By: Noah Wright
Mike Trout is hands down a once in a generation type player. No player has put on this display of power, speed, arm, fielding, and batting prowess since Willie Mays. However, he was selected in the 2009 MLB draft, not first, second, or even within the top 10 picks. He was selected 25th overall by the LA Angels. There were 24 other kids selected before Trout, but where have every single of those players ended up?
1.) Stephen Strasburg:
Out of the 24 players, Strasburg has probably been the most successful. He also has one of the most memorable debuts in recent MLB history. On June 8th, 2010, almost a year after he was drafted by the Nationals, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Strasburg went 7 innings, struck out 14 batters, gave up just 2 runs, didn’t walk a single batter, and gave up only 4 hits. Though Strasburg has had a good career, it hasn’t been without its flaws. Strasburg has had countless injuries, including a tommy john procedure in late 2010. He has only made 30+ starts twice time in his career. That was back in 2013-2014. However, still owns a very good career 3.14 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 1.087 WHIP, a .9 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 10.6 K/9, and elite 4.52 K/BB ratio. His best season came in 2017 when Strasburg pitched to a 2.52 ERA, a league leading 2.72 FIP, and 1.015 WHIP in 175 and a third innings, and finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting.
2.) Dustin Ackley:
Infielder Dustin Ackley was considered one of the best, if not the best, college hitters at the time. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners right after Strasburg and seemed like the future of the Mariners infield. A year later, Ackley made his debut after scorching AAA pitching. His first 376 plate appearances yielded a solid .273/.388/.417 line, 6 long balls, 6 stolen bases, and a 117 wRC+. He even had elite defense at second base with 9 DRS, 5.1 UZR, and 1.2 dWAR. But that’s about where Dustin Ackley’s success ended. From 2012 to his last MLB game in 2016 with the Yankees, Ackley put up a weak .654 OPS, and 86 OPS+. He also posted a bWAR of 4.5. In his rookie season alone, Ackley had a 3.7 bWAR. Since his departure from the Mariners, Ackley has bounced between the Yankees, and LA Angels, but has never showed that once extremely high ceiling.
3.) Donavan Tate:
Tate was selected by the San Diego Padres out of Cartersville High School. He showed some power, speed, and some defensive ability, but the only question was how long his bat would take to develop. To put it simply, Tate never performed well in the minors. When he wasn’t underperforming on the field, he was injured. Plus Tate had a run in with substance abuse. Tate hasn’t played professional baseball since 2016 with the Dodgers High-A affiliate.
4.) Tony Sanchez:
Sanchez was drafted by the Pirates out of Boston College. He was mainly known for his glove, but also brought a decent bat along with him. Throughout the minors, Sanchez showed that decent defensive prowess, and solid performances with his bat, but was never a heavy hitter. Regardless, Sanchez was considered a top 100 prospect in the early 2010’s, and looked to be the future at catcher for the Pirates. When Sanchez did reach the majors, he had trouble throwing runners out, and his bat wasn’t all that impressive either. After the Pirates signed Francisco Cervelli, and acquired Chris Stewart, Sanchez was pushed back in the depth chart. He also wasn’t helped by a lack of performance in the high minors. Sanchez last played an MLB game in 2017, and is currently on the Rangers AA team after bouncing around with the Giants, Angels, Blue Jays, Reds, and Braves (the last team he has played for in an MLB game).
5.) Matt Hobgood:
Hobgood was taken by the Orioles with the 5th overall selection out of Norco High School. His knockout combination was the fastball and curveball, but Hobgood never panned out. He struggled throughout his entire MILB career, and hasn’t played a professional game since 2015.
6.) Zack Wheeler:
Zack Wheeler was originally drafted by the Giants out of East Paulding High School, but was traded to the Mets 2 years later for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler’s career has been really up and down. When Wheeler broke into the league in 2013-2014, he looked like part of the future of the Mets’ rotation. In those 2 years, Wheeler had a 3.50 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and 1.339 WHIP in 285 and a third innings. Plus, he showed the ability to rack up K’s, and limit home runs. However, Wheeler missed both 2015 and 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2017, but struggled to a 5.21 ERA, 5.03 FIP, and 1.587 WHIP in a limited 86 and a third innings. Wheeler did bounce back in 2018 with a 3.31 ERA, 3.25 FIP, and 1.124 WHIP in 182 and two thirds innings, and isn’t having a horrible year this season.
7.) Mike Minor:
Like Wheeler, Mike Minor has also had a pretty up and down career. After being drafted out of Vanderbilt by the Braves, he made his debut in 2010 with varying results. In his first 3 seasons, Minor had some OK, but not great numbers. Between 2010 and 2012, Minor posted a 4.37 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 1.302 WHIP in 302 and two thirds innings. But Minor did show some decent strikeout numbers and walk numbers. He broke out in 2013 with a 3.21 ERA, 3.37 FIP, and 1.090 WHIP in 204 and two thirds innings, but regressed in 2014 possibly because of shoulder soreness the entire season. Minor missed all of 2015, and 2016, but returned strong in 2017 as a relief pitcher. Now with the Royals for 2017, Minor posted a 2.55 ERA, 2.62 FIP, and 1.017 WHIP in 77 and two thirds innings. Minor had an improved K/9 rate (10.2), and walks/9 rate (2.5 as well). After ‘17, Minor returned to being a starter with the Rangers, and has produced overall solid numbers since.
8.) Mike Leake:
Leake, who was drafted by the Reds out of Arizona State, has put together a solid career. He’s no ace, but he’s a decent innings eater. Leake has a career 4.06 ERA, 4.18 FIP, and 1.284 WHIP across 10 MLB seasons, and 1697 and two thirds inning. Leake’s best performances came between 2013-2015. In those 3 seasons, Leake had a 3.59 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 1.221 WHIP in 598 and two thirds innings.
9.) Jacob Turner:
Turner was on my list of top 10 prospect busts of the decade. In 2011, he was ranked as the MLB’s 7th best prospect. Higher than all-stars Manny Machado, Carlos Martinez, and Chris Archer. The Westminster Christian Academy and Tigers draft pick put up very good numbers throughout the minors. Obviously, he never panned out in the majors. Interestingly enough, Turner was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins to Tigers. In his career, Turner has a 5.37 ERA, 4.83 FIP, and 1.545 WHIP. He has played with the Tigers who he has had two stints with, Marlins, who he also had 2 stints with, Cubs, White Sox, and Nationals.
10.) Drew Storen:
Although Storen wasn’t a very high ranking prospect, Storen was a top producer out of the Nationals’ bullpen for many years. Drafted out of Stanford, Storen had a 3.02 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 1.129 WHIP throughout his 6 year, 334 inning National tenure. He had a solid 3.34 K/BB ratio, and kept home runs to a minimum. After he left the Nation’s Capital, Storen started to struggle. Between 2016 and 2017, Storen had a dreadful 4.82 ERA, 4.55 FIP, and 1.401 WHIP in 106 and a third innings split between the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Reds. In September of the ‘17, Storen had to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Royals signed him this past off season, and is currently on track to returning to the MLB sometime this year.
11.) Tyler Matzek:
Matzek was drafted by the Rockies from Capistrano Valley High School. Matzek was actually a high ranking prospect in the Rockies’ system. Between 2010 and 2011, Matzek ranked within the top 35 prospects according to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Matzek’s first big league season in 2014 wasn’t a bad one. In 117 and two thirds innings, Tyler had a 4.05 ERA, but 3.78 FIP, 1.394 WHIP, along with an impressive .7 HR/9 (for a Rockies pitcher), and 3.4 BB/9 rate. The next season, Matzek had seen his BB/9 rise to a horrible 7.8 per 9 rate. He was sent back to AAA, and hasn’t played another MLB game since ‘15. After his Rockies tenure, Matzek has bounced between the White Sox, Mariners, and Diamondbacks.
12.) Aaron Crow:
Crow took a strange path to the MLB. In 2008, he was a starting pitcher for the indy league Fort Worth Cats. In 2009, he was drafted by the Royals in the first round out of the University Of Missouri Columbia. He continued to work as a starter and struggled. When the right hander made the MLB, he was moved to the bullpen, and performed fairly well. He had a strong 9.4 K/9, and 2.76 ERA, but a 4.11 FIP, 1.387 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 in 62 innings during his ‘11 rookie season. He even made the all-star game as a rookie. For the next 3 seasons, Crow was a solid relief pitcher in the Royals pen. Between 2012 and 2014, Crow had a 3.67 ERA, 4.18 FIP, and 1.299 WHIP. After the 2014 season, Crow was sent to the Marlins. However, Crow underwent Tommy John in 2015, and hasn’t returned to the big leagues since ‘14. The last time Crow has played professional baseball was in 2018 in the Mexican leagues.
13.) Grant Green:
Grant Green was considered a premier college middle infielder. With that, the A’s selected him out of the University Of Southern California. Throughout the minor, Green showed some good speed, and power, but it never translated to the MLB. He only has 330 career plate appearances, and a .620 OPS. Green, like Crow, last played ball in 2018 in the Mexican Leagues.
14.) Matt Purke:
Purke was a left hander who had a good choice of pitches, but the Rangers were unable to sign him. Purke was redrafted by the Nationals in the third round of the 2011 draft, but never really performed in the minors. Purke’s entire MLB career consists of an 18 inning stint with the White Sox back in 2016 where he walked 12 batters and gave up 11 earned runs. However, Purke is still playing pro ball. Right now, he has a 3.24 ERA, and 1.440 WHIP in 8 and a third innings with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
15.) Alex White:
White was selected by the Indians out of UNC, but his time in the Indians system was short. After an impressive debut in the minors in 2010, White ranked as a top 100 prospect entering 2011. At the ‘11 deadline, he was shipped to the Rockies, along with a few other players, for Ubaldo Jimenez. He struggled as a Rockie, and had a 6.30 ERA, 5.88 FIP, and 1.705 WHIP in his time in Colorado. Eventually, he was sent to the Astros in the 2012-2013 off season, and hasn’t played an MLB game since 2012.
16.) Bobby Borchering:
Bobby was selected by the Diamondbacks out of Bishop Verot. He was selected as a bat first corner infielder, and that’s what he was. He had a few solid seasons in the minors in where he showed a decent bat. Such as in 2011 when he had 24 home runs and an .801 OPS. However, it was never enough for Borchering to make the MLB. In 2012, he was sent to the Astros for Chris Johnson, and then signed in the 2014-2015 off season by the Tigers. Borchering played his last professional game on June 29th, 2015.
17.) A.J. Pollock:
The Diamondbacks had back-to-back picks in the 2009 draft, and took A.J. Pollock with their second pick. The University Of Notre Dame product’s career is one full of injuries. But at one point, Pollock showed plenty of potential. Pollock broke out in 2014 with a .851 OPS in 287 plate appearances, and carried it over into 2015. His 2015 season has been the best season of his career. He finished the season with a .315/.367/.498 line in 673 plate appearances, along with 20 home runs, and 39 stolen bases. Plus, he had a 1.9 dWAR. But since then, Pollock has been setback by constant injuries. He missed all but 12 games in 2016 with injuries, and only played 112 and 113 games in ‘17 and ‘18, all of which with solid, but not great results. Pollock finished his tenure with the Diamondbacks with a .281/.338/.467 line, 74 home runs, and 103 stolen bases. This season, now with the Dodgers, Pollock is on pace to play in an injury limited amount of games this season as he has been on the IL since the end of April.
18.) Chad James:
Chad James was drafted by the Marlins out of Yukon High School, and that’s about it. He wasn’t ever some largely known prospect, and struggled throughout his entire MILB career. James did have a stint with the Frontier League’s Evansville Otters, and with the Rangers, but hasn’t played ball since ‘15.
19.) Shelby Miller:
The Cards took the Houston Texas native out of Brownwood High School with their first round pick, and Miller looked like a future star early in his career. The hard throwing righty had a 3.06 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.206 WHIP in his 173 and a third innings in his rookie season. Though he kind of struggled through his 2014 sophomore season, Miller was sent to the Atlanta Braves the following season with Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward, and Jordan Walden. In Atlanta, Miller pitched excellent. He had a 3.02 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 1.247 WHIP in 205 and a third innings. He had limited homeruns to a .6 per 9 rate, and had a solid 2.34 K/BB ratio. Despite all of this in 2015, he had a 6-17 record. The next off season, Miller was traded again. This time to the Diamondbacks in one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. He, along with Gabe Speier were sent to the D-Backs for Ender Inciarte, 2015 #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, and Aaron Blair, and this is where the downfall for Miller started. In his first season as a Diamondback, his ERA was over double of what it was the season prior. It jumped to a horrid 6.15. Miller also saw a worrying rise in home runs, hits given up, and a large decrease in strikeouts. He pitched in just an injury limited 101 innings. Since then, It’s just been pure injury riddled season after injury riddled season mixed in with well below average performance for Miller. Right now, Miller has a 9.64 ERA with the Texas Rangers.
20.) Chad Jenkins:
Jenkins was taken by the Blue Jays out of Kennesaw State University, and was seen as a guy who was good at pitching a handful of quality innings. However, Jenkins never blossomed in the MLB. He was constantly optioned and recalled by the Jays, but never stuck. Eventually, the Jays DFA’d Jenkins, and he hasn’t played pro ball since 2016.
21.) Jiovanni Mier:
The Stros took middle infielder Jiovanni Mier with their pick. MLB.com even compared him to Nomar Garciaparra when he was drafted. The Bonita High School product was considered to have a some power, along with good defensive prowess. But Mier never put up really good minor league numbers. He struggled in the low, mid and high minors, and has never been on an MLB roster. Mier last played pro ball in 2018 in the Mexican league.
22.) Kyle Gibson:
Gibson, who was a University Of Missouri Columbia student, was taken by the Twins in the first round. Gibson did pretty good throughout the minors. He consistently ranked within the top 75 on multiple prospect boards. But Gibson’s MLB career has been pretty inconsistent. Sometimes he looks like a solid middle of the rotation piece. Other times, he looks like he barely belongs in the MLB. Between 2016 and 2017, Gibson had an ERA above 5. In 2018 and 2015, he was a solid pitcher.
23.) Jarred Mitchell:
Outfielder Jared Mitchell was a guy who showed power and speed while at Louisiana State University. While Mitchell showed that power and speed some in the minors, his bat never fully developed. He would struggle when he reached AAA, and so eventually in 2015, the White Sox released Mitchell. He would then bounce between the LA Angels, and Yankees before finally landing in the Atlantic League with the York Revolution and the Sugar Land Skeeters (the team he is currently on).
24.) Randal Grichuk:
And finally, we get to the guy who was drafted right before Mike Trout; Randal Grichuk. The outfielder was taken by the Angles, since they had back-to-back picks, out of Lamar Consolidated High School. Grichuk showed good power and speed, plus good defense. However, Grichuk would not be brought to the majors by the Angels. In the 2013-2014 off season, Grichuk was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals with Peter Bourjos for David Freese and Fernando Salas. Grichuk made his debut in 2014, but didn’t play a full season until 2015. But he broke out in a big way in 2015. He finished the season with a .276/.329/.548 batting line, and 134 OPS+ in 350 plate appearances. He also hit 17 home runs, had 7 DRS, and a .5 dWAR. The next two seasons were pretty average. He didn’t really have super high slugging totals, nor did he excel at getting on base. He hit a few home runs, provided good defense, and that was about it. During the 2017-2018 off season, Grichuk was sent over to the Blue Jays for Dominic Leone and a minor leaguer. Grichuk did pretty well in his first season North of the border. He batted .245/.301/.502 with 25 home runs (a career high), and finished with a 118 OPS+ in 462 plate appearances. Although, his glove was sub-par according to dWAR, it still led to a 4 year extension this past off season.
Between these 24 players, they are equal to a combined total WAR of 128.4. Mike Trout’s career WAR is 67.8, just for comparison. The first 30 picks in the entire MLB draft are equal to 197.5. Trout’s WAR makes up 34% of the entirety of the 30 first picks on the draft. It’s insane to think that this many teams passed up on likely the greatest player of the past half decade. Trout is on pace to be a top 5 player in terms of WAR. He’s already beaten records set by Hall Of Fame level players. Trout will go down in as one of the greatest late first round picks in history.