History of the D-backs draft, Part 1

2004 first-round pick, Stephen Drew - Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Two weeks today, the 2014 draft takes place. Over this Thursday and next, let's take a look back and see how the Diamondbacks have done in their previous dips into the young talent pool. Today, we cover 1996-2004.

For each year's draft, I've given the same information. Our first-round pick, and whom we could have chosen with that selection (generally taking the closest better player still available at that point); the player who has posted the best bWAR, whether or not with the Diamondbacks; a "sleeper" name from the later rounds, you might recognize; and some figures summarizing the overall results, including a total WAR, which includes the total for any players we were not able to sign. The year link goes to a complete list of our selections from that June.

1996

1st choice: Nick Bierbrodt (#30)
Could have chosen: Jimmy Rollins (#46)
Best pick: Brad Penny (#155, 19.6 WAR)
Sleeper: Junior Spivey (#1085)
62 players. 10 played in the majors (16%). 36.0 WAR

I know it was out first draft, but boy, was this an unimpressive set of players. Penny was the only one of our first 30 choices to put up a positive WAR, and he never did it for the Diamondbacks, having been traded to the Marlins for Matt Mantei (something something trading for proven closers). We missed out on an even deeper sleeper, having also drafted, but were unable to sign, Jason Jennings in the 54th round - this was in the days when the draft went more or less as long as anyone wanted. It was a wise move for Jennings, as three years later, he go in the first round - 1,515 spots higher.

1997

1st choice: Jack Cust (#30)
Could have chosen: Chase Utley (#76)
Best pick: Cust (#30, 9.3 WAR)
Sleeper: Alex Cintron (#1103)
60 players. 5 played in the majors (8%). 6.4 WAR

If 1996 was bad, 1997 was truly woeful. Outside of Cust, only four others reached the majors, and were worth a combined total of 2.9 wins below replacement. Our first-round pick did at least play for the Diamondbacks - albeit receiving a grand to total of three plate-appearances, in 2001, before being traded to the Rockies as part of the Mike Myers trade. Yes, part: we actually gave Colorado multiple players, also letting them have J.D. Closser. Cust went on to lead the AL three times in strikeouts with the A's. The only other pick of note for us was Cintron, all the way down n the 36th round, like Spivey.

1998

1st choice: Darryl Conyer (#103)
Could have chosen: Matt Holliday (#210)
Best pick: Javier Lopez (#133, 6.8 WAR)
Sleeper: Mike Koplove (#883)

48 players. 7 played in the majors (14%). 11.4 WAR

We didn't have a pick in the first hundred, losing our first- and second-round slots to the Royals and Tigers respectively, as the result of signing free agents Jay Bell and Willie Blair. I'd be bitter, but the players they signed went nowhere either. Conyer was an outfielder we signed out of high school, who also had an offer to play football at the U of A. However, he was done with baseball after the 2000 season. John Sickels said the player was, "a great athlete, but never figured out how to play baseball." After quitting baseball, he went to SDSU and was a fringe member of the football team there for a bit.

1999

1st choice: Corey Myers (#4)
Could have chosen: Barry Zito (#9)
Best pick: Lyle Overbay (#538, 16.8 WAR)
Sleeper: Overbay

48 players. 5 played in the majors (10%). Total of 25.1 WAR

This was our first year not picking last, and with the fourth pick, we virtually had our choice of a deep draft class that also included Ben Sheets, Alex Rios, Carl Crawford and Justin Morneau. Instead, we went with local shortstop Myers, out of Desert Vista High School, but it didn't pan out, even after he switched positions multiple times. He shifted to third, then first, back to third and eventually even tried as a catcher, but never reached the majors: Myers is now an assistant softball coach for the Auburn Tigers, under his dad, Clint. As well as Overbay, this draft also brought us Chris Capuano in the eighth round.

2000

1st choice: Mike Schultz (#69)
Could have chosen: Grady Sizemore (#75)
Best pick: Brandon Webb (#249, 31.4 WAR)
Sleeper: Doug Slaten (#519)
49 players. 10 played in the majors (20%). Total of 68.7 WAR

The vast bulk - as in, all of it save 0.7 wins - of the highly-respectable WAR tally here is due to Webb and a 29th-round pick we couldn't sign, Tucson native Ian Kinsler. No first-round pick for us here, that going to the Braves after we signed free-agent Russ Springer. Yeah, about that.... Adding insult to injury, they used it to pick a player whose name might ring a bell. Particularly since he one-hit the Diamondbacks a couple of days ago, Adam Wainwright. Though the Braves dealt him to the Cardinals as part of a deal for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero, along with Jason Marquis and Ray King, so there's that...

2001

1st choice: Jason Bulger (#22)
Could have chosen: David Wright (#38)
Best pick: Dan Uggla (#338, 18.5 WAR)
Sleeper: Uggla

50 players. 10 played in the majors (20%). Total of 79.1 WAR

Let's pick Kinsler again, shall we - this time in the 26th round? Still won't sign, dammit. This WAR tally looks better than it actually was, due to Kinsler and another unsigned selection: we chose Seth Smith in the 48th round. However, the upper tiers provided some useful talent for the Diamondbacks, with six of our top eight picks reaching the majors. Those included Scott Hairston (#98) and Chad Tracy (#218). However, the best player was left off our 40-man roster in 2005, and whisked away by the Marlins in the Rule 5 draft. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting the following season and became the first Rule 5 player to make the All-Star Game the year he was picked.

2002

1st choice: Sergio Santos (#27)
Could have chosen: Joey Votto (#44)
Best pick: Chris Snyder (#68, 4.5 WAR)
Sleeper: Dustin Nippert (#459)
50 players. 5 played in the majors (10%). Total of 6.1 WAR

Nippert isn't so much a sleeper, as completely unconscious - and may not have a pulse. But he's the only player we chose this draft with a positive WAR, outside of Santos and Snyder. Right there with the 1997 draft, fighting for the spot of worst year in team history, especially if you consider that we drafted Santos as a shortstop, and his value in the majors has been entirely as a relief pitcher! In the third round, we picked lefty Jared Doyle, who threw 95+, but three elbow surgeries ended his career; it's a similar story with fifth-round pick Mark Rosen, who was released in 2008. He said, "I was struggling and I found out that I had a torn elbow, and most likely for quite some time."

2003

1st choice: Conor Jackson (#19)
Could have chosen: Chad Billingsley (#24)
Best pick: Carlos Quentin (#29, 11.2 WAR)
Sleeper: None
51 players. 6 played in the majors (11%). Total of 10.3 WAR

Barren turf outside the top 100. Only two players we selected beyond that point reached the majors; neither signed with Arizona, and both (Chris Coghlan and Jeff Manship) are below replacement level. And it was going so well too: the first three picks were Jackson, Quentin and Jamie D'Antona, who became known as the "Three Amigos" as they made their way up our farm system. But Jackson's career was derailed by Valley Fever, Quentin was dealt to the White Sox and became an All-Star the next season, and d'Antona managed less than 20 PAs in the majors, before spending a couple of years in Japan with the Yakult Swallows.

2004

1st choice: Stephen Drew (#15)
Could have chosen: Dustin Pedroia (#65)
Best pick: Drew (#15, 16.2 WAR)
Sleeper: Mark Reynolds (#476)
50 players. 8 played in the majors (16%). Total of 25.6 WAR

Hey, look! For the first time since 1997, our best player is actually the one we chose first. Drew had been spoken of as a possible #1 pick, but partly due to signability concerns as a Scott Boras client, fell down to us. Stephen became our everyday shortstop for five years, appearing in 733 games from his debut in July 2006. through to breaking his ankle in July 2011. The rest of the draft was kinda "meh," with the exception of the 16th-round signing of Special K. Coincidentally, some way behind Reynolds, we drafted but didn't sign one of the players for whom Mark would eventually be traded, choosing reliever David Hernandez in the 34th round.

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