The Washington Nationals made Bryce Harper the top pick in the 2010 baseball draft. Harper enters with as much hype as last year’s top pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who also went to Washington. Harper famously left high school early to play at a junior college, where he dominated. He figures to be a very good major league player some day soon, but that doesn’t always happen with the MLB draft. A wide range of factors have derailed top prospects before they reach major league stardom, making it seem like more top picks become cautionary tales than become superstars. Here’s a look at how the top picks have performed since 2000.
2000 – Adrian Gonzalez – Florida Marlins
Gonzalez is currently a stud with the San Diego Padres, but it was a long road to get there. He had a wrist injury early in the Marlins organization, and was traded to Texas and played sporadicly in 2004 and 2005. He was dealt to San Diego as a trade throw in, and it was there he rose to stardom at first base. He really broke out in 2009, hitting 23 home runs by the end of May despite playing in a tough hitting park. He is currently the star in San Diego, but never did anything for Florida.
2001 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins
Mauer was a three sport high school star in Minnesota, but wound up in baseball, where the Twins couldn’t be happier with their homegrown hero. Mauer made it to the majors in 2004, but was mostly injured before playing a full season in 2005. He broke out big in 2006, and has won three AL batting titles as well as the 2009 MVP. He signed an 8 year, $184 million deal in March to remain in Minnesota.
2002 – Bryan Bullington – Pittsburgh Pirates
To be fair, Bullington wasn’t a hot prospect. The Pirates drafted him because of the potential money they’d have to pay the likes of Cole Hamels, BJ Upton, and Prince Fielder. He made his debut in 2005, but has mostly been in the minors his career, bouncing from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Toronto to Kansas City farm systems. He has a chance to pitch for the Royals this year.
2003 – Delmon Young – Tampa Bay Rays
Young tore up the minor leagues and made his debut with the Rays in 2006. But before that he was saddled with character issues since he threw a bat at an umpire in April, 2006. After the 2007 season he was traded to Minnesota, where he currently plays left field and is starting to show his potential.
2004 – Matt Bush – San Diego Padres
Bush was drafted by San Diego as a shortstop and given a sizable bonus. But he wound up reminding the city of disgraced Chargers draft pick Ryan Leaf. Bush wasn’t the best prospect in his draft either, but finances dictated that San Diego take him. He struggled in the minors and battled suspension, drinking problems, and injuries. He was converted to a pitcher and now pitches in the Rays farm system.
2005 – Justin Upton – Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2007, Upton was called up to Arizona at age 19. He turned in a strong 2008 and made the all-star game in 2009, and putting his career on the right track for the Diamondbacks. He’s still showing signs of immaturity, once being pulled for not hustling a ball he thought was a home-run. But he’s showing progress there as well.
2006 – Luke Hochevar – Kansas City Royals
Hochevar was actually a draft pick twice of the Dodgers, but once opted for college and the 2nd time didn’t sign due to contract issues. Kansas City took him 1st overall in 2006. He did well in the minors, and made his debut late in the 2007 season. His numbers have been modest so far, but he plays on a team that offers little run support and has shown signs of being a very good pitcher. Time will tell.
2007 – David Price – Tampa Bay Rays
Like Hochevar, Price was also drafted by the Dodgers previously but opted for college. He wound up being drafted by the Rays and signed a nice first deal. He made his debut late in 2008, and has lived up to his hype so far. He’s starting to break out in the 2010 season.
2008 – Tim Beckham – Tampa Bay Rays
Beckham is still very young, and is playing in the minor leagues. While not the big prospect a shortstop like Upton was, he figures to develop and one day make the major league roster, especially if Tampa Bay is forced to purge payroll.
2009 – Stephen Strasburg- Washington Nationals
Strasburg has torn up the minor leagues, quickly moving up through AA and AAA and was recently called up to the major league team, and is about to make his debut. Strasburg sold out minor league stadiums every where he pitched, and he figures to do the same in the majors. He and Harper are the cornerstones of the future in DC.