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Top 10 first overall picks in MLB Draft history

Drafting players is an inexact science in baseball because of how long it can take to get to the big leagues, but quite a few players have lived up to the billing of being the top MLB Draft pick.

From Alex Rodriguez to Bryce Harper, scouts are paid well to pick these superstars and grab them at the earliest opportunity. If you end up with the number one pick in the first round of the draft, all eyes are on you to not make an error.

Here we look at the number one picks that have gone on to have a great career.

Alex Rodriguez - Seattle Mariners, 1993

Alex Rodriguez is a divisive figure in the game of baseball.

Regardless, he is probably the best ever number one pick of all time. His 117.5 WAR tops everyone to be drafted first. Rodriguez hit 696 home runs, made 14 All-Star teams, won 10 Silver Slugger awards, three Most Valuable Player Awards and two Gold Glove Awards.

The former Texas Rangers shortstop also won a World Series ring in 2009 with the New York Yankees, the last time the Bronx Bombers won the championship.

Chipper Jones - Atlanta Braves, 1990

The Braves very nearly didn’t get Jones as their number one pick. They had wanted pitcher Todd Van Poppel instead. However, Van Poppel has explicitly said that he wouldn’t go to the Braves if selected. Atlanta selected Jones as a shortstop, before he moved to third base and leftfield throughout his long and illustrious career.

Jones’ 85.3 WAR is second among all first-overall picks, trailing only Alex Rodriguez. He also leads all Braves draftees in that statistical category, while he finished his career with more walks than strikeouts and hit 468 home runs, the most by any National League switch-hitter.

Jones entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018, he also won the NL MVP in 1999 and a World Series ring in 1995. Jones was part of some great Atlanta Braves teams that were competitive in a tough NL East division for most of his 19-year career, and he hit .303 and reached base at a .401 clip for his career.

Bryce Harper - Washington Nationals, 2010

Bryce Harper was drafted in 2010, one year after he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager. He won Rookie of the Year in 2012 and the National League Most Valuable Player in 2015 with the Washington Nationals and in 2021 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

All Harper has left to accomplish in his glittering career is to win a World Series. The season after he left the Nationals, Washington won it for the first time in 2019.

Through 12 seasons, he’s made seven All-Star teams, won a Home Run Derby, earned three Silver Slugger awards, and has become the heart and soul of the Phillies since joining. His career 43.5 WAR value is tied with the next player on this list, who played 15 seasons.

Adrian Gonzalez - Miami Marlins, 2000

Gonzalez never made it to the big leagues with Miami, but had a fantastic career with more than 300 home runs, two Silver Slugger awards and four Gold Gloves for five different teams over 15 seasons.

Miami took Gonzalez in the first round of the 2000 draft, where he played three seasons in the Marlins system before being traded to the Texas Rangers in a deal with two other players. Gonzalez didn’t become a major star until he joined the San Diego Padres after the 2005 season.

Gonzalez received three of his five All-Star honors with San Diego and recorded eight top-20 finishes in MVP voting across 15 seasons, leading the Majors in hits in 2011 and RBI in 2014 during his career. The Mexico native finished his MLB career with the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, and he played a final season in the Mexican League in 2021 before announcing his retirement.

Ken Griffey Jr. - Seattle Mariners, 1987

Ken Griffey Jr. became one of baseball's most exciting players just a few seasons after he was drafted first-overall out of high school. "The Kid" is seventh in MLB history in career home runs with 630 and posted a .284 batting average and a .370 on-base percentage for his career.

Griffey made 13 All-Star Games, won the 1997 AL MVP Award, and he had seven seasons with at least 40 home runs.

Griffey Jr. never won a World Series, but he captured the attention of the general public. He set a then-record by receiving 99.3 percent of possible votes to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, becoming the first top pick to make the Hall.

Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins, 2001

Joe Mauer was born and raised in Minnesota's Twin Cities, became a three-sport athlete who won the Gatorade Player of the Year for his success in football, and was drafted with the first-overall pick by his hometown baseball team.

Mauer lived up to expectations over his 15-year MLB career. Staying in Minnesota for the full decade-and-a-half, Mauer won the 2009 AL MVP Award with a .365 batting average and a .444 on-base percentage, made six All-Star Games, and won the AL batting title three times.

The catcher only reached the playoffs in four of his 15 seasons, playing 10 playoff games in total. But he retired as one of the best-hitting catchers in Major League history, his hometown team retired his number 7 the season after he retired, and he was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Gerrit Cole - Pittsburgh Pirates, 2011

Picked first in 2011, 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole was the third of four straight big hits with the first-overall MLB Draft pick. He followed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, picked by the Washington Nationals in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and he preceded the next player on his list.

Through 11 MLB seasons, Cole has finished in the top five of Cy Young voting on six occasions including the 2023 win. He started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates before getting traded to the Houston Astros in 2018.

Cole made the All-Star Game in both of his Astros seasons and then signed with the New York Yankees for what was the richest deal for a pitcher in MLB history at nine years and $324 million. He has amassed a 145-75 record, 2,152 strikeouts, 471 walks, and 1.087 walks and hits allowed per inning pitched over his career.

Carlos Correa - Houston Astros, 2012

Carlos Correa was a major catalyst of the Houston Astros going from baseball's worst team in 2013 to World Series winners in 2017. Correa, a shortstop, won Rookie of the Year in 2015 as the team marked its first winning season since 2008.

Despite the fact that his two All-Star Game appearances and one Gold Glove in nine seasons don't jump off the page as standout achievements, has the seventh-highest WAR of any top-overall pick and was a franchise-changing and World Series-winning player during his time with the Astros.

Correa joined the Minnesota Twins as a free agent in 2022, signing a three-year deal for $105.3 million. He opted out after the first season, agreed to an even larger deal with the San Francisco Giants, saw the contract pulled at the last minute due to concerns over an injury he suffered as a Minor League player, and rejoined the Twins in the end. In 2023, he posted career lows in batting average and on-base percentage.

Darryl Strawberry - New York Mets, 1980

One of the greatest New York Mets players of all time, Darryl Strawberry led the 1986 team that won the franchise's first World Series since 1969. A 6-foot-6 rightfielder, Strawberry could do a little bit of everything.

He had nine seasons with over 25 home runs, five seasons with over 25 stolen bases, and three seasons with over 100 RBI.

Strawberry spent three seasons on the West Coast - three with the Los Angeles Dodgers and one with the San Francisco Giants - before moving back to the Big Apple to join the New York Yankees, where he won two World Series over his final five seasons in MLB.

David Price - Tampa Bay Rays, 2007

The season after he was drafted first overall, David Price made the save that sent Tampa Bay to the World Series. He has developed into a workhorse of a starter with five All-Star Games and a Cy Young Award under his belt.

Price has six seasons with more than 15 wins, six seasons with over 200 innings pitched, another six seasons with an ERA under 3.00, and five seasons with over 200 strikeouts.

Price won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He pitched in three games in the final series, starting two of them, and he struck out 10 batters while allowing only 13 to reach base over 13.2 innings, picking up a 2-0 record wit ha 1.98 ERA in the series.

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