The MLB Draft is perhaps the biggest crapshoot of any U.S. professional sports draft. While I’d like to say that recent No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson out of Vanderbilt will become the game’s next Bryce Harper, there’s absolutely no guarantee of that.
Make no mistake, though: there were some unjustifiable busts and legitimate difference-makers who fell through the cracks past the first round. We’ll aim to right those wrongs by re-picking the first 30 picks according to career WAR — though we did make a few adjustments based on projected future WAR and team fit.
That being said, MLB front offices did a pretty good job of identifying the elite talent available in this draft class. Compared to the 2005 NFL Draft and 2005 NBA Draft, there were far fewer mistakes for us to revise.
We won’t be counting players who were picked in this draft, only to return to college and re-enter the draft later. That takes out guys like Chris Davis, Tim Lincecum, Doug Fister, Chris Davis and Buster Posey.
An interesting thing to note before we get started: No pitchers were taken in the first 12 picks of this re-draft. That tells you just how light the class of 2005 was on game-changing hurlers.
Original slot for Tulowitzki: No. 7
Career WAR: 38.6
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Original No. 1 pick: Justin Upton
Despite below average work in left field, Justin Upton has blossomed into a borderline MVP candidate with Atlanta and now San Diego. But a few seasons into Upton’s tenure with the Diamondbacks, Arizona’s brass was rubbed the wrong way by Upton’s relaxed approach to the game, which they perceived as lackadaisical. They shipped Upton and Chris Johnson to the Braves in 2013, receiving Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury.
None of those five have proven to be impact players, and it’s fair to say that the D-backs didn’t come close to receiving the value they should have from a No. 1 overall pick.
As for Tulowitzki, he’s proven time and time again that he can carry a team when he’s healthy. Of course, that’s proven to be a pretty hefty qualifier — Tulo has averaged less than 120 games per season since his 2007 rookie campaign. Still, the 30-year-old has compiled more WAR across his career than any other 2005 draftee, along with capturing two Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, so he’s the top pick in this re-draft.
Original slot for Gordon: No. 2
Career WAR: 31.2
Team: Kansas City Royals
Original No. 2 pick: Gordon
Here’s an instance where we strayed from the exact career WAR rankings: Gordon is currently ranked fifth in the 2005 class by that metric. However, unlike some of the guys ranked before him, Gordon’s in the middle of his prime. The Kansas City fan favorite is poised to make his third consecutive All-Star team this summer, has averaged 6.1 WAR between 2011-2014 and is on pace to rack up 5.8 WAR this season.
So with Gordon’s bat and glove both aging well, the four-time Gold Glover stays put at No. 2 in royal blue.
Original slot for McCutchen: No. 11
Career WAR: 35.4
Team: Seattle Mariners
Original No. 3 pick: Jeff Clement
Clement was the biggest bust of this draft, as the only top-5 selection to not accumulate at least 20 WAR during his Major League career. In fact, the former USC Trojan accounted for negative 1.2 WAR across 152 career games, utterly failing to deliver on his promise as the first catcher selected in 2005.
McCutchen proved to be a steal for Pittsburgh at No. 11 overall as a perennial MVP candidate. That’s doubly tough for Seattle fans to deal with considering the club’s massive outfield struggles over the past few years. You can even make an argument that the D-Backs would prefer to have McCutchen over Tulowitzki at No. 1 overall.
Original slot for Braun: No. 5
Career WAR: 37.5
Team: Washington Nationals
Original No. 4 pick: Ryan Zimmerman
It was extremely difficult to choose between Braun and Zimmerman at No. 4, as they’re somewhat similar candidates. After meteoric rises to the Majors, they’ve both fallen off in recent years and have become liabilities in the field. Braun has a major black mark on his record due to his alleged PED use, while Zimmerman is regarded by some as damaged goods due to chronic shoulder issues.
But Braun has a tangible edge over Zimmerman by 4.0 WAR. Add in the fact that his struggles at the plate in 2015 seem to be more of a slump than the beginning of a permanent decline, as it very well might be for Zimmeramn, and Braun gets the nod for the Nationals here.
Original slot for Zimmerman: No. 4
Career WAR: 33.5
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Original No. 5 pick: Ryan Braun
Before Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg graduated to the bigs, Zimmerman capably acted as the face of the franchise during the club’s transition from Montreal to Washington D.C. He made his Major League debut just months after being drafted as a 20-year old out of nearby University of Virginia, placed second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2006, and has been a steady presence for the Nationals ever since.
So even though the Nationals stole the face of Milwaukee’s franchise in this re-draft, the Brewers shouldn’t be too bummed to nab Zimmerman as retribution.
Original slot for Ellsbury: No. 23
Career WAR: 26.0
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Original No. 6 pick: Ricky Romero
Ellsbury has made a name for himself in the two most well-known AL East markets, but the Blue Jays scoop him up here. Though the current Yankee and former Red Sox centerfielder will likely never replicate his awesome 2011 runner-up MVP campaign, he does have an impressive .412 on-base percentage in 37 games this year.
Romero showed promise early on in his Major League career before suffering a Rick Ankiel-esque demise. That is to say, he completely lost the ability to control where he was throwing the ball. Last year, he walked 42 batters in just 37.1 innings in Triple-A before a knee injury delivered yet another obstacle for the former top prospect to overcome.
Original slot for Gardner: No. 109 (third round)
Career WAR: 26.4
Team: Colorado Rockies
Original No. 7 pick: Troy Tulowitzki
With Tulowitzki long gone in this re-draft, the speedy Gardner would be an excellent choice to roam the spacious outfield at Coors Field.
The 31-year-old has been sneakily excellent for the Yankees in recent years, and has even developed some power in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Don’t think that wouldn’t translate to Denver.
Original slot for Upton: No. 1
Career WAR: 22.8
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Original No. 8 pick: Wade Townsend
In this alternate universe, Tampa Bay pairs Justin Upton with his brother B.J., long before the two actually reunited in Atlanta and San Diego. It’s the best upgrade any team makes in this re-draft, given how the Rays truly selected.
Townsend is the highest drafted player of the 2005 class to never appear in the Majors, and the only top 15 pick to “achieve” that dubious feat. Needless to say, he’s the biggest bust of this draft. Don’t feel too bad for the Rays — in their next two drafts, they picked Evan Longoria and David Price in the first round.
Original slot for Escobar: No. 75 (second round)
Career WAR: 23.7
Team: New York Mets
Original No. 9 pick: Mike Pelfrey
Escobar has suited up for four different teams in the last six years, and has earned himself a bit of a controversial reputation. But the former Braves draftee has been more valuable than most give him credit for — he actually has more career WAR than Justin Upton. We only switched the two because of Upton’s rising stock.
Pelfrey wowed scouts with his imposing 6’7” frame out of Wichita State. He never lived up to the hype in New York, but he is in the middle of a nice bounce-back campaign in Minnesota.
Original slot for Headley: No. 66 (second round)
Career WAR: 20.7
Team: Detroit Tigers
Original No. 10 pick: Cameron Maybin
At this point, it’s obvious that Headley’s monster 2012, when he hit 31 home runs and racked up 6.3 WAR, was an aberration. Despite his struggles this season, however, he’s still a viable starter due to his solid glovework and on-base skills.
Maybin is a sad case. The former five-tool center fielder is finally having a season at the plate that’s worth writing home about, but all the injuries he’s accrued over his career seem to be catching up to him in the field, where he’s below-average in 2015 for the first time.
Original slot for Jackson: No. 259 (eighth round)
Career WAR: 21.0
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Original No. 11 pick: Andrew McCutchen
Jackson is essentially a McCutchen Lite (like, zero calories lite). Which is fine, unless you’re used to the real thing. Sorry, Pirates fans (except not really, because they still get to enjoy McCutchen in real life).
Original slot for Bruce: No. 12
Career WAR: 16.2
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Original No. 12 pick: Bruce
Last year’s disturbing crater aside (.217/.281/.373 slash line), Bruce was the perfect pick for Cincinnati. With two top-10 MVP finishes, a pair of All-Star appearances and a couple Silver Sluggers on his mantle, Bruce has given the Reds just about what you’d expect from the No. 12 overall pick. So it’s perfect that WAR ranks him as the 12th best player from the class of 2005.
Original slot for Garza: No. 25
Career WAR: 14.3
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Original No. 13 pick: Brandon Snyder
Garza’s having a terrible 2015, leading MLB in losses as of June 25. But he’s managed to keep his ERA at 3.95 or better every single year since 2007, a testament to his consistency and value in any team’s rotation.
Snyder was the rare catcher drafted out of high school. It was a risky move by Baltimore that never panned out.
Original slot for Brantley: No. 205 (seventh round)
Career WAR: 14.7
Team: Cleveland Indians
Original No. 14 pick: Trevor Crowe
Brantley was a steal for Cleveland in the seventh round, a move that’s paying dividends for the club today.
Crowe, on the other hand, was awful through parts of three seasons for the Indians. He couldn’t even cut out a full-time role for the Astros in 2013, back when they were actively trying to lose.
Original slot for Rasmus: No. 28
Career WAR: 14.6
Team: Chicago White Sox
Original No. 15 pick: Lance Broadway
Whether it’s because of his strange kerfuffle with Tony La Russa in St. Louis back in 2011 or his occasional injury troubles, Rasmus is slightly underrated. He reached the Majors by age 22 and has averaged 19.3 homers during his six years while also providing quality work in the field.
Broadway tried his hand at starting and relieving with Chicago, but was brutally ineffective at both. He was out of the Majors by 2009.
Original slot for Buchholz: No. 42 (first supplemental round)
Career WAR: 14.4
Team: Miami Marlins
Original No. 16 pick: Chris Volstad
Buchholz is one of the more befuddling pitchers in the league. Sometimes he’s one of the best hurlers alive, as he was in 2010 and 2013. He can also be frustratingly inconsistent, as he was in 2012 and 2014. And on top of all that, he’s missed half of his starts three times in the past five seasons due to injury. Still, he’s a talented right-hander who could easily move up this list in the coming years.
Volstad (6’8”) is another pitcher whom scouts salivated over but never delivered. After a promising 2008 debut (2.88 ERA in 14 starts), he couldn’t even keep his ERA below 4.50 in any of his other seasons as a starter for the Marlins, Cubs and Rockies. He briefly re-surfaced in Pittsburgh this season, but he’s nothing more than a reliever at this juncture.
Original slot for Venable: No. 218 (seventh round)
Career WAR: 13.2
Team: New York Yankees (via Philadelphia Phillies)
Original No. 17 pick: C.J. Henry
In truth, if Venable hadn’t been drafted by the lowly Padres and thus received a long leash regarding playing time, he wouldn’t have accumulated as much WAR as he has. However, he did go “22-22-22” in 2013 (22 doubles, 22 home runs and 22 stolen bases), which is a milestone I just fabricated but is nevertheless impressive.
The Yankees made quite a few savvy picks in the 2005 draft, but Henry was not one of them. The prep shortstop never appeared in the Majors.
Original slot for Maybin: No. 10
Career WAR: 9.3
Team: San Diego Padres
Original No. 18 pick: Cesar Carrillo
Maybin creeps up a few spots in this re-draft than where WAR would dictate him, since he’s finally putting it all together in Atlanta this year.
As you might have noticed, we’re in the throes of an especially rough portion of this round.
Carrillo accumulated -0.7 WAR in just three MLB games while walking 12 batters and allowing 15 runs in 10.1 innings, which is so dreadful that Padres fans had to have been somewhat impressed.
Original slot for Pennington: No. 21
Career WAR: 10.0
Team: Texas Rangers
Original No. 19 pick: John Mayberry Jr.
Turns out that fellow Billy Beane might actually know a thing or two about scouting — the A’s general manager drafted Pennington at just about the perfect spot. He’s never had great hitting skills, but he more than makes up for it with slick fielding.
Mayberry Jr. was traded to Philadelphia before breaking through with Texas. He flashed promise but topped out as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Original slot for Bourjos: No. 313 (10th round)
Career WAR: 9.7
Team: Chicago Cubs
Original No. 20 pick: Mark Pawelek
Like Pennington, Bourjos is another guy who derives most of his value from his glove. Bourjos also has some wheels, though he rarely shows it on the basepaths — he hasn’t swiped 10 bags since 2011.
Pawelek was a lefty the Cubs drafted out of high school who bombed and never made it to the bigs. In fact, he was out of baseball altogether by 2010.
Original slot for Lowrie: No. 45 (first supplemental round)
Career WAR: 8.9
Team: Oakland Athletics
Original No. 21 pick: Cliff Pennington
Oakland GM Billy Beane actually ended up with Lowrie, anyway, for two solid seasons in 2013-14. Most fans would probably take Lowrie over Pennington because of his prowess at the plate, but WAR says the latter was actually the better selection due to his range at one of the most important defensive positions in the sport.
Original slot for Romero: No. 6
Career WAR: 9.7
Team: Miami Marlins (via San Francisco Giants)
Original No. 22 pick: Aaron Thompson
Despite holding a better WAR than Lowrie, Romero moves down a spot since he’s out of the Majors now. Between 2009-2011, Romero was one of the game’s most exciting youngsters, peaking with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 2011. But he quickly fell off a cliff from there, and is currently toiling in San Francisco’s minor league system.
Thompson is actually having more of an impact in 2015 than he ever has before. The southpaw came into this year with 11 MLB appearances, but leads all Major League pitchers with 35 games this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t exactly impressed in his LOOGY role, putting together a 5.40 ERA that’s netted him -0.4 WAR.
Original slot for Romo: No. 852 (28th round)
Career WAR: 7.7
Team: Boston Red Sox (via Los Angeles Angels)
Original No. 23 pick: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury turned out to be an excellent choice at No. 23, and the Red Sox would have been silly to select a reliever such as Romo over him.
That being said, Romo was once one of the most feared closers in the game. Even though that role was taken from him last summer, he’s still beloved in the Bay for his contribution to the Giants dynasty.
Original slot for Wood: No. 60 (second round)
Career WAR: 7.6
Team: Houston Astros
Original No. 24 pick: Brian Bogusevic
Wood would be a perfect fit for the back end of Houston’s rotation, which currently has two big guns in Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh before a few other inexperienced guys.
Bogusevic had a few decent seasons as a pinch-hitting outfielder for the Astros and Cubs, but hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2013.
Original slot for Niese: No. 209 (seventh round)
Career WAR: 7.5
Team: Minnesota Twins
Original No. 25 pick: Matt Garza
The Twins trade one starter for another here — albeit at a loss to them. Niese has been okay for the Mets for what has seemingly been a decade, but he’s no Garza.
Original slot for Hellickson: No. 118 (fourth round)
Career WAR: 7.1
Team: Boston Red Sox (via Los Angeles Dodgers)
Original No. 26 pick: Craig Hansen
Hellickson is stuck in purgatory with the Diamondbacks, so I don’t want to hold his 4.94 ERA this year against him too much. But his year-to-year ERA curve has been going the wrong way for a few years now. Since averaging a 3.03 ERA during his first two full seasons in Tampa Bay, that’s rocketed up to 4.98 over the last three years.
The Red Sox took Hansen out of St. John’s, hoping he could provide some punch to the back of the bullpen at the very least. He never recorded an ERA lower than 5.68.
Original slot for Pelfrey: No. 9
Career WAR: 6.8
Team: Atlanta Braves
Original No. 27 pick: Joey Devine
Pelfrey is having perhaps the best season of his career for Minnesota this year, but the former top-10 pick didn’t live up to his billing in New York. So he falls nearly 20 spots in this re-draft to the Mets’ longtime rival in Atlanta.
Devine immediately alienated himself from the Braves fan base less than six months after being drafted. He served up an 18th-inning home run to light-hitting Astros outfielder Chris Burke that eliminated Atlanta from the 2005 NLDS and marked the beginning of a five-year playoff drought. Devine did recover to post a ridiculous 0.59 ERA in 42 games for Oakland in 2008, but he promptly needed Tommy John surgery following the season and would go on to pitch just 23 more big league innings.
Original slot for Garcia: No. 680 (22nd round)
Career WAR: 6.5
Team: St. Louis Cardinals (via Boston Red Sox)
Original No. 28 pick: Colby Rasmus
Garcia ends up with the same team that swiped him 21 rounds later. He’s been off the map for a couple seasons, but has helped the Cardinals cope with the loss of Adam Wainwright by recording a 1.69 ERA in seven starts so far in 2015.
Original slot for Hundley: No. 76 (second round)
Career WAR: 6.7
Team: Miami Marlins (via New York Yankees)
Original No. 29 pick: Jacob Marceaux
Hundley isn’t exactly a game-changer at catcher, but he’s better than the replacement-level fodder the Marlins have been throwing out there the past few years (Sorry, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis).
He would’ve undoubtedly given Miami more value than Marceaux, a right-hander out of McNeese State who never sniffed the big leagues.
Original slot for Pearce: No. 241 (eighth round)
Career WAR: 6.3
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Original No. 30 pick: Tyler Greene
Our final pick in this re-draft is a player who wouldn’t have come close to making the cut even a year ago. The Orioles’ utility man had a monster 2014, mashing 21 home runs and providing above-average defense all over the field to put together 5.9 WAR in just 102 games. That’s an incredible pace, but the 32-year-old hasn’t been able to replicate that success this year.
Picking light-hitting Tyler Greene out of Georgia Tech hasn’t hurt the Cardinals too much, given the success of Jhonny Peralta there recently (not to mention St. Louis’ pair of World Series titles since 2005). But as the Cardinals know with first baseman Matt Adams’ struggles this year, you can never have enough big league bats on your roster.