We talk a lot on this website about the importance of the draft, the need to make the right choice in the first round and continue that trend through out the middle and late rounds. But it’s hard to see how those decisions translate at the big league level. Successful teams have young superstars but not enough is said about how teams draft and develop that talent.
How would your team be different if your scouting director always made the right decisions? We’ll use our 20/20 vision to re-do the drafts of the last decade. Once we’ve completed our re-drafts, we’ll show you how each team would be different. Players can not become free agents until they have spent at least six years in the minor leagues or six years in the major leagues. Therefore, we will only take into account those protected years (before free agency) when conducting our re-drafts. We will only count players who were drafted and signed in 1997. Today in part one, we’ll discuss the 1997 draft.
1. Detroit Tigers — RHP Tim Hudson, Auburn
Actual selection: RHP Matt Anderson, Rice
Anderson signed for $2,500,000 and reached the big leagues a year after being drafted, but never bested the 3.27 ERA he posted in his rookie season. He was a serviceable middle reliever for a few years, but the Tigers wouldn’t flinch at taking Tim Hudson this time around. Hudson fell to the sixth round because he was so skinny in college that Baseball America said, “he could hide behind a fungo bat” but concerns about his stamina have proved unnecessary. He has thrown 200+ innings in six of his ten seasons. He was a Rookie of the Year finalist in 1999, a two-time All-Star and finished as high as fourth in the Cy Young voting in ’03.
2. Philadelphia Phillies — 1B Lance Berkman, Rice
Actual selection: OF J.D. Drew, Florida State
Drew wasn’t a bad pick, but he refused to sign with the Phils and re-entered the draft in ’98. Meanwhile, Berkman has been a four-time All-Star and finished third in MVP voting in 2006. Over his ten year career, he has averaged a batting line of .304/.414/.567 with 35 home runs. Berkman fell to the 16th overall pick to the Astros in ’97. While never a plus defender, Berkman has been able to handle left-field, first base and even center field. He is not fast, but has been an elite hitter in the big leagues since he arrived in the late ’90s.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — LHP Randy Wolf, Pepperdine
Actual selection: 3B Troy Glaus, UCLA
It’s easy to forget about Wolf because he hasn’t done much in the past few years, but he was as dominant as any in his first six major league seasons. He was an innings-eater, starting more than 20 games in each of his first six seasons and logging 200+ innings three times. Wolf fell to the second round because he wasn’t tall (6-foot tall) and he didn’t have an eye-popping repetoire. His fastball only reached 91 mph in minor leagues, but he offered a plus changeup. His curve developed nicely in his first few years. Troy Glaus has turned out well, too, and has aged better than Wolf, but Wolf outperformed him in those first six years.
Glaus signed for $2,000,000.
4. San Francisco Giants — RHP Scot Shields, Lincoln Memorial
Actual selection: RHP Jason Grilli, Seton Hall
Shields was never a top prospect in college or in the minor leagues. He was drafted in the 38th round from Division II Lincoln Memorial University and has never been listed among Baseball America’s list of top Angels prospects. He has outperformed nearly everyone drafted in 1997, however, and is a rock at the back of Los Angeles’ vaulted bullpen. Shields has never recorded more than seven saves in any season and his career ERA is 2.93. He has averaged 65 appearances with 91 strikeouts and 35 walks over his eight-year career. Jason Grilli has never been more than an occasionally good middle relief pitcher. The Giants signed him for $1,875,000 but traded him before he ever reached the big leagues, swapping him and Nate Bump for Livan Hernandez in July 1999.
5. Toronto Blue Jays — RHP Jon Garland, Kennedy HS (California)
Actual selection: OF Vernon Wells, Bowie HS (Texas)
On the surface, it appears that the Jays made the right choice taking Wells over Garland or anyone else. Vernon Wells has certainly had the better career; he’s been the face of the Blue Jays and arguably its best player for the past seven seasons and he’s a lifetime .280 hitter who averages 26 home runs annually. But Garland has been even better. He was a first-round pick out of high school because he used his low 90s fastball and advanced curve and change to dominate prep hitters. He didn’t show that ability in the low minor leagues, which caused the Cubs to trade him for reliever Matt Karchner at the ’98 trade deadline. But he regained his stuff and has been a reliable starting pitcher for the White Sox and Angels. Garland signed for $1.325 million and Wells signed for $1.6 million.
6. New York Mets — 3B Troy Glaus, UCLA
Actual selection: LHP Geoff Goetz, Jesuit HS (Florida)
This pick was a huge mistake for then Mets scouting director John Barr who was fired after the ’97 season. Geoff Goetz was the first pick in this draft to never reached the big leagues; his career was derailed by injuries. He pitched in the minors first with the Mets and later with the Marlins and Yankees. The $1.7 million spent on Goetz’s bonus could have been better spent on virtually anyone else. Glaus is an easy pick — he was drafted with the third overall pick in the actual draft but is available here in our re-draft — and has been a power threat for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Cardinals. Imagine how the Mets’ organization would be different if they could have developed a talent like Glaus.
7. Kansas City Royals — RHP Aaron Cook, Hamilton HS (Ohio)
Actual selection: RHP Dan Reichert, Pacific
Drafting a high school pitcher in an early round is a significant risk for any ballclub. Aaron Cook, a high schooler from Loveland, Ohio, has been worth the gamble, however. He dominated prep competition with his mid 90s fastball but also showed the makings of a plus curve and changeup. As he progressed through the minor leagues, he learned to use all of his pitches and has become an important cog in the Rox’s rotation. Instead of drafting Cook, the Royals spent $1.45 million on Dan Reichert, a righthanded pitcher who threw a low 90s sinker and a nasty slider. Reichert has struggled to establish himself in the big leagues, striking out 240 and walking 233 in 395 1/3 major league innings.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates — RHP Joel Pineiro, Edison College
Actual selection: 1B J.J. Davis, Baldwin Park HS (California)
The Pirates have been notoriously bad at drafting in the first round and 1997 is not atypical. Davis was drafted as a first baseman but moved to the outfield as a pro. He had five tool potential but that talent was unrefined and Davis didn’t have the work ethic to realize scouts’ expectations. He is a career .179 hitter, having played in parts of four seasons in the big leagues. The Pirates should have taken the $1.675 million they spent on Davis and used part of it to pay Joel Pineiro. Pineiro has been an absolute steal for the Mariners, who drafted him in the 12th round out of a Florida community college. Known as a control pitcher with a good curve and a mediocre heater, he reinvented himself in the minor leagues and was a stable force in the M’s rotation for six years before being departing for Boston and St. Louis.
9. Minnesota Twins — RHP Scott Williamson, Oklahoma State
Actual selection: SS Michael Cuddyer, Great Bridge HS (Virginia)
The Twins have traditionally done well in their drafts and they can count Michael Cuddyer among those successes. Now in his eighth season in the big leagues, Cuddyer has been a decent hitter while shuttling from right field to third base and second base. He has not played any games at shortstop, the position at which he was drafted. However, the Twins could have done better with Scott Williamson, who the Reds selected in the ninth round. The 6-foot righthander wasn’t drafted earlier because of his height, but the Reds player development staff boosted his fastball velocity to the upper 90s, which complemented his power slider and splitter. He split time as a closer and a setup man in 4 1/2 seasons in Cincinnati. His career ERA is 3.36 and he has struck out more than twice as many batters as he has walked in nine seasons.
10. Chicago Cubs — SS Michael Young, Cal-Santa Barbara
Actual selection: RHP Jon Garland, Kennedy HS (California)
The Cubs showed great foresight picking Garland here; he has been the fifth best player of anyone who was drafted and signed in 1997. Unfortunately, the Cubs traded him for a reliever who only threw 60 2/3 innings in three seasons for the Cubs. If Garland was off the board, the Cubs would have done well with Young. An outfielder in college, Young moved to the middle infield in the minor leagues. His arm strength and speed had always been pluses, but Young also developed into one of the best hitters in baseball. He’s a career .301 hitter who has hit as many as 24 home runs in one season. The Blue Jays drafted Young in the fifth round, but traded him and pitcher Darwin Cubillan to the Rangers at the 2000 trade deadline for pitcher Esteban Loaiza.
The rest of the first round:
11. Oakland Athletics — SS Chone Figgins, Brandon HS (Florida)
Actual selection: RHP Chris Enochs, West Virginia
12. Florida Marlins — RHP Scott Linebrink, Southwest Texas State
Actual selection: RHP Aaron Akin, Cowley County Community College
13. Milwaukee Brewers — LHP Mark Hendrickson, Mount Vernon
Actual selection: RHP Kyle Peterson, Stanford
14. Cincinnati Reds — LHP Jeremy Affeldt, Northwest Christian HS (Washington)
Actual selection: SS Brandon Larson, LSU
15. Chicago White Sox — SS Michael Cuddyer, Great Bridge HS (Virginia)
Actual selection: SS Jason Dellaero, South Florida
16. Houston Astros — LHP Rick Ankiel, Port St. Lucie HS (Florida)
Actual selection: 1B Lance Berkman, Rice
17. Boston Red Sox — LHP J.C. Romero, Mobile
Actual selection: LHP John Curtice, Great Bridge HS (Virginia)
18. Colorado Rockies — SS Orlando Hudson, Spartansburg Methodist College
Actual selection: RHP Mark Mangum, Kingwood HS (Texas)
19. Seattle Mariners — RHP Scott Strickland, New Mexico
Actual selection: LHP Ryan Anderson, Divine Child HS (Michigan)
20. St. Louis Cardinals — 2B David Eckstein, Florida
Actual selection: SS Adam Kennedy, Cal State Northridge
21. Oakland Athletics — LHP Mike Gonzalez, San Jacinto College
Actual selection: LHP Eric DuBose, Mississippi State
22. Baltimore Orioles — OF Vernon Wells, Bowie HS (Texas)
Actual selection: C Jayson Werth, Glenwood HS (Illinois)
23. Montreal Expos — LHP Horacio Ramirez, Inglewood HS (California)
Actual selection: RHP Donnie Bridges, Oak Grove HS (Mississippi)
24. New York Yankees — LHP John Grabow, San Gabriel HS (California)
Actual selection: OF Tyrell Godwin, East Bladen HS (North Carolina)
25. Los Angeles Dodgers — RHP Tyler Walker, Cal-Berkeley
Actual selection: 1B Glenn Davis, Vanderbilt
26. Baltimore Orioles — SS Adam Kennedy, Cal State Northridge
Actual selection: OF Darnell McDonald, Cherry Creek HS (Colorado)
27. San Diego Padres — RHP Derrick Turnbow, Franklin HS (Tennessee)
Actual selection: SS Kevin Nicholson, Stetson
28. Cleveland Indians — LHP Jim Parque, UCLA
Actual selection: RHP Tim Drew, Lowndes County HS (Georgia)
29. Atlanta Braves — RHP Travis Harper, James Madison
Actual selection: SS Troy Cameron, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Florida)
30. Arizona Diamondbacks — RHP Dan Reichert, Pacific
Actual selection: 1B Jack Cust, Immaculata HS (New Jersey)