It’s impossible to talk about the best picks in MLB Draft history without mentioning the best MLB compensation picks of all time.
For those who need MLB compensation picks explained, they are the extra picks that a team gets when they lose a prominent player in free agency. Most of these picks come between the first and second round while other times the team took over the draft pick that was forfeited by the team that signed a big-money free agent.
In other words, a team lost an important player but took full advantage of the extra draft pick to acquire a building block for the future. Think of it as teams losing the battle but setting themselves up to win the war.
Best MLB Compensation Pics
Of course, not all compensation picks end up a success, but it’s still worth looking at the most successful compensation picks of all time.
We’re talking about future all-stars and even Hall of Famers who fell past the first round or were taken with a compensation pick. While there have been many that have turned into great players, let’s look at the best MLB compensation picks ever taken in the MLB Draft.
10. Todd Frazier, 34th overall
Frazier had some good news in Cincinnati after reaching the big leagues in 2011. He was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015 and won the Home Run Derby on his home field in 2015. Frazier bounced around for a few years after leaving Cincinnati but was also the type of player that teams wanted to have in the clubhouse.
9. Trevor Story, 45th overall
It was a unique set of circumstances that brought Trevor Story to the Rockies. Colorado traded for Octavio Dotel in September 2010, hoping to get some help for the stretch run even though he wouldn’t be eligible to pitch for the Rox in the postseason.
That was after Dotel was traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline.
In the end, it didn’t matter because the Rockies didn’t make the playoffs. But when Dotel signed with Toronto, the Rox picked up the 45th overall pick in the 2011 Draft. They used that pick on Story, who ended up being the team’s opening day shortstop in 2016. Story hit two home runs on opening day, bursting onto the scene was one of the best young shortstops in the game. He ended up with a two-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger winner during his six seasons with the Rockies while also being the fastest shortstop to reach 100 home runs.
8. Josh Donaldson, 48th overall
At the time, Donaldson was a catcher, although he would eventually move to third base.
After the 2008 season, he was traded to Oakland in a deal that involved Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin going to the Cubs. Donaldson made his debut with the A’s in 2010 but didn’t have a true breakout season until his final season in Oakland in 2010.
After signing with the Blue Jays in 2015, he won MVP and his first of two Silver Slugger awards. He’s continued to have some ups and downs, although Donaldson did have a brilliant year with the Braves in 2019, earning National League Comeback Player of the Year honors.
7. Joey Gallo, 39th overall
With such raw power, it’s a little surprising that Joey Gallo wasn’t taken until the 39th overall pick in 2012. But the Rangers used their supplement pick to take Gallo and then gave him enough of a signing bonus to get him to back out of his commitment to LSU.
Until they traded him in 2021, things worked out well for Texas. Gallo has become one of the best power hitters in the league and also won a Gold Glove in both 2020 and 2021 while also having the versatility to play multiple positions.
6. Aaron Judge, 32nd overall
The Yankees haven’t received a lot of qualifying picks, but they did in 2013 after Nick Swisher declined a qualifying offer and ended up signing with Cleveland.
In retrospect, it was the right move because the Yankees used the extra pick on Aaron Judge. When he reached the majors late in 2016, Judge homered in his first at-bat and hasn’t stopped hitting home runs. He won Rookie of the Year in 2017 and has been to multiple All-Star Games, becoming a core member of the Yankees.
Read more: Greatest MLB draft classes of all-time
5. Adam Wainwright, 29th overall
Most people don’t realize it was the Braves who originally drafted Adam Wainwright in 2000, doing so with a compensation pick for Russ Springer. By the end of the 2003 season, Wainwright was Atlanta’s top prospect, only for the Braves to trade him in a deal that brought Atlanta J.D. Drew.
As a rookie in 2006, Wainwright served as the team’s closer after Jason Isringhausen got hurt. He recorded the final outs of both the NLCS and the World Series. Since then, Wainwright has been a steady part of the St. Louis rotation, leading the National League in wins twice and being named an All-Star three times while continuing to pitch like a frontline starter even after turning 40.
4. Torii Hunter, 20th overall
Pitcher John Smiley spent just one season with the Twins, and when he left, the Twins were gifted the 20th overall pick in the 1993 Draft.
Minnesota used that pick on Torii Hunter and never looked back.
He reached the big leagues in 1997 and would spend over a decade with the Twins, being a part of four teams that won a division title.
Hunter would end up playing five years with the Angels and two with the Tigers before returning to Minnesota in 2015 to end his career. When all was said and done, Hunter was arguably the best defensive center fielder of his generation, winning nine straight Gold Gloves from 2001 to 2009 while also being a five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger winner.
3. Rafael Palmeiro, 22nd overall
The Cubs had pitcher Tim Stoddard for just one season and then get a compensation pick for he left for San Diego. With that extra pick, the Cubs drafted Rafael Palmeiro, who made his big league debut late in 1986 and was an All-Star by 1988.
After the 1988 season, the Cubs traded Palmeiro to the Rangers, which allowed his career to take off. He ended up playing 20 seasons in the majors, amassing 569 home runs and over 3,000 hits. However, his connection to steroids has kept him out of the Hall of Fame.
2. David Wright, 38th overall
The Mets somehow managed to turn a bunch of rotten lemons into some delicious lemonade. After Mike Hampton helped lead New York to the World Series in 2000, the Mets were desperate to re-sign him.
But Hampton signed with Colorado after the Rockies showed him the money, giving the Mets an extra draft pick.
They used that pick to take David Wright, and the rest is history.
Wright played his entire career with the Mets, becoming synonymous with the franchise. Before a series of unfortunate injuries brought his career to a premature end, Wright was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, and a two-time Silver Slugger recipient. He also served as the fourth Mets captain in franchise history and is just one of three players to spend their entire career with the Mets.
Read more: Biggest busts in MLB draft history
1. Mike Trout, 25th overall
Mike Trout will end up being one of the best players of all time, so he clearly tops the list of the most successful compensation picks of all time.
Aside from Trout somehow falling to 25th overall, the Angels were fortuitous to get him. People forget that the Angels traded for Mark Teixeira in the middle of the 2008 season, so when Teixeira signed that monster deal with the Yankees, it was the Angels who got the compensation pick.
They used that pick on Trout, who has won multiple MVPs and is arguably the best player of his generation.
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