The Best MLB Draft Class of the Last 20 Years

The Best MLB Draft Class of the Last 20 Years

Major League Baseball drafts may be the most overlooked draft in all of sports. The NFL draft is definitely tops, with the NBA draft right behind it. The NHL draft may not be that big in America, but I think loyal American hockey fans and all of Canada definitely love their draft. The thing with the MLB draft is, just like the game itself, it’s really long. The draft has 40 rounds, that’s 30 teams and 40 rounds, and that’t not even counting the supplemental draft choices.

But when you look back the last 20 years of MLB drafts, no other draft class may have produced more stars than the 2011 draft class. Five of the top nine picks turned out to be future All-Stars, and a total of nine players taken in the first round were All-Stars as well. That’s not counting the players taken in the Supplemental first round where four more players made All-Star appearances.

Some may say the 2005 MLB Draft had a better class of players, but I’m firmly saying it’s 2011. So let’s look back at the 2011 MLB Draft class.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole, RHP

Elite Sports NY

Taken number 1 overall, Cole is now considered one of the games top pitchers. With a career record of 94-52, in just 7 seasons Cole has made 3 All-Star Games, and had a dominant 2019 season going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA. Cole earned All-MLB First Team honors, and was the AL ERA leader, and the AL strikeout leader. Cole used that season to sign the largest contract for a pitcher, signing with the New York Yankees on a nine-year $324M contract.

2. Seattle Mariners, Danny Hultzen, LHP

Now I know it doesn’t help my case when the second overall pick hasn’t panned out to be all that much yet, but Danny Hultzen did have high praise. A lefty, Hultzen went 9-7 in his first professional debut in both AA and AAA, and was named to appear in the 2012 All-Stat Futures Game. Hultzen had a string of injuries starting in 2013, causing him to miss the 2013, and 2014 seasons. He returned in 2015 for three games, but again suffered an injury and missed 2015 and 2016. Hultzen then sat out the 2017 season to finish his university degree. He returned in 2018 and signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. He made his MLB debut in 2019 and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with 5 strikeouts. He resigned with the Cubs in 2020, so despite all the injuries, the book may not be closed on Danny Hultzen.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks, Trevor Bauer, RHP

Trevor Bauer may not have started off as hot as his UCLA teammate Gerrit Cole, but he seemed to find his stride heading into the 2016 season. His ERA was still above 4.00, but he pitched above .500 baseball in 2016, 2017, and in 2018. His 2018 season was his best yet, pitching to a 12-6 record and a 2.21 ERA, getting voted to his first All-Star Game. Following his 2018 season, Bauer seemed to take another step back. The Indians traded him to the Reds where Bauer pitched in 10 games to a 2-5 record with a frightening 6.39 ERA. But hey, he was still an All-Star, right?

4. Baltimore Orioles, Dylan Bundy, RHP
Owasso High School (OK)

Dylan Bundy’s numbers may not be the type you look at and think he’s a solid pitcher, but you have to remember he’s been on the Orioles his entire career. He was just traded to the Los Angeles Angels, and I truly believe he will finally be able to show what he can do. In 5 years, Bundy pitched to a 38-45 record with a 4.67 ERA. Now that record really isn’t that bad considering the team he had behind him, and although the ERA is quite high, it’s nothing that a change of scenery can’t help.

5. Kansas City Royals, Bubba Starling, OF
Gardner Edgerton High School (KS)

Heading into the 2011 draft, many scouts believed Starling to be the most athletic player in the draft, but he just hasn’t been able to produce on any level. The difference between Starling and Danny Hultzen is obviously the fact that Hultzen has been injury prone pretty much his entire career. Starling just hasn’t been able to get anything going in the minor leagues, but was still promoted to the Royals’ MLB team in 2019. In 56 games, (186 AB) Starling batted .215 with 4 HR and just 12 RBIs.

6. Washington Nationals, Anthony Rendon, 3B

NBC Los Angeles

The World Series Champions Washington Nationals struck gold with their 6th overall pick of this draft. Third baseman Anthony Rendon made a brief appearance in the majors in 2013 after Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the IL, but was quickly optioned down when Zimmerman came back. Rendon came back to the majors a month later and hit his first major league home run just days later, and remained in the majors ever since. Since 2017, Rendon hasn’t batted lower than .300, and was instrumental in the Nationals 2019 World Series run hitting over .400 in the NLDS and NLCS. Rendon then signed a 7-year, $245M contract with the Angles in December of 2019.

7. Arizona Diamondbacks, Archie Bradley, RHP
Broken Arrow Senior High (OK)

Archie Bradley had a rough start in his first two years in the majors. In both 2015 and 2016, Bradley pitched an ERA higher than 5.00. Before the 2017 season, Bradley was moved to the bullpen and actually did great work in the pen. In 63 games (73 IP) Bradley pitched to a 1.73 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Following his move to the bullpen, Bradley hasn’t quite seen the same success, but is nothing like his first two years. a 3.64 and 3.52 in 2018 and 2019 respectively may be a step down, but the talent is there.

8. Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor, SS
Montverde Academy (FL)

Prospect Insider

You have to make a lasting impression when the school you went to names the field after you before you even make your MLB debut. Lindor is considered one of the league’s best shortstops and it’s for good reason. In 2015 Lindor was called up to the majors for the Indians and hit .313 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs. He hasn’t looked back since, and has been an All-Star ever since the 2016 campaign. Lindor further proved his worth in the Indians 2018 ALDS sweep by the Astros. Lindor batted .364, while the rest of the Indians team hit just .144.

9. Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, SS
Arlington Country Day School (FL)

NBC Sports

Back to back short stops taken and back to back monsters of players. “El Mago” got his call-up in August of 2014, and hit first career home run in his first career game. Oh yeah…and it was the game winner in the 12th. Baez became the first player since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit an extra innings home run in his debut. But that home run wasn’t enough to keep Baez in the majors. Following an abysmal 2014 campaign where he batted .169 in 52 games, and a strikeout heavy spring the following year, Baez was optioned to Triple-A. But after that minor set back, Baez found his way back to the majors and has been consistent ever since, hitting between .273 and .290 since 2015. The Magician is a two-time All-Star and was a key part in the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory.

10. San Diego Padres, Cory Spangenberg, OF
Indian River State College (FL)

Spangenberg was drafted 10th overall and made his MLB debut in the 2014 season. Originally an outfielder, Spangenberg primarily played second base in his minor league career. In 20 games he batted .290, and the following year batted .271. Starting the 2016 season, Spangenberg was listed as the starting second baseman for the Friars, but a torn quad in April seemed to hinder the young infielder. Heading into the 2017 season, Spangenberg competed for the Padres third baseman job, but was among the teams final roster cuts. After a pretty solid showing in Milwaukee’s AAA club, Spangenberg signed with the Saitama Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

11. Houston Astors, George Spinger, OF

Sporting News

With Springer being drafted 11th, he became the highest selection in the MLB Draft in University of Connecticut baseball history. Before the start of the 2012 season, rated Springer as the 84th best prospect in baseball. He made his MLB debut in April of 2014 and quickly hit 15 home runs before the All-Star break, becoming the first Astros’ rookie to reach that mark before the break. Springer got better as the years went on, cutting down his strikeout rate and became one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. At just age 30, Springer is already a three-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, World Series Champion and World Series MVP.

12. Milwaukee Brewers, Taylor Jungmann, RHP

Jungmann was taken 12th by the Brewers and immediately started pitching in the Class-A-Advanced Florida State League. Jungmann’s ERA was at a respectable 3.53, and was promoted to AA ball, where his ERA rose to 4.33. In 2014, however, Jungmann was named a Southern League All-Star and also played for the AAA team. Jungmann made his MLB debut in 2015 and became the first Brewers pitcher in franchise history to throw a complete game at Dodger Stadium. Jungmann couldn’t keep that form and pitched a combined 7.90 ERA in 9 MLB games. Jungmann was then released in January of 2018. Earlier this year, Jungmann signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.

13. New York Mets, Brandon Nimmo, OF
Cheyenne East High School (WY)

Going into the draft, Baseball America ranked Nimmo 35th in the Top 50 prospects list, and when the Mets drafted him at 13, he became the highest-drafted player from Wyoming in the history of the league. He started wit the Gulf Coast Mets and Kinsport Mets and combined to hit .211 with just four RBIs. In 2013 he started the season in Class-A and was ranked fourth among Mets prospects. By April, he was th leading hitter in the entire South Atlantic League with a .447 BA. His call-up came in 2016, and in 32 games batted .274. Nimmo only played in 69 games in 2019 due to a bulging disk in his neck. In those 69 games, he batted .221 with 8 home runs and 29 RBIs.

14. Florida Marlins, Jose Fernandez, RHP
Braulio Alonso High School (FL)

Slate Magazine

Jose Fernandez was the Marlins top prospect prior to the 2013 season and the fifth best prospect in all of baseball. He made his major league debut on April 7th, and became just the seventh pitcher since 1916 under the age of 21 to strike out at least 8 batters in his MLB debut. In his rookie year, Fernandez was selected to the All-Star Game, and became the third pitcher in history of the All-Star Game to strike out two batters prior to their 21st birthday in their All-Star debut. He continued to make history when he became just the sixth pitcher since 2000 to strike out 13 or more batters in consecutive games. He was named the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and would be named a two-time All-Star in 2016. Unfortunately, Fernandez was killed in a boating crash on September 25, 2016. Fernandez had the makings to be one of the best pitchers in the league, and his untimely death was felt around the entire league.

15. Milwaukee Brewers, Jed Bradley, LHP
Georgia Tech

Bradley was selected 15th and made his professional debut in Class-A-Advanced Florda State League, but struggled to a 5.53 ERA. His season ended with a shoulder injury, which halted any chances of a promotion. The next year, in 10 starts, Bradley pitched to a 5-2 record with a 2.98 ERA, which was enough to promote him to AA in 2014. His only major league action came in 2016 for the Atlanta Braves. In 6 games, Bradley pitched a 5.14 ERA to a 1-1 record. The Orioled claimed him off waivers after the 2016 season, but announced his retirement in 2017. In 2019, he signed with the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

16. Los Angeles Dodgers, Chris Reed, LHP

Chris Reed started his professional career in 2011 in Class-A before being promoted to AA in June. He was even selected to represent the “World Team” in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game, and represented the Great Britain national baseball team in the 2013 WBC. The Dodgers traded Reed to the Marlins in 2015, where he started in AAA. He only made 2 appearances for the Marlins in 2015, pitching to a 4.50 ERA. Reed signed with the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League, and is now a free agent.

17. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, C.J. Cron, 1B

Cron made his MLB Debut for the Angels in 2014. 7 days later he hit his first career home run against the Toronto Blue Jays. Once the Angels released Raul Ibanez, C.J. Cron became the Angels’ primary designated hitter. Cron was sent down a couple times in the 2016 season, and the same in 2017 before the Angles traded him to the Rays. Cron was designated for assignment by the Rays, and picked up the Twins. He is currently on the Detroit Tigers, earning $6.1M dollars for 2020.

18. Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray, RHP

NBC Sports

What a weird career it’s been for Sonny Gray. He started out in Oakland and made his MLB debut in 2013. In the first three years of his career, Gray logged ERAs of 2.67, 3.08, and 2.73 and made it to the 2015 All-Star Game. 2016 was a rough one for Gray, posting an ERA above 5.50, and in 2017 he was traded to the New York Yankees. His career in New York was underwhelming, and before the 2019 season Gray was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he returned to his form, pitching a 2.87 ERA, and earning his second All-Star Game bid.

19. Boston Red Sox, Matt Barnes, RHP

Following the 2012 season, Barnes was ranked 38th in the Top 100 Prospects list. In the 2013 season, he made appearances in AA and AAA before being called up to the mjoars in September of 2014. Following a rough first few years, Barnes has worked on keeping his ERA lower coming out of the pen. In his career 314 innings, Barnes has recorded 407 strikeouts and just 145 walks. Even though his ERA remains above 3.50, Barnes has made himself a key player in the Red Sox bullpen.

20. Colorado Rockies, Tyler Anderson, LHP

In college at Oregon, Anderson was named to the Pac-10 All-Conference Team his sophomore year and his junior year, and was named by Louisville Slugger a Second Team All-American. He is currently the Ducks all-time leader in strikeouts with 285. His collegiate dominance didn’t seem to transfer over to the big leagues though. His rookie year, Anderson went 5-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts. In the 2019 season, he was placed on the IL, and demoted to AAA when he returned. His AAA year ended when he had surgery to correct a chondral defect in the knee. The Giants claimed Anderson off waivers, and he signed a one-year major league contract thereafter.

21. Toronto Blue Jays, Tyler Beede, RHP
Lawrence Academy (MA)

Tyler Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays, but he decided not to sign and instead attended Vanderbilt to play baseball. The San Francisco Giants took Beede in 2014. He made two appearances in 2018 that didn’t go all that well with an 8.22 ERA, and in 2019 pitched in 24 games to a 5-10 record with a 5.08 ERA.

22. St. Louis Cardinals, Kolten Wong, 2B

Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Kolten Wong entered the MLB draft after his junior year, and was ranked #4 in the Cardinals top prospect list. He made his MLB debut in 2013 and struggled in 32 games. Things started to pick up afterward as his batting average starting climbing. His most recent campaign was one of his best, batting .285 with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs. Wong also took home Gold Glove honors in 2019. He may not have “All-Star” next to his name just yet, but I truly belive in a year or two we could see Kolten Wong in the All-Star game.

23. Washington Nationals, Alex Meyer, RHP

At one point after the draft, rated Meyer the 83rd best prospect in baseball. He never got a chance to pitch in Washington’s major league club, and was traded to the Twins after the 2012 season. While in the minors for Minnesota, Meyer was named to the All-Star Futures Game. Originally a starter, Meyer’s struggles caused the Twins to move him to the bullpen. Meyer made two appearances for the Twins, but allowed 5 runs, including 3 home runs, and was quickly demoted to AAA. His MLB career isn’t anything to write home about, and unfortunately in 2019, Meyer retired from baseball citing multiple surgeries and countless hours of rehab.

24. Tampa Bay Rays, Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
Spring Valley High School (SC)

Guerrieri started in Class-A and did pretty well, pitching a 1.04 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 52 innings. In 2013, he started off 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA, and was chosen to play in the All-Star Futures Game. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013, and received a 50-game suspension after the 2013 for substance abuse issues. Guerrieri was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, but cleared waivers a year later before signing with the Texas Rangers. Guerrieri pitched a 4.66 ERA in 2019 in 9.2 innings, and a 5.81 ERA in 26.1 innings in 2019. He then accepted an outright assignment to Nashville on November 27th, 2019.

25. San Diego Padres, Joe Ross, RHP
Bishop O’Dowd High School (CA)

I personally had high hopes for Joe Ross, and really thought the Padres got away with a steal here. In 2012 while pitching in Class-A, he missed most of the season with right shoulder inflammation, and returned in 2013. He started 2014 in Class-A Advances, and was promoted to AA during the season. Ross was traded to the Nationals and was called up in 2015. He started off solid, but shorty after Nationals manager Matt Williams announced Tanner Roark would take over Ross’ spot in the rotation. He would earn his way back into the rotation before the 2016 season, but problems with his shoulder inflammation caused some problems for Ross. Since 2017, Ross hasn’t registered an ERA lower than 5.00.

26. Boston Red Sox, Blake Swihart, C
V. Sue Cleveland High School (NM)

Swihart actually played shortstop in high school, but the Red Sox converted him into a catcher because of his strong arm. He played in the rookie-level league in 2011, but was quickly promoted twice to Class-A and Class-A Advanced. Before the 2014 season, Swihart was ranked 74th in Baseball America’s top prospect list. In 2015, Swihart was called up to the majors, and in 309 plate appearances hit .274 with a .319 on-base percentage. Swihart remained in the majors ever since, but his batting average has dipped each year. he was traded to the Diamondbacks in 2019, and following a poor performance in Arizona, he was elected for free agency after being designated for assignment. He signed a minor league deal with the Rangers late 2019.

27. Cincinnati Reds, Robert Stephenson, RHP
Alhambra High School (CA)

Robert Stephenson attended Alhambra High in Martinez, California. He was named the Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year and was rated by Baseball America as the 25th-best prospect in the 2011 draft. (He also graduated with a 4.2 GPA). He made his MLB debut in 2016 going 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA. 2017 was a little better, going 5-6 with a 4.68 ERA. His 2018 season was spent mostly in AAA, but his MLB stats weren’t great by any means (9.26 ERA in 3 starts). In 2019, Stephenson was moves to the bullpen where he had his most successful year to date, going 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA. He also had career bests in WHIP, K/9, BB/9, and H/9.

28. Atlanta Braves, Sean Gilmartin, LHP
Florida State

Prior to Gilmartin’s 2012 season, Gilmartin was ranked as the Braved 5th best prospect by Baseball America. Although he was invited to Braves spring training that year, he didn’t make the team and spent the year in AAA, but was limited due to shoulder injuries. He was then traded to the Twins, and then taken by the New York Mets in the Rule 5 draft. Gilmartin landed a spot in the bullpen and had a great first year, going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 57 innings. He was then sent down after Jim Henderson beat him out for the last spot in the pen. He has spent a lot of time in between the majors and AAA for both the Mets and the Orioles. In February of this year, he signed a minor league deal with the Rays.

29. San Francisco Giants, Joe Panik, SS
St. John’s (NY)

Amazin’ Avenue

It’s been a career of ups and downs for Joe Panik so far. He made his MLB debut in 2014, and won a World Series with the Giants. He finished the 2014 season with a .305 BA in 73 games. His 2015 season was easily the best of his career. He batted .312, with a .378 on-base percentage and a .455 slugging percentage. He was selected as a reserve for the 2015 All Star Game. In 2017, Panik set a Giants record, and tied the MLB record with 12 hits in a three-game series. In 2019, Panik signed with the Mets but became a free agent after the season. This January, he signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, but after his impressive Spring Training was added to the 40-man roster.

30. Minnesota Twins, Levi Michael, SS
North Carolina

Levi Michael has yet to see Major League action since being drafted 30th by the Twins in 2011. He remained with the Twins until 2018, when he asked the club for his release, which he was granted. In 2018, he signed a minor-league deal with the Mets, and elected free agency after being assigned to AA. He signed a minor-league deal with Giants late 2018, but again became a free agent after the 2019 season. He is now back with the Twins on a minor league deal and had an invitation to Spring Training.

31. Tampa Bay Rays, Mikie Mahtook, OF

Mahtook started the 2015 season in AAA, and was promoted in April to replace the injured John Jaso, but was recalled on June 2nd. In his 105 at-bats, Mahtook hit .295 with 9 home runs. The 2016 season was a rough one for Mahtook, as he was dealing with injuries. He only appeared in 96 games in 2016, 65 in the majors. Mahtook was traded to the Tigers and had an average year batting .276 in 109 games. Mahtook had a strong showing in the 2019 Spring Training, and made the Tigers roster. He started the season 0-23 with 11 strikeouts and was designated for assignment. He signed with the Phillies in late 2019.

32. Tampa Bay Rays, Jake Hager, SS
Sierra Vista High School (NV)

Hager is another player that has yet to see the major leagues. There isn’t much to say about the 27 year-old shortstop. In 8 total minor league seasons, Hager hasn’t hit over .300 on any level. In 2018, he signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and re-signed to a minor league contract that included an invitation to 2019 spring training, but elected free agency after the 2019 season. He signed with the New York Mets in early 2020.

33. Texas Rangers, Kevin Matthews, LHP
Richmond Hill High School (GA)

The final pick in the first round of the MLB draft is yet another player that hasn’t seen MLB playing time. Despite having a pretty solid 2011 in the low minor leagues, that all changed once he hit Class-A. The highest level of play for Matthews has been AAA in 2017. He made on start and was credited with the loss, allowing 1 run in 4 innings.

Supplemental First Round Notable Picks

40. Boston Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. OF
South Carolina

Boston Globe
  • 2018 World Series Champion
  • 2018 ALCS MVP
  • 2016 All-Star
  • 2016 Gold Glove Award Winner

44. New York Mets, Michael Fulmer, RHP
Deer Creek High School (OK)

  • 2016 AL Rookie of the Year
  • 2017 All-Star

45. Colorado Rockies, Trevor Story, SS
Irving High School (TX)

Denver Post
  • 2x All-Star (2018, 2019)
  • 2x Silver Slugger (2018, 2019)
  • Fastest shortstop in MLB history to reach 100 home runs

52. Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell, LHP
Shorewood High School (WA)

Tampa Bay Times
  • 2018 All-Star
  • 2018 AL Cy Young Award Winner
  • 2018 AL Wins Leader
  • 2018 AL ERA Leader

Other Notable Picks

Rd. 2, Pick 61. Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Bell, OF
Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas (TX)

  • 2019 All-Star

Rd. 2, Pick 68. Chicago Cubs, Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
Bishop Verot High School (FL)

  • 2019 All-Star

Rd. 2, Pick 76. Detroit Tigers, James McCann, C

  • 2019 All-Star

Rd. 5, Pick 172. Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, SS
John Overton High School (TN)

New York Post
  • 4x All-Star (2016-2019)
  • 2019 All-MLB Second Team
  • 2018 World Series Champion
  • 2018 AL MVP
  • 3x Silver Slugger (2016, 2018, 2019)
  • 4x Gold Glove Winner (2016-2019)
  • 2016 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2018 AL Batting Champion
  • 30-30 Club (2018)

Rd. 7, Pick 226. Oakland Athletics, Blake Treinen, RHP
South Dakota State

  • 2018 All-Star

Rd. 8, Pick 266. Atlanta Braves, Tommy La Stella, 2B
Coastal Carolina

  • 2016 World Series Champion
  • 2019 All-Star

Rd. 25, Pick 771. Chicago White Sox, Chris Devenski, RHP
Cal State Fullerton

  • 2017 World Series Champion
  • 2017 All-Star
  • Combined No-Hitter (August 3, 2019)

Non-MVP Notable Picks

  • Mike Clevinger (Rd. 4, Pick 135, LAA)
  • Tyler Glasnow (Rd. 5, Pick 152, PIT)
  • Greg Bird (Rd. 5, Pick 179, NYY)
  • Anthony DeSclafani (Rd. 6, Pick 199, TOR)
  • Ken Giles (Rd. 7, Pick 241, PHI)
  • Carson Smith (Rd. 8, Pick 243, SEA)
  • Amir Garrett (Rd. 22, Pick 685, CIN)
  • Cody Allen (Rd. 23, Pick 698, CLE)

Featured Image: Barstool Sports

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