- Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
- Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
- Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
- Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
- Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association
On June 10, the evening of the 56th MLB first-year player draft, some happy amateur baseball star — probably Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson — will become the 55th player to be picked first overall. Yes, there have been more drafts than players picked first. We’ll get to that.
Assuming he eventually reaches the majors, Torkelson will become the third Torkelson to play at the highest level of his sport. There was Red, a pitcher who won two games for the 1917 Cleveland Indians. There was Eric, who was a running back for the Green Bay Packers in the 1970s. I bring up the history of Torkelsons for two reasons. First, when I was a kid, one of my favorite nuggets of trivia was that Eric Torkelson was the brother of Peter Tork of The Monkees. The second reason I bring it up is that the trivia nugget was wrong: It traced back to an on-air gaffe by Howard Cosell.
Whether it’s Torkelson or someone else whose name is called first, we know a couple of things about that player, whoever it will be. One, he’s talented. He is viewed by people in the know as the best draft-eligible ballplayer in the country. Two, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what kind of career he is going to have.
The career outcomes of top overall picks have been wildly disparate. There have been Hall of Famers. There have been All-Stars. There have been average players who lasted a long time. There have been average players who didn’t last very long at all. There have been a few players who never even played in the big leagues. Let’s rank them.
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