Major League Baseball held their Amateur Draft Thursday night with the Philadelphia Phillies holding the first overall pick for just the second time in franchise history. They selected high school outfielder Mickey Moniak, who is projected to be a centerfielder who hits for a high average and provides Gold Glove defense.
Unlike the NFL or NBA, Major League Baseball prospects typically do not see a Major League field for at least two years. Many spend half their professional careers in the minor leagues and a small majority of players are lucky to get the call up to the big show.
In any sport you can have extremely high expectations as the first overall pick. Jared Goff, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Connor McDavid each experienced the same thing despite their different sports, and some day Moniak will as well. With great expectations comes great pressure to make it to the big leagues, dominate the opposition, and pull a struggling franchise out of the league's basement.
The first overall picks from the last three MLB Drafts have yet to make their big league debuts. In fact, all three of them are no longer on the team that drafted them first overall. Dansby Swanson (2015) and Mark Appel (2013) were each traded to teams in the National League East this past offseason. Swanson, along with a package of other players, went to the Atlanta Braves in the Shelby Miller trade. Appel was sent to Philadelphia in a package for closer Ken Giles.
Brady Aiken (2014) did not reach a contract agreement with the Astros after concerns about his elbow were raised. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Aiken was drafted by the Cleveland Indians with the 17th overall pick in 2015.
Of the players who have reached the big leagues, nearly all of them have become superstars at the next level. Carlos Correa was drafted first overall by the Astros, the third straight season the Astros drafted with the number one overall pick. The 21-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico is already starting in Houston and was the Rookie of the Year in 2015. He is on the fast track to an All-Star career.
Pittsburgh selected Gerrit Cole in 2011 out of UCLA. He has become a perennial Cy Young candidate and the leader of a rejuvenated Pittsburgh Pirates organization that has not won a playoff game since 1979.
The Washington Nationals may have become the luckiest franchise in modern day sports as they grabbed two of the best prospects to ever become available with the number one overall pick two years in a row. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg were selected in back-to-back seasons, and each has become a superstar in Washington. Harper is arguably the best player in the game.
Not until 2008 do you find a first overall pick who has, at this point, been a bust. The Tampa Bay Rays selected high school infielder Tim Beckham four months before reaching the World Series. In 109 big league games, Beckham is hitting .216 with 12 home runs and 99 strikeouts. He is currently serving as a bench player with limited spot-starts in Tampa.
After Beckham in 2008, there has been a combination of home run first overall picks and picks that have struck out all together. Names such as David Price, Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, and Pat Burrell have all been great players for their franchises. Luke Hochevar, Matt Bush, Delmon Young and Bryan Bullington have fallen completely flat in the major league careers. Josh Hamilton is his own category, considering he is superior on the field, but off the field his additions and injuries have derailed his career multiple times.
An anomaly among the most recent first overall picks, Hamilton was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. He was later selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft seven years laster, only to be sent to the Cincinnati Reds. Between the multiple All-Star game appearances, a Home Run Derby, and an MVP award, Hamilton has suffered multiple relapses involving alcohol and drugs. While he has shown the talent of a first overall pick, Hamilton's off-field concerns have limited his ability to fully produce on the diamond.
In every sport the first overall pick is a crapshoot. Technically, any draft pick is a crapshoot. Throw in the uncertainty and an overwhelming lack of depth in this year's first round, and the Phillies had a very tough decision with their first overall pick. It could take at least four years until we see Moniak in the major leagues, which makes the uncertainty even greater.