Mets First-Round Draft Picks: How Good Have They Been?

What have the Mets' first-round picks been worth in the past?

The Michael Bourn rumor mill is buzzing again. Sandy Alderson indicated yesterday that the Mets are still in pursuit of the speedy center fielder, even though they're still unsure of whether or not Major League Baseball would protect their first round pick in the upcoming amateur draft.

In short, the Mets would most likely have to forfeit the eleventh overall pick in the draft — and perhaps more importantly the $2.5 million in bonus pool budget that comes with it — if they sign Bourn, barring an exception from MLB since the Mets would have had the protected tenth overall pick if the Pirates had signed Mark Appel after drafting him in the first round in 2012.

One of the things that came up in my defense of a potential Bourn signing was the overall value of a first round pick. Essentially, Bourn is a well known commodity, while the eleventh overall pick in the draft is not. He might be a superstar, but he might also fail to make the big leagues.

In that spirit, let's have a look at the Mets' history of first-round draft picks, via of Baseball Reference. The players are listed in reverse chronological order, but the table is sortable by any category. Players drafted in Round 1s — often referred to as the sandwich round — were compensatory picks the Mets received, the full details of which can be found at Baseball Reference. Each player's overall value as a big league player is listed by bWAR, Baseball Reference's version of wins above replacement.

Year Rnd OvPck Player Pos bWAR
2012 1 12 Gavin Cecchini SS --
2012 1 35 Kevin Plawecki C --
2011 1 13 Brandon Nimmo OF --
2011 1s 44 Michael Fulmer RHP --
2010 1 7 Matt Harvey RHP 1.9
2008 1 18 Ike Davis 1B 5.0
2008 1 22 Reese Havens SS --
2008 1 33 Bradley Holt RHP --
2007 1s 42 Eddie Kunz RHP -0.2
2007 1s 47 Nathan Vineyard LHP --
2005 1 9 Mike Pelfrey RHP 4.5
2004 1 3 Philip Humber RHP 2.2
2003 1 12 Lastings Milledge OF -0.1
2002 1 15 Scott Kazmir LHP 15.2
2001 1 18 Aaron Heilman RHP 1.0
2001 1s 38 David Wright 3B 39.1
2000 1 16 Billy Traber LHP -1.2
2000 1s 36 Bobby Keppel RHP
1998 1 21 Jason Tyner OF 1.7
1997 1 6 Geoff Goetz LHP --
1996 1 13 Rob Stratton OF --
1995 1 18 Ryan Jaroncyk SS --
1994 1 1 Paul Wilson RHP 1.1
1994 1 20 Terrence Long 1B 3.6
1994 1s 29 Jay Payton OF 13.4
1993 1 8 Kirk Presley RHP --
1992 1 9 Preston Wilson SS 4.6
1992 1 18 Chris Roberts LHP --
1992 1s 30 Jon Ward RHP --
1991 1 18 Al Shirley OF --
1991 1s 36 Bobby Jones RHP 6.1
1990 1 17 Jeromy Burnitz OF 17.4
1989 1 24 Alan Zinter C -0.8
1988 1 21 Dave Proctor RHP --
1987 1 24 Chris Donnels 3B
1986 1 21 Lee May OF --
1985 1 20 Gregg Jefferies SS 17
1984 1 1 Shawn Abner OF -1.6
1983 1 4 Eddie Williams 3B -1.6
1983 1 20 Stan Jefferson OF -0.7
1983 1s 27 Calvin Schiraldi RHP 2.8
1982 1 5 Dwight Gooden RHP 50.1
1981 1 4 Terry Blocker OF -1.1
1980 1 1 Darryl Strawberry OF 39.2
1980 1 23 Billy Beane OF -1.6
1980 1 24 John Gibbons C 0.1
1979 1 2 Tim Leary RHP 10.7
1978 1 3 Hubie Brooks OF 10
1977 1 16 Wally Backman SS 11.5
1976 1 13 Tom Thurberg OF --
1975 1 6 Butch Benton C -1.0
1974 1 17 Cliff Speck RHP 0.2
1973 1 14 Lee Mazzilli OF 13.9
1972 1 13 Richard Bengston C --
1971 1 14 Rich Puig 2B -0.3
1970 1 23 George Ambrow SS --
1969 1 4 Randy Sterling RHP -0.2
1968 1 1 Tim Foli SS 3.4
1967 1 4 Jon Matlack LHP 36.8
1966 1 1 Steven Chilcott C --
1965 1 2 Les Rohr LHP -0.3

So in the time that the amateur draft has been a thing, the Mets have taken four bona fide superstars: Wright, Gooden, Strawberry, and Matlack. And two of their recent first round picks — Harvey and Davis — have shown superstart potential in their young big league careers, too. After that, though, there's a big drop to the next level of good-not-great players, and there are a whole bunch more who either didn't make it to the big leagues at all or weren't exceptionally good after they did arrive.

It is, of course, far too early to judge the returns on Sandy Alderson's regime's first-round picks. Those four players have shown varying levels of promise in the minor leagues, but none are close to the big leagues yet. And, clearly, Alderson and company had nothing to do with the picks before 2011.

We're only looking at the Mets' history, too. It's a small sample size, but for Mets fans, these names are, at least mostly, familiar. The team's first-round picks have occasionally been incredible, but the rest of the time, it's been a crap shoot.

There's a chance — even with Alderson, DePodesta, and Ricciardi making the decisions these days — that the eleventh overall pick in this year's draft doesn't become a major league player. Given the current state of the team, that might seem like far too big a risk to take to acquire Bourn, but if the Mets do sign him to a relatively reasonable deal, it's worth remembering what's become of the first-round picks of the past.

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