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Top 10 MLB Players Drafted out of High School in last 30 years - Part 1

by Nick Shnider on Mar. 15, 2017

Major League Baseball is unlike any of the other major sports for many different reasons.  Baseball is planned. Baseball is strategized. Baseball is a non-contact, slow-paced, untimed event taking place on a strange, diamond-shaped surface, where some of the most talented athletes compete against one another, using just as much brain power as physical power.

By the same token, the Major League Baseball Draft is different from any other professional draft.  When an MLB team drafts a player to become a part of their organization, they are committing to a player that; in most cases, will never even make it to the Major League level to play for that team.  Less than eleven out of 100 NCAA baseball players are drafted to the Major Leagues. This means that only about 10.5 percent of kids playing college ball even get a chance to compete for a spot in the big leagues.  High school baseball players have a 0.5 percent chance to get drafted before going to college.  So, for every player that gets drafted out of high school, there are 200 more, that will not get drafted.  Those are less than favorable odds.

Once a player gets drafted and goes into the Minor Leagues, that player then has about a 10 percent chance to make it to the Major Leagues, and play on the big stage.  Major League organizations must be very careful with the draft picks they decide to assemble year after year.  They must be especially careful with the high school draft picks.

Most of the time, with high school players, you draft them based on their athletic ability and raw talent.  A team assumes that they have the tools, and their organization can bring the best potential out of him to make him a successful Major League player.  Sometime, it can be a very easy decision, a clear no-brainer.  Draft the kid with all the hype, all the potential, just dripping with all the pure talent necessary to become a perennial All-star, for years to come.

Here is Part 1 of our list of the Top Ten MLB Players Drafted out of High School in the past 30 years.

 

10.  Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins, 2004-Present)

Drafted: 2001 MLB Draft, 1st Overall Pick by Minnesota Twins 

High School: Cretin-Derham Hall High School, MN

Joe Mauer

A home-grown talent, from St. Paul, Minnesota, who was drafted by none other than, the Minnesota Twins.  While in high school, Mauer excelled in both football and baseball, and after committing to play football at Florida State University, decided instead, to enter the Major League Baseball Draft.  The Twins saw Mauer as a can’t miss talent, and selected him with the first overall pick in the 2001 Draft.  The young catcher was an absolute stud from the moment he debuted, in April of 2004, delivering two base hits in his first three at-bats, to begin his career.

Mauer has been one of the most consistent players in the league since being drafted.  He has become the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles, and is the only catcher to ever win a batting title in the American League.  In the 2006 season, he busted out of his shell and set the league on fire, becoming the first catcher in the history of the American League, to finish the year with the highest batting average (.347).  This average, on top of a monster year at the plate, earned him the A.L. batting title and made him the youngest player to win a batting title since Alex Rodriguez in 1996.  In 2009, Mauer dominated the American League, leading the league in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.587), and OPS (1.031).  These numbers earned him the spot as the only catcher to lead the league in all four offensive categories and earned him his third batting title.  He was undoubtedly given the 2009 A.L. MVP Award, as he collected 27 of the 28 first place votes.

Now entering the 2017 season, Mauer has chalked up an impressive trophy case in his time in the league.  Three times, he has been named Batting Champ, along with three Gold Glove Awards, on the defensive side.  He has an MVP Award to back up his five Silver Slugger Awards.  He has also been selected to the All-Star Game six times and he holds the MLB record for highest career batting average for a catcher (.328).

 

9.  Roy Halladay (Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, 1998-2013)

Drafted: 1995 MLB Draft, 17th Overall Pick by Toronto Blue Jays

High School: Arvada West High School, CO

Roy Halladay

The next elite name on our list is the hard-throwing workhorse, Roy “Doc” Halladay.  “Doc” was the nickname given to him by Toronto Blue Jays Announcer, Tom Cheek, drawing reference to “Doc” Holliday, the Wild West gunslinger.  An appropriate comparison considering Halladay’s uncanny ability to continue to throw hard and pitch effectively deep into the ballgame. Halladay was drafted in 1995 to the Toronto Blue Jays, with the 17th overall pick.  He made his debut in September of 1998, and made headlines right away, as he came just two outs shy of a no-hitter in his second career start.  Sure, most of Halladay’s playoff success didn’t come until the later part of his career, in Philadelphia, but his time before that, in Toronto, is what shaped his successful career.  Halladay was a dominant force for the Blue Jays from his debut to his final season in Toronto, in 2009.  In fact, at the end of the 2009 season, Sports Illustrated named Halladay as one of the five starters on their MLB All-Decade Team.

Halladay continued his dominance after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies the next season.  He pitched at a high level for the Phillies, until he retired following the 2013 season.  He was unable to capture the World Series ring he set out for, but he was able to put up some of the most impressive statistics and dominant performances we have ever seen in the MLB.  At the time of his retirement, Halladay was the active leader in complete games with 67, including 20 shutouts.  He made eight All-Star appearances throughout his career and was one of just six pitchers in MLB history to win the Cy Young Award in the American League (2003) and the National League (2010).  He was twice the MLB wins leader and on May 29, 2010 he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history, defeating the Florida Marlins.  On October 6, 2010, in his first postseason start, Halladay threw the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history.  This accomplishment made him the fifth pitcher in Major League history to throw two no-hitters in the same season.  During the 2012 season, Halladay recorded his 2,000th career strikeout, becoming just the 67th pitcher, all-time, to do so.  Halladay was one of the most dominant starting pitchers; not just during the 2000’s, but was one of the best competitors we have ever seen take the mound.

 

8.  C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, 2001-             Present)

Drafted: 1998 MLB Draft, 20th Overall Pick by Cleveland Indians

High School: Vallejo High School, CA

Coming in at the number eight spot on our list, the commanding pitching presence that is, C.C. Sabathia.  Sabathia grew up as a highly touted young talent, out of northern California.  He excelled in baseball, football, and basketball during his teenage years, and was even offered a scholarship to play football at UCLA.  Sabathia instead chose to enter the draft and was selected by the Cleveland Indians with the 20th overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft.

For the first seven years of his career, he made Cleveland look very smart for trusting the potential they saw on draft day.  He was one of the top starting pitchers in the American League, year after year, and he kept the Indians in contention in a tough A.L. Central Division.  He won more than a handful of games as the workhorse of the starting staff, and he was selected as an All-Star three times during his time in Cleveland.  During the middle of the 2008 season, Sabathia was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, who were looking to make a serious push for the playoffs.  This turned out to be a genius move on the part of Milwaukee, as Sabathia led the Brewers to the playoffs; almost by himself, it seemed.  He posted a win-loss record of 11-2 after joining Milwaukee, and ended the season with a total ERA of 2.70.  He had a grand total of 10 complete games by season’s end, giving him the most complete games in a single season since Randy Johnson, in 1999.  Sabathia had clearly made a name for himself as a pure force on the mound, and there were more than a few teams that came calling as Sabathia entered the off-season as a free agent.  The New York Yankees emerged as winners in the bidding war for the young stud, from California.  They signed him to a seven year, $161 million contract, which was the largest contract of any pitcher in MLB history, at that time.  However, the new ace of the New York staff certainly proved he was worth it, as he put up a monster season in 2009.  He led the Yankees right through the regular season, winning 19 games and posting a 3.37 ERA.  He then put the team on his back, carrying them through the playoffs, earning the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award, and finally winning his first World Series ring.  Sabathia was certainly a special talent to watch when he was in his prime.  In his stretch in the spotlight, he racked up six All-Star appearances, an A.L. Cy Young Award, an ALCS Most Valuable Player Award on the way to his World Series Championship, and was twice the MLB wins leader.  Sabathia will surely go down as one of the greatest starting pitchers in MLB history. 

 

7. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 2011-Present)

Drafted: 2009 MLB Draft, 25th Overall by the LA Angels

High School: Millville Senior High School, NJ

Mike Trout

This brings us to the next shining star on the list, and he is the brightest of stars, indeed.  Mike Trout has quickly become one of the most explosive talents Major League Baseball has ever seen and has already drawn serious comparisons to MLB legends through just five full seasons.  In 2012, his first full season in the Majors, he broke out and won the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award, unanimously.  In 2014, his performance elevated even higher, as he posted a batting average of .287, hit 36 home runs, 39 doubles, nine triples, drove in an AL-leading 111 RBI’s, and crossed the plate 115 times leading the league in runs scored.  He also compiled 16 stolen bases on the year, just for kicks.  Trout took home the A.L. MVP Award, once again in unanimous fashion.  After winning the All-Star Game MVP a few months’ prior, this made the young star just the sixth player in MLB history to win an All-Star Game MVP, and a regular season MVP Award in the same season.  Last season, he dominated American League pitching, and finished the year leading the entire MLB in walks, runs scored, and on-base percentage.  He also mailed in a .315 batting average, blasted 29 home runs, swiped 30 bags, and drove in a clean 100 RBI’s.  After the season, Trout was awarded his second American League MVP, and he joined Barry Bonds as the only two players in the history of the game, to finish in the top two for the MVP Award in five straight seasons.  It’s no doubt that what Trout has been able to accomplish in such a short time, puts him on the fast track towards the MLB Hall of Fame.  I think we all need to take a step back, and take the time to realize what it is we are truly seeing.  It is very rare in sports to see an athlete who is obviously more talented than the rest of the field.  Names like Jordan, or Tiger, or Gretzky come to mind.  The game just seems to come easier to this athlete.  Then, all the sudden, you grow to expect the impossible from this athlete.  Then, they deliver that impossible feat.  That’s how you know you are in the presence of greatness. That is, indeed, what we are witnessing when we watch Mike Trout play baseball.

 

6.  Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2008-Present)

Drafted: 2006 MLB Draft, 7th Overall by the LA Dodgers

High School: Highland Park High School, TX

Clayton Kershaw

Let’s make a smooth transition from one emerging, young superstar, to another.  What do you think of when you hear the name, Clayton Kershaw?  Is it the herky-jerky pitching motion?  Is it the big, slow, un-hittable, looping curveball?  Is it just the pure authority being hurled at you from the left side of the mound?  The truth is, all you need to think when you hear the name, Clayton Kershaw, is dominance.  Kershaw has been comfortably perched atop the MLB’s top starting pitchers ever since entering the league back in 2008.  He became the first pitcher in history to lead the MLB in lowest ERA, for four consecutive seasons, doing so in the 2011-2014 seasons.  He was without question, the most dominant pitcher in the league throughout this period.  In 2011, he won his first N.L. Cy Young Award.  In 2012, he was the runner-up for the N.L. Cy Young Award.  Then he won back-to-back Cy Young Awards, in 2013 and 2014.  Like I said, dominance.  His 2014 season was so absurd, in fact, that he was awarded the National League MVP, on top of the Cy Young Award.  He posted a 21-3 record, with a 1.77 ERA in 27 total starts.  In 2015, Kershaw stayed true to form, obliterating the National League, once again, by striking out 301 batters.  This feat made him just the 11th pitcher in MLB history to strike out 300 batters in a single season.  It appears no matter how great Kershaw is in one season, he has the uncanny ability to duplicate or improve that success in the following season.  What he is doing for Major League Baseball is simply revolutionary.

Kershaw has certainly become one of the MLB’s best players, and one of the MLB’s greatest pitchers of all-time.  This is no fluke, however.  It comes from hard work and constant preparation, and Kershaw’s preparation is second to none.  His teammates constantly point to the fact that he is always striving to improve his game and describe him as a total perfectionist.  Kershaw has also proven to be one of the MLB’s most valuable players, off the field.  He has been honored with the Roberto Clemente Award, as well as the Branch Rickey Award for all his humanitarian work.  Kershaw is an obvious choice for the MLB Hall of Fame someday, but I think I can speak for baseball fans everywhere when I say, I hope his retirement is a long way away.