossing tow no-hitters in 2015. Archer has the potential to win the award by the time his career is over. Other mid-level big leagues pitchers such as Luke Hochevar, Ian Kennedy, Chris Tillman, Brett Anderson and Dellin Betances were also drafted in this year.

The hitters are led by Longoria and Davis. Davis is one of the premier sluggers in the game and Longoria was one of the best third baseman in the game, although he has lost his MVP-caliber level of play. While the list isn’t quite as long from this class, the amount of talent enveloped in the players above is tough to argue with.

Next: Number 3

Oct 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher

Zack Greinke

(21) in the sixth inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

3. 2002 –1 MVP (Votto) 1 Cy Young (Greinke)
Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Joey Votto, Jon Lester, Brian McCann, Curtis Granderson, Jeff Francis, Joe Saunders, Nick Swisher, James Loney, Denard Span.

The early 2000s did not fare well in this ranking, but the 2002 draft is an exception. New Diamondback ace Greinke, as well as Kazmir, Hamels, Cain and Lester form an incredible group of successful pitchers taken from this class. Hamels and Lester have pitched teams to World Series titles and could do it again, as each one is on a talented team heading into 2016.

The position players aren’t quite as impressive but they have all had very respectable careers. Fielder, McCann and Granderson have all been among the best players at their respective positions at some point in their career while Swisher, Loney and Span were significant players on good teams.

Next: Number 2

Oct 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman

Josh Donaldson

(20) hits a double during the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals in game five of the ALCS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

2007 –1 MVP (Donaldson), 3 Cy Youngs (Arrieta, Price, Kluber)
David Price, Mike Moustakas, Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Jordan Zimmermann, Giancarlo Stanton, Freddie Freeman, Corey Kluber, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo.

Fifteen years from now, the baseball world may look back at the 2007 draft and say it was even better than the 2005 draft—more on that year in a bit. The position players from this season are among the best in league. Moustakas, Wieters, Heyward, Frazier, Donalson, Stanton and Freeman are the most noteworthy names. Donaldson just won the AL MVP, Heyward is only 26 years old and one of the best outfielders in the game and Stanton is one of the game’s premier sluggers. Every single one of those players listed above should have multiple years of All-Star level baseball in his future.

The pitchers from this class are just as impressive and have lots of good baseball ahead of them as well. Price was the number one overall pick that year and just signed a monster deal with the Red Sox. He is one of three Cy Young winners from this draft—Arrieta and Kluber are the others—and new Tigers ace Zimmermann was also taken. Oh yeah, and there’s also a three-time World Series champion in Bumgarner, one of the best pitchers in the majors.

Next: Number 1

September 20, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) runs after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1. 2005 – 2 MVPs (Braun, McCutchen)
Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Yunel Escobar.

This draft class is usually mentioned among the best of all time, and for good reason: 37 players from the first/compensation/supplemental round have played in the majors and gone on to combine for 347.4 WAR, the best among the decade. This draft produced two MVPs in Braun and McCutchen, as well as Upton, Gordon, Zimmerman, Tulowitzki, Bruce and Ellsbury. The Yankees got Brett Gardner in the third round. Some of the players have started the downhill slopes of their primes, but players such as Upton, Tulo and McCutchen are still among the best in the game. In the later rounds, the Indians got a steal in Michael Brantley.

Next: 2016 Compensation Pick Preview

As you may have noticed, pitchers weren’t mentioned above. That doesn’t mean there weren’t productive major league pitchers, it’s just the position players were so plentiful the pitchers get overshadowed. Matt Garza was picked by the Twins, the Red Sox drafted Clay Buchholz and Ricky Romero had a few decent seasons for the Blue Jays, but the position players dominated this class.