Looking Back: 2009 MLB Draft
The first installment of “Looking Back” will review key elements from different years of the MLB drafts. An MLB draft is littered with bad picks, great value picks, first-round busts, compensation picks and their interesting origins, and, of course, two-sport stars.
This series will review the first pick in the draft and how his career is playing out. It will review key compensation picks, how they were obtained, and the impact they have had. It also will highlight the best value pick of every draft and briefly mention any players drafted who played other sports professionally.
The first draft in this series will be from 2009. This draft had a lot of craziness and also featured the best player in the sport.
The 2009 MLB draft is the draft the New York Yankees would like to forget. After a 2008 season where the Yankees did not make the playoffs with an 89-73 record, you knew there would be changes in the Bronx. Not only was it not a playoff season for the Yankees but their division rivals Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays played each other in the ALCS. The Rays won that series but lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. To add another log on the fire, their cross-town rival New York Mets finished with the same record as the Yankees. However, the Mets got the better first-round pick due to a tie-breaker. This, in a way, is important to note.
Mark Teixeira was the big free agent that offseason. The then Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim traded for Tex at the trading deadline during the 2008 season. He led them to the AL West title and helped them be the only team to win 100 games. The Red Sox bounced the Angels out of the playoffs in four games, leaving the Halos with decisions to make. With Teixeira and others heading to free agency, the Angels decided to let him go. As three big players (Teixeira, Jon Garland, and Francisco Rodriguez) left via free agency, the Angels were awarded five compensation picks.
Yankees Sign Tex
Meanwhile, the Yankees signed Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million contract with a five-million-dollar signing bonus and a full no-trade clause. The signing of Teixeira paid immediate dividends, as the Yankees went on to win the 2009 World Series. This was the only championship Tex won in New York as the Yankees have not made it back to the Fall Classic. For a while, it seemed like Tex was a lock to sign with his hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles. As you read the next paragraph you will see how much this signing changed the history of the game.
The Big Fish
The Angels, with the 24th pick they received from the Mets for the signing of Rodriguez, took Randal Grichuk. Grichuk is a solid player now playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Angels were also awarded a second comp pick for losing K-Rod, and with the 42nd pick, they drafted Garrett Richards. Richards was once the third-ranked prospect in the Angels farm system back in 2011. He is now pitching for the San Diego Padres. Now, for losing Teixeira, the Angels also received two draft picks. With their second compensation pick, 40th overall, the Angels drafted Tyler Skaggs. But the true lottery ticket for the Angels came from the 25th overall pick they received from the Yankees. With that pick, the Angels drafted Mike Trout, who, as we all know, is now considered the best player in the sport.
To add more fuel to the fire, the Yankees did receive a compensation pick of their own, which was the 29th pick in the draft. The Yankees selected Slade Heathcott, who is no longer in baseball. But why did the Yankees receive that compensation pick? The pick was awarded to the Yankees for the failure to sign their first-round draft pick in 2008. That pick was Gerrit Cole. Ironically, the Yankees just signed Cole this past offseason to a nine-year $336 million contract. The irony is the Yankees had a very realistic chance to have both the best position player and one of the top three pitchers in the game on their team for their whole careers.
A Pair of Angels
Despite losing three top players to free agency, the Angels still won the division in 2009 but were defeated in the ALCS by the Yankees. In a more tragic connection, Skaggs passed away during this past 2019 season. Back in 2009, the Angels lost another player during the season as Nick Adenhart was tragically killed in a car accident.
New York, New York
The 2009 MLB draft has all kinds of New York ties. The Blue Jays received a compensation pick when the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year $82.5 million contract. Burnett had a subpar season and was even worse in the playoffs, pitching 27 1/3 innings and giving up 16 earned runs. He was a bust for the Yankees. The Blue Jays used their compensation pick, which was the 37th pick, on James Paxton. To continue the New York ties, Paxton, who is now a member of the Yankees, did not sign with the Blue Jays after the draft. Instead, the Seattle Mariners drafted Paxton in the 2010 draft. The Blue Jays were awarded a compensation pick in 2010 for not signing Paxton. With that 38th pick, the Blue Jays selected Noah Syndergaard, who, of course, is now a Met.
As both New York teams were opening new ballparks in the 2009 season, the Yankees poetically won the world series in the New Yankee Stadium’s first season. The Mets, however, finished with a 70-92 record. The Mets disastrous season netted them the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft. They selected a pitcher who was very instrumental in their brief turnaround in the middle of the past decade. That pitcher was Matt Harvey.
Other Compensation Picks
This draft had 24 compensation picks in total. The majority of these picks are either out of baseball or have yet to make any sort of real impact at the Major League level. The best of the bunch is A.J. Pollock, who was drafted with the 17th pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pollock was the compensation pick for the Los Angeles Dodgers signing Orlando Hudson. Ironically, Pollock now plays for the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks actually received two compensation picks for losing Hudson. The second pick was Matt Davidson, taken with the 35th pick. Davidson is out of baseball.
The first overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft was Stephen Strasburg, who was selected by the Washington Nationals. Strasburg played three seasons at San Diego State, where his career got off to a rocky start. He was overweight and out of shape and the Aztec conditioning coach encouraged Strasburg to quit. Obviously he didn’t and after his junior season, Strasburg was 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 109 innings pitched.
The Nationals signed Strasburg just seconds before the deadline. He then shattered the record rookie contract Mark Prior signed with the Chicago Cubs by inking a four-year contract for $15.1 million. He made his debut a couple of months later in the Arizona Fall League. The anticipation for Strasburg grew as he was starting his first minor league season in 2010 when he was named the top pitching prospect and second overall prospect. On June 8th, Strasburg made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in one of the most-hyped pitching debuts the major leagues have ever seen. Strasburg lived up to the hype, pitching seven innings while allowing two runs and 14 strikeouts with no walks.
As Strasburg was racking up the strikeouts he started to develop inflammation in his pitching shoulder. In July, Strasburg headed to the injured list. Strasburg returned on August 10th, but after three starts, he was injured again. The Nationals announced Strasburg needed to have Tommy John surgery. He returned to the majors on September 6th, 2011. In the 2012 season, it was announced Strasburg would be on an innings limit. Because of this, he did not pitch in the playoffs — a decision that spawned great debates. The Nationals decided to protect their prized pitcher and lost in the NLDS to the St Louis Cardinals in five games.
Strasburg has had at least one stint on the injured list every year except 2014. The Nationals were going to be cautious with the golden arm of Strasburg. As the 2015 season started, Strasburg signed a seven-year contract for $175 million with an opt-out following the 2019 season. This ultimately was an important clause in his contract as Strasburg turned in his best season in 2019, leading the Nationals to a World Championship. Strasburg won five games in the 2019 postseason including two games in the Fall Classic. He pitched 36 innings, allowing eight earned runs while striking out 47 batters. The 2019 season was the first season since 2014 where Strasburg pitched more than 200 innings. When adding the innings Strasburg threw in the postseason, this was the most innings he has ever thrown in a season. Strasburg was named the World Series MVP.
Highest Paid Pitcher — For a Week
After Strasburg opted out of his contract the Nationals signed him to a record-setting contract for a pitcher. They agreed to a seven-year, $245 million deal. This was a record for one week as Gerrit Cole eclipsed that total when he signed with the Yankees. Strasburg’s career numbers are 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP. In 1,438 innings Strasburg has struck out 1,695 batters. It is safe to say the Strasburg was worth being the top pick in the 2009 MLB draft.
Top Value Pick
The best value pick of the 2009 MLB draft came in the 20th round. With the 611th overall pick, the Houston Astros drafted J.D. Martinez. The Astros determined Martinez did not have the proper swing to be an impact hitter. He was released in March of 2014. Martinez was already tinkering with his swing before getting released. He signed with the Detroit Tigers, who saw him hit 10 homers in his first 17 games at Triple-A. The Tigers brought him up to the big club where he hit 99 homers in 252 games. In mid-July of the 2017 season, and with Martinez’s contract ending after the season, the Tigers shipped him to the Diamondbacks for the stretch run. Martinez played great in the desert, hitting 29 homers with 65 RBI in 62 games.
After the season Martinez signed a five-year contract with the Red Sox for $110 million. This paid off immediately for the Red Sox as they won the World Series in 2018. Martinez slugged 43 home runs, drove in 130 runs, and scored 111 times in that 2018 season.
Notable Draft Picks
This 2009 MLB draft had a lot of good-to-great players drafted outside of the first round. But the best of the bunch is Nolan Arenado, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the second round with the 59th pick. Other notable second-rounders are Jason Kipnis at #63 by the Cleveland Indians, DJ LeMahieu with the 79th pick by the Rockies, and Patrick Corbin by the Diamondbacks with the 80th pick.
Kyle Seager was drafted at #80 by the Mariners, Wil Myers at #91 by the Kansas City Royals, Brandon Belt by the San Francisco Giants at #147. While these are good value picks, the next two are even better. Dallas Keuchel was drafted at #221 by the Astros and Paul Goldschmidt by the Diamondbacks at #246.
There were some notable two-sport stars selected in the 2019 MLB draft who did not sign. The Angels drafted quarterback Jake Locker in the 10th round. Locker was also the 11th overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2011 NFL draft. The Texas Rangers selected wide receiver Riley Cooper in the 25th round. Cooper was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and was part of two national championship Florida Gators teams. The Minnesota Twins drafted wide receiver Eric Decker in the 27th round. Decker who is a native Minnesotian attended the University of Minnesota and was drafted by the Denver Broncos.
But the most famous of them all was drafted in the 43rd round by the Cubs. Controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick was drafted by the Cubs, and as we all know, he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. Kaepernick is famous for kneeling during the national anthem. None of the four players are currently in the NFL.
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