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Draft History: Past Players Taken At D-backs Spots?

John Elway
The most famous 52nd draft pick in MLB history plays golf in one of the most 90s pictures of all time.

In the MLB draft that begins today, the Diamondbacks (thanks to the signing of Zack Greinke) will not pick until the 39th spot. They will pick twice today, though, with the #52 spot their second selection. What players have been taken at these spots in the past, and what level of production have they been able to show at the Major League level?

In looking at draft history, it is important to keep in mind that strategies have changed considerably over time, as has scouting, and that there comes a time when a look back is more trivia than projection. For example, teams used to select players higher even when they didn't expect to sign them, simply to hold their rights for a while in case college didn't work out. Now, players who are not expected to sign out of high school or players expected to return for another year of college are generally not selected until later than the first couple rounds.

A perfect example of this is the #39 pick. In 1982, the Giants selected an outfielder out of Serra High School in San Mateo, CA, and he went on to post 112.3 bWAR with the Giants. Good selection, right? Not so much, as Barry Bonds went to college (cue ASU chants) and only became a Giant by free agency. With the way draft strategy currently is, even if a player like Bonds were available at #39, the Diamondbacks wouldn't waste the pick on a player they couldn't sign.

As Jim has already written about the 39th pick at length, this will primarily focus on other picks.

#52 Pick

The 52nd pick actually had a very good track record of producing major league players, until the last decade or so. Once again, these players were generally not huge stars, with Carl Crawford (selected in 1999) producing the most, and Ralph Garr (selected by the Braves in 1967) the only other player with over 10 bWAR. But in the past decade, only three players have made the majors from the 52nd pick, with Brad Hand the only player to appear in more than 15 games. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't quality players selected here, as Blake Snell, who made his major league debut earlier this year, was selected 52nd in 2011, and is the top prospect in the Rays organization.

The Diamondbacks have picked 52nd once before, selecting Justin Williams, a high school outfielder, in 2013. Williams was fast-tracked to the Midwest League after being drafted, reaching South Bend that same year. He posted good numbers again in 2014, and was traded to the Rays in the Jeremy Hellickson trade. He's still posting good offensive numbers and had a good season in Australia this winter, but (largely because of his young age) he has yet to appear above high-A. Williams has plenty of time to make the Diamondbacks regret this trade even more than they already do.

The best name ever selected 52nd is a tie between Tootie Myers, Expos selection in 1997, and Stetson Allie, Pirates selection in 2010. The most famous 52nd pick, however, is John Elway, drafted by the Yankees in 1982.

#89 Pick

Over the past ten years, no 89th pick has reached the major leagues. However, the ten years before saw most picks make it, with Justin Morneau and Chris Young (the pitcher now with the Royals) being the most successful.

The Diamondbacks held the 89th pick in 2014, and selected outfielder Matt Railey. He underwhelmed in two seasons at Missoula, and is currently serving a 50 game suspension for taking a banned substance.

Of the more successful 89th picks, many did not sign. The best player ever taken 89th was Randy Johnson, selected by the Braves in 1982. Drew Stubbs is the most recent 89th pick to have a decent career, but he also declined to sign and went to college.

Johnson is, of course, the best player ever selected 89th, and Morneau is the best player selected 89th who signed. I'll give the best name award to Stanley Zawacki, 1967 pick of the Angels, who never signed and apparently never played professional ball.

#119 Pick

The 119th pick has fared slightly better than the 89th pick in recent years, with Kevin Chapman (a left handed pitcher in the Astros organization) and John Ely (a right handed pitcher who made two brief appearances with the Dodgers) both making the major leagues. However, for the best 119th pick you have to go all the way back to 1965, with Sal Bando selected by the A's out of Arizona State. Bando and Steve Henderson are the only two players selected 119th who signed and posted over 10 bWAR.

There is a Diamondbacks connection, though. Todd Stottlemyre was selected 119th in 1983 by the Yankees, but didn't sign. He pitched several years with the Diamondbacks. Mike Maddux, older brother of Greg, was selected 119th in 1982.

#149th Pick

The 149th pick has produced a couple of decent major leaguers in recent years. Michael Young was selected by the Blue Jays in 1997, and Jeff Samardzija by the Cubs in 2006. The Diamondbacks have never made the 149th selection.

Interesting trivia about the 149th pick: the Royals selected Deion Sanders with the 149th pick in 1985. He went to Florida State, instead, and would be picked up by the Yankees after his college career. Bo Jackson, who the Royals would pick in 1986, had been selected in 1982 by the Yankees. So the two most famous two-sport athletes of the last 30 years were originally selected by opposite teams.

#179 and lower

Decent MLB talent can be found throughout the draft, of course. Here are the top selections from slots where the Diamondbacks will pick lower in the draft.

  • 179: Terry Pendleton, selected by the Cardinals in 1982
  • 209: Jon Niese, selected by the Mets in 2005
  • 269: Darryl Hamilton, selected by the Brewers in 1986
  • 569: Jeff Nelson, selected by the Dodgers in 1984
  • 599: Jose Bautista, selected by the Pirates in 2000
  • 749: Nate McLouth, selected by the Pirates in 2000
  • 1139: Mark Buehrle, selected by the White Sox in 1998

Here's hoping the Diamondbacks are able to find a solid player or two in these lower rounds, or even (as the Pirates managed in 2000) find two.