2000 – 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Florida Marlins)
After being drafted by the Marlins in 2000, Gonzalez spent three years in the minors before making his debut with Texas in 2004. Gonzalez split parts of two years between the Texas farm system and the major league ballclub, playing in 16 major league games in 2004 and 43 in 2005. After the 2005 season, Gonzalez was traded to the San Diego Padres where he emerged as a star. Getting a chance to start every day, the slugger hit .304 with 24 homeruns and drove in 82 in his first, full big league season.
From 2007-2009, Gonzalez averaged 161 games per season and has flourished as a power threat. Over that same time period, Gonzalez hit 106 HRs while driving in 318 runs. After two all-star appearances and a couple of Gold Glove Awards, Gonzalez has become one of the true stars of his generation.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Chase Utley (15th) and Adam Wainwright (29th)
2001 – C Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)
The first two number one picks of the decades were good ones. Joe Mauer is a household name and with free agency looming, his press time will not be diminished. Unlike Gonzalez, Mauer is still playing for the team that drafted him, but similar to Gonzalez, Mauer broke into the big leagues in 2004. After a solid 2005 (.294/.372/.411), Mauer really began to shine in 2006, winning his first batting title with a staggering .347 average. His 2006 season was MVP worthy, but he lost out to his teammate, Justin Morneau for the honors, finishing 6th in the balloting.
After an off-year in 2007, plagued by injuries, Mauer established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the game by winning two consecutive batting titles in 2008 and 2009. The power also came in 2009 as Mauer belted a career high 28 HR with 96 RBIs, hitting at an astonishing .365 clip. Mauer led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ on his way to winning his first MVP Award by a nearly unanimous vote. Oh yeah, he also missed the first month of the season with back problems. Mauer also secured his second Gold Glove Award and third Silver Slugger.
Mauer’s dominance with the stick and not-too-shabby defensive skills have finally exonerated the Twins for taking him over Mark Prior who’s injury-riddled career has been well documented.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Mark Prior (2nd), Mark Teixeira (5th) and David Wright (supplemental round – 38th)
2002 – RHP Bryan Bullington (Pittsburgh Pirates)
This first round pick by the Pittsburg Pirates has yet to emerge as a dominant pitcher. His career stats (0-5, 5.08 ERA in only 39 IP) show that he has not had much playing time due to poor performance and an abundance of injuries. His first year after the draft in A and Advanced A ball were promising as Bullington posted a 13-5 record with a 2.52 ERA. He struggled in AA and has toiled most of the last five years at AAA posting a combined 28-24 record with a 4.16 ERA in over 400 IP.
Bullington has moved around. In 2008, he was selected off of waivers by the Cleveland Indians and then later the same year, selected off of waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. He currently resides in the Kansas City Royals organization. Bullington will turn 30 this year and it looks like this may be the first poor draft choice of the decade especially given the abundant talent available within the draft class.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Zach Greinke (6th), Prince Fielder (7th), Joe Saunders (12th), Scott Kazmir (15th), Cole Hamels (17th), Denard Span (20th), Matt Cain (25th)
2003 – OF Delmon Young (Tampa Bay Rays)
Known perhaps more for his troubles in the minors (hitting an umpire with a bat) or his brother (Dimitri Young), Delmon has yet to really find a home in the majors. After making his big league debut in 2006, he went on to drive in 93 runs while playing all 162 games in his rookie season in 2007, finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year balloting. With his value high, the Rays completed a trade of Young to the Minnesota Twins where he has been a notorious slow-starter.
The power has not been there for this projected hitting savant, but his average has hovered around .290 the last three years. When the Twins traded Carlos Gomez to the Brewers earlier this offseason, Young was pretty much handed the starting left field job in 2010 after only making 93 starts there last season.
Young has been labeled somewhat of a defensive liability and has been very average at the plate through his short career. His upside is high though as he already has three full seasons under his belt and he is only 24 years old. The Twins hope that he can prove his status as legitimate number one pick as they set to open Target Field in downtown Minneapolis in just a few short months.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Rickie Weeks (2nd), Aaron Hill (13th), Chad Billingsley (24th), Carlos Quentin (29th), and Adam Jones (37th)
2004 – SS Matt Bush (San Diego Padres)
This might be one of the worst picks of the decade as the Padres passed up other notable talent in order to save some money. Bush has been plagued by off the field issues since the beginning. He was suspended before even setting foot on a professional field for his part in a bar brawl. His terrible hitting performance in the minors lead to the Padres converting him to a pitcher in 2007. After tearing a ligament in his arm, Bush missed the entire 2008 season.
In early 2009, Bush was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and released less than two months later for violating the teams zero tolerance behavioral policy. Bush has still yet to even play AA ball.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Justin Verlander (2nd), Jered Weaver (12th), Stephen Drew (15th), and Philip Hughes (23rd)
2005 – SS Justin Upton (Arizona Diamondbacks)
The brother of notable Tampa Bay Ray B.J. Upton, Justin has had a fast track to the big leagues. In 2007, Upton was called up from the minors at the ripe age of 19. He never looked back. After limited playing time in 2008, Upton broke out in 2009, delivering a .300/.366/.532 line with 26 HRs and 86 RBIs. He also made his first all-star appearance.
While the sample size is small, Upton looks to be another fantastic pick in the hallowed number one slot. As an all-star at 21, he no doubt has many more years to show that the Diamondbacks didn’t make a mistake in a draft class full of talent.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Ryan Zimmerman (4th), Ryan Braun (5th), Troy Tulowitzki (7th), Andrew McCuthen (11th), Jacoby Ellsbury (23rd), and Clay Buchholz (supplemental round – 42nd)
2006 – RHP Luck Hochevar (Kansas City Royals)
Like Justin Upton, Hochevar made it to the majors in a relatively timely fashion. His big league debut came in 2007 and he has since made 48 starts over the course of the last three years for the Royals.
Hochevar lit up the minors, posting a 1.89 ERA in 8 starts in 2006, recording 50 punch-outs in only 38 IP. In 2007 he moved in the wrong direction, posting a 4-9 record in 26 starts with a 4.86 ERA. In 2009, Hochevar posted a blistering 5-1 record in AAA with a 1.50 ERA in 8 starts, but his major league stats were a bit less dominant (7-13, 6.55 ERA). The Royals hope he can get back on track and be a legitimate number two to ace Zach Grienke going forward.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Evan Longoria (3rd), Tim Lincecum (10th), Max Scherzer (11th), Kyle Drabek (18th), Ian Kennedy (21st), and Joba Chamberlain (supplemental round – 41st)
2007 – LHP David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)
David Price continued the trend of overall first round picks to fly through the minors. After posting a combined 12-1 record with a 2.30 ERA in 2008 between A, AA, and AAA ball, Price made his major league debut with the Rays in the midst of a pennant race. He made one start along with four relief appearances in 2008, posting a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings of work. His performance led to him being added to the post-season roster. In the ALCS, price made three appearances and pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, recording a win and a save. In the World Series, Price made two appearances, posting a 1.59 ERA.
Price began the 2009 season in AAA. After a fairly underwhelming start (1-4, 3.93 ERA), he was again promoted to the major league club. He went on to make 23 starts and posted a 10-7 record with a 4.42 ERA. He was fairly average in his first full season and the Rays will look for him to step up in 2010 to be a major part of their rotation.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Matt Wieters (5th) and Rick Porcello (27th)
2008 – SS Tim Beckham (Tampa Bay Rays)
The Rays took a little bit slower approach with Beckham than with Price and probably won’t ask Beckham to be a contributor for at least a couple more years. He spent 2008 in rookie ball and all of 2009 in A ball. His .275/.328/.389 line was less than dominating. Look for him to make strides over the next few years as he develops. His age is working to his advantage (he will be 20 for the 2010 season).
The verdict is still out on most of the recent picks and that is the case here.
Other notable first-round picks from this year: Brian Matusz (4th), Buster Posey (5th), and Josh Fields (20th)
2009 – RHP Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)
Perhaps one of the most talked about number one picks of all time. Strasburg set a record by signing a four-year, $15 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals. Stasburg pitched in the 2008 Summer Olympics, bringing home a bronze medal after going 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA. The jury is still out on Strasburg, but the Nationals have committed a lot of money to him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rise through the minor league system quickly much like David Price did for the Tampa Bay Rays. Look for Strasburg to contribute as soon as 2011.