After the Minnesota Twins took Royce Lewis with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, we haven’t seen a college player taken in the top spot since Vanderbilt star Dansby Swanson went No. 1 to Arizona in 2015.
That year, Swanson became the most recent No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft to play in the College World Series the year they were drafted.
It’s not a common occurrence. The No. 1 overall draft pick has only appeared in that year’s College World Series on 10 occasions since the draft started in 1965.
That inaugural draft’s No. 1 pick — RIck Monday — was the first to play in the College World Series leading Arizona State to the 1965 national championship.
The No. 1 pick, in general, doesn’t always turn into a Hall of Famer or even an All-Star, and the list below mirrors that fact. Some have enjoyed long careers, but very few All-Star appearances or MVP-type seasons.
With the help of the NCAA Stats team of Jeff Williams and Michelle Forkner, here are the 10 top draft picks and how they fared in the CWS and their MLB careers.
2015 – Dansby Swanson — In 2015 CWS, 3-for-17 (through CWS Finals Game 1). In 2014, Swanson was the CWS Most Oustanding Player. He was 10-for-31 with three doubles, two RBI and five runs scored. Swanson was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, debuted with the Hillsboro Hops (Class-A Short Season affiliate of the Diamondbacks), then was traded to the Atlanta Braves in the 2015-16 offseason. In August of 2016, Swanson was called up for his major league debut. In 100 major league games, he has hit .246/.318/.375 with 16 doubles, one triple, and nine home runs, and notched 44 RBIs.
1998 – Pat Burrell, Miami (Fla.) — In the 1998 CWS, Burrell went 4-for-7 with a home run and three RBI. He also appeared in 1996 and 1997 CWS earning the 1996 CWS Most Oustanding Player when he went 7-for-14 with two doubles, two HR and seven RBI. In 12 years in the majors with three teams, Burrell hit 292 home runs with a career .253 average. He was fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 and in 2005 finished 7th in MVP voting with 117 RBI and a .281 batting average.
1997 – Matt Anderson, Rice — Anderson had two relief appearances, 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 8 K in 1997 CWS. Drafted by the Detroit Tigers, Anderson pitched for seven years as a major league reliever. He spent almost all of his seven-year career with the Tigers, save a short comeback stint with Colorado in 2005 before retiring. Anderson’s top year came at age 24, when he saved 22 games for the Tigers and had a 2.62 ERA. He struck out 52 and walked 18 in that year.
1996 – Kris Benson, Clemson — In the 1996 College World Series, Benson had two appearances with two starts, 14.1 IP, 21 Hits, 13 ER, 26 Ks. He was drafted by the Pittburgh Pirates and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 1999. Benson played for five teams in his nine-year career, five years with the Pirates. He had an average career with 70-75 record and 4.42 ERA.
1994 – Paul Wilson, Florida State — Wilson had one appearance in CWS, a complete game win, allowing two earned runs and struck out seven. He also pitched in the 1992 CWS with two relief appearances allowing two runs in 4.2 IP. Wilson was drafted by the New York Mets and broke in with them in 1996 with a 5-12 record and 5.38 ERA. In a seven-year career, Wilson went 40-58 with the Mets, Devil Rays and Reds.
1992 – Phil Nevin, Cal State Fullerton — In 1992 CWS, Nevin went 10-for-19, with seven runs, 11 RBI and two HR. He was named Most Outstanding Player and Cal State Fullerton finished as national runner up. Nevin also played in 1990 CWS going 3-for-10 with an RBI in two games. Nevin had a solid 12-year major league career, breaking in with the Astros in 1995. He played for seven teams, most with the Padres. He had his best year in 2001, his only All-Star appearance and was 21st in MVP voting when he batted .306 and had 41 HR and 126 RBI. He clocked 208 career home runs.
1989 – Ben McDonald, LSU — McDonald had a rough CWS in the year he was drafted, going 0-2 in three appearances with two starts, 12 IP, 15 ER but 16 K. He also had a save. McDonald pitched in 1987 CWS and was 0-2 in two appearances. The 6-7 righty was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and finished eighth in Rookie of Year voting in 1990. He was 78-70 in nine years with two teams.
1978 – Bob Horner, Arizona State — Horner went went 5-for-19, with one home run, 11 RBI and made the All-Tournament team (Arizona State was national runner-up). Horner also played in 1976 and 1977 CWS. He was the 1977 Most Outstanding Player and led Arizona State to the National Championship in 1977. Horner played immediately with the Atlanta Braves and had 23 homers in 89 games to earn the Rookie of the Year award. He played nine of his 10 years with the Braves and was an All-Star in 1982. He was a consistent home run hitter with 218 career dingers with a .277 average.
1976 – Floyd Bannister, Arizona State — In the CWS, Bannister was 1-1 in two complete games. He had 18 K and a 2.37 ERA (Arizona State finished 3rd). Bannister also played in 1975 CWS and was 1-1 allowing six earned runs in 14.1 IP with 22 K. Bannister was drafted by the Astros and pitched 15 years for six teams. He was 134-143 in his career with a 4.06 ERA. He was an All Star in 1982 with 209 strikeouts and a 3.43 ERA with Seattle.
1965 – Rick Monday, Arizona State — In CWS, Monday went 6-for-24 with two HR and four RBI and made the All-Tournament team for Arizona State, which won the national championship. Monday is the answer of a trivia question — he’s the first Major League draft pick. He was selected by the Kansas City Athletics and enjoyed a 19-year career with three teams, — and when the A’s moved to Oakland in his third year, four cities. He was an All-Star twice, a career .264 hitter and had 241 career home runs. He also stole 98 bases.
Note: This list only pertains to No. 1 draft picks that played in the CWS the year they were drafted. Gerrit Cole — first pick of 2011 draft — was in 2010 CWS and was 1-1 in two starts with 15 K in 15 IP and a 4.20 ERA. Luke Hochevar — first pick of 2006 draft — was in 2005 CWS where he was 0-1 (in his only appearance and start), he allowed four ER in 6 IP.
Sources: NCAA, Baseball-Reference.com