2010: Kaleb Cowart, Los Angeles Angels
Cowart, last year's number 18 pick, was typical of how the Angels have drafted over the past several years. A two-way player in high school, Cowart had believers in his future both as an infielder and as a pitcher. One of the youngest players in the draft, Cowart preferred to play in the field and signed with the Angels, who were willing to play him as an infielder. He has yet to make his 2011 debut, as he is currently participating in extended spring training.
Pick Value: Too early to tell
2009: Chad James, Florida Marlins
James was one of the top high school lefties in the 2009 draft. He had a disappointing 2010 debut season, posting a 5.12 ERA and walking 65 in 114.1 innings in the Sally League. James jumped up to the Florida State League this season and, although he has an 0-7 record, James is actually pitching much better, posting a 3.70 ERA and putting up a 40:14 K: BB ratio in 48.2 innings. He has allowed seven homers, however.
Pick Value: Command issues are concerning, but way too early to give up on a left-hander with his arm.
2008: Ike Davis, New York Mets
Davis was considered somewhat of a safe pick when the Mets took him out of Arizona State in 2008. Thus far, he has out-performed expectations and before an ankle injury landed him on the DL, he was one of the top young hitters in the National League with a .302 average and a 925 OPS in 36 games. A first-baseman/outfielder/reliever in college, Davis has been first-baseman exclusively in the major leagues.
2007: Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals
Kozma was considered a slight over-draft when the Cardinals took him out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma. Although Kozma reached the major leagues recently, he has been a disappointment offensively for a first-round pick. He has yet to post a season with an average higher than .258 or an OPS higher than 702. He was batting .220 when the Cardinals called him up. Kozma is an accomplished defensive player, however, but he will have to improve at the plate to be anything more than a poor man's Cliff Pennington.
Pick Value: Probably isn't a future All-Star, but the talent dropped off significantly around pick 15 in 2007.
2006: Kyle Drabek, Philadelphia Phillies
Questions about Drabek's make-up caused the high school right-hander's stock to drop on draft day from a top-10 pick to number 18. Despite missing a year to Tommy John surgery, Drabek has been more than worth the pick for the Phillies. He reached Double-A by 2009, even though he missed half of 2007 and nearly all of 2008, and made himself one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Drabek was the centerpiece in the Phillies' package to Toronto for Roy Halladay. After a strong 2010 season – at the end of which he made his major league debut – Drabek made the Toronto starting rotation out of spring training in 2011. He is currently 3-3 with a 4.34 ERA in 56 innings for the Jays.
Pick Value: Netted the Phillies Roy Halladay, so well worth the pick no matter how he fares down the road.
2005: Cesar Carrillo, San Diego Padres
In a draft that is remembered for being one of the most talent-laden in recent memory, Carrillo's selection at spot 18 stands out as a glaring disappointment. A polished college righty out of Miami, Carrillo was considered a safe pick to reach the big leagues quickly. Things didn't pan out that way for Carrillo and the Padres. Carrillo reached Triple-A by the end of the 2006 season, but he developed elbow soreness that lingered into 2007 and ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Carrillo posted ERAs of 5.97 and 4.49 in the minors in 2008 and 2009 before making his major league debut in 2009. He struggled in three major league starts, posting a 13.06 ERA. After putting up a 5.60 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A last season, Carrillo was released by San Diego. He latched on with Houston for 2011, but was recently released after posting a 9.64 RA in five relief outings in Double-A. Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Cliff Pennington, Joey Devine and Colby Rasmus are current big leaguers who were taken only a few spots after Carrillo.
Pick Value: Ranks up there with the Matt Bush selection at number one as one of the biggest wasted picks in San Diego's recent history.
2004: Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox
Fields was a two-sport star at Oklahoma State, also starring on the gridiron. He chose baseball and was, for a time, the top prospect in the draft before his stock dropped a bit on draft day. He showed good power early in his minor league career and was in the big leagues by 2006, but he struggled in an 11-game audition. In 2007, he played 100 games for the White Sox and blasted 23 homers. He was expected to be Chicago's third-baseman in 2008, but when Joe Crede unexpectedly recovered from a back injury, Fields lost his job. He struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness that season and never really recaptured his 2007 form. Before the 2010 season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He hit .306 in 13 major league games but injured his hip and missed most of the season. After being claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of the 2010 season, Fields was traded to Colorado. He is currently hitting .391 with seven homers in 38 games for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Pick Value: Chicago rushed him to the big leagues and then messed with his development after Joe Crede returned. Hard to know how he would have fared with a normal development path. Could make a comeback this year with Colorado.
2003: Brad Snyder, Cleveland Indians
Snyder was considered a polished hitter coming out of Ball State in the 2003 draft. He put up solid numbers early on in his professional career and was a September call-up by the Indians in 2006, although he didn't appear in a major league game. Snyder broke his thumb in 2007 and missed more than 30 games. He struggled in 2008 and was released at the end of the season. The Chicago Cubs claimed him off of waivers and after appearing in only 74 games in 2009, he starred in 2010 at the Triple-A level. Snyder hit .308 with 25 homers for Iowa and made his official major league debut late in the season. In 12 games, he hit .185. Synder is currently hitting .331 with a 945 OPS in 35 games for Iowa.
Pick Value: If the Indians were set on taking a college outfielder at pick 18, they would have been better served selecting Conor Jackson (who went one pick later) or Carlos Quentin (who was taken at pick 29).
2002: Royce Ring, Chicago White Sox
Ring will most likely be remembered for his role in the story told by Michael Lewis in Moneyball than anything he accomplished in his professional career. The A's were set on taking Joe Blanton with the 24th pick and, according to the book, the A's were worried that the Sox would take Blanton with pick 18. Instead, they took Ring and the A's were able to grab Blanton. Ring has been a reliever his entire professional career. He was traded in 2003 to the New York Mets and was in the major leagues by 2005. Since then, he has had a fairly non-descript major league career, posting a 5.29 ERA in 68 innings over 99 appearances. The lefty is currently in Triple-A with Tacoma in the Seattle organization, where he has a 2.77 ERA in 17 appearances.
Pick Value: Should have stuck with their initial instinct and taken Blanton. James Loney went one pick after Ring and Denard Span, Matt Cain and Jeremy Gutherie were also snapped up soon after the Ring selection.
2001: Aaron Heilman, New York Mets
Because of his status as a Mets' draft pick, Heilman has received plenty of publicity during his professional career. For the most part, he has been a relatively average reliever in the big leagues, although for a time, he was one of the top relievers in the National League. Heilman, a Notre Dame grad, moved quickly through the New York system and was in the big leagues as a starter by 2003. He struggled in a starting role in the big leagues in 2003 and 2004, posting ERAs above 5. However, he moved into a relief role in 2005 and excelled in that role through the 2007 season. He even survived the trauma of allowing the game-winning homerun to Yadier Molina in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the NLCS in 2006. In 2008, Heilman's numbers fell off dramatically and he was traded to the Cubs before the 2009 season. After a decent year in Chicago, he was traded to Arizona before the 2010 campaign. Heilman is currently in the D-Backs' bullpen. He sports an ugly 9.20 ERA, although that ERA is grossly inflated by two poor outings in which he allowed 11 runs in 2.2 innings.
Pick Value: The 2001 draft class wasn't very deep. The Mets may have done better by taking Jeremy Bonderman (A's, pick 26), but Heilman was a decent haul considering who else was taken in the second half of the first-round that season.
The 18th pick has been one that teams have used to draft a "safe pick" more often than not in recent years. A few teams have succeeded with that strategy (namely the Mets with Davis and Heilman). Currently, the best pick at 18 over the past decade looks to be Drabek, especially when one considers what the Phillies were able to get for him in a trade. The last two picks at this spot have gone the high school route and the jury is still out on whether those picks were wise.
The talent level certainly drops off when looking at the history of number 18 picks as opposed to the history of picks in the top 10 or 15 in the draft. The 2011 draft is expected to be deep on talent, however, so the A's may not find the pickings as slim at 18 as they have been in past years.