All-time Top 10 shakes out greatest Draft picks

All-time Top 10 shakes out greatest Draft picks

That old axiom about hindsight being 20-20 is especially true when it comes to the First-Year Player Draft.

Drafting is so speculative -- there's a reason all the talk is about projection -- so it's easy to look back at Drafts of the past and judge them. Perhaps it's unfair, but that doesn't mean it's not an interesting exercise.

Players taken in the Top 10 are meant to be the can't-miss prospects of the game. As history shows, however, many have missed. But there's no need to go negative here as the 2011 Draft is upon us. Instead, it is better to highlight the greatest hits of the top 10 selections since the Draft's inception in 1965.

There's no scientific way to measure such things, but using WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a guide, the following is a top 10 Hall of Fame of sorts -- with a selection for the best pick in each slot over the 46 previous years of this very uncertain exercise.

1: Alex Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (1993)
He was the consensus top amateur coming out of high school that season, and regardless of what people think of him now, he's certainly lived up to that advanced billing. His 103.9 WAR easily tops all No. 1 overall picks and is second among all Top 10 picks (No. 1 comes in later on this list).
Honorable mention: Chipper Jones (80.7 WAR), Ken Griffey Jr. (78.5) and Joe Mauer (38.8).

2. Reggie Jackson, Kansas City Athletics (1966)
Jackson topped all No. 2 picks with his 74.6 WAR, not to mention his 563 homers, 1,702 RBIs, four World Series titles, 14 All-Star appearances and, of course, that plaque in Cooperstown.
Honorable mention: Will Clark (57.6) and Justin Verlander (20.8).

3. Paul Molitor, Milwaukee Brewers (1977)/Robin Yount, Milwaukee Brewers (1973)
They were both drafted and signed by the Brewers, and both are in the Hall of Fame, so it's fitting that they share this honor. They were also very close in WAR, with Yount (76.9) just edging out Molitor (74.8). No other No. 3 picks were even close.
Honorable mention: Good for third basemen -- Matt Williams (43.9), Troy Glaus (34.5) and Evan Longoria (19.6).

4. Barry Larkin, Cincinnati Reds (1985)
As if any more fodder was needed for Larkin's Hall of Fame case, he led No. 4 picks with a 68.9 WAR, topping a Hall of Famer in the process.
Honorable mention: Kevin Brown (64.8), Dave Winfield (59.7) and Thurman Munson (43.4).

5. Mark Teixeira, Texas Rangers (2001)
Tex doesn't lead the pick in WAR; that title belongs to Dwight Gooden. But the first baseman is still going strong and is at 37.8 with more than enough time to catch the leader.
Honorable mention: Gooden (47.6), J.D. Drew (46.9), Dale Murphy (44.2) and Ryan Braun (17.2).

6. Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh Pirates (1985)
Yes, he's controversial. But whatever he did or didn't do, there's no question Bonds is arguably the greatest draftee of all time. His 171.8 WAR doesn't just top anyone drafted, it's second on the career list, behind only Babe Ruth.
Honorable mention: Derek Jeter (70.3) and Gary Sheffield (63.3).

7. Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox (1989)
This hasn't been a great slot, so the Big Hurt and his 75.9 WAR stand out even more. Thomas finished his career with a .301/.419/.555 line, to go along with his 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs. Perhaps some of the more recent draftees will catch him, but for now, he stands alone.
Honorable mention: Troy Tulowitzki (20.9), Prince Fielder (16.6) and Clayton Kershaw (12.5).

8. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (1995)
This might be the worst spot in the Top 10, in terms of overall talent. Helton stands alone perhaps more than Thomas, with his 58.5 WAR. Helton may be underappreciated given his career .323 average, 2,284 hits, 340 homers and 1,263 RBIs. It's not his fault Coors Field was his home.
Honorable mention: Slim pickings, but let's go with Jim Abbott (17.2).

9. Barry Zito, Oakland A's (1999)
Zito's 33.1 WAR doesn't top the No. 9 picks list -- his years in San Francisco haven't added to his total too much -- but he gets the slight nod thanks to his 2002 American League Cy Young Award and his three All-Star appearances.
Honorable mention: Kevin Appier (50.4).

10. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants (2006)
No, this isn't a shot at the nine teams that passed him up in '06. It's early yet, so there's plenty of time for him to build on his already-impressive 20.9 WAR. But he's already won two National League Cy Young Awards and three strikeout titles in a row while going to three All-Star Games.
Honorable mention: Mark McGwire (63.1), Robin Ventura (55.5) and Ted Simmons (50.4).

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.