By Jason Shetler
Like with any draft in sports, some players are projected better than others in hindsight. However, it’s not always the case, and those players either don’t live up to expectations and/or don’t perform as well as someone drafted lower. So here are the ten best players who the Pirates had the opportunity to draft in the first round.
10. Barry Zito: In the 1999 MLB Draft, the Pirates chose pitcher Bobby Bradley with the eighth overall selection. Bradley dealt with arm troubles, and never reached the big leagues. The Oakland A’s had the next pick and selected Barry Zito. Had the Pirates taken Zito, the Athletics wouldn’t have had that dynamic pitching trio, which included Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.
9. Nomar Garciaparra: If you put together a list of the best pure hitters in the last 15 years, Nomar Garciaparra would be near the top. The two-time AL batting champ was of course drafted by the Boston Red Sox as the 12th overall selection in 1994, but he could have been chosen by the Bucs. They instead went with infielder Mark Farris #11, who never played in the Majors.
8. Mo Vaughn: The Pirates selected infielder Willie Greene with the 18th overall pick in the 1989 draft. A year later, Greene was dealt to the Montreal Expos as part of the Zane Smith trade. With the 23rd pick overall, the Red Sox grabbed Mo Vaughn, who was one of the top left-handed power hitters during the 90’s.
7. Prince Fielder: One of biggest gaffes in the Dave Littlefield Era was choosing Bryan Bullington with the #1 pick in the 2002 draft. Bullington pitched just six games with the Bucs and had an ERA of 5.89. A better selection probably would have been Prince Fielder, who the Milwaukee Brewers took seventh overall that year.
6. CC Sabathia: With the 20th overall pick in 1998, the Cleveland Indians chose a husky southpaw named CC Sabathia, who probably could have also played on the offensive line for the returning Browns. Sabathia used that big size to his advantage and became a solid left-hander in the Tribe rotation for eight seasons, which included an AL Cy Young award in 2007. As for the Pirates selection in 98′, they went with pitcher Clint Johnston 15th overall, who spent his career in the minors.
5. Alan Trammell: Outside of Cal Ripken, Alan Trammell was the most outstanding shortstop in the 80’s. A six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Trammell was the 26th overall pick in 1976 by the Detroit Tigers, the team in which he spent his entire Major League career with. Pitcher Jim Parke however never made it to the show. He was the Pirates choice that year 21st overall.
4. Clayton Kershaw: The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Clayton Kershaw with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft. Instead of choosing the most dominating left-handed starter since the days of Randy Johnson, the Pirates decided to go with Brad Lincoln #4 overall. Although he pitched well as a reliever in 2012, Lincoln didn’t live up to the expectation as a starter, as he posted a 4.62 ERA along with an ERA+ of 83 in 51 games total with the Bucs.
3. George Brett: In 1971, the Kansas City Royals had the 29th overall selection, and drafted George Brett. With the 22nd pick, the Pirates went with infielder Craig Reynolds, who spent just two seasons in Pittsburgh (1975 and 1976), posting a .556 OPS. As for Brett, his big league career wasn’t too shabby.
2. Mike Schmidt: As mentioned, George Brett was taken 29th by the Royals in the 71′ draft. The very next pick was made by the Philadelphia Phillies, as they took Mike Schmidt. The Pirates selection of Craig Reynolds doesn’t look particularly good given the fact that they could have chose one of the two players who have plaques in a certain city of New York.
1. Roger Clemens: We’re all aware that Roger Clemens is one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in the history of baseball. But did you know the Pirates could have selected him in the first round of the 1983 draft? – Outfielder Ron Delucchi was who the Pirates took 12th overall. He never made it to the big leagues. Clemens meanwhile was chosen by the Boston Red Sox with the 19th pick, and displayed absolute dominance as soon as he arrived to the Majors. Pirates fans can dream up the thought of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds as teammates.