What do Mark Appel, Kohl Stewart, Kyle Zimmer, Danny Hultzen, Bubba Starling, Donovan Tate, Matt Hobgood, Josh Vitters, Daniel Moskos, Greg Reynolds and Jeff Clement have in common?
All were top-five draft picks selected by Major League Baseball teams between 2004 and 2013.
Look at most years' lists of top 10 draft picks and you’ll find a few All-Stars. But you’ll also see plenty of guys who never made it.
Even highly successful teams have difficulty predicting the future.
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In 2009, the Houston Astros drafted pitcher Dallas Keuchel, which today seems like a pretty smart pick. After all, Keuchel has won the Cy Young Award, been an All Star twice and won three Gold Gloves.
But before the Astros got around to picking Keuchel, they drafted Jiovanni Mier, Tanner Bushue, Telvin Nash, Jonathan Meyer, B.J. Hyatt, Brandon Wikoff and Enrique Hernandez. Keuchel was selected in the seventh round of that year’s draft, with the 221st overall pick.
In the 2007 draft, the Royals picked Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy and Greg Holland — three players who helped them win two American League championships and a World Series.
But before the Royals picked Duffy, they drafted Samuel Runion. Before they selected Greg Holland, they chose Mitch Hodge, Adrian Ortiz, Fernando Cruz, Hilton Richardson, Casey Feickert and Zach Kenyon.
If you’re an advocate of tanking and tanking got you Mike Trout, Albert Pujols or Mike Piazza, you’d probably be pretty happy. But teams didn’t have to tank to get any of them.
Twenty-one teams passed on Trout in 2009 before the Los Angeles Angels took him with the 25th overall pick.
In 1999, Pujols was taken by the Cardinals in the 13th round with the 402nd overall pick.
And in 1988, future Hall of Famer Piazza was taken by the Dodgers in the 62nd round with the 1,390th overall pick.
The draft can be a bit of a crapshoot: having a top-five pick is no guarantee of success, and drafting a whole lot lower is no guarantee of failure.
Chris Getz, the former Royals player and current director of player development for the Chicago White Sox, has said the hardest thing to judge about a player is his 'makeup.'
You can measure how hard a player can throw, how far he can hit a baseball and how fast he can run, but it’s much more difficult to know what’s going on between a player’s ears.
How will a kid react to being given millions of dollars?
How will he react to the pressure of being a top draft pick and the media attention that goes along with that?
How will he react to competing against players just as talented as he is?
How will he perform during a 162-game season?
Nobody — including the player — knows the answers to those questions. As one front-office executive said, a lot of kids think they love baseball until they have to play it every day.
So here we are. Baseball's 2018 amateur draft is next week. The Detroit Tigers hold the first selection.
Once again, holding the No. 1 pick is no guarantee that the Tigers will be drafting a future All-Star. Bryan Bullington was the top pick in the 2002 draft. In 2008, it was Tim Beckham, and in 2013, it was Mark Appel.
One Royals front-office executive said that if a genie emerged from a bottle and offered up one player who might become a Hall of Famer, and another who was absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed to become a No. 3 middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, a lot of teams would take the sure thing.
There are very few sure things when it comes to drafting baseball players.
If you’re a fan of tanking, remember: The first part — losing — is easy; after that, things get more difficult.