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The best 3rd-round MLB Draft picks for every team

The MLB Draft has expanded in recent years to a three-day affair, with the first and second rounds dominating the action on the first day. But there is plenty of value to be had after Day 1.

Tuesday at the draft gives us Rounds 3-10, complete with allotted bonus slot values for each pick through Round 10. To see how valuable these picks can be, let’s take a look back at the best third-round picks for all 30 major league franchises, a group that includes five Hall of Famers, a couple MVPs, three Cy Young Award winners, and several all-stars.

Five former third-round picks (Craig Kimbrel, J.T. Realmuto, Edwin Diaz, Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ) were all-stars in 2018, and another (Derek Dietrich) sure seems like a lock to make it this year with Cincinnati.

With the help of the invaluable draft index on Baseball-Reference, here are the top third-round selections for each team:

Angels: Tim Salmon

By career Wins Above Replacement this is a nailbiter, with Salmon (40.6) narrowly edging Carney Lansford (40.4). But from a Halos perspective this is a no-brainer, with Salmon (1989) spending his entire career with the Angels while Lansford (1975) was traded away after just three seasons.

Salmon had a 128 OPS+ in his 14 years and was a key piece of the franchise’s only World Series win, in 2002. He is arguably the best player never to make an all-star team. Salmon is also the Angels’ all-time home run leader with 299, but that probably won’t last much beyond 2020 if at all with Mike Trout steadily climbing the list.

Honorable mention goes to Wally Joyner (1983), who took Anaheim by storm as a rookie and played the first six years of his career with the Angels, and amassed 35.8 career WAR.

Astros: Ken Caminiti

Caminiti won an MVP with the Padres but played 10 of his 15 seasons with Houston and made an all-star team in 1994 with the Astros. Caminiti (1984) played the first eight years of his career with Houston, and accrued 16.7 of his 33.5 career WAR with the Astros.

He beat out Shane Reynolds (1989), who pitched 11 of his 13 seasons with the Astros with a 106 ERA+ and 19.1 WAR with Houston.

A’s: Mike Davis

The outfielder was drafted in 1977 by Oakland, and averaged 22 home runs per year for the A’s from 1985-87. Davis had a 110 OPS+ and 14.4 WAR in his eight years with the A’s, but is most known for drawing the two-out walk for the Dodgers ahead of Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, against Oakland.

The highest WAR of any Oakland third-round pick was Floyd Bannister (1973) with 26.3 WAR, but he didn’t sign and never pitched for the A’s.

Blue Jays: Jimmy Key

Key (1982) pitched the first nine years of his career with Toronto, putting up a 121 ERA+, winning an ERA title in 1987, and won both his start in the 1992 World Series and the Game 6 clincher in relief, the Jays’ first championship.

Honorable mention goes to John Olerud (1989), who amassed 22.6 of his 58.2 career WAR with the Blue Jays. He had a 130 OPS+ in eight years in Toronto, including a batting title and a run at .400 in 1993.

Braves: Craig Kimbrel

Arguably the second-best closer ever behind Mariano Rivera, Kimbrel (2008) pitched for Atlanta for his first five seasons, posting a 1.52 ERA with 186 saves. Kimbrel again is tied to the draft in 2019, because he is still a free agent, and like Dallas Keuchel has been waiting for a deal since the winter. Now that the draft is underway, signing Kimbrel (or Keuchel) wouldn’t cost a team a draft pick, which in theory should help facilitate a deal rather quickly for one or both.

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy

Lucroy (2007) caught the first 6½ years of his major league career with Milwaukee, putting up a 110 OPS+. Traded to Texas at the trade deadline in 2016, Lucroy was a part of deadline deals two years in a row and now plays for the Angels, his fourth team since leaving the Brewers. Lucroy posted 17.7 WAR with Milwaukee.

Cardinals: Ray Lankford

The outfielder never won the batting title that Peter Gammons thought he would, but Lankford (1987) did post a 123 OPS+ in 14 years in the majors, 13 with St. Louis. Lankford was a .272 career hitter, topping out at .306 in 1999. He amassed 37.7 WAR with the Cardinals.

Cubs: Rick Reuschel

The right-hander was one of the most underrated pitchers of the last four decades, posting 69.5 WAR, including 48.3 in his 12 years with the Cubs. Reuschel (1970) gained some notoriety later in his career, making two of his three MLB All-Star Games after turning 38. He started the 1989 ASG in Anaheim at age 40, and was on the receiving end of “Bo Jackson says hello!”

Reuschel, who should probably be in the Hall of Fame for his Big Daddy nickname alone, won 135 games with Chicago, posting a 113 ERA+ in 2,290 innings with the Cubs.

Best 3rd-round picks by WAR

Player Year Org Career WAR
Player Year Org Career WAR
Bert Blyleven 1969 Min 94.4
Gary Carter 1972 Mon 70.1
Rick Reuschel 1970 ChC 69.5
Tony Gwynn 1981 SD 69.2
Eddie Murray 1973 Bal 68.7
David Cone 1981 KC 62.3
Dennis Eckersley 1972 Cle 62.0
John Olerud 1989 Tor 58.2
Jimmy Key 1982 Tor 48.9
Ron Guidry 1971 NYY 47.8
Curtis Granderson 2002 Det 47.7
Fred Lynn (50.2 WAR) was drafted out of high school by the Yankees in 1970, but opted for college at USC instead Source: Baseball-Reference

Diamondbacks: Micah Owings

Arizona has only been around for 23 previous drafts, so their inventory is light relative to other teams. In those two decades plus, it’s hard to come up with a third-round Diamondbacks pick that has made any type of impact. Only three D-backs draft picks in the third round have totaled at least 1 WAR in their career, including Keon Broxton (3.5) who was traded away before ever reaching the majors. Scott Hairston has the most WAR of this group (6.3) but he was actually below replacement level in his time in Arizona (-0.8 WAR). That leaves Owings (2005), who had 3.3 WAR as a two-way player both in his career (six years) and with the Diamondbacks (three years).

Dodgers: Alex Cora

Sid Fernandez is the career WAR leader among Dodgers third-rounders at 35.7, but he pitched all of two games for LA before getting traded away to the Mets. Phil Nevin (15.7 WAR) was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers but didn’t sign. That leaves Alex Cora (1996), the defensive-minded middle infielder who played seven of his 13 seasons with the Dodgers, totaling 7 WAR with the team. Cora turned the tables on his original team in 2018, beating them in the World Series as manager of the Red Sox.

Cora would have won this no matter his WAR because in one of the very few times I have ever been to Coors Field I saw Cora hit two home runs and smash a double off the wall in a career-best offensive performance.

Giants: Mike Benjamin

Another barren wasteland of picks here. We’ll settle for Benjamin (1987), the longtime utility infielder who managed 13 years in the big leagues, despite a 61 OPS+. He hit .199/.250/.308 in seven years with San Francisco, a 53 OPS+ and still managed 2.6 WAR with the team. That’s more than every other Giants third-round pick combined.

Indians: Dennis Eckersley

We remember the Hall of Famer Eckersley for his swashbuckling relief days with the A’s, when he and Tony LaRussa helped form the modern closer role. But before his bullpen days, Eckersley (1972) was an above-average starter for over a decade. His first three years were in Cleveland, where he had a 116 ERA+ and threw a no-hitter, averaging 211 innings per year. Eckersley had 13.3 WAR with the Indians.

Mariners: Kyle Seager

Finally, we get an active one still on the team that drafted him. Seager (2009) has 28.2 WAR with Seattle. He averaged 34 doubles and 25 home runs from 2012-18, and has a career 113 OPS+. Seager is 31 years old, and has two more years after this one remaining on his contract with the Mariners.

Marlins: JT Realmuto

Randy Winn has the most career WAR (27.6) among Marlins third-round picks, but he was taken by Tampa Bay in the expansion draft in 1997 and never ended up playing for Miami. That leaves Realmuto (2010), who was traded this winter to the Phillies. The all-star catcher had a 111 OPS+ in five years with the Marlins, and 14.1 WAR with the team.

Mets: Craig Swan

Rick Aguilera is the career WAR leader here (21.9) but made his bones mostly as a closer for the Twins and elsewhere, while totaling 3.7 WAR in his five years with the Mets. That leaves Swan (1972), a right-hander who pitched all but two games of his 12-year career with New York, putting up a 96 ERA+ and 12.7 WAR. The bulk of his value (10.2 WAR) comes from a two-year stretch (1978-79) when he posted a 2.90 ERA in 63 starts and led the NL with a 143 ERA+ in 1978, not that anybody knew what that was at the time.

Honorable mention goes to Roger McDowell, who put up 4.3 WAR in five years with the Mets and perhaps more notably was the second spitter.

Note: In this Seinfeld episode, Newman identifies the game in question as Mets-Phillies on June 14, 1987, but a simple check shows the Mets that day were in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates. This should have been as easy fix.

Expos/Nats: Gary Carter

Carter (1972) has the second highest career WAR among third-round draft picks at 70.1, with the Hall of Fame catcher totaling 42.2 WAR with Montreal. In 12 seasons with the Expos, Carter hit 220 home runs with a 121 OPS+ and made seven of his 11 all-star teams.

If we limit this to Nationals only (2005-present), the leader is probably infielder Danny Espinosa, with 9 WAR with Washington.

Orioles: Eddie Murray

The switch-hitting first baseman was the picture of consistency especially with Baltimore, posting a 120 OPS+ or higher in each of his first 12 seasons with the Orioles. Murray (1973), an eight-time all-star amassed 68.7 career WAR, including 56.5 with the Orioles.

Among all third-round picks, Murray has the most home runs (504), doubles (560), hits (3,255), RBI (1,917), runs (1,627) and walks (1,333). He also led the major leagues in batting average in 1990 with the Dodgers (.330) but didn’t win a batting title because Willie McGee was traded to the American League in August.

Padres: Tony Gwynn

Gwynn (1981) is the second third-rounder in the 3,000-hit club along with Murray. He was a great all-around athlete who was also drafted out of San Diego State in the NBA by the Clippers.

The 15-time all-star won an absurd eight batting titles, including .394 in a strike-shortened 1994 season that marked one of the best runs at hitting .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. Gwynn totaled 69.2 WAR, all with the Padres, and his .338 career batting average is the best in the last 70 years.

Phillies: J.A. Happ

The veteran left-hander has 20.9 WAR in his career, including 5.1 WAR in his four years with Philadelphia, posting a 136 ERA+ in 217 innings. Happ (2004) was traded by the Phillies at the deadline in 2010 for Roy Oswalt.

Pirates: Richie Zisk

Zisk (1967) was an underrated power hitter in the 1970s, and totaled 25.1 WAR in his 13-year career. The right-hander had a 137 OPS+ in parts of six years with the Pirates and was once traded for Goose Gossage. Zisk had 15.7 WAR with Pittsburgh.

Rangers: Darren Oliver

Oliver (1988) was a journeyman lefty who pitched for nine teams in his 20 seasons, alternating between starting and relief while posting above-average numbers (a 104 ERA+) in 1,916 innings. He totaled 22.1 WAR in his career, including 9.3 with Texas, for whom he pitched in three different stints.

The most career WAR among Rangers third-round picks belongs to Barry Zito (31.9), who didn’t sign out of UCSB in 1998, instead transferring to USC and signing with the A’s as a first-round pick one year later.

Rays: Wade Davis

Davis (2004) amassed 13.6 career WAR, and even though only 3.1 WAR of that was with Tampa Bay he still stands out among franchise third rounders. Davis might have been the best reliever in the game for a three-year stint with the Royals, posting a 1.18 ERA from 2014-16 including a minuscule 0.36 ERA in two postseason runs that resulted in two World Series trips and a championship in Kansas City.

Red Sox: Mike Greenwell

Greenwell (1982) was a terrific hitter in his 12 major league seasons, adding to the lineage of fantastic Red Sox left fielders after Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. Greenwell totaled 25.8 WAR in his career, and had a 121 OPS+. His best year was 1988 with a 160 OPS+, 7.5 WAR and 69 extra-base hits for a division winner, but he finished second to Jose Canseco’s 40/40 season, something Greenwell wasn’t happy about nearly two decades later when Canseco admitted to steroid use in his book.

Tino Martinez totaled 29 WAR in his career, the most among Boston third-rounders, but the 1985 draftee out of high school did not sign with the Red Sox.

Reds: Aaron Boone

One of two current MLB managers on this list along with Alex Cora, Boone was drafted by the Reds in 1994. Aaron played with his brother Bret in Cincinnati in 1997-98, and was managed by his father Bob from 2001-2003 with the Reds. Boone had a 99 OPS+ in seven years with the Reds, posting 11.7 of his 13.5 career WAR with Cincinnati.

Danny Tartabull (1980) had the most career WAR (23.3) among Reds third-rounders, but he was dealt in 1983 before ever playing in the majors with Cincinnati.

Rockies: Roger Bailey

In their first-ever draft (1992), Colorado selected Bailey, who pitched just three seasons in the majors, all with the Rockies. His 5.2 WAR with the Rockies leads the way among franchise third-rounders (Shawn Chacon is in second place at 3.2 WAR), with the bulk coming in 1997 (3.9 WAR) when Bailey posted a 121 ERA+ in 29 starts.

Royals: David Cone

Cone was drafted out of high school in Kansas City by the Royals in 1981, and pitched for them briefly in relief in 1986 before being dealt away in an ill-fated trade for catcher Ed Hearn. After flourishing in New York, Cone returned to Kansas City as a free agent and even won a Cy Young for the Royals in 1994. He had a 144 ERA+ in 448 innings over three seasons with the Royals, and totaled 14 WAR with the team, and 61.6 WAR for his career.

Danny Duffy has already passed Cone in WAR with the Royals (15.0) and was part of a World Series winner. One day he’ll likely take the top spot here as best KC third-rounder, but for now we’ll stick with Cone.

Tigers: Curtis Granderson

Granderson (2002) played the first six seasons of his career with Detroit, made an all-star team with them, posted a 114 OPS+ and even had a season with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 home runs and 26 steals, in 2007. He totaled 21.2 WAR with the Tigers and so far has 47.7 WAR in his career, which is still going with the Marlins.

Bert Blyleven stands
1969 third-round pick Bert Blyleven pitched 11 seasons for the Twins in two stints with Minnesota.
Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Twins: Bert Byleven

Blyleven (1969) was picked in the third round of the fifth-ever MLB Draft, and was in the majors within a year. The curveballing Hall of Famer pitched parts of 11 seasons with the Twins, including winning a World Series with Minnesota in 1987. Blyleven has by far the most WAR of any third-round pick at 94.4, including a whopping 49 WAR with Minnesota alone.

White Sox: Britt Burns

Burns (1978) was an above-average pitcher in his eight seasons in the majors (111 ERA+) but his career ended at age 26 with a hip injury. He totaled 17.8 WAR, including 4.2 in his final season in 1985. In his only postseason start, Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS, Burns was magnificent with nine scoreless innings. But with the game still tied at 0-0 Burns started the 10th inning and allowed a solo home run, the start of a three-run winning rally for Baltimore that gave Burns the tough luck loss.

Yankees: Ron Guidry

Louisiana Lightning is an easy choice here for New York, totaling 47.8 WAR in his 14 years, winning 170 games while posting a 119 ERA+ in 2,392 innings. Guidry (1971) won the Cy Young in 1978, his best season, posting a 1.74 ERA that was the lowest American League ERA between Luis Tiant (1.68) in 1968 and Pedro Martinez (1.74) in 2000. The left-hander finished in the top three in Cy Young voting three times, made four all-star teams and won five Gold Gloves.