The Draft is the best and most cost-effective way to procure and control talent. It’s virtually impossible to compete for postseason berths and World Series championships without identifying, selecting and signing future stars.
With that in mind, we take a look at each team’s biggest Draft success in the last decade. Not surprisingly, 18 of the players below were first-round picks, including No. 1 overall choice Adley Rutschman. But there were several later-round finds as well, including the slugger who set a rookie record with 53 homers in the second round (Pete Alonso) and a pair of Cy Young Award winners in the fourth (Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes).
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Six of them already have won World Series rings: Andrew Benintendi, Kris Bryant, Austin Riley, Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman and Trea Turner. Among that group, only Riley and Bregman currently play for the club that drafted them.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi, OF (2015, first round)
After Benintendi topped NCAA Division I with 20 homers and won the Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore, Boston ranked him No. 2 on its Draft board behind only Swanson and landed him at No. 7 overall. He joined the Red Sox 14 months later and helped them win the 2018 World Series with his bat and glove before going to the Royals in a three-team trade in February 2021. He won’t reach the heights once projected for him but did make his first All-Star team in 2022.
Blue Jays: Bo Bichette, SS (2016, second round)
After signing for $1.1 million six years ago, the son of Dante Bichette quickly separated himself as a potential plus-plus hitter, winning a Minor League batting title in 2017, and that’s held up in the bigs with a career .300 average since his debut in 2019. Bichette has shown more power than expected from his Draft days too (e.g. his 29 homers in 2021), and his secure place at shortstop is one reason why the Jays have risen to contention to begin this decade.
Rays: Shane McClanahan, LHP (2018, first round/compensation)
Tampa Bay stayed local by taking the University of South Florida southpaw 31st overall with the pick it gained for the loss of Alex Cobb four years ago, and it hasn’t looked back since. McClanahan has been one of the American League’s most dominant starters since his 2021 debut and looks the part of a future Cy Young winner, potentially as early as this year. Potential control issues were thought to make McClanahan a bullpen candidate in the Majors, but the former Bull has improved mightily with his strike-throwing while still showing swing-and-miss stuff with all four of his pitches.
Yankees: Aaron Judge, OF (2013, first round)
Though they struck out on 2013 first-rounders Eric Jagielo (No. 26) and Ian Clarkin (No. 33), the Yankees knocked pick No. 32 out of the park. It seems hard to imagine now, but Judge lasted that long because there were concerns about how well his huge raw power would translate in the Majors after he homered just 18 times in three years at Fresno State. He went deep 56 times in three years in the Minors before nearly matching that total with an AL rookie-record 52 homers in ’17, then broke the AL mark with 62 homers en route to MVP honors last season.
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (2019, first round)
Rutschman is obviously just getting started, and once he got his feet under him after his first callup in 2022, he showed off his enough of his ridiculous tools to finish second in American League Rookie of the Year voting and was named to his first All-Star team in 2023.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Shane Bieber, RHP (2016, fourth round)
Bieber stood out more with his control than his stuff at UC Santa Barbara, which he led to its first-ever College World Series appearance in 2016. He has significantly improved the velocity on his fastball and the quality of his breaking pitches as a pro, sandwiching a pair of All-Star nods in ’19 and ’21 around an AL Cy Young Award and pitching triple crown in ’20.
White Sox: Tim Anderson, SS (2013, first round)
Undrafted out of high school and after his first year at East Central (Miss.) CC, Anderson became the most recent junior college position player popped in the first round (17th overall) after pacing NJCAA Division II in hitting (.495) and on-base percentage (.568). He earned the AL batting title in 2019 (.335), a Silver Slugger in ’20 and All-Star Game nods in ’21 and ’22.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (2019, first round)
Witt’s bat hasn’t proven quite as electric as hoped when he went second overall behind Adley Rutschman in 2019, but other aspects of his game remain up there with some of the best in the game. He remains one of the fastest speedsters in the Majors these days, while also posting impressive extra-base totals and exit velocities. The Texas native’s defense at short has also turned a corner in 2023, solidifying his place there in Kansas City’s long-term plans. Witt is still younger than many Top 100 prospects, and if he can find a way to cut down a little on the aggression and play even more into his power, he remains a 30-30 threat in the bigs.
Tigers: Riley Greene, OF (2019, first round)
No. 1 overall picks Casey Mize and Spencer Torkelson have been underwhelming for various reasons in the Majors, so instead we turn to a fifth overall pick in Greene. The 22-year-old was off to his best start as a Major Leaguer in 2023, hitting .296/.362/.443 with a 127 wRC+ before suffering a stress fracture in his left fibula in May. Still young, he projects as a plus hitter with enough oomph on impact to record future slugging percentages above .500, making him a key piece of present and future Detroit lineups when healthy.
Twins: Bailey Ober, RHP (2017, 12th round)
It’s not your typical profile, a 6-foot-9 guy with more finesse that raw stuff. But he’s been getting the job done in the big league rotation, throwing strikes with four pitches. Settling in as a mainstay now, he has a 2.70 through 13 starts in 2023 and a 3.44 career ERA over parts of three seasons while striking out just 1.8 per nine. If 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis can stay healthy for an extended period of time, he has the upside to take this spot.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros: Alex Bregman, SS (2015, first round)
Bregman starred for three years at Louisiana State before going No. 2 overall in the 2015 Draft, though it probably still rankles him that he wasn’t the top choice by the D-backs, who opted for fellow Southeastern Conference shortstop Dansby Swanson. Bregman paid almost immediate dividends, cracking Houston’s lineup four months into his first full pro season, and won two World Series championships, four pennants and two All-Star Game berths in his first six full years in the Majors.
Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B (2019, first round)
The most career value amassed by any Rangers Draft signee in the last decade belongs to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a surprise 2013 fourth round. We’re going for Jung based on upside, and he made the All-Star Game as a rookie by hitting .270/.323/.487 with 17 homers in 81 games. The eighth overall pick in 2019, he has been consistently productive when not beset by injuries in the Minors.
Angels: Zach Neto, SS (2022, first round)
When the Angels took him No. 13 overall a year ago, they were hoping they were getting an advanced college bat who could move quickly, but there’s no way they could have known he’d establish himself this fast. After just 44 total games in the Minor Leagues combined in 2022 and 2023, Neto made his debut on April 15 this year and hasn’t looked back, more than holding his own with 1.9 WAR as of July 3.
A’s: Matt Chapman, 3B (2014, first round)
Chapman has won three Gold Gloves, finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting twice and made an All-Star team. He’s now hitting homers and playing plus defense for the Blue Jays, up to 149 home runs and a 29.8 WAR in his career.
Mariners: Logan Gilbert, RHP (2018, first round)
This could end up being a really interesting debate between Gilbert, the 2018 first-rounder, and George Kirby, their top pick in ’19. Gilbert, the Stetson product, gets the nod for now, with his 4.6 WAR, though Kirby is on his heels at 3.4.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Marlins: Brian Anderson, 3B/OF (2014, third round)
While the Marlins haven’t drafted a true star since the late José Fernández in 2011, Anderson has returned nice value for a third-rounder. The Arkansas product finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting in ’18 and slammed 31 homers in his first two full big league seasons, but he has been waylaid by injuries since.
Mets: Pete Alonso, 1B (2016, second round)
If you’re going to take a college first baseman in the first few rounds, that guy is going to have to hit a good amount to justify the pick. Two years after he moved from Florida to the Mets, Alonso led the Minor Leagues with 36 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018. One year after that, he led the Majors with 53 dingers and was named the NL Rookie of the Year. The former Gator continues to be one the Majors’ best right-handed sluggers and has already been well worth his $909,200 bonus out of the Draft.
Nationals: Jesús Luzardo, LHP (2016, third round)
Washington selected the Florida prep left-hander in the third round and went way above slot to sign him for $1.4 million, only to trade him to the A’s in a deal for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson 13 months later. Now closer to home in Miami, Luzardo has settled in as a key member of the Miami rotation, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and impressive slider and changeup. The southpaw is averaging at least 10 strikeouts per nine while posting a sub-4 ERA for the second straight season.
Braves: Austin Riley, 3B (2015, CB-A)
Most of the scouting industry preferred Riley as a pitcher, so the Braves get extra credit for taking Riley as a position player and letting him hit. He won his first Silver Slugger Award in 2021 and finished top 10 in MVP voting that year and in 2022. He just was named to his second All-Star team, with 14.2 career WAR and climbing.
Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP (2014, first round)
The former All-Star and Cy Young Award candidate had a bounce-back year in 2022, finishing fourth in Cy voting, leading the Majors with his 8.10 K/BB ratio. That’s not new, as he’s amassed 10.0 K/9 and walked just 2.4 per nine in his career en route to a 30.8 WAR.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B (2013, first round)
The Cubs selected Bryant second overall after the San Diego slugger led NCAA Division I with 31 homers and exceeded the total of 223 of the 296 teams at that level. In seven seasons in Chicago, he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015, a World Series and the NL MVP in ’16 and garnered four All-Star Game berths. Traded to the Giants last July, has battled injuries since signing with the Rockies as a free agent.
Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (2015, first round)
There’s a reason why the Pirates signed Hayes to a long-term extension last spring. He’s still finding his footing offensively, with a .707 OPS, but he’s done that while providing elite-level defense at the hot corner, allowing him to compile 9.7 WAR with hopefully the best yet to come.
Reds: Tyler Mahle, RHP (2013, seventh round)
The Reds did a great job scouting Mahle and signing him away from heading to UC Santa Barbara, where his older brother Greg pitched. They took him in the seventh round, but his 9.0 WAR places him sixth among all pitchers from the 2013 Draft class, with the Reds dealing him to the Mariners last year for current big leaguer Spencer Steer and red-hot prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand.
Brewers: Corbin Burnes, RHP (2016, fourth round)
The 2016 Draft has produced a pair of Cy Young winners already. Both of them have come from the fourth round. One was Shane Bieber. The other was Burnes, who took home NL honors in 2021. The Saint Mary’s product threw 92-95 mph in college and on the Cape but might have been dinged a little for his lack of plus secondaries. His slider and curveball are significant swing-and-miss pitches now, complementing a mid-90s cutter that he throws more than 50 percent of the time. Even in a down year, Burnes remains the central piece of the Milwaukee rotation.
Cardinals: Zac Gallen, RHP (2016, third round)
The Cardinals have drafted and developed their fair share of position players in the last decade, but the pick that stands out most is a pitcher who got away. Gallen, a right-hander out of the University of North Carolina, lasted 1 1/2 seasons in the St. Louis system before moving to Miami as part of a four-player return (which included Sandy Alcantara) for Marcell Ozuna in December 2017. Now with Arizona, Gallen has been one of the National League’s best starters over the past two seasons and could be in line for a second straight top-five NL Cy Young finish.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Rockies: Kyle Freeland, LHP (2014, first round)
Talk about a local kid done good. The Denver native went in the first round after he went from the Colorado high school ranks to the University of Evansville and was rewarded for his efforts in the Rockies’ rotation with a five-year contract extension a year ago. He’s been a consistent starter who has a 17.4 WAR to date.
D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF (2019, first round)
Carroll still hasn’t completed his rookie season, but this still feels like a given. Slightly overlooked in 2019 due to his lack of size, the 16th overall pick has quickly proven to be one of the Majors’ most dynamic players with top-of-the-scale speed, surprising power and an ability to spray the ball with authority all over the diamond. He’ll head back home to Washington this month as a National League All-Star starter at just 22 years old.
Padres: Trea Turner, SS (2014, first round)
The pick and trade that led to a new rule. San Diego selected Turner 13th overall out of NC State in 2014 but included him as a player to be named later in a three-way trade with the Rays and Nationals that December. Because rules stipulated that players couldn’t be moved within one year of their Draft date, Turner couldn’t swap his Padres hat for a Nationals one until June 2015. He debuted for Washington that August after his hit tool and speed proved too good for the Minors, and he’s been one of the game’s best shortstops ever since, netting an 11-year, $300 million contract from the Phillies because of his history of exhibiting quality hitting ability and 80-grade speed.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger, 1B (2014, fourth round)
Although Bellinger lacked strength and had a relatively flat left-handed swing as an amateur, the Dodgers loved his bloodlines (father Clay played in the Majors) and believed in his projectable power. He went from totaling four homers in his first two pro seasons to 56 in his next two, then set an NL rookie record with 39 in 2017. He won an MVP award in 2019 and a World Series ring the following year, but his bat took a severe downturn in 2021-22 before bouncing back with the Cubs this season.
Giants: Bryan Reynolds, OF (2016, second round)
Reynolds had the tools and track record of performance at Vanderbilt to merit going in the first round, but he inexplicably lasted 59 picks in 2016. The Giants didn’t hang on to him, however, spinning him to the Pirates in the Andrew McCutchen trade in January 2018. He has been Pittsburgh’s best player ever since and gained All-Star recognition in 2021.