Draftniks like I refer to the 2005 MLB draft as one of the best in recent memory. Why? Because in that draft, several picks became household names. That draft featured such attention-grabbers as Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ricky Romero, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clay Buchholz, and those are just all-stars. Marquee names came in later rounds of the draft, Heck, even last year’s NL MVP came from this draft, although he didn’t sign.
The MLB draft is the only draft (unless you count the NHL draft which players on amateur teams are taken as well) which offers high schoolers eligibility to be taken. In some cases, you’ll find that your favorite team’s new hotshot prospect didn’t attend college. But for all the high schoolers that do sign, there is usually a larger group that opts to attend college. Buster Posey may have been taken in the 2005 draft, but he opted to attend Florida State and ultimately raised his draft stock to the point where he was taken fifth overall in 2008, a heck of an improvement over the 50th round by the Los Angeles Angels. In fact, in the 2005 draft, eleven high schoolers who didn’t sign would end up being first round picks three years later: Brian Matusz, who would go fourth overall to Baltimore, Lance Lynn, who would be taken in the compensation round by St. Louis, Jemile Weeks, who would be taken by Oakland, Pedro Alvarez, who would be the number two pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, Ike Davis, Wade Miley, Andrew Cashner, Brett Wallace, and Posey.
Three years later, a new set of high schoolers would avoid signing, and ultimately wait until 2011. Among them was Gerrit Cole, who was taken 28th by the Yankees, but who pitched 3 years at UCLA and ultimately was taken by the Pirates, who just called him up. So in a “six degrees of separation” way, the 2011 draft has connections to the 2005 draft. But will the excellence from the 2005 draft extend all the way to 2014, a full nine years later? It is a possibility.
Vanderbilt ace Tyler Beede was a star at Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts, and seemed destined to become a first round pick. However, instead of going for the money, Beede displayed a strong sense of loyalty, and urged teams not to pick him, as he wanted to pitch for the Commodores. The Toronto Blue Jays obviously didn’t listen, tabbing him with their first round pick, and while the damage was minimal when he opted to go to college, as the Jays had several compensation picks, plus the added benefit of two first rounders the following year, the team must really regret not completely blowing Beede away while signing bonus restrictions were still a year away. Beede has helped bring Vanderbilt into the national title discussion, for at least next year. He broke several pitching records at Vanderbilt, and now, the only thing left to do is compete with North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon for the honor of being taken first overall in the 2014 draft.
While certain mock draft sites are pulling for Rodon, it seems that Beede, who has redefined the SEC as a pitching powerhouse instead of the traditional hitters haven, could find himself in Miami, Houston, Milwaukee or New York next year, and could turn out to be something extra special. While nobody really knows any of the 2014 prospects outside of Beede and Rodon, it will be interesting to see which 2011 spurners turn out to be first rounders, which 2014 spurners wait until 2017, and so on. I look forward to seeing Beede, Rodon, and the other 2011 spurners excel, and hope that many collegians are taken in the first round next year.