Draft position and the Hall of Fame

It's the second season in a row of following our draft pick position more closely than our place in the standings and that has, this being LGT, led to a large number of discussions of the best possible draft strategy and position. This snippet from Chuck got me thinking

your much more likely to get a potential HoFer than hanging on to those stiffs and losing "only" 92 games and drafting 6th and taking a "safe" pick like Jeremy Sowers.

So, is that really true? The success of Strasburg is right in front of us, but what has happened before him?

For starters, from 1965-1986, the number one pick yielded nary a one Hall Of Fame. The other picks, of course, did. So, at least for the first 22 years of the draft, that statement didn't hold true. Players selected after 1986 aren't eligible for the HOF yet, so some digging needs to be done.

From then on I'm going to go year by year with the first pick and then a listing of who else, from only the first round, should merit HOF consideration. In the cases where no one seemed to merit HOF consideration, I simply included the best player from the first round. I include only the first round because it is clear from Chuck's comment that  was all that was being discussed. Besides, further rounds are a crapshoot anyway. I'll stop at 2000, as anyone after that is too far removed from the end of their career to intelligently project toward the HOF.

*HOF possibility

1987- Ken Griffey Jr* (Craig Biggio*, 22nd)

1988- Andy Benes (Tino Martinez, 14th)

1989- Ben McDonald (Frank Thomas*, 7th)

1990- Chipper Jones* (Mike Mussina*, 20th)

1991- Brien Taylor (Manny Ramirez*, 13th)

1992- Phil Nevin (Derek Jeter*, 6th)

1993- Alex Rodriguez* (Derrek Lee, 14th)

1994- Paul Wilson (Paul Konerko, 13th)

1995- Darin Erstad (Roy Halladay*, 17th)

1996- Kris Benson (Jake Westbrook, 21st)

1997- Matt Anderson (Lance Berkman, 16th)

1998- Pat Burrell (CC Sabathia*, 20th)

1999- Josh Hamilton (Josh Beckett, 2nd)

2000- Adrian Gonzalez (Chase Utley, 15th)



  • Number one picks have fared better after 1986, but still haven't outshone the rest of the first round. By my extremely unscientific calculations, three number one picks from that era (Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Chipper Jones) have a legitimate chance at being selected to the HOF. Using those same criteria, seven players taken after number one have a chance at being selected.
  • The number one pick is not even a guarantee of getting the best player in that particular draft. 1991 and 1992 are particularly good examples of this. If the 2010 draft plays out the same way, Bryce Harper will flame out in A ball at the age of 28 with a $9.9 million contract while Chris Sale dominates baseball in his prime with an original cost of $1.65 million.
  • Picking first does increase your chances for an HOF player marginally in recent times. Three number one picks of the 1987-2000 era are in with a chance, the number 20 pick (Mussina and Sabathia) has two candidates but lacks the strength, and no other slot has more than one player worth consideration. However, in the entire time of the draft, that still only leaves three number one picks with a chance of making the HOF in 35 years (to 2000) of drafting.

Final conclusion:

Picking first is by no means a notable advantage toward the procurement of HOF players. The numbers strongly indicate that the monetary outlay required in signing the first pick will not be worth it in the end run. The comparative savings of picking fourth or lower more than outweigh the extremely slim loss of career potential. You are not more likely to get that potential HOF at the first position, you are more likely to spend significant money.

In short, the MLB draft is not the NBA or NFL draft. Even at its highest level, it's an inexact science. Picking first in this culture of absurdly inflated costs may be more curse than blessing.

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