No other professional sports draft is more of a crap-shoot than the baseball draft. While NFL and NBA teams can look at college production, many of the best players are high school players who haven't faced any high-level pitching or hitting. Teams are looking at potential down the line.
Sometimes it works, such as with the 10 players below, and sometimes it doesn't.
Ranking the top 10 top overall draft picks, based on past production and future potential:
Career stats (as of June 6, 2012): 19 seasons, .301, 638 home runs, 1,915 RBI, 311 SB
He's more well known these days for his contracts and being a New York celebrity, but there's been no better No. 1 overall draft pick than A-Rod, who was selected out of Westminster High School in Palmetto Bay, Fla., in 1993 at age 17. He shot through the minor-league system and made his debut in 1994 at age 18 for the Mariners. A two-time American League MVP, he is perhaps the most criticized player in baseball history.
Career stats: 22 seasons, .284, 630 HR, 1,836 RBI, 184 SB, 13 Gold Gloves
The Mariners either are very good at the draft or had uncanny luck to land both Rodriguez and Griffey, who both played on the Seattle AL West championship teams in 1995 and 1997. Griffey was a No. 1 pick out of Cincinnati Moeller High School, and made his debut at age 19. He arguably was the best power hitter in the game in the 1990s and an annual Gold Glove selection in center field. Injuries slowed him down in his later years with his hometown Reds, but he is still a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick.
Career stats (as of June 6, 2012): 19 seasons, .304, 459 HR, 1370 RBI
Griffey and Rodriguez have never won a championship, but Larry Wayne Jones did as a rookie with the Braves in 1995, and he was a postseason fixture with Atlanta for 11 consecutive seasons. He was drafted No. 1 out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., and he's been a consistent run-producer ever since, hitting more than 20 home runs in every full big-league season and driving in 100 runs or more for eight consecutive seasons (1996-2003). He was selected National League MVP in 1999. He's a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
Career stats: 22 seasons, .289, 384 HR, 1628 RBI
Baines was picked No. 1 overall out of St. Michaels High School in Easton, Md., and somewhat under the radar he was one of the best run-producers ever. His 1,628 RBI rank 11th in American League history. He made his debut in 1980, the first of three stints with the White Sox. He is known in Texas as the player the Rangers received for Sammy Sosa in a 1990 trade. He continued to be productive late in his career, driving in 103 runs with the Orioles and Cleveland Indians in 1999. He retired two years later at age 42.
Career stats (as of June 6, 2012): Nine seasons, .322 average, 87 HR, 527 RBI
He has a chance to keep moving up the list. Picked No. 1 out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn., the hometown Twins found a gem close to home. He made his big-league debut as the Twins' opening day catcher in 2004, but was injured for most of the season. In 2006, Mauer became the first catcher in American League history to lead the league in hitting, batting .347. He was the league's MVP in 2009, when he hit .365 with 28 home runs, one of the best seasons ever for a catcher.
Career stats: Six seasons, .311 average, 139 HR, 483 RBI
At one point, he was considered a huge bust. He did not play baseball from 2002 to 2006, a combination of injuries and suspensions because of drug use, and he was let go in the Rule 5 draft, unheard of for a top draft pick. He then emerged to become one of the biggest stars in the game. He won the AL MVP in 2010, leading the Rangers to the first of consecutive American League pennants. He hit four homers in a game in 2012.
Career stats: 17 seasons, .259, 335 HR, 1,000 RBI
He anchored the Mets lineup in the late 1980s, and seemed on the way to immortality before substance abuse issues, repeated arrests and colon cancer slowed down a promising career. The smooth-swinging left-hander, the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year, still played 17 seasons after being drafted out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles and will be remembered as one of the best power hitters of his generation.
Career stats (as of June 6, 2012): Nine seasons, .291, 199 HR, 671 RBI
He was traded before ever making his debut, a move the Marlins probably regret. He went to Texas for Ugueth Urbina, then to his hometown San Diego Padres before his first full big-league season. He became a star there before being traded to Boston with his free agency looming, and is an anchor in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
Career stats: 19 seasons, .264 average, 241 HR, 775 RBI
Summary: Monday was the original draft pick, the first in baseball history in the first year of the draft by the Kansas City Athletics. He made his big-league debut a year later and was a starter in the outfield for the As by 1967. He later played for the Cubs and was a key reserve for some great Los Angeles Dodgers teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Career stats: 14 seasons, .282, 124 HR, 699 RBI, 179 SB, three Gold Gloves
He played baseball and football at Nebraska, winning a national championship in 1994 as the Cornhuskers' punter. But he was a better baseball player, and made his big-league debut a year after he was drafted by the Angels. He played his first 11 seasons with the Angels, where he was one of the best center fielders in the AL, and was on their championship team in 2002.
Honorable mention: Bob Horner, 3B (1978, Braves); Stephen Strasburg, P (2009, Nationals); Andy Benes, P (1988, Padres); Pat Burrell, OF-1B (1998, Phillies); Phil Nevin, 3B (1992, Astros); Mike Moore, P (1981, Mariners); Jeff Burroughs, OF (1969, Senators); Shawon Dunston, SS (1982, Cubs)