History of #1 Draft Pick pitchers: Will Casey Mize follow?

Casey Mize

The Detroit Tigers selected 21-year old right-hander Casey Mize out of Auburn with the first pick in the 2018 First Year Player Draft on Monday. He became the 18th different pitcher taken with the first overall pick in the draft since the first such draft in 1965. David Clyde was the first pitcher ever drafted number one overall when the Rangers selected him in 1973. According to MLBPipeline.com, Mize throws a fastball that ranges from 92-to-97 miles per hour. He also features a mid-80’s slider.

There have been some great pitchers taken with the number one overall pick. There have also been some who didn’t maximize their presumed potential.

Here is a list of all 17 pitchers (prior to Mize) taken first overall, ranked via their career WAR (wins above replacement).

Pitcher – WAR – Year – Drafted – Drafted by
LHP – David Price  – 35.0 – 2007 – Devil Rays
RHP – Andy Benes – 31.3 – 1988 – Padres
RHP – Mike Moore – 28.2 – 1981 – Mariners
RHP – Tim Belcher – 26.9 – 1983 – Twins
LHP – Floyd Bannister – 26.7 – 1976 – Astros
RHP – Stephen Strasburg – 24.9 – 2009 – Nationals
RHP – Ben McDonald – 20.9 – 1989 – Orioles
RHP – Gerrit Cole – 14.1 – 2011 – Pirates
RHP – Kris Benson – 13.2 – 1996 – Pirates
RHP – Luke Hochevar – 3.6 – 2006 – Royals
RHP – Paul Wilson – 2.7 – 1994 – Mets
LHP – David Clyde – 0.7 – 1973 – Rangers
RHP – Bryan Bullington -0.3 – 2002 – Pirates
RHP – Matt Anderson -0.6 – 1997 – Tigers
LHP – Brien Taylor – N/A – 1991 – Yankees
RHP – Mark Appel – N/A – 2013 – Astros
LHP – Brady Aiken – N/A – 2014 – Astros

First, let’s discuss pitchers who have succeeded after being drafted with the number one pick.

2018 marks the eleventh major-league season for David Price. He’s posted a career record of 134-72, with a 3.25 ERA. The 32-year old lefty is a five-time All-Star and was the 2012 American League Cy Young award winner for the Rays. He went 20-5 and led the American League with a 2.56 ERA.

Andy Benes spent 14 seasons in the majors with the Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Cardinals. He won 155 games and posted a 3.97 ERA in 2505-and-a-third innings. He made the National League All-Star team in 1993 with San Diego and led the NL with 189 strikeouts during the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Mike Moore won 161 games in 14 seasons with the Mariners, Athletics and Tigers from 1982-to-1995. He was an All-Star for the Athletics in 1989, winning 19 games and posting a 2.61 ERA in 241-and-two-thirds innings of work. He finished third in the American League Cy Young voting that season, behind winner Bret Saberhagen and teammate Dave Stewart. Moore also won two games for Oakland during the 1989 World Series, including the series-clinching, Game Four.

Tim Belcher was drafted first overall by the Twins in 1983, but didn’t sign with the club. He was later taken first overall by the Yankees in the January 1984 secondary draft. Belcher won 146 games over 14 major league seasons and was a member of the 1988 World Series champion Dodgers. He got the victory over Dave Stewart in Game Four of the ’88 Fall Classic. The righty allowed three runs in six-and-two-thirds innings in a Dodgers’ 4-3 victory. However, Belcher may most be known for allowing first base hit in the career of Derek Jeter on May 30, 1995—a single to lead off the top of the fifth.

Mize could have a long career, like each of the four aforementioned pitchers. On the other hand, he could also have a short career.

The Tigers drafted a pitcher with the first overall pick once before—Matt Anderson in 1997. Anderson threw 100+ MPH, but suffered a torn muscle in his armpit while warming up in the bullpen during the 2002 season. He was never the same following the injury, with his fastball rarely being able to top 90 MPH. Anderson would go on to post a 5.19 ERA in seven major league seasons as a reliever.

At least Anderson made the show. Brien Taylor didn’t. Taylor was drafted first overall by the Yankees in 1991. He had all the potential in the world and was considered one of the best prospects of his—or any—era.

However, injuries suffered during a bar fight in 1993 proved catastrophic for Taylor. He missed the 1994 season and was never the same.

Taylor prior to the incident: 3.02 ERA, 4.6 BB/9, 9.4 K/9 in 324.1 minor league innings
Taylor following the incident: 10.59 ERA, 14.9 BB/9, 7.1 K/9 in 111.1 minor league innings

He never made the majors and his name is synonymous with the phrase “what could have been.”

There’s no telling what Mize’s career will be like. It’s far too early to know for sure. Only time will tell. Hopefully, his career will be one fans look back on and marvel at.

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