If only Major League Baseball teams could draft with the benefit of hindsight. Can't-miss prospects miss all the time, and players no one expected to amount to much can go on to win major awards. Because baseball requires so much repetition and refinement, its draft is more unpredictable than other major sports. Teams do their best, but there's a lot of luck involved.
It has been 10 years since what has become a top-heavy 2011 draft. The 2011 draft has produced one MVP and one Cy Young award winner, dozens of All-Star Game selections, and no fewer than 16 players who were prominent members of teams that went to the World Series. Some of the game's absolute best players were drafted back in 2011.
During the 2010-11 offseason, MLB still operated under the Type-A/Type-B free agent compensation system, in which players were designated Type-A or Type-B free agents based on a scoring system developed by the Elias Sports Bureau. Long story short, teams that signed a Type-A free agent sent their highest available draft pick to his former team as compensation.
Here are the 2011 first-round picks that changed hands due to free agent compensation:
- Red Sox received No. 19 pick from Tigers for Victor Martinez.
- Nationals received No. 23 pick from White Sox for Adam Dunn.
- Rays received No. 24 pick from Red Sox for Carl Crawford.
- Red Sox received No. 26 pick from Rangers for Adrián Beltré.
- Rays received No. 31 pick from Yankees for Rafael Soriano.
- Rangers received No. 33 pick from Phillies for Cliff Lee.
Also, three teams had an extra first round pick in 2011 because they failed to sign their 2010 first rounder, so the 2011 first round featured 33 picks rather than the usual 30. Fail to sign a first rounder one year and you receive a compensation pick one slot later the following year. Here are the three teams with extra picks in 2011 for failing to sign a first rounder in 2010:
- Diamondbacks received No. 7 pick for failing to sign 2010 No. 6 pick Barret Loux.
- Padres received No. 10 pick for failing to sign 2010 No. 9 pick Karsten Whitson.
- Brewers received No. 15 pick for failing to sign 2010 No. 14 pick Dylan Covey.
Because we can, we're going to step into our time machine and go back to the 2011 draft, and redraft the first round using what we know today. The redraft is based mostly on what the player has done to date (production during the player's six team control years is of paramount importance here) but we'll also consider what the player is still expected to do going forward.
. Now let's dive into our 2011 redraft.
At the time of the 2011 draft, Betts was seen as an incredible athlete who was undersized and lacked a standout tool. The Red Sox were among the first adopters of neuroscience scouting and, during Mookie's lunch break one day at his Tennessee high school, he took a test (more like played series of games) that measured how his brain read and reacted to certain situations. His scores were through the roof and the Red Sox drafted him. A decade later, Betts has two World Series rings, an MVP award, two MVP runner-ups, and a $300 million contract. Not too bad.
The Pirates didn't miss with Cole, though it wasn't until he left Pittsburgh that he blossomed into a bona fide ace. Cole gave the Pirates four-and-a-half above-average seasons before being traded away. His $8 million signing bonus is still the record for a drafted pitcher.
Injuries hampered Rendon throughout his career at Rice, and a shoulder issue dropped him to the Nationals with the No. 6 pick. Prior to that, he was a candidate to go No. 1 overall, and was clearly the top college hitter in the draft class. Rendon has battled injuries and been shockingly poor this year, though he's been among the game's best all-around players the last half-decade, and has won a World Series while receiving MVP votes in five seasons. Hultzen was drafted out of Virginia and blew out his shoulder in 2012, and barely pitched from 2013-18. He did briefly make it to the big leagues with the Cubs in 2019.
Actual pick: Trevor Bauer
Cole was a better pro prospect than college pitcher. Bauer, his rotation-mate at UCLA, had the far more impressive college resume (he won the 2011 Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in the country), but Cole threw 100 mph with ease and had the makings of three-above average secondary pitches. He was quite good with the Pirates before the Astros took him to another level, largely with changes to his pitch selection. Cole finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting four times and received the largest pitching contract in baseball history two years ago.
There wasn't much not to like about Lindor when he was coming out of high school in Puerto Rico. He was a tremendous athlete with obvious skill on both sides of the ball, and he was affable and charismatic. Still is, really. The 2011 draft was very college heavy though, so Lindor had to wait eight picks to hear his name called. He had all the look of a franchise shortstop and has delivered on that promise.
Springer was arguably the best athlete in the 2011 draft, though swing-and-miss concerns at UConn caused him to fall out of the top 10. He simplified his swing in pro ball and became an impact leadoff hitter, one with a historically great postseason resume. Starling leveraged a scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska into a $7.5 million signing bonus, then the record for a drafted position player, though he never did figure out a consistent swing or approach. He remains in Kansas City's farm system and has appeared in 91 MLB games over the years.
It's not often a high school shortstop with power and above-average defensive chops falls out of the first round, but Story did, and the Rockies smartly pounced. He was selected out of a Dallas high school with the compensation pick Colorado received for losing Octavio Dotel to free agency, if you can believe that. Story cleaned up his swing and is now a legitimate star, and maybe the best all-around shortstop in baseball. Fairly or unfairly, Coors Field and his massive home/road splits create questions about just how good he really is. I have him going No. 6 in this redraft, so I think he's really good.
Not much has changed with Báez since he was a teenager at his Puerto Rico high school. He had electric bat speed that sent the ball a mile when he connected, and swag to spare. If anything, Báez has become a much better defensive shortstop than expected. His plate discipline leaves him prone to strikeouts and ugly slumps, but when he hits, he's a superstar. It's hard to take your eyes off him when he's on the field.
Actual pick: Francisco Lindor
Bauer was the No. 1 performing college pitcher in the 2011 draft class, though his atypical training methods (and other issues that were not all Bauer's fault) led to his trade away from the D-Backs. He's only had one elite 162-game season in his career (2018), though he did win the NL Cy Young during the 60-game season a year ago. Bauer is currentlyfollowing sexual assault allegations.
Actual pick: Javier Báez
A tough junior season at UC Berkeley pushed Semien down draft boards. The White Sox took a shot on a player with a strong track record and hit his way to the big leagues before being traded to the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija deal. Semien turned himself into an excellent defensive shortstop (thanks in large part of former A's infield coach Ron Washington) and has found another level offensively these last few seasons. Just a good old fashioned "player makes himself better through hard work" story.
At Dartmouth, Hendricks was an extreme command pitcher without blow-you-away stuff, and the Rangers later cashed him in as a trade chip to get Ryan Dempster at the 2012 trade deadline. Hendricks became a top-tier starter with the Cubs and is the rare player who has forced teams to reevaluate their scouting practices given his old school finesse approach. Spangenberg was a bit of a safety pick (this was the compensation pick for failing to sign Whitson in 2010, and had the Padres not signed Spangenberg, they would not have received another compensation pick in 2011) and he played 419 unspectacular big-league games with the Padres and Brewers before joining the Seibu Lions in Japan last year.
Actual pick: George Springer
The Rays had one of the least productive drafts ever in 2011 based on expected production vs. actual production. Thanks to free agent compensation, Tampa held 12 of the top 90 picks, yet Snell is the only one of those 12 picks to be anything more than an up-and-down big leaguer. At his Washington high school, he was a classic projectable teenage pitching prospect, and he developed into a future Cy Young winner with some incredible highs. Snell has also dealt with injuries and walk issues, but he still capable of dominating any lineup on any given night.
Actual pick: Taylor Jungmann
Vanderbilt is a pitching factory and the only knock on Gray his draft year was his size (listed at 5-foot-10). He was lauded for his deep arsenal and competitiveness, and he reached the big leagues just two years later. Gray's start against Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS is one of the best postseason pitchers' duels in recent memory. He's received Cy Young votes in two seasons. Jungmann was the prototypical advanced college starter at Texas, though his stuff plateaued in pro ball, and he was never more than an up-and-down depth arm with the Brewers. He was pitching in Japan by 2018.
Glasnow was a scout's dream at his California high school. He was tall, lean, super athletic, and the ball exploded out of his hand. It took him a long time (a very long time) to figure things out at the MLB level, and it wasn't until he was traded to the Rays in 2018 that it all came together. Arm injuries have sabotaged two of his last three seasons, but if we check back in on this redraft in five years, Glasnow is as likely to climb into the top five as anyone.
The Red Sox held four of the top 40 picks in 2011 thanks to free agent compensation and the fourth of those picks was Bradley, whose draft year at South Carolina was hampered by a wrist injury. He has been an unremarkable hitter at the big-league level but is an elite defensive center fielder. One of the very best in the game. Bradley also has an ALCS MVP award to his credit.
Fernández burst onto the scene less than two years after being drafted (he skipped Double-A and Triple-A) and was an immediate impact pitcher who had four ace caliber seasons around Tommy John surgery. He was killed in a September 2016 boating accident and will not be included in this redraft exercise.
Similar to Semien, Wong improved his defense tremendously in pro ball, and made himself into a legitimate Gold Glove second baseman. He was a bit off the scouting beaten path in Hawaii, but he won MVP honors against elite competition in the wood bat Cape Cod League in 2010, which raised his draft stock. More than a few folks were skeptical about this pick at the time, but the Cardinals nailed it. Bradley, like Jungmann, saw his stuff plateau in pro debut after a strong college career at Georgia Tech. He appeared in only six career big-league games. Two misses by the Brewers in the top 15 picks in 2011.
Dodgers transitioned him to starting in pro ball, and it didn't work. He made two career MLB appearances., Musgrove was a San Diego high schooler with a good sinker and feel for a breaking ball. He's gone from the Blue Jays to the Astros to the Pirates to the Padres in three significant trades involving 19 total players, and he's changed substantially as a pitcher. Musgrove now ambushes hitters with a wide array of secondary pitches, and he is just now coming into his own as a top-tier starter. Reed was a closer at Stanford and the
Nimmo is by far the highest drafted player ever out of Wyoming (Scott Freeman was the No. 73 pick in 1990), and he should become the state's all-time WAR leader before the end of this season (Greg Brock is at 10.0 WAR and Nimmo is right behind him at 9.3 WAR). They don't play high school baseball in Wyoming, so teams had to scout and evaluate Nimmo during travel ball games and showcase events. Injuries have been a problem throughout his career, even dating back to his amateur days, but Nimmo has been an on-base machine at the big-league level with New York.
Actual pick: Sonny Gray
By no small margin, Pillar is the biggest late-round success story of the 2011 draft. He was a dominant college player at Cal State Dominguez Hills (Pillar set a Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak as a junior in 2010) and signed for only $1,000 as a 32nd-round pick in 2011. Pillar has been an adequate hitter at the MLB level and an excellent defensive center fielder who started for those Blue Jays teams that went to the ALCS in back-to-back years in 2015-16.
When he's been on the mound, Clevinger has pitched at an ace level more often than not. He just hasn't been on the mound as much as his teams would like the last few years. The Angels selected Clevinger out of a Florida junior college and he needed Tommy John surgery soon thereafter. They sent him to Cleveland for Vinnie Pestano in Aug. 2014 and Cleveland's player development folks took him to another level. Clevinger is currently rehabbing from his second career Tommy John surgery.
Ahmed was teammates with Springer and Barnes at UConn and he was one of the best defensive college shortstops of the last 15 years or so. He's remained an excellent defender at the big-league level with two Gold Gloves to his credit. The rocket ball allowed Ahmed to have career years offensively in 2019 and 2020, though he's been a passable hitter more than an asset throughout his career. The Braves sent him to the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade in January 2013. Anderson is the highest drafted player out of Oregon since the program was revived in 2009, following a 29-year hiatus. He has been a perfectly cromulent MLB starter around injuries.
Had teams considered him signable going into the 2011 draft, Davies likely would have been picked somewhere in the top three rounds. The Orioles rolled the dice in 26th round and he surprisingly signed for second round money ($575,000 bonus), and they sent him to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra at the 2015 trade deadline. Davies has settled in as a rock solid big leaguer who rarely misses a start, though he does it unconventionally with a finesse approach. Beede did not sign with the Blue Jays out of high school in 2011, and three years later he was the No. 14 pick out of Vanderbilt. Toronto used the compensation pick they received for failing to sign Beede to take Marcus Stroman in 2012.
Actual pick: Kolten Wong
No high school right-hander has ever gone No. 1 in the draft, though Bundy had a legitimate case to do so in 2011. He had one of the best cutters you'll ever see on an amateur and was praised for his work ethic and makeup. Alas, Bundy was worked very hard at his Oklahoma high school and early in his pro career, and arm problems have turned him into a serviceable big leaguer rather than an ace. He's still only 28 and has a chance to carve out a second phase of his career as an innings-eating No. 4 or 5 starter type.
DeSclafani pitched out of the bullpen on a stacked Florida pitching staff that featured three first round picks (Jonathan Crawford, Brian Johnson, Karsten Whitson), and Toronto immediately moved him into the rotation. He's been traded a few times since then and dramatically remade himself as a pitcher, and he's battled injuries too, but DeSclafani has been good when healthy and occasionally great. Even though he turned 31 in April, it feels like he still has quite a bit more to offer in the future. Meyer touched 100 mph with his fastball and was one of the most physically imposing amateur pitchers you'll ever see (listed at 6-foot-9 and 225 lbs.), though arm problems derailed his career and forced him into retirement in 2019. He appeared 22 career big-league games.
The Mets drafted and signed 13 big leaguers in 2011, plus two others who didn't sign and later reached the show with other teams. Fulmer was a classic big bodied right-hander at his Oklahoma high school and New York traded him to the Tigers for Yoenis Céspedes at the 2015 trade deadline. One year later he was the AL Rookie of the Year. Fulmer has been hampered by injuries (including Tommy John surgery) and ineffectiveness since then, though it appears he'll be able to carve out a second phase to his career as a high-leverage reliever. Guerrieri had arm problems in the minors (he was also suspended after testing positive for a drug of abuse in 2013) and made 29 scattered big-league appearances.
Bassitt was a reliever who didn't pitch much during his four years at Akron. The White Sox turned him into a starter and he had immediate success, enough that he join Semien as part of the Samardzija trade with the A's during the 2014-15 offseason. Bassitt was slowed by Tommy John surgery a few years back but has developed into a legitimate above-average starter with Oakland the last three seasons. The Nationals acquired Ross along with Trea Turner in a three-team trade with the Padres and Rays, and he contributed to Washington's 2019 World Series run.
Actual pick: Blake Swihart
As an amateur at Utah, Cron was a catcher with huge power who not many thought would remain behind the plate long-term. He moved to first base in 2012, which meant his path to consistent playing time with the Angels was blocked by Albert Pujols. Cron has since settled in as a journeyman righty first base bat who punishes lefties. Swihart was ranked among the game's best prospects at one point, though injuries derailed his career, and he simply stopped hitting.
The Red Sox had a whale of a draft in 2011. They selected nine big leaguers (plus one player who didn't sign and later reached the big leagues with another team), including the draft's best player (Betts) and two other MLB regulars (Jackie Bradley Jr. and Shaw). During his time at Kent State, it was unclear whether Shaw would hit for power or stay at third base at the next level. He's done both, and has been a productive platoon bat more often than not in parts of seven big-league seasons. Stephenson has a big arm and big spin rates, but has yet to find consistent success as an MLB pitcher.
Actual pick: Sean Gilmartin
Barnes played alongside Ahmed and Springer at UConn and looked to have some of the highest upside among the 2011 draft's pitching prospects. He never did develop the reliable third pitch or command he needed to remain a starter, however, and has since settled in as a very good and occasionally spectacular late-inning reliever. Gilmartin was viewed as a high probability big leaguer without a ton of upside and he is just that, bouncing around from team to team and appearing in at least one MLB game every year from 2015-20.
An unimpressive draft year at Centenary caused Lugo to slip to the 34th round, where he signed for only $20,000. Spine surgery sidelined him all of 2012, yet Lugo has stuck with it, and has become a very productive jack of all trades big leaguer. He's started, he's closed, and he's done everything in between. Panik was considered a reach at this pick when he was coming out of St. John's, but he made it to San Francisco in time to contribute to the Giants' 2014 World Series title.
Thanks largely to Cole ($8 million) and Bell ($5 million), the Pirates smashed the previous record for draft spending by roughly $5 million in 2011. Bell was a first-round talent at his Texas high school and maybe the best prep hitter in the draft, but he sent teams a letter telling them not to draft him because he was dead set on going to college. Pittsburgh rolled the dice in the second round, put a $5 million offer on the table, and a few years later he was socking dingers at PNC Park. Bell has had several peaks and valleys in his career, though he is still only 28, and should have several prime years remaining. Michael had an injury-plagued drafted year at UNC and never found his way in pro ball. He is the highest draftee 2011 draftee to not appear in the big leagues.
The Marlins selected Treinen out of South Dakota State in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft, but they backed out of their contract agreement after seeing something they didn't like in his physical. He returned to school as a fifth year senior in 2011, raised his draft stock, then was traded to the Nationals in 2013 and back to the Athletics in 2017. Since then, Treinen has worked as a high-leverage reliever thanks to his turbo-sinker, and his 2018 All-Star season earned him Cy Young votes, and is among the best relief seasons ever. Mahtook was a very good college performer who's struggled against MLB-caliber pitching, though he has played in close to 300 big-league games.
Giles was not an unknown as a high schooler in New Mexico, though injuries hampered him as an amateur, and landed him at an Arizona junior college in 2011. He showed up that spring throwing upper-90s fastballs with a wipeout slider, so the Phillies pounced, and less than three years later he was in the big leagues. Giles continues to battle injuries (he'll miss 2021 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) but, when he's healthy, he's been dominant. He was the primary closer for the 2017 World Series champion Astros, though he lost the closer's job in the postseason. Hager was a scrappy infielder at his Las Vegas high school and he made his MLB debut with the Mets this May. He still has a chance to carve out a career as a role player.
Actual pick: Kevin Matthews
Bradley competed against Bundy and Fulmer in the Oklahoma high school ranks. He never did develop a reliable third pitch, and instead wound up an effective reliever. He's even closed at times. Matthews was seen as a reach at the time of the 2011 draft and he developed arm problems almost immediately in pro ball. He threw fewer than 200 innings in the minors and was out of affiliated ball by 2017.