The average bust rate for first round picks is right around 60%. Cold reality tells us that most of these shiny new first rounders will never touch the major leagues after taking batting practice or throwing a bullpen session for their teams over the next few weeks. Some teams have proven to be more successful avoiding the bust bug than others. In fact, most of the teams have proven to be better than a particular pair of franchises.
The Astros and Cubs haven’t had a first round selection reach the major leagues since 2001. That would be Chris Burke and Mark Prior respectively. The next longest drought is shared by two teams and dates back to 2004. With the Astros, you sort of expect such acts of futility. You know when video games advertise things like, “Scout the latest amateur prospects! Look for talent in international markets! Watch as your young players develop into tomorrow’s superstars!” Yeah, or you could do none of the above and mimic Ed Wade.
The Cubs are the surprise team. Jim Hendry has proven to be a fine general manager and was a pretty good scouting director. Hendry was promoted in October of 2001 and his team’s first round draft quality has slipped considerably. This is not to say they haven’t made good picks of the time at the draft, just none of them have worked out well.
In 2002 the team had four first round picks, three of which were of the supplemental variety. They took college pitchers Luke Hagerty, Chadd Blasko, Matthew Clanton, and Bobby Brownlie. In 2003, the Cubs would take high school phenom Ryan Harvey who drew pre-draft comparisons to Mark McGwire for his outstanding power. Left without a first round pick in 2004, the Cubs would take high school arm Mark Pawelek in 2005 and college bat Tyler Colvin in 2006. Neither has played in a game above AA to this point in their careers.
2007’s draft class might hold the key to ending the streak. One of Josh Donaldson and Josh Vitters should eventually reach the majors. If nothing else, at least Donaldson helped the Cubs acquire Rich Harden, which is more than most of the other failed first round picks can say.