With the MLB draft scheduled for next week, let’s take a look at each National League team’s most successful draft class in recent memory. Using Baseball Reference’s draft tracker, we can sum the combined career bWAR of each player selected by each team in a given year. It’s a simple shorthand, not a perfect measure, but it’ll give some insight into which teams have really hit on their picks in certain years.
First, a quick note on the methodology. For simplicity, we’re limiting this search to the 2006-2015 classes. A player’s value is only included if he signed with the club, although he needn’t have actually played for his drafting team in the majors. (So, the 2008 Yankees don’t get credit for drafting but failing to sign Gerrit Cole, while the 2007 Red Sox do get credit for drafting and signing Anthony Rizzo, even though he was traded before ever playing an MLB game for Boston). Of course, a player drafted in 2006 has had more time to rack up value than one drafted in 2015, so we’ll note in each team’s capsule if a more recent class is on the verge of taking over from an older class. On to the results…
- Braves: 2007 (76.6 bWAR) – Hitting on Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman in the first two rounds goes a long way. Heyward has been a disappointment with the Cubs but had some electrifying seasons in his early days in Atlanta (and his year in St. Louis), while Freeman has emerged as a fixture in the Braves’ lineup as one of the best hitters in baseball over the past decade.
- Brewers: 2009 (30.7 bWAR) – This was period of some underwhelming draft returns for Milwaukee. The 2009 class tops the list thanks to Khris Davis, Mike Fiers and Scooter Gennett, all of whom are better known for their play (or whistleblowing, in Fiers’ case) elsewhere.
- Cardinals: 2006 (56.3 bWAR) – By virtue of putting up baseball’s best record in 2005, the Cardinals sat at the back of every round in 2006. No matter, as they managed to find a handful of highly productive big leaguers. First-rounder Adam Ottavino didn’t work out in St. Louis but went on to a strong career as a reliever in Colorado. Tommy Pham (16th round) and Jon Jay (2nd round) have each carved out strong careers, while Allen Craig (8th round) had a brief but productive peak.
- Cubs: 2007 (54.4 bWAR) – Unfortunately for the Cubs, this class is almost all about Josh Donaldson, who did none of his damage in a Chicago uniform. Perhaps Javier Báez (2012 draft) or Kris Bryant (2013 draft) will match or exceed Donaldson’s stellar career in time.
- Diamondbacks: 2009 (73.1 bWAR) – Paul Goldschmidt (8th round) went on to become the top position player in franchise history. First-rounder AJ Pollock had a couple star-level seasons of his own before injuries knocked him off track, while Chase Anderson (9th round) has emerged as a solid back-of-the-rotation starter.
- Dodgers: 2006 (70.6 bWAR) – The Dodgers only signed two big leaguers from the 2006 class. When one of them goes on to become arguably the best pitcher of his generation, you can more than get away with it. Clayton Kershaw’s Hall of Fame plaque will boast at least three Cy Young Awards and an NL MVP.
- Giants: 2008 (65.6 bWAR) – The late-2000’s draft classes set up the crux of the Giants’ three World Series titles the first half of the next decade. None was more impactful than 2008, when SF grabbed Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford in the first and fourth rounds, respectively.
- Marlins: 2010 (56.1 bWAR) – Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto have matured into two of the best players in baseball, so the Marlins’ 2010 class (which also boasted late-blooming A’s slugger Mark Canha) has a chance to be really special. Of course, none of those players are still in Miami.
- Mets: 2010 (50.5 bWAR) – Seventh overall pick Matt Harvey was briefly the ace the Mets hoped they were adding in 2010. As it turns out, Jacob deGrom (9th round) had a lot more staying power atop their rotation.
- Nationals: 2009 (44.9 bWAR) – First overall pick Stephen Strasburg has more than made good on that selection, culminating in a World Series MVP effort in 2019. The 2009 class also brought in a handful of role players, including Drew Storen and Michael Taylor.
- Padres: 2007 (38.9 bWAR) – Another team for whom the top player simply got away, the crown jewel of the Padres’ 2007 class was Corey Kluber (4th round). Obviously, even San Diego didn’t him expect him to go on to win a pair of Cy Young Awards.
- Phillies: 2014 (24.2 bWAR) – There were some tough results for the Phillies on draft day in recent seasons, but 2014 looks to be a notable exception. Aaron Nola went seventh overall and has emerged as a high-level starter, while Rhys Hoskins (fifth round) looks like the Phils’ long-term answer at first base.
- Pirates: 2011 (29.7 bWAR) – The Pirates’ 2011 class is almost exclusively about the contributions of first overall pick Gerrit Cole, but he obviously reached his peak after being traded to Houston. Josh Bell (2nd round) looked to have turned the corner at the plate in the first half of 2019.
- Reds: 2007 (43.1 bWAR) – The Reds found three future everyday players in the 2007 class. Todd Frazier (supplemental first-round), Zack Cozart (2nd round) and Devin Mesoraco (1st round) all went on to become productive players in Cincinnati.
- Rockies: 2009 (47.4 bWAR) – The Rockies graduated six players from the 2009 class to the big leagues, although only one proved a smashing success. Finding a player of Nolan Arenado’s caliber in the second round makes for a great draft even if the rest of the players taken underwhelm.