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2017 Mets Draft: Reviewing the 20th pick

Let’s look back at the players picked 20th overall in baseball’s amateur draft.

Mike Mussina #35
Mike Mussina
Getty Images

When the 2017 draft begins, the Mets will have the 20th pick in the first round thanks to their 87-75 record last year. What other players have been drafted with the 20th overall selection?

Since the Rule 4 Draft was instituted in 1965, thirty players selected with the 20th pick went on to make a major league debut. Of those players, twenty-one produced positive value for their team. And of those twenty-one, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Torii Hunter, and Bob Welch went on to have the most successful careers, with all four players garnering various accolades and winning various awards.

In 1983, the Mets had a pick with the 20th overall pick as the result of losing Peter Falcone to the Atlanta Braves in free agency. With the pick, they took Stan Jefferson, an outfielder from Bethune-Cookman College in Dayton Beach, Florida. The speedy outfielder spent three years in the Mets’ minor league system before making his major league debut on September 7, 1986, where he went 1-for-4 against the San Diego Padres. He got into thirteen additional games and hit .208/.296/.375 for the season. That winter, he was traded along with Kevin Armstrong, Kevin Brown, Shawn Abner, and Kevin Mitchell to the Padres in exchange for Adam Ging, Gene Walter, and Kevin McReynolds.

In his first season with the Padres, Jefferson hit .230/.296/.339 with 34 stolen bases in 116 games, but these numbers would be a high-water mark for his career. For the next few years, he played only intermittently with San Diego, the Yankees, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. For his six-year career, Jefferson hit .216/.276/.326 with 60 stolen bases, accruing -0.5 WAR. In 1995, years after he last played in organized baseball in the United States, he returned to the Mets when he crossed picket lines during spring training and appeared as a scab.

In 1985, the Mets made their first selection with the 20th overall pick as a result of their 90-72 record. With the pick, they selected Gregg Jefferies, a shortstop from Serra High School in San Mateo, California. Jefferies put up excellent numbers in his years in the minor leagues and was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 1986 and 1987, the first time a player had won the award consecutively. Andruw Jones has since also been named Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.

The 19-year-old young phenom made his major league debut on September 6, 1987, making an out in a pinch-hitting assignment. Though clearly ready for the majors, Jefferies only appeared in 29 games for the Mets in 1988 as a September call-up. This was due mostly to a logjam of veteran talent and a lack of playing time for the rookie. Because of his blisteringly hot performance—enough to earn him enough NL Rookie of the Year votes to place third—the Mets felt confident in trading incumbent second baseman Wally Backman, opening a spot for Jefferies to play.

In his first year as a full-time regular in 1989, he hit an uninspiring .258/.314/.392 in 141 games. In 1990, the 22-year-old hit a much more impressive .283/.337/.434, though he followed that up with another sub-par campaign in 1991 that saw him hit .272/.336/.374 and become persona non grata among fans and teammates due to perceived and actual friction with teammates. That offseason, the Mets traded him, along with Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller, to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota.

Jefferies had a solid year in Kansas City, but his career really took off when was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1993 and 1994, the infielder hit .335/.401/.487, getting elected to the All-Star Game and receiving MVP votes both years. He would later go on to play for Philadelphia, Anaheim, and Detroit, having productive seasons but never recapturing his glory days of the early-to-mid 1990s. He retired in 2000 and hit a cumulative .289/.344/.421 over his 14-year career, amassing 20.2 WAR.

In 1994, the Mets made a selection with the 20th overall pick as compensation for losing Sid Fernandez to the Baltimore Orioles. They selected Terrence Long, an outfielder from Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, Alabama. He climbed the minor league ladder over the next few years, posting fairly exciting numbers, and was ranked the 63rd-best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America in 1997.

He finally made his Mets debut on April 14, 1999, where he made an out in a pinch-hitting assignment. He got two more at-bats with the Mets before being traded to the Oakland Athletics on July 23, along with Leo Vasquez, for Kenny Rogers. In 2000, Long hit .288/.336/.452 in 138 games with Oakland and lost out to Kaz Sasaki in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He would enjoy an eight-year career, playing additionally with San Diego, Kansas City, and the Yankees before retiring after the 2006 season. He hit .269/.318/.404 over 890 games and accrued 4.9 WAR over the course of his career.