- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Continuing a tradition we started two years ago, I've gone back 10 years and redrafted an old draft class, this year going back to 2004. Once again the player taken first overall (Matt Bush) hasn't turned out to be among the 30 best players in the crop, but for the first time since I began the annual exercise, the top player from the class was at least a first-rounder at the time he was chosen. (Click here for the 2002 redraft and here for 2003.)
This redraft is based on two major criteria: the players' careers to date, and my projections of any value they still have to offer (although the list does include two players whose careers are likely over). I did not account for the player's signability at the time, nor did I consider a team's preference for high school or college players, pitchers versus position players, etc. -- this analysis is based purely on talent.
Please note that we included only players who were drafted in 2004 and subsequently signed with the club that selected them. Players like David Price and Will Venable, for example, who were drafted but decided to stay in school, were not considered. The Dodgers took Price in the 19th round out of high school, but he was strongly committed to Vanderbilt, and the Dodgers will have to wait at least a few more months to see him in blue. Baltimore took Venable in the 15th round, but he chose to return to Princeton for his senior year.
Only four first-rounders from 2004 have failed to reach the majors, one of whom, top overall pick Matt Bush, is now in jail after a DUI/hit-and-run conviction. I've covered the first-round flops in a separate piece.
My thanks to Baseball Reference for their help in gathering the statistics necessary for this piece, with an assist from the Baseball Cube for some missing college data. All WAR figures given are from B-R unless otherwise noted.
As strange as it might sound today, Verlander wasn't a slam-dunk selection at this point of the draft -- at least not in the industry's eyes -- as he was more of an arm-strength guy with some command issues, not the historically great hurler we've seen since he reached the majors in 2006.