Every year, scouts are asked to assess the talent level in the First-Year Player Draft. Invariably, even if they are down on the group of eligible players, they'll say, "But there will be All-Stars in this Draft class; we just have to find them."
Is that true? Or is it just another of those baseball axioms generally accepted as fact?
Turns out, it's true.
Every Draft, from its inception in 1965 through 2010, has produced at least two All-Stars. No one from the 2011 or 2012 Drafts has made a Major League All-Star team as of yet, though history suggests it is just a matter of time (we're looking at you, Jose Fernandez). In fact, of the 46 Draft years, all but six have had 10 or more future All-Stars, with five of those six occurring from 2006-10. Clearly, those Draft classes are still works in progress.
Of course, the Draft has changed quite a bit over the years. There used to be various stages of the Draft, not just the one everyone has come to anticipate each June. There was a regular phase of the Draft held in January, and secondary Drafts held in January and June. The secondary phases were discontinued after the 1986 season, and since then, one Draft has been held in June of each year. For the purposes of this project, draftees from any of the different phases in a year were counted toward that year's total. Steve Garvey, for instance, was taken in the 1968 June secondary Draft, so his 10 All-Star appearances are included in the 1968 total. So are George Hendrick's four selections, even though he was taken in January of that year.
Also, until 1990, when players from Puerto Rico were added, only American players were subject to the Draft. Canadian players were included beginning in 1991. As a result, many amateurs signed as free agents and then went on to have All-Star careers. So while Ivan Rodriguez signed with the Rangers in 1988 and was a 14-year All-Star, he doesn't count. Larry Walker was a five-time All-Star, but he signed as a free agent in 1984 out of Canada, so his totals don't appear here, either.
Which years were the most prolific? There have been 725 different future All-Stars drafted -- an average of just under 16 per year. It seems that baseball was quite effective in 1976, as the bicentennial year included the selections of 25 future All-Stars. And they weren't just one-and-done players. Two Hall of Famers came from the class of '76: Wade Boggs and Rickey Henderson, who appeared in 12 and 10 All-Star Games, respectively. Jack Morris and Alan Trammell came from that Draft as well, meaning the Tigers had a pretty good haul.
Top All-Star Draft classes
|1976||25||66||Wade Boggs (12)|
|1978||22||66||Cal Ripken Jr. (19)|
|1981||22||70||Tony Gwynn (15)|
|1982||22||60||Kirby Puckett (10)|
|1987||22||57||Ken Griffey Jr. (13)|
|1988||22||50||Mike Piazza (12)|
|1990||21||51||Chipper Jones (8)|
|1991||21||45||Manny Ramirez (12)|
|1999||21||53||Albert Pujols (9)|
|1973||20||58||Dave Winfield (12)|
|1986||20||60||Gary Sheffield (9)|
Five years -- 1978, 1981, 1982, 1987 and 1988 -- had 22 All-Stars apiece. The class of '78 was led by Hall of Fame infielders Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryne Sandberg, who went to the Midsummer Classic 19 and 10 times, respectively. Tony Gwynn is the lone Hall of Famer from '81, and he was a 15-time All-Star. The '82 Draft had Cooperstown-inducted Kirby Puckett and his 10 All-Star Games, along with several other Rookies of the Year, MVPs and Cy Young Award winners. No one from the 1987 Draft is in the Hall yet, but most believe Ken Griffey Jr. (13 All-Star appearances) will be there soon enough. And Mike Piazza came out of the 1988 Draft, in the 62nd round, then went on to a dozen All-Star Games.
The 1985 Draft, considered by many to be perhaps the best ever, had 18 All-Stars, but that year leads the way so far (2005 could catch up someday) with total All-Star Game appearances, with 78.
Piazza's experience leads to an important point about the Draft. As the scouts say, there are All-Stars to be found. They don't say when and where they'll be found. While approximately a third of all drafted All-Stars have been taken in the first round of the June Draft, there have been plenty of diamonds in the rough. Nolan Ryan (eight All-Star Games and a plaque in Cooperstown) was a 12th-round pick of the Mets in 1965. And fellow Hall of Famer Andre Dawson -- an eight-time All-Star -- was taken in the 11th round of the relatively weak 1975 Draft, which produced only six other All-Stars. That being said, the cream does tend to rise to the top. Forty-nine percent of all drafted All-Stars were taken in the first three rounds.
Sure, the first-rounders are the ones with expectations, but there are no guarantees. And nowhere are those expectations greater than at the very top of the Draft. Yet in the 46 regular June Drafts from 1965-2010, only 22 No. 1 overall picks have gone on to be All-Stars. Alex Rodriguez leads the way with 14 All-Star selections, followed closely by Griffey with 13. They are the only two No. 1 overall selections with double-digit All-Star Games on their resumes.
Rodriguez and Griffey are part of another oddly select group. They, along with Garvey, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds (a big reason the 1985 class is the leader in total appearances), Piazza, Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter, are the only drafted players to be selected to 10 or more All-Star Games who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The jury is still out on some of them and others simply aren't eligible yet. But those in the "Steve Garvey should be in the Hall" camp have some good non-statistic-based evidence to use: He is the only drafted player to make it to 10 or more All-Star Games and go through the entire 15 years on the writers' ballots who does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.