The amateur draft begins on Thursday and, as we’ve already discussed, it will be years before we know who the real winners and losers will be from it. Moreover, 17 new general managers have taken over their roles since the end of the 2014 season, meaning we don’t even have a reliable track record for over half the GMs in baseball (though, in fairness, a few of them were promoted into their positions and are working with largely the same scouting apparatuses as their predecessors).
All of this leaves us with a lot of uncertainty. Who can you trust in such chaos? Fans simply have to hope that they have the right hands on the tiller.
The following teams, however, can rest easy, as their GMs have proven year in and year out that they generally can get the most out of their drafts:
Houston Astros –Jeff Lunhow
Admittedly, Lunhow has been helped by having a variety of high picks at his disposal, given how bad the Astros have been. But he’s been adept at spreading the money he has available for those multiple slots to take multiple first round talents. And the results have been pretty terrific. With his first ever pick, Lunhow took Carlos Correa first overall, then followed it up with Lance McCullers. In the same draft, he nabbed Preston Tucker. The next year, he got Mark Appel, which hasn’t turned out well, but also got Tyler White. In 2014, he targeted Brady Aiken, trying to get him at a discount because he was hurt, but failing. But he used the rest of the money he saved to get Derek Fisher and A.J. Reed. Finally, last year, he got Alex Bregman, Daz Cameron, injecting a ton of talent into the Houston farm system.
This year is Lunhow’s lowest pick ever, and he’ll just have the one pick in the first round. We’ll see how he does at identifying the best player on the board without any wiggle room. But based on his track record, I’m not doubting him.
St. Louis Cardinals – John Mozeliak
Lunhow trained under Mozeliak, who has been excelling at the draft for a long time. Since taking over in 2008, Mozeliak has drafted Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty, and Marco Gonzalez. His last four picks in the first round (Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Nick Plummer, and Jake Woodford) have all gotten off to very impressive starts in the minors. And the Cardinals have become a player development juggernaut over the last several years. Mozeliak has three picks in the top 34, which is pretty damn unfair to everybody else if you think about it.
Washington Nationals – Mike Rizzo
Like Lunhow, Rizzo lucked into a bunch of high picks when he came into the league, making it easy to inject his system with talent. What stands out, however, is how few of those picks have missed. In 2009, he took Stephen Strasburg first overall, but then also drafted Drew Storen, Michael Taylor, and Nate Karns. Yes, Bryce Harper may have been the easiest decision in draft history, but A.J. Cole wsa a 4th rounder and he found Robbie Ray in the 12th. In 2011, he got both Anthony Rendon and Alex Meyer, and then took a risk on the injured Lucas Giolito in 2012.
Rizzo’s only had one pick in the first round in the last three years, but has two near the end of the first round this year, which can hopefully help revitalize a minor league system that needs an injection of talent.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Neal Huntington
It’s hard to believe that Huntington has been around since 2008, but he’s responsible for shaping most of this Pirates roster. His first pick, Pedro Alvarez, for whatever other warts he has, still has 136 major league homers. He also took Jordy Mercer, Justin Wilson, and Robbie Grossman in that draft. He missed on first rounder Tony Sanchez in 2009, but took 2015 All Star Brock Holt later in that draft. Jameson Taillon was in 2010, and looks like he’s on the verge of finally being called up with a 2.04 ERA at Triple-A. And then in 2011, Huntington took Gerit Cole and Josh Bell. Since then, he’s taken Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire, who are both moving closer to the Majors. And cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, and Ke’Bryan Hayes have all had impressive debuts.
Huntington will have the 22nd overall pick on Thursday, and also the 41st overall selection at the end of the lottery round.
Minnesota Twins – Terry Ryan
With everything that’s gone wrong in Minnesota this year, the one thing you can’t fault Terry Ryan for is his drafting since re-taking the reins from Bill Smith prior to 2012. He’s obviously had a series of high picks to work with, but he’s brought in an impressive amount of talent. Of course, there’s Byron Buxton, who may have just turned the corner in his career, but there’s also Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, and Taylor Rogers from 2012. Kohl Stewart, who was drafted fourth overall in 2013 also seems like his career is on the right path. That year, Ryan also hit in the fourth round with Stephen Gonsalves. Nick Gordon is just 20, but is doing well in the Florida State League and, if he can stay healthy, Nick Burdi will be one of the best relievers in baseball. Even last year’s strategy of taking Tyler Jay and converting him into a starter seems to be paying off.
Whatever his other sins (and there are many), at least Ryan can be counted on to draft well. And with five picks in the top 100, the Twins need him to work his magic one more time (before maybe thinking about stepping aside.