2004 MLB First-Year Player Re-Draft: First Five Picks
The 2004 MLB Draft in its entirety brought some great talent to the baseball world. Names such as Chris Davis, Neil Walker, Jered Weaver (for a few years), Dustin Pedroia, and Wade Davis. However, the first round featured a lot of misses. The only selection that played to his potential, at least in my opinion, was Justin Verlander, who the Detroit Tigers took with the second overall pick. He is now an MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
I want to see if I can draft this one a little bit better, so I’m going to run through the draft and use hindsight to make better selections. I know a few of the players I pick didn’t sign with the team that drafted them in the real draft, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to assume they take the big-money deal that comes with being selected in the first round. Also, if a team selected a hitter in the real draft, I’m going to try and draft them a hitter here, same with pitchers. No promises, however.
Now that that has been settled, we can begin.
With the first pick in the 2004 First Year Player Re-Draft, the San Diego Padres select…. Justin Verlander, RHP, Old Dominion
Note: Matt Bush was originally a shortstop, but the Padres converted him to a pitcher. I am going to stick with the current position and draft SD a pitcher.
The Padres originally took high school righty Matt Bush (as a shortstop) with this selection, but we’re going with Verlander in this re-draft. Verlander, 22 at the time he made his MLB debut, has become one of the best pitchers in the game today.
I already mentioned the MVP and Cy Young, but there’s also his six All-Star appearances, his 2011 AL Pitching Triple Crown, and his no-hitters against the Brewers in 2007 and versus the Blue Jays in 2011. Verlander may have helped San Diego overcome Colorado in 2007, and would easily have help them win more ballgames as the years went on.
With the second pick in the 2004 First Year Player Re-Draft, the Detroit Tigers select… David Price, LHP, Blackman High School
Again, going under the assumption that the drafted prospect would have signed, Detroit would most definitely have taken Price with this selection. Price at the time was coming out of high school, and had not yet committed to Vanderbilt. The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Price 568th overall, but he decided not to sign.
Price would go on to become a force with the Tampa Bay Rays, winning a Cy Young (beating out Verlander) before being dealt to the Tigers in 2014. From there, he’s played for Detroit, Toronto, and now for the Boston Red Sox.
This selection does two things for Detroit: it gives them a top flight pitcher for years to come (despite losing Verlander), and it saves them the hassle of giving up assets to acquire Price ten years later.
With the third pick in the 2004 First Year Player Re-Draft, the New York Mets select…. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Plano East Senior High School
Another player who didn’t sign in 2004 is Jake Arrieta. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him with the 918th pick in 2004, but he decided to go to college instead. Arrieta was then drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, but decided to transfer to TCU. Finally, he was drafted in 2007 by the Baltimore Orioles, and signed a record contract for a fifth-round pick for the time.
However, it wasn’t until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs that he really came into his own. Arrieta went on to win the 2015 NL Cy Yound Award, and has thrown two no-hitters in the past two seasons, recording a 2.52 ERA and 630 strikeouts as a Cub. He has also added a World Series ring to his resume this past season.
The Mets, using hindsight, would take Arrieta here and sign him. They can either develop him, or do what they did with their original selection here, Phillip Humber: trade him for Johan Santana. I personally would choose to develop Arrieta.
With the fourth pick in the 2004 First Year Player Re-Draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select… Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Arizona State University
Pedroia was drafted in the second round by the Boston Red Sox and signed with them. Since then, he has become a premier infielder and an excellent all-around player. Pedroia was the 2008 AL MVP, and is a two-time World Series champion with the BoSox.
The reason I slot Pedroia here is due to the fact that he is the best player remaining. Tampa originally selected Jeffery Niemann, a right hander out of Rice University. There weren’t any pitchers that I thought were a better option than Pedroia, so Tampa would have grabbed him.
Think about how this selection may have actually impacted the 2008 World Series between Tampa and the Philadelphia Phillies.
With the fifth pick in the 2004 First Year Player Re-Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers select… Chris Davis, 1B, Longview HS
Davis was drafted by the Yankees as a third baseman in 2004, but would eventually transition him to first. Now, Davis isn’t as accomplished as everyone else here in the top five, but he’s an All-Star and a very solid power hitter. He signed with the Texas Rangers in 2006 after being drafted in the fifth round.
Remember, Davis actually got off to a pretty good start in Texas. He even started 92 games at first in 2009, hitting 21 home runs. The problem for the Rangers was Davis’ strikeout rate. The Rangers dealt him to Baltimore in a three-player deal for Koji Uehera, and Davis’ career took off. The question I have is whether or not Milwaukee would also trade him or if they would commit and hang on to Davis.
Featured Photo Credit: USATSI
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