The good the bad and the ugly:

A look back at Mail 3 drafts since 1991

By Ethan Conner Ross


Drafting ballplayers is, I think, a bit like fishing. Some managers tell you all about “the big one that got away,” while others was to recount how they landed a diamond in the rough who everyone else had passed up. Looking back at Mail 3 drafts since 1991 is variously amusing and disconcerting as we can find a number of high picks who didn’t work out as well as quite a few players picks lower down—some very low—who turned out to be excellent selections. In some cases, however, managers selecting players near the end of the draft didn’t realize how good they would eventually become and players such as Jim Edmonds, Jamie Moyer, Bronson Arroyo, and Johan Santana were cut before the season started only to be selected in a later year to the deep regret of the manager who let them go the first time. In reviewing the lists from previous drafts there are players such as Denny Neagle and Mike Timlin who were picked three or even four times before they made a roster.


While this brief list is hardly the last word on Mail 3 drafts, it does offer some amusing insights into good and bad selections over the years.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Cincinnati                David Justice                          15. Warren              John Olerud

2. Columbus                Sandy Alomar, Jr.                   30. Cary                  Larry Walker

3, Lake Kiowa            Frank Thomas                         42. Toronto             Glenallen Hill

4. Clarksboro               Delino DeShields                    55. Durham             Curt Schilling

5. Dunwoody              Cecil Fielder


Looking at the 1991 draft, it is clear that the top five picks were all good players who went on to have a number of fine and even excellent seasons. Among players picked later who went on to long productive careers only Larry Walker and Curt Schilling should clearly have cracked the top five and certainly should have been picked higher than they were. In comparison with some other years, it is clear that these top picks were all quite reasonable.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Winnipeg

Chuck Knoblauch



14. Toronto

Albert Belle

2. Brookfield

Chris Hoiles



28. Dunwoody

Kevin Brown

3. Columbus

Juan Gonzalez



62. Toronto

Rod Beck

4. Decatur

Ivan Rodriguez



68. Decatur

Mo Vaughn

5. Bryn Mawr

Jeff Bagwell



78. Toronto

Tino Martinez





79. St.Vital

Omar Vizquel





111. Bryn Mawr

Jose Mesa


1992 is especially interesting. In this draft, three of the top players—Gonzalez, I-Rod and Bagwell—had excellent and long careers. Knoblauch was good until he went to New York although not necessarily worthy of being the top player in the draft. Hoiles never justified his high selection. Looking at the list of excellent later picks, it is clear that managers made a number of less than excellent picks that year. Brown, Vaughn and as well as Vizquel and Mesa all deserved to go at least in the top 10 based on what they actually did. Martinez proved to be better than a fourth round choice and Mesa far better than a 111th selection. Mesa’s selection also reveals another pattern found in reviewing these drafts: A very good player who was picked low in the draft and then cut by the team selecting him.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Columbus                Mike Mussina                          14. Bryn Mawr      Moises Alou

2. Warren                    Pat Listach                              15. Warren            Reggie Sanders

3. Dunwoody              Dave Fleming                          17. Columbus        Tim Wakefield

4. St. Vital                   Roberto Hernandez                 18. River City       Jeff Kent

5. Brookfield               Kenny Lofton                         28 Winnipeg          John Wetteland

                                                                                    48. Decatur           Bret Boone

                                                                                    88. Peachtree         Andres Galarraga

                                                                                    104 Peachtree        Bernie Williams

                                                                                    150. Bryn Mawr    Jim Thome


1993 provides us with a draft that was loaded with talent but it was also loaded with first round disappointments including two very dubious top five picks in Listach the AL Rookie of the year and Dave Fleming and a number of excellent players selected lower in the draft. Cal Eldred at 6 and Wil Cordero at 8 looked like good picks for a while, but they showed once again why it takes at least 5 years to judge a draft. Alou, Sanders, Wakefield and Kent all went later in the first or in the second round. Brett Boone was not touched until the third round. Peachtree took Galarraga and Williams at 88 and 104, and perhaps in one of the best ever late picks, Bryn Mawr nabbed Jim Thome, a player who probably would go in the top three in hindsight, as the 150th selection.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1.      Bryn Mawr            Mike Piazza                             11. Brookfield       Pedro Martinez

2.      Peachtree               Tim Salmon                             14. Cincinnati        Jamie Moyer

3.      Parkwood              Javier Lopez                            36. Cary                Raul Mondesi

4.      Dunwoody            Ryan Klesko                           76. Peachtree         Trevor Hoffman

5.      Winnipeg               Kevin Young                          108. Cary              Denny Neagle

                                                                                    158. Lake Kiowa  Rob Nen

            159. Warren          Mike Timlin


1994 offers another interesting draft with Mike Piazza picked first. Hard to argue with that considering the position he plays and that means that Javy Lopez at #3 was pretty fair too. Salmon and Kelsko proved to be good but not top five players and Kevin Young as the fifth pick was picked way too high however. Instead look at some of the pitchers who went  lower that year—Pedro at 11 and Moyer at 14 were top notch starters for years while Trevor Hoffman, Nen and Timlin all of whom went after 75 other players already were selected have been first rate relievers.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Brightstone             Manny Ramirez                       9. Toronto             Carlos Delgado

2. Winnipeg                 Marvin Freeman                      14. Bryn Mawr      Alex Rodriguez

3. Dunwoody              Bobby Munoz                         26. Durham           Jose Mesa

4. Cincinnati                Bob Hamelin                           34. Decatur           Shawn Green

5. St. Vital                   Tony Eusebio                          44. Durham           Vinny Castilla      

                                                                                    119. Peachtree       Jim Edmonds

                                                                                    203. Brookfield     Mike Timlin


In 1995 we have a terrible set of top selections other than Ramirez who was the top pick in the draft. None of the other top five merited such attention. In contrast look at the players selected below them—sometimes way below them. Delgado was picked 9th, A-Rod dropped to 14 and Edmunds was 119. Timlin, picked for the second year in a row went 203rd.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Winnipeg                 Hideo Nomo                          9. Columbus          Andy Pettitte

2. South End               Chipper Jones                          14. Overbook        Derek Jeter

3. Emmett                   Jim Edmonds                          19. San Marino      Johnny Damon

4. Waterloo                 Denny Neagle                         20. Mt. Airy          Jason Schmidt

5. Decatur                   Jason Isringhausen                  21. San Marino      Ray Durham

                                                                                    39. Bryn Mawr      Brad Radke

                                                                                    40. River City       Mike Timlin

                                                                                    46. Waterloo         Jason Giambi

                                                                                    61. San Marino      Edgardo Alfonzo             

                                                                                    104. South End     Mariano Rivera

                                                                                    126. Waterloo       Jamie Moyer


1996 was an interesting draft in several respects. Edmunds, who had been drafted and cut the previous year, went number three, Neagle was drafted once again and Jones was a solid number 2. Nomo the top selection never lived up to his promise although he did have a few good years. Isringhausen went through a number of injury plagued years before becoming a top level reliever. At the same time, Pettitte, Jeter, Damon and Schmidt all went later in the first round while solid selections Durham, Radke, Timlin and Giambi went in the second and third rounds. The real steal in the draft however was number 104—Mariano Rivera, and Moyer at 126 would have been an excellent selection if he hadn’t been cut that year—as he was in 1994 as well.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. San Marino              Andruw Jones                         9. Winnipeg           Jason Kendall

2. San Marino              Edgar Renteria                        10. River City       Billy Wagner

3. Raleigh                    James Baldwin                        12. Durham           Jamie Moyer         

4. Dunwoody              Joe Randa                               13. Toronto           Scott Rolen

5. South End               Alan Benes                              18. Bryn Mawr      Mike Sweeney

                                                                                    31. Columbus        Brian Giles


1997 saw San Marino select two players who had a number of good years since--Jones and Renteria—with the first two picks while the next three selected were hardly good at all. While this was not one of the strongest drafts in league history looking at some of the players who went in the first two rounds to realize there was talent available that was passed over by some early selectors.




                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Michigan                 Nomar Garciaparra                  9. Michigan           Todd Helton

2. Brightstone             Matt Morris                             15. South End       Magglio Ordonez

3. Merion                     Jaret Wright                            21. San Marino      Bartolo Colon

4. South End               Vladimir Guerrero                   50. Michigan         Jorge Posada

5. Michigan                 Mike Cameron                        92. Bryn Mawr      Derek Lowe

                                                                                    111. Columbus      Bobby Abreu

                                                                                    132. Bryn Mawr    Jose Vidro


1998 was indeed interesting. Normar justified his top selection for a few years but clearly Guerrero was the best player in the top five with Morris and Wright certainly not deserving to go so high and Cameron a borderline 5 pick in comparison to players who went later. The draft was deep as you can see with Helton, Ordonez, and Colon going in the top 21 picks, and Posada not being selected until 50. Lowe went 92nd while Abreu went at 111 and Vidro at 132.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Merion                     Ben Grieve                              19. Michigan         Troy Glaus

2. Merion                     Scott Elarton                           21. Merion             Miguel Tejada

3. San Marino              Kerry Wood                            35. Bryn Mawr      Aramis Ramirez

4. Morse Place             Orlando Hernandez                45. South End       Jason Varitek

5. Raleigh                    Rolando Arroyo                      69. Cary                Richie Sexson

                                                                                    98. Decatur           Freddy Garcia


The top picks in the 1999 draft are perhaps the weakest top 5 of all the years reviewed here. Grieve and Elarton were total busts, Wood was good but only for a short time. Hernandez is probably the most solid but hardly a star, and Arroyo faded soon after. Most of the first round selections were terrible and this was not a strong draft. However, in contrast to some of the bad early picks look at some of the players selected later who turned out to be very good. Merion partially made up for it poor top selections taking Miguel Tejada at 21. Ramirez went later that round and Varitek, Sexson and Garcia were quite good picks between 45 and 98.      



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks

1. Michigan                 JD Drew                                  20. Regina             Vernon Wells

2. Merion                     Tim Hudson                            37. South End       Carlos Lee

3. Michigan                 Carlos Beltran                         117. Seine River    Torii Hunter

4. Michigan                 Carlos Febles                           154. Decatur         Jarrod Washburn

5. Michigan                 Ruben Mateo                          185. Waterloo       Ben Molina

                                                                                    186. Bryn Mawr    AJ Pierzynski


In 2000 one team had four of the top five picks. Two—Drew and Beltran--proved to be very good and two others—Febles and Mateo—were awful. Hudson at number 2 was a good selection. Lower down however there were some fine picks. Wells did not go until the end of the first round while Hunter dropped to 117 and Washburn was picked at 154.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks


1. Belknap                   Rafael Furcal                           14. Regina             Mark Mulder

2. Eagle Rock              Jeff D’Amico                          19. River City       Jarrod Washburn

3. Belknap                   Rick Ankiel                             82. Regina             Carlos Guillen

4. Raleigh                    Barry Zito                               88. Memphis         Eddie Guardado

5. Ontario                    Pat Burrell                               106. Millstone       AJ Pierzynski

                                                                                    161. Raleigh          Johan Santana

                                                                                    195. Bryn Mawr    Bronson Arroyo


In 2001 Furcal was the top selection and he has certainly produced a number of very good cards. D’Amico went next and was selected for his AZ a justifiable choice even though he never was heard from again. Ankiel was a disaster while Zito has been a consistent starter and Burrell has produced good power cards but had a few years with nothing else. Later good picks included Mulder and Washburn a steal from the year before who was cut before the season as was Piertzynski. Guillen was certainly a good pick at 82 as was Guadardo at 88. Johan Santana at 161 was a real steal if he, like Arroyo who was taken at 195, had not been a cut a few weeks later.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks


1. Regina                     Albert Pujols                           9. San Marino        Alfonso Soriano

2. Goodells                  Ichiro Suzuki                           10. Cary                Jimmy Rollins      

3. Raleigh                    Adam Dunn                            64. New York       Michael Young

4. Bryn Mawr              Roy Oswalt                             167. Belknap         Johnny Estrada

5.  Millstone                Carlos Pena                             215. Decatur         Bronson Arroyo   


     2002 was strong at the top with Pujols, Ichiro, Dunn and Oswalt the first four players selected. Pena at 5 has been a bust however. Soriano and Rollins went in the middle of the first round and Young at 64, Estrada at 167 and Arroyo (who was cut again) all were gems far down on the list.



                      Top Five Sections                                            Excellent Later Picks


1. Raleigh                    Mark Prior                               7. San Marino        Jake Peavy

2. Goodells                  Josh Beckett                            13. Millstone         Johan Santana

3. Bryn Mawr              Austin Kearns                         21. Portsmouth      Carlos Zambrano

4. Raleigh                    Joe Crede                                24. South End       Francisco Rodriguez

5. Toronto                   Eric Hinske                             35. Raleigh            Carl Crawford

                                                                                    100. Eagle Rock    Scott Shields

                                                                                    165. Waterloo       Juan Rincon


2003 is the most recent draft we examine. Prior justified his top selection right from the start although his injuries since make this pick less outstanding than it seemed at the outset. Beckett too has been up and down while Kearns, Crede and Hinske all have been disappointments so far in different ways. In contrast, Peavy, Santana, and Zambrano have been outstanding starters while K-Rod, Shields and Juan Rincon all picked later in the draft have been excellent relievers.