The Best MLB Draft Classes of All-Time, Ranked

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So you're wondering what the best MLB draft classes of all-time are? Let's get in to it!

It’s often fun to look back at the origin of some of the biggest athletes in the world, because you will often find that many were not expected to become the stars or legends that they are today.

We must look no further than Tom Brady, who was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, to see that it's pretty difficult to predict who is going to become a star one day (Brady was also selected by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft!) Selecting players in the MLB is no different, though some years, scouts and executives had it more right than others. 

We are looking back at some of the biggest MLB Draft success stories that produced players that we will forever remember. Here are the best MLB draft classes of all time.

1. 1985

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The 1985 MLB Draft will go down in history as one of the most impactful in baseball history, introducing some future Hall of Famers and baseball superstars to the league. The first overall pick was B.J. Surhoff, who went on to play in over 2,000 games and had a consistent career as an adaptable utility player. 

Coming in at the sixth pick was none other than Barry Bonds, who quickly solidified himself as a superstar. Bonds’ career was nothing short of legendary, as he set many records and was a 14x All Star. Most notably, Bonds holds the all-time record for most homeruns in a single season, though it must be pointed out that Bonds has admitted to using steroids at this time, which arguably tarnishes the record . Nonetheless, his career was a standout in Major League Baseball. 

Hall-of-Famers Barry Larkin and John Smoltz were also selected in this draft with notable All-Stars such as Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, and Walt Weiss making their own significant impact on Major League Baseball.

2. 1971

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Hall-of-Famer George Brett was the 29th pick in the second round of the draft, and arguably the biggest success story of the 1971 class. Brett was not only one of the greatest shortstops of all time, but was also a consistent power hitter who accumulated over 3,000 hits and earned three batting titles. Another Hall-of-Fame shortstop, Mike Schmidt, was selected directly after Brett in the second round, while Jim Rice, a superstar outfielder, was selected in the first round.

This draft also yielded stars like Frank Tanana, Craig Reynolds, Ron Guidry, and Rick Rhoden, all of whom had long and impactful careers with several All-Star seasons. All of these stars make this one of the best MLB classes of all-time.

3. 1987

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The 1987 MLB Draft class was chock-full of talent that we will be talking about for many decades to come. Among the standout players was the first overall pick, Ken Griffey Jr., who wasted no time making a name for himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest outfielders in baseball history, showcasing a rare combination of power, speed, and impeccable defensive skills which made him a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, who ended his career with a whopping 630 home runs. 

Hall-of-Fame catcher, Craig Biggio, was another great selection in the 1987 Draft, which also included Jack McDowell, Kevin Appier, and Mike Remlinger, all of whom were All-Stars.

4. 1973

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The fourth overall pick of the 1973 MLB Draft was Dave Winfield, whom many believed to have a huge potential as a pitcher. However, Winfield instead went on to have a 22-year career as a position player, earning 12 All-Star selections and seven Gold Glove Awards. His powerful swing and heads-up defense made him a significant asset to his team. 

The 1973 class also produced stars like Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount, who became the youngest player to win an American League MVP award and a member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club. Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray, was also selected in 1973, before he went on to hit 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, ultimately becoming one of the most consistent and reliable hitters of his era. With three other future Hall-of-Famers selected, on top of many All-Stars such as John Stearns, Lee Mazzilli, and Steve Swisher, the 1973 draft was immensely successful.

5. 1981

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Coming in at the 58th overall pick in the 1981 MLB Draft was Tony Gwynn, who quickly became a star in the league and is widely recognized as one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also in 1981, Mike Moore was selected as the first overall pick, and as time went on, he had a solid career for Seattle, Oakland, and Detroit. The sixth overall pick, Joe Carter, had some huge moments including his iconic walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series, which led the Toronto Blue Jays to win the championship. 

Other exceptional talents drafted in 1981 included stars like Paul O’Neill, Ron Darling, David Cone, and Phil Bradley.

6. 1984

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It was not until the thirty-first pick in the second round that the Chicago Cubs selected Greg Maddux, who went on to be one of the best pitchers in MLB history. The Hall-of-Famer won four consecutive Cy Young Awards and collected over 350 career victories before finally retiring. 

Fellow-Hall-of-Famer, Tom Glavine was selected only a couple of picks after Maddux, and his 22-year career was nothing short of impressive. Mark McGwire and Jay Bell were other notable stars selected in 1984.

7. 2005

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The first round of the 2005 MLB Draft class introduced many iconic players to the MLB. Among those was the first overall pick, Justin Upton, who became a standout outfielder in the league. The fifth overall pick, Ryan Braun, also emerged as a huge star, winning the National League Rookie of the Year and many other awards throughout his career. The draft class also produced other notable players like Alex Gordon, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Andrew McCutchen, and Jay Bruce, all of whom became key contributors to their respective teams. 

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