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.
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.