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What Happened to Top MLB Draft Picks That Went Unsigned?

If there’s one thing we know about the MLB draft, it’s that it is completely random. A high pick can end up being a bust, while a late pick can flourish into a star. It’s a complete unknown when you’re drafting kids out of high school. Just 9.8 percent of draftees go on to accumulate at least 0.1 WAR.

If there’s another thing we know, it’s that failing to sign your first round pick is bad. You just drafted him, and then he walks for nothing? Less than ideal. So what happened to these guys that didn’t sign and why?

The MLB draft was implemented in 1965 after wealthy teams like the Yankees would offer the most money to amateur players and hoard all the most talent prospects from other teams (the Yankees won 20 championships before there was a draft), so an amateur draft was implemented. Over time, we’ve seen the draft change. There were secondary phases, a January draft, an August draft, expansion teams, rounds added, rounds taken away, loopholes discovered, loopholes closed, and more recently, supplemental picks have been added. But the constant that has remained is draftees having to choose between signing an MLB deal and going to college. 

So what happened to first round picks that didn’t sign with their teams? I looked into all 71 cases in the 54 year history of the draft, and there’s just about every situation under the sun arose. From MLB stars, to minor league flame outs, to NFL and NBA players, to a United States secret agent (I’m not joking), to guys who just disappeared from the public spectrum, we’ve seen pretty much everything. Let’s dive in, and – spoiler – it gets fun in the ‘70s.

Carter Stewart: #8 overall by Atlanta in 2018

Stewart is a fascinating situation. He was offered 2 million by the Braves, but refused to sign, and instead signed with Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan as a 19 year old. The deal is for 6 years, giving him more than $7 million. So as a 25 year old, Stewart will be a free agent with the ability to sign with any MLB team. He’s guaranteeing himself more money through his early 20s, and giving himself the opportunity to become an MLB free agent at least 3-4 years earlier than if he were to rack up service time in the majors after working through the minors on a barely livable salary. It’ll be really interesting to see how it works out for Stewart and if more follow his path, but it’s not a great look for the MLB

J.T. Ginn: #30 overall by the Dodgers in 2018

Ginn honored his commitment to Mississippi State and didn’t sign with the Dodgers. He won SEC freshman of the year in 2019 with a 3.13 ERA in 17 starts and is a top prospect for the 2020 draft.

Gunnar Hoglund: #36 overall by Pittsburgh in 2018

Hoglund chose to pitch at Ole Miss as opposed to the Pirates organization. He struggled in his freshman season with an ERA over 5, but had a 1.16 ERA this season before the season was cancelled. Look for him to be drafted again in the coming years.

Drew Rasmussen: #31 overall by Tampa Bay in 2017

Rasmussen has been drafted 3 times, first in 2014 in the 39th round by the Diamondbacks, then by the Rays in 2017, and finally signing after the Brewers took him in the 6th round in 2018 despite missing the season to Tommy John surgery. He’s currently 24, and pitched well at the AA level last season, posting a 3.54 ERA over 22 appearances and 18 starts.

Matt McLain: #25 overall by Arizona in 2018

Drafted out of high school, McLain spurned the D-Backs to keep his commitment to UCLA. Can’t happen if you’re the D-Backs, especially when guys like Triston Casas and Xavier Edwards are looking pretty good following him.

Nick Lodolo: #41 overall by Pittsburgh in 2016

Lodolo kept his commitment to TCU, and it worked out well for him. He was picked by the Reds 7th overall in 2019 and is the #48 prospects in America according to MLB Pipeline.

Jun 22, 2017; Omaha, NE, USA; TCU Horned Frogs pitcher Nick Lodolo (12) pitches in the first inning against the Louisville Cardinals at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Funkhouser: #35 overall by the Dodgers in 2015

Funkhouser turned down $1.75 million from the Dodgers for his senior season at Louisville. He was drafted by Detroit in the 4th round in 2016 and has been in their system since. He’s had success at the AA level, but has failed to put it together at AAA.

Brady Aiken: #1 overall by Houston in 2014

Ah, the curious case of Brady Aiken. He’s the only #1 pick to not sign with his team since 1983. After injury concerns made the Astros reduce their offer from $6.5 million to $5, and Aiken rejected, instead enrolled in a post-grad year of high school to keep him eligible for the 2015 draft. As it turned out, the Astros concerns were legitimate, as Aiken had Tommy John surgery in March of 2015. The Indians went on to draft him #17 overall, and this time he signed for $2.5 million. According to baseballamerica, Aiken sat between 92 and 96 with his fastball in high school, but never regained that velocity. He struggled in rookie and low A ball in 2016, and then had a 4.77 ERA across 27 stars in class A in 2017. He didn’t pitch at all in 2018 and pitched just two thirds of an inning in 2019, with President of baseball operations Chris Antonelli stating “he took some time away from the game.” Wishing the best for Aiken, but he looks like one of the biggest draft busts ever. It worked out great for the Astros, as they took Alex Bregman with the compensation pick for Aiken 2nd overall in 2015.

Phil Bickford: #10 overall by Toronto in 2013

Bickford was drafted again by the Giants 18th overall in 2015, and was traded to the Brewers organization in the Will Smith trade. Following the 2016 season, he was suspended 50 games. A once promising career after posting a 2.93 ERA in A ball and high A has fizzled, as they’ve moved him to the bullpen, and has yet to advance above high A, though he did have a 2.48 era out of the pen last season

Matt Krook: #35 overall by Miami in 2013

Krook was also redrafted by the Giants, but in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. Dealt to Tampa for Evan Longoria, he’s been back and forth between starting and relieving, but hasn’t been able to find the zone, posting a BB/9 over 6 in his minor league career. He pitched in AA last season for Tampa, making 32 appearances and 18 starts with a 4.50 ERA.

Mark Appel: #8 overall by Pittsburgh in 2012

If you thought Aiken’s ride was turbulent, just wait until you hear about Mark Appel. He didn’t sign with the Tigers after being picked in the 15th round out of high school, choosing to go to Stanford. He was projected as a potential #1 pick in 2012, but the Astros didn’t pick him then because of his signing bonus demands, as he turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates. The Astros went on to pick a guy by the name of Carlos Correa, so a bullet dodged for them. Well, not completely, because the Astros picked Appel #1 overall a year later. Appel struggled to adapt in his first full season as a pro at high A in 2014, but found his game at AA and in the Arizona Fall League. A 4.37 ERA the next season between AA and AAA was enough for the Astros to give up on him and deal him to the Phillies, where he posted a 5.27 ERA in 17 starts at AAA. Appel stepped away from the game in early 2018 and hasn’t pitched since.

Tyler Beede: #21 overall by Toronto in 2011

Relative to what we’ve seen so far, Beede is a success story, starting 22 games for the Giants last season. He was redrafted in 2014 by the Giants, 14th overall, and worked his way to making his MLB debut in April of 2018. He’s an MA native too.

Sep 26, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tyler Beede (38) delivers against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Austin: #54 overall by San Diego in 2011

Austin was a late first rounder due to supplemental picks, but a first rounder nonetheless. He went to NC State instead of signing with the Padres, and was taken by the White Sox 3 years later. He caught in the White Sox organization, reaching AAA, until 2019, where he split time between the Giants AA affiliate and independent ball. 

Barret Loux: #6 overall by Arizona in 2010

The Diamondbacks did not sign Loux after he failed his physical, and they chose to take the compensation pick in 2011 instead of signing Loux, which worked out, turning the pick into Archie Bradley. Loux signed with the Rangers and was effective in AA, then traded to the Cubs. He had Tommy John surgery in 2014, and was later released by the Cubs, playing in independent leagues until 2016.

Karsten Whitson: #9 overall by San Diego in 2010

Whitson chose college over signing with the Padres, which was costly for them seeing Chris Sale get picked four slots later. Shoulder injuries cost him a chance of being a high pick in 2013, and he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2014 draft, making just 4 appearances for low A Lowell.

Dylan Covey: #14 overall by Milwaukee in 2010

Covey also chose college and was drafted and signed by the Athletics 3 years later. He pitched well in AA in 2016, with a 1.84 ERA in 6 starts. That was enough for the White Sox to take him in the Rule 5 draft, and keep him for the duration of the season. Though he’s struggled in the majors, the now 28 year old has shown to be too good for AAA.

Matt Purke: #14 overall by Texas in 2009

Purke pitched at TCU opposed to signing with Texas despite being drafted 11 spots before Mike Trout. He was drafted by the Nationals in the third round 2 years later and made his MLB debut with the White Sox in 2016, appearing in 12 games.

LeVon Washington: #30 overall by Tampa Bay in 2009

A majority of these guys have been pitchers, often who were victims of Tommy John surgery or other injuries. Washington is an outfielder who ditched Tampa Bay for Junior College and then was drafted by Cleveland a year later in the second round. He never graduated above high A despite putting up very good averages in rookie and short season ball and has made a living in independent leagues since 2015.

James Paxton: #37 overall by Toronto in 2009

Our first true success story comes at the hands of James Paxton. A Canadian native, the Jays picked him after his junior year at Kentucky, but didn’t sign, then was ineligible to pitch at Kentucky because he had signed Scott Boras as an agent, so he was forced to pitch in the independent league in 2010. He was drafted by the Mariners that summer. He dominated the minors on his way to becoming a top of the rotation pitcher in the MLB today.

Aaron Crow: #8 overall by Washington in 2008

Every player in the top 25 of the 2008 draft appeared in a major league game, so the Nationals losing Crow off of stalled negotiations was a big loss. He was drafted a year later 12th overall by the Royals. He had a 5.66 ERA in AA in 2010, but made the jump to the majors in 2011, posting a 2.76 in 57 appearances to make the AL All Star team. Crow was an effect reliever through 2014, then had Tommy John in the Spring of 2015. He bounced around organizations and in the Mexican league but never made it back to the big leagues. We’ll mark it down as a success.

Gerrit Cole: #28 overall by Yankees in 2008

Everything comes full circle. Well, at least in this case. The Yankees saw Cole’s potential and took a shot at him out of high school in 2008, and instead went and pitched 3 years at UCLA. It worked out just alright for him, as he went number 1 overall to the Pirates in 2011. Cole made his debut in 2013, starting 19 games for the Pirates that year, and hasn’t looked back.

Mar 10, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Hochaver: #40 overall by Dodgers in 2005

Hochaver spurned the Dodgers twice, the first being in the 39th round of the 2002 draft, and again in ‘05 when he changed agents, then didn’t, and couldn’t come to an agreement with LA. He followed it up by being drafted #1 overall by the Royals in 2006 and made his debut in September of 2007. He was disappointing as a starter, but switched full time to the bullpen in 2013, and was part of the stacked Royals bullpen that led them to a World Series.

Wade Townsend: #8 overall by Baltimore in 2004

That was a nice string of success stories, but then we get to Wade Townsend, who after he was drafted, hired an agent, negating any college eligibility he had remaining, then enrolled in school to get his degree, negating the Orioles’ ability to sign him. It didn’t matter much though, as he was drafted in the same spot a year later by Tampa Bay. However, he never got his ERA below 5 at any level of the minors, and didn’t pitch after 2010. I’m starting to think that drafting pitchers high is a total coinflip.

John Mayberry: #28 overall by Seattle in 2002

Mayberry, a rare position player on this list, turned down Seattle for Stanford, and was redrafted by the Rangers in 2005 19th overall. He ended up playing 574 games, mostly for the Phillies, between 2009 and 2015.

Jeremy Sowers: #20 overall by Cincinnati in 2001

Sowers chose Vanderbilt over the Reds, and was drafted 6th overall by Cleveland 3 years later. He made his MLB debut just a year after he was drafted. He had a great rookie season, but struggled in the next 3 between AAA and the majors, and never established himself. 18 picks later, the Mets chose David Wright.

Alan Horne: #27 overall by Cleveland in 2001

Horne spurned the Indians for Ole Miss and also rejected the Angels as a 30th rounder in 2004 before making the SEC transfer to Florida, and eventually signed with the Yankees as an 11th rounder in 2005. He was the 67th ranked prospect in baseball prior to the 2008 season, but struggled mightily that season and went downhill from there, and he eventually succumbed to Tommy John surgery.

Matt Harrington: #7 overall by Colorado in 2000

It’s not a good situation when you let a 7th overall pick walk for nothing, but maybe the Rockies can breathe a little easier knowing that they were one of five – that’s right, 5 – teams that drafted and didn’t sign Harrington. He’s the only player in the 54 year history of the MLB draft to be drafted 5 different times (every year 2000-2004) without coming to an agreement. Agent disputes lead to Harrington turning down $4.9 million from the Rockies, and another seven figure offer from the Padres a year later. The next year was the 13th round by the Devil Rays, then the 24th round by the Reds, and finally the 36th round by the Yankees in 2004. He attended Spring Training with the Cubs in 2006, but failed to make the team, and was released. According to a 2009 report from ESPN, Harrington was making $11.50 an hour working at Costco. A mighty fall for a once elite talent. 

Aaron Heilman: #31 overall by Minnesota in 2000

Heilman is a success story. He was redrafted in 2001 by the Mets. He fast tracked through their system and was a productive reliever for them for a handful of years, though he may be best known for allowing a game winning homer to Yadier Molina in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Ben Diggins: #32 overall by St. Louis in 1998

Diggins attended University of Arizona instead of signing with the Cardinals and was drafted 17th overall by the Dodgers in the 2000 draft, and signed. His only MLB stint came in 2002 with the Dodgers, starting 5 games and allowing 23 runs in 24 innings. He pitched in the minors until 2005 and is now a scout for the Angels.

Mark Prior: #43 overall by Yankees in 1998

The Yankees were unable to sign Prior, and he went on to dominate the college ranks at USC before being drafted second overall by the Cubs in 2001. He signed a $10.5 million contract, which stood as a record until 2009. He shot through the minors and made his MLB debut less than a year after he was drafted in May of 2002. Prior was a Cy Young candidate in 2003, posting a 2.43 ERA in 40 starts as a 22 year old, and was productive for 2 more seasons before injuries hit. He started 9 games in 2006 when injuries began to pile up, and despite getting deals with 5 other MLB teams, including the Yankees, he never made it back to the major leagues. Prior is now the bullpen coach for the Dodgers.

October 6, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Mark Prior (23) before game three of the 2019 NLDS playoff baseball series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

JD Drew: #2 overall by Philadelphia in 1997

A huge miss here for the Phillies. Drew and agent Scott Boras insisted on $10 million, and though the Phillies had no plans to give him that money, drafted him anyway. It didn’t work out, and the Cardinals drafted him a year later 5th overall, giving him $7 million. Drew made his MLB debut the same year he was drafted by the Cardinals in July of ‘98 and went on to have a successful 14 year career, winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007, and forever being a villain in Philadelphia. 

Tyrell Godwin: #35 overall by Texas in 2000 and #24 by Yankees in 1997

Godwin is the only player to be drafted twice in the first round and not sign either time. The Yankees picked him in ‘97, but he turned them down to play baseball and football at North Carolina. He eventually signed with the Blue Jays after being picked in the third round in 2001, and made 3 plate appearances for the Nationals in 2005. He’s now an assistant vice president for BB&T.

Travis Lee: #2 overall by Minnesota in 1996

John Patterson: #5 overall by Montreal in 1996

Matt White: #7 overall by San Francisco in 1996

Bobby Seay: #12 overall by White Sox in 1996

The 1996 draft had 4 of it’s top 12 picks go unsigned, which is the worst by far of any draft, but it’s no conscience. Seay’s agent, Boras, noticed a loophole in the system, where the White Sox did not submit a written offer to Seay within 15 days of the draft, which would allow him to become a free agent. The rule was often ignored, as teams verbally negotiated with players and clients, but Seay and Boras, and then agents for Lee, Patterson, and White also took advantage of the loophole and filed grievances. It was decided that the four teams violated the draft agreement, allowing all four to become free agents. Safe to say the MLB closed that loophole shortly after.

Lee then signed a shocking 4 year, $10 million dollar contract with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, almost two years before the franchise even played their first game. Lee played for Milwaukee’s AAA team and in an independent high A ball club in ‘97 before the D-Backs took the field. He played in 146 games for Arizona in their inaugural season and as one of baseball’s top prospects. He was traded to Philadelphia as part of a package for Curt Schilling, and went on to have a solid-yet-unspectacular 9 year MLB career.

Patterson also signed with the Dbacks, debuting in 2002 and ironically making his way back to Montreal in 2004. He was real good in the Nationals’ first season in Washington with a 3.13 ERA in 31 starts, but as we’ve often seen, injuries spelled a downfall and the end of his career shortly thereafter.

White signed with another expansion team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, though he never made the MLB. A different Matt White, who was also a pitcher drafted a year later by the Indians, bought a piece of land that happened to made out of a type of mica that was over 400 million years old, that – long story short – was worth over $2 billion dollars. Completely unrelated, but a wild story nonetheless.

Seay also signed with the Devil Rays, and put up decent numbers as a reliever in 2004 and 2007, and mediocre to bad seasons in between. His career ended in 2009 to shoulder surgery. The four highly touted loophole prospects didn’t turn out to be big hits anyway.

Dec 12, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sports agent Scott Boras talks to the media during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Clark-USA TODAY Sports

Matt McClendon: #33 overall by Cincinnati in 1996

McClendon wasn’t a loophole prospect, and instead opted for the University of Florida over the Reds. He went to the Braves in the 5th round of the 1999 draft and was the #51 prospect in baseball going into 2001, but imploded that season with a 7.27 ERA across 4 levels of the minors. He pitched in the Braves organization until 2004 and didn’t pitch again after. 

Chad Hutchinson: #26 overall by Atlanta in 1995

Hutchinson went to Stanford to play football and baseball instead of signing with the Braves, and was redrafted by the Cardinals in the 2nd round in 1998. He played 3 years in the minors before getting called up by the Cardinals in April of ‘01. He got absolutely shelled, allowing 11 runs in 4 innings and decided baseball wasn’t the sport for him, so he went and signed a 3 year deal with the Dallas Cowboys that guaranteed him $8.1 million, as one does. Hutchinson started 9 games for the Cowboys in 2002, then fell to the backup position in ‘03 and was released. He was signed by the Chicago Bears and started 5 games for them in 2004.

Jason Varitek: #21 overall by Minnesota in 1993

Twins and Mariners lose player before he becomes a Red Sox great. Sound familiar? Varitek is no Big Papi, but he had a great career. Rather than signing with the Twins, Varitek returned to college for his senior season, and was drafted by the Mariners 14th overall the next year. He was traded to the Red Sox in the summer of ‘97 with Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb in one of the most one sided deals in MLB history, and won the starting catcher job out of camp in ‘98, never looking back from there. The Sox can thank the Twins for two key pieces of their ‘04 and ‘07 championship teams.

Mar 8, 2019; Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox guest instructor Jason Varitek (33) prior to the game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Ward: #30 overall by the Mets in 1992

Ward turned down the Mets for Cal. State, getting redrafted by the Cardinals in the 8th round of the 1995 draft. He played two seasons for their low A team, allowing 52 runs in 68 innings.

Ken Henderson: #5 overall by Milwaukee in 1991

Like Matt White, there’s another Ken Henderson who played baseball that had a much better career. This one asked for $1 million from the Brewers, who countered with $500,000, and Henderson bolted for UMiami. He was again drafted by the Expos in 1994, but returned to college and finally signed with the Padres as a fifth round pick. He pitched 3 seasons in the minors, never rising about high A or appearing in more than 11 games in a season

John Burke: #6 overall by Houston in 1991

Burke chose to return to Gainesville instead of signing with the Astros and signed with the Rockies a year later when they drafted him 27th overall, making him the Rockies first amature draft pick. He had also been drafted by the Orioles in the 34th round in 1989. He made 28 MLB appearances, 9 starts, to a 6.75 ERA, pitching professionally for 7 total seasons before retiring after the 1998 season.

Charles Johnson: #10 overall by Montreal in 1989

Johnson also chose UMiami over signing out of high school, and instead became the Marlins first ever draft pick. He was fast tracked to the majors being with an expansion team, and went on to have a successful 12 year MLB career, including a 1997 World Series and 4 gold gloves.

Calvin Murray: #11 overall by Cleveland in 1989

Calvin is the uncle to Kyler Murray, so getting drafted high and then ditching MLB teams runs in the family. This Murray went on to play at Texas and was redrafted by the Giants 7th overall. He played 6 years in the minors before making his MLB debut in 1999 as a 27 year old and starting for the Giants in 2000 and 2001. Fun fact, he was the batter when Randy Johnson hit a bird with a pitch during a spring training game. Less than Ideal for the Indians and Expos to lose high picks, then see players like Mo Vaughn and Chuck Knoblauch get drafted later in the first round.

Scott Burrell: #26 overall by Seattle in 1989

Burrell turned down six figures from the Mariners out of Hamden high school in Connecticut to play basketball at UConn. He was drafted the next year in the 5th round by the Blue Jays. He played 2 seasons in the minors before fully committing himself to basketball. In 1993, he was drafted into the NBA 20th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. He played parts of 9 seasons in the NBA from 1994-2001, starting full time in ‘95 and ‘96, but was limited after that due to injuries. He’s now the head basketball coach at Southern Connecticut State University

Alex Fernandez: #24 overall by Milwaukee in 1988

Fernandez rejected the Brewers for UMiami, and after dominating the college ranks, was picked 4th overall by the White Sox in 1990. He made just 8 starts in the minors before the White Sox called him up, making his MLB debut as a 20 year and putting up a 3.80 ERA in 13 starts. He signed with the Marlins in 1997, winning 17 games and the World Series, though he couldn’t pitch in the final series due to a torn rotator cuff, which he recovered from, but spelled the end of his career 3 years later. A success story, and a miss for the Brewers.

Brad Duvall: #15 overall by Baltimore in 1987

Duvall didn’t sign with the Orioles and was drafted by the Cardinals 23rd overall the next year. He pitched 3 seasons in the minors, never above high A before retiring after 1990.

Greg McMurtry: #14 overall by Boston in 1986

McMurtry, a Brockton, MA native, turned down six figures from the Red Sox to play football at Michigan with a full scholarship. A wide receiver, he was drafted in the 3rd round by the New England Patriots and 27th round by the Detroit Tigers in 1990. He played 5 seasons in the NFL, 4 for the Patriots and 1 for the Bears, scoring 5 touchdowns and catching 128 passes for 1631 yards in his career. He never played professional baseball, but a Massachusetts native being drafted by both the Red Sox and Patriots is nothing short of a dream, and he can claim to be the best Patriot to ever be drafted into the MLB! I am sure of this. Do not fact check me.

Tim Belcher: #1 overall by Minnesota in 1983

What a ride for Belcher. He refused to sign with the Twins and was eligible for the 1984 January supplemental draft, where he was taken by the Yankees. Then, because of a mistake by the Yankees front office, he was left off of their protected list for the Free Agent compensation draft (the rules have changed since) and was taken by the Athletics. He climbed the minor league ranks with the A’s and then was dealt to the Dodgers as a player to be named later in a deal for Rick Honeycutt. He then made his debut with the Dodgers, and despite the turbulence, went on to have a 14 year MLB career. His best season was in 1989, where he had a 2.82 ERA and threw a whopping 10 complete games, 8 of them being shutouts. He threw 42 complete games in his career with 14 of them being shutouts.

Bobby Jones: #28 overall by Cincinnati in 1982

Jones turned down the Reds in ‘82 and was drafted by the Brewers in the 27th round of the 1985 draft, and then once more by the Brewers in the 20th round of the 1986 draft. According to a 1985 Chicago Tribune article, Jones didn’t regret turning down the money from Cincinnati, citing he learned a lot in college and he’ll be happy with whatever happens.

Juan Bustabad: #5 overall by Oakland in 1979

Bustabad refused the A’s and instead signed with the Red Sox after being the #1 pick in the January supplemental draft. He went on to play 1,002 minor league games with the Red Sox and Dodgers organizations, but never appeared in an MLB game.

Steve Buechele: #9 overall by White Sox in 1979

Buechele attended Stanford instead of signing with the White Sox and was drafted by the Rangers in the 5th round of the 1982 draft. After 3 years in the minors, he debuted with the Rangers in 1985, going on to have a fairly solid but unspectacular 11 year career and continues to work in the Rangers front office today.

Sep 24, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers acting manager Steve Buechele (24) watches the game against the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Luecken: #18 overall by San Francisco in 1979

Luecken was drafted 3 times, finally settling with the Mariners as a 27th rounder in 1983. After 6 years in the minors, he debuted with Kansas City as a 28 year old and made 56 major league appearances.

Mike Stenhouse: #26 overall by Oakland in 1979

Stenhouse didn’t sign with the Athletics because the owner literally did not have enough money to afford paying him more than $12,000. He was later offered $12,000 and the promise of a September call-up, but declined when the offer was not put in writing. He was picked by the Expos in the 1980 January draft. While he tended to dominate the AAA ranks, he hit just .190 in the majors across parts of 5 seasons with Montreal, Minnesota, and Boston.

Bill Bordley: #4 overall by Milwaukee in 1976

I promise you, your life has been less exciting than Bill Bordley’s. Bordly refused the Brewers in ‘76, going on to pitch at Southern California. He was then picked by the Reds in the 1979 January draft, but requested that the pick was voided and that only California teams be allowed to draft him so he could be close to his ill mother. The MLB organized a special draft for him, only one of two players ever to have the commissioner allow a special lottery for (The other was Tom Seaver. Maybe you’ve heard of him?). After the California Angels were found tampering, Bordley ended up with the Giants. What happened to the Reds pick? I don’t know. A lot happened back then that doesn’t happen now. He made 8 appearances for the Giants in 1980 before having injury troubles and multiple Tommy John surgeries, never making it back to the majors. It doesn’t end there, Bordley’s professional baseball career was the unexciting portion of his life. After retiring from baseball, Bordley earned a master’s degree from Jacksonville State University and in 1988 joined the US Secret Service as a special agent. He was assigned to the Presidential Protection Detail for Bill Clinton and was subpoenaed to testify during the investigation of President Clinton. Bordley was sent to Germany after 9/11 and investigated terrorist cells in Hamburg. In 2002, he became Resident Attaché Agent (a spy) in charge for the Secret Service at the American embassy in Moscow and was in charge of all presidential visits to and from Russia, accompanying Vladimir Putin on multiple trips. It all comes full circle. In 2011, he became the MLB’s Vice President for Security and Facility Management under commissioner Bud Selig, who he knew from when Selig’s Brewers drafted Bordley in 1976. What a life.

Jamie Allen: #10 overall by Minnesota in 1976

Allen chose Arizona State over the Twins, and was drafted by the Mariners in the second round in 1979. He played 7 full seasons in the minors, 5 in AAA, and had a .613 OPS in his one full season in the majors.

Mike (Thomas?) Sullivan: #24 overall by Oakland in 1976

There are conflicting reports on what this guy’s name may have been. This baseball-reference page has it as Thomas, but then there’s this page that matches his information and the name is Mike? This is far too much to handle, and there is very little information about Thomas/Mike on the internet. This energy is best used elsewhere, and we’ll call him a mystery man. I love the 70s.

Dick Ruthven: #8 overall by Minnesota in 1972

Ruthven turned down the Twins and was drafted by the Phillies #1 overall in the January draft. He didn’t play at all in the minors, and pitched in 25 games for the Phillies in ‘73. He had a 14 year career, winning a World Series in 1980 and playing in two all-star games. And we actually know his first name.

Danny Goodwin: #1 overall by White Sox in 1971

Our third and final unsigned number one overall pick. Goodwin is the only player to ever be drafted first overall twice, first rejecting the White Sox to play at Southern University and A&M college. The California Angels picked him number 1 in 1975 and signed him to a record $150,000 deal. Despite clearly being highly touted, he had a negative WAR at -1.7 over just 252 MLB games over 7 seasons, never becoming a full time starter

Condredge Holloway: #4 overall by Montreal in 1971

Instead of signing with the Expos, Holloway chose to play football at Tennessee in part because 17 years old was too young to sign a contract under Alabama law, and became the first black starting quarterback in SEC history. He continued to play baseball for the Vols, and was drafted again in the 10th round of the 1975 draft by the Braves, and once more by the Braves in the 1976 January draft, but never signed. He was drafted in the 12th round by the New England Patriots in 1975, but never played in the NFL as most franchises didn’t have African American quarterbacks. Holloway then went to the CFL and played 13 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He’s the second best hall of fame quarterback ever to be drafted by both the Patriots and Expos. Yup.

Oct 20,1973, Birmingham, AL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Condredge Holloway (7) runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Legion Field during the 1973 season. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Miley: #24 overall by Cincinnati in 1971

A sad story here. Miley played baseball and football at LSU before being redrafted by the California Angels 10th overall in 1974 and foregoing his senior football season to sign. He was nicknamed “Miracle Mike” at LSU because of his leadership and ability to motivate other players. He played in AA his first professional season, and split the ‘75 and ‘76 seasons between AAA and the Angels. Miley died in a car crash in January in 1977 at 23.

Randy Scarbery: #7 overall by Houston in 1970

Scarbery decided to attend college at USC rather than sign with Houston, and was redrafted three years later, 23rd overall, by Oakland. He pitched 6 years in the minors in 3 different organizations before debuting with the White Sox in 1979. He was traded to the Angels in 1980 but never was called up and didn’t pitch the next season.

George Ambrow: #23 overall by the Mets in 1970

Ambrow didn’t sign with the Mets and instead attended USC. He was drafted again in the 18th round of the January draft by the California Angels in 1974, but never played a game of professional baseball. 

Alan Bannister: #5 overall by California in 1969

Bannister turned down the Angels to play at Arizona State, and was drafted first overall by the Phillies in the 1973 draft. He made the MLB in 1974 with the Phillies and was later traded with Ruthven to the White Sox for Jim Kaat. He played 12 seasons with 5 teams, retiring in 1985. 

John Simmons: #23 overall by Kansas City in 1969

A mystery man. He was the Royals’ first ever draft pick, but never signed and instead played both baseball and football at Auburn. He never played baseball professionally, and there’s no information on what happened to him after Auburn.

Pete Broberg: #2 overall by Oakland in 1968

Broberg chose to attend Dartmouth College instead of signing with the Athletics. He was drafted first overall in the 1971 January draft by the Washington Senators (The Texas Rangers version. It’s complicated.) The Senators brought him straight to the majors, which is believed to be the reason he never became the star he was touted to be – remember we’re in an era where there were 20 teams and one of them was the Washington Senators. He was selected by the Mariners in the 1977 expansion draft, then flipped to the Cubs as part of his unspectacular 8 year career. 

John Curtis: #12 overall by Cleveland in 1966

To put in perspective where on the timeline we are, Curtis was born 2.5 years after the end of World War 2 and is currently 72 years old. Curtis chose Clemson over Cleveland and was later drafted by the Red Sox 10th overall in the June-secondary phase. He pitched 15 seasons and put up solid numbers in a lot of them. Maybe most notably, Curtis was the last Red Sox pitcher to ever bat at Fenway Park before the Designated Hitter was implemented in 1973. He also threw a complete game that day, because bullpens were just a formality back then I guess.

Rick Konik: #14 overall by Detroit in 1966

A mystery man. There’s very little information out there on Konik, just his draft position, that he attended St. Andrews high school in Detroit, and that he never played professional or collegiate baseball. He was drafted twice more despite never playing, once by Kansas city 14th overall in the 1967 January draft secondary phase, and by the Senators in the 5th round of the 1967 June secondary phase. For the sake of the story, let’s pretend that he became president under a fake name.

Eddie Leon: #9 overall by Minnesota in 1965

The 1946 birthday was the 9th player selected in the first ever MLB draft, but chose not to sign with the Twins, setting the way for many to come (I joke but the Twins have seven guys on this list). He was drafted again 3rd overall of the June secondary phase in 1966 and by the Indians in the 2nd round of the June secondary phase, signing with the Tribe. He played two and a half seasons in the minors before making the jump to the big leagues. He’s 73 years old. Carter Stewart is 20. Baseball is old. 

Mike Adamson: #18 overall by Philadelphia in 1965

Adamson went to USC instead of the Phillies, and was drafted first overall in the 1967 June secondary phase by the Orioles. He became the first player to go straight from the draft to the MLB, but got shelled and was assigned to AAA shortly after, only pitching in 11 total MLB games. He retired after the 1971 season, the same year that Pedro Martinez was born.

All statistics and facts courtesy of and BR Bullpen

Top image of Appel:Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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