Major League Baseball doesn't have it's own amateur draft hype-man like the NFL's Mel Kiper, but there are plenty of scouts signing the praises of young phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg. He's projected to go to the Washington Nationals with the first overall pick in this year's MLB draft, and that inspired me to take a look back on past #1 picks. Last week I focused on the past 10 years of 1999-2008, and today I jump back in time like Marty McFly and check out the 10 years prior to that (1989-1998).
1998- Pat Burrell/1B/Philadelphia Phillies: 9 yr, 1306 gm, 655 r, 1166 h, 253 dbl, 251 hr, 827 hr, .257/.367/.485. Nicknamed "The Bat", Burrell came up as a 1st baseman for the Phils, but was quickly shifted to LF, where he lacked range, but possessed a strong arm. He's been prone to prolonged slumps over his career, but he churns out decent seasons when it's all said and done. He's a consistent source of righthanded thunder and isn't afraid to take a walk. After winning the World Series with Philly in '08, he goes to Tampa Bay to help balance out their lineup while focusing mostly on DH duties.
1997- Matt Anderson/P/Detroit Tigers: 7 yr, 15-7 record, 257 gm, 256.7 ip, 224 k, 26 sv, 5.19 era, 1.58 whip. This fireballer came out of Rice University pumping it up to the plate at speeds of up to 100 mph (twice reaching 103 mph). Of course this had Detroit convinced he had star closer potential, but unfortunately it never materialized into MLB success. Since being let go by the Rockies in 2005, he's bounced around the minors with the Giants and White Sox organizations, as well some Independent League teams.
1996- Kris Benson/P/Pittsburgh Pirates: 7 yr, 68-73 record, 195 gm, 1207.3 ip, 787 k, 4.34 era, 1.38 whip. Benson used to be best known for being a bit of a bust as a #1 overall pick, but he now gets attention because of his bodacious bodied wife Anna. Kris hasn't pitched in the bigs the last 2 seasons, but has earned a spot in the Rangers rotation heading into the 2009 season. He previously pitched for the Buccos, Mets, and Orioles, before rehabbing in the Phillies minor league system last season.
1995- Darin Erstad/OF/California Angels: 13 yr, 1547 gm , 900 r, 1671 h, 308 dbl, 31 trpl, 122 hr, 688 rbi, 179 sb, .284/.337/.409, 1 Silver Slugger, 2 time All-Star, and 3 Gold Gloves (2 as OF/1 as 1B). Erstad was Nebraska's punter and took football's hard-nosed mindset to the baseball diamond as he played with reckless abandon, which quickly won over fans. However, he has spent many days on the DL during his career because of his balls-to-the-wall mentality. Darin spent almost his entire career with the Angels, but has since moved on to reserve roles with the ChiSox and is currently with the Astros.
1994- Paul Wilson/P/New York Mets: 7 yr, 40-58 record, 170 gm, 941.7 ip, 619 k, 4.86 era, 1.45 whip. Wilson made his MLB debut in '96 with the Mets, but then disappeared back into oblivion for 3 years until resurfacing with the Devil Rays in 2000. From 2001-2004 with Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, Wilson was a mediocre option as a 5th starter, but that's not exactly what the Mets were hoping for when the tabbed him #1 in '94. Paul is now out of baseball.
1993- Alex Rodriguez/SS/Seattle Mariners: 15 yr, 2042 gm, 1605 r, 2404 h, 428 dbl, 553 hr, 1606 rbi, 283 sb, .306/.389/.578, 10 Silver Sluggers, 3 MVP's, 12 time All-Star, and 2 time Gold Glove. Put aside all the negative publicity surrounding A-Rod nowadays, and what's left is the epitome of what #1 picks dream of being. He's quite possibly the best player of all-time, and certainly of this era (even though it is the Steroids Era). He's the highest paid player in the history of the game and with his current contract looks to retain that status. He made a name for himself with the Mariners, before signing a big money contract with the Rangers, and eventually ended up with the money-lined pockets of the New York Yankees.
1992- Phil Nevin/3B/Houston Astros: 12 yr, 1217 gm, 584 r, 1131 h, 209 dbl, 208 hr, 743 rbi, .270/.343/.472, and once an All-Star. Nevin played all over the field (1B, 3B, OF, C) and all over the country during his time in the majors with the Astros, Tigers, Angels, Padres, Rangers, Cubs, and Twins. He was a decent player, but never really #1 worthy other than his stellar performance of 2001: .306/.388/.543, 41 hr, and 126 rbi. Phil is now retired from baseball.
1991- Brien Taylor/P/New York Yankees: No MLB experience. This pick brings back some memories. Memory 1- remember when the Yankees used to suck and actually "earned" the first pick in the draft due to sucking. Memory 2- Taylor is one of only two #1 picks to never make it to the bigs (other being Steve Chilcott). Poor Brien became a headcase in the minors and lost control of his pitches racking up far greater than a walk per inning pitched. Example- in 1996 with the Greensboro Bats he walked 43 batters in just 16 innings. How the hell is that even possible?
1990- Chipper Jones/SS/Atlanta Braves: 15 yr, 2023 gm, 1378 r, 2277 h, 449 dbl, 408 hr, 1374 rbi, 138 sb, .310/.408/.548, 1 MVP, 2 Silver Sluggers, and a 6 time All-Star. Larry "Chipper" Jones is one of the best switch-hitters of all-time. If not for being injury prone he'd be one of the best players of all-time too. He came up as a scrawny SS in '93, but quickly converted to 3rd base where he found a home (expect for 2 years in the outfield). He's a surefire Hall-of-Famer, and is likely a Brave for life after just inking a 3 year extension.
1989- Ben McDonald/P/Baltimore Orioles: 9 yr, 78-70 record, 211 gm, 1291.3 ip, 894 k, 3.91 era, 1.26 whip. In 1988, McDonald help lead the US Olympic team to a gold medal, and then was drafted #1 overall by the O's in '89, when he made his MLB debut that same year. Ben may be a classic case of rushing a prospect and abusing a young arm. His career line is okay, but not what everyone was wishing for after coming out of college so highly hyped. He pitched mostly for Baltimore, but finished his career in Milwaukee. Ben is now retired from baseball.
Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies- One Tin Soldier