There's no doubting how important the baseball draft is.
The Giants don't win the World Series if they don't pick Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey in three straight first rounds from 2006-08. The Phillies don't become a powerhouse without taking Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels in the first round between 1992-2002. The Rays are still losers if not for first-rounders like Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and David Price (and Delmon Young, who brought them Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett).
And the Rangers don't get to the World Series last year if they don't use a 2008 first-round pick on Justin Smoak, who they could turn into Cliff Lee.
Three of the last four American League Most Valuable Players were taken first overall (Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton).
The draft is crucial, and for all the talk of how the late rounds matter (yes, Albert Pujols was a 13th-rounder), the fact is that most American-born All-Stars (foreign players aren't draft-eligible) come from the very early picks.
So should you study up for Monday's 2011 version of the draft? Should you make plans to watch the first round on the MLB Network?
No, not unless you're close friends with someone who might get picked.
The truth is that unlike the NBA and NFL drafts, the baseball draft is much more interesting in retrospect than it is the day it happens.
It's great to look back and see how previous drafts went, once we know which picks were great and which were flops. Go ahead and check out C. Trent Rosecrans' rundown of each team's best first-round pick from the last decade, and Matt Snyder's rundown of the worst.
You know the names -- the good ones, anyway.
As for this year's draft, feel free to watch something else on Monday -- maybe Zack Greinke against the Marlins, maybe Matt Kemp vs. Cliff Lee.
But because the draft is important, we'll also give you this draft version of 3 to Watch, as in three things to know, whether you watch or not:
1. Some years, having the top pick is great. It was great the last two years for the Nationals, when Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were available. It was great the only two times the Mariners had it, because Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were available. But most drafts have no Strasburg and no A-Rod. And many drafts are like this one, with plenty of debate over the best available player. The Pirates pick first, and there have been conflicting reports on who they'll take. The local paper suggested it would be UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole, while highly-respected draft-watcher Jim Callis of Baseball America said University of Virginia right-hander Danny Hultzen. It seems almost certain to be one of the two, even though some scouts think Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy will be better than either of them. I'll trust Pirates scouting director Greg Smith, who made the call to take Justin Verlander when he was in the same job with the Tigers.
2. Most scouts seem to believe this is a deep draft, which should benefit the Rays, who have a record 12 picks in the first two rounds. As Rays general manager Andrew Friedman said to the New York Times, "The more arrows you have, the more likely you are to hit the bull's-eye." On the other hand, the Rays' first pick isn't until No. 24 in the first round, in a draft where the top six players seem to have separated themselves from the group (Cole, Hultzen, Bundy, UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer, Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon and Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling).
3. Yes, you read that right. Two UCLA pitchers are expected to go within the first six picks. Before you ask, yes, it has happened before. In 2004, Rice produced three of the top eight picks (all pitchers), with Phil Humber going third to the Mets, Jeff Niemann going fourth to the Rays and Wade Townsend going eighth to the Orioles. And Vanderbilt came close in 2007, when David Price went first overall to the Rays, and Casey Weathers went eighth to the Rockies.