A Draft requires more than five years before we can make a final judgment as to how well (or poorly) picks played out. But it’s already safe to say that the 2018 Draft hasn’t turned out as expected to this point.
The first seven picks — Casey Mize (Tigers), Joey Bart (Giants), Alec Bohm (Phillies), Nick Madrigal (White Sox), Jonathan India (Reds), Jarred Kelenic (Mets) and Ryan Weathers (Padres) — have reached the big leagues. But only India ranks among the dozen most productive 2018 draftees who signed that summer, as measured by Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference style).
The five best to this point have been Rays first-rounder Shane McClanahan, Cubs first-rounder Nico Hoerner, Astros third-rounder Jeremy Peña, Guardians fifth-rounder Steven Kwan and Brewers sixth-rounder Drew Rasmussen. India is tied for sixth with Royals first-rounder Brady Singer.
Below, we highlight each team’s best 2018 selection based not only on careers to date but also future projection. They run the gamut from No. 2 overall pick Bart to 23rd-rounders Logan O’Hoppe (Phillies) and Jonah Bride (Athletics), with just 11 first-rounders making the cut.
Blue Jays: Addison Barger, SS/3B
Toronto had high hopes for seven-figure signings Jordan Groshans, Griffin Conine and Adam Kloffenstein, but it’s Barger – a sixth-rounder who signed for $271,100 – who’s held up to this point as the one with the most potential. Though he’s been out since April 28 with a right elbow issue, the 23-year-old slugger uses a killer leg kick to produce above-average power from the left side, and his plus-plus arm strength helps his chances at short, third or even right field.
Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
While his first taste of the big leagues was uneven, the future is still very bright for this 23-year-old right-hander. The Orioles surprised some by taking him No. 11 overall in the 2018 Draft, and he was the third prep pitcher to be taken in the first round, after lefty Ryan Weathers was taken by the Padres and right-hander Carter Stewart, who didn’t sign with the Braves.
Rays: Shane McClanahan, LHP
Selected with the pick Tampa Bay picked up when Alex Cobb signed with Baltimore, the local University of South Florida product has developed into a perennial Cy Young contender, and that hasn’t changed this season. Since the start of last season, only Justin Verlander (2.20) has a lower ERA than McClanahan’s 2.40 among pitchers with at least 200 innings, and the lefty’s 29.9 percent K rate ranks fourth in that group too.
Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B
Casas had as much raw power as anyone in the 2018 Draft and a history of starring for U.S. national teams, so the Red Sox were delighted to find him available at No. 26 overall. The Florida high school product has batted .193/.308/.359 with 11 homers in 74 big league games, but he’s still just 23 and has the hitting ability and discipline to do much more at the plate.
Yankees: Frank German, RHP
New York’s 2018 Draft includes just one big leaguer and no current Top 30 Prospects. German ranked fifth in NCAA Division I in ERA (1.58) and sixth in WHIP (0.83) as a junior at North Florida before signing with the Yankees and has added velocity as a pro, reaching 100 mph. He went to the Red Sox in the 2021 Adam Ottavino salary dump, pitched in four games in Boston last year and since has bounced to the White Sox and Reds.
Guardians: Steven Kwan, OF
Overshadowed on an Oregon State 2018 College World Series championship team that included three first-round picks, Kwan was viewed as a slap-hitting complementary player and did little to shed that reputation in his first two years as a pro. He came back from the 2020 pandemic shutdown as a different hitter and finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting last year after batting .298/.373/.400 and winning a Gold Glove. Cleveland’s 2018 Draft already has produced seven signed big leaguers, including current Top 100 Prospect Bo Naylor, and only the Royals and White Sox (eight each) have more.
Royals: Brady Singer, RHP
Kansas City made waves by taking college pitchers with each of its first five picks (including four in the Top 40 overall), but its top pick Singer who remains the cream of the crop, even in the midst of a down 2023. The former Florida right-hander leads Royals starters in innings (400 1/3) and total fWAR (6.2) since debuting in 2020, and even in a down year, he’s still been the club’s second-best starter behind Zack Greinke.
Tigers: Tarik Skubal, LHP
Only two members of Detroit’s 2018 class have posted bWARs above 2.0 in the last five years in Casey Mize (2.8) and Skubal (2.9), both of whom are out after undergoing Tommy John/back and flexor tendon surgeries, respectively. We’ll give Skubal the nod here since he’s pitched 110 1/3 more innings in the Majors than Mize and since he was enjoying a solid 2023 (3.52 ERA, 117 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings) before his left-elbow injury.
Twins: Ryan Jeffers, C
There were three catchers taken in the first round in front of Jeffers, with Joey Bart, Anthony Siegler and Bo Naylor all going in front of him. The UNC Wilmington product wasn’t on our Top 200 that year, but he signed an under-slot deal with the Twins in the second around and has been more productive than any backstop from the class other than Mariners third-rounder Cal Raleigh.
White Sox: Nick Madrigal, 2B
While the White Sox have tied the Royals for the most signed big leaguers from the 2018 Draft to this point (eight), they traded the only two who made any impact in Chicago — Madrigal and sixth-rounder Codi Heuer — to the Cubs for Craig Kimbrel in mid-2021. The biggest star on Oregon State’s 2018 College World Series championship club, Madrigal had outstanding hitting ability and energy but came with concerns about a lack of power that has undermined him in the Majors. After batting .317/.358/.406 in parts of two years with the White Sox, he has slid to .248/.299/.288 with the Cubs and got sent to Triple-A last week.
Angels: Kyle Bradish, RHP
After pitching well for three years at hitting-friendly New Mexico State, Bradish landed in the fourth round to the Angels. In December after his first full season (2019), he was part of the package sent to the Orioles for Dylan Bundy. The 26-year-old right-hander appears to be settling in as a legitimate big league starter after making 23 starts last year and nine so far in 2023.
Astros: Jeremy Peña, SS
Peña was one of the best defensive shortstops in the 2018 college class and became the highest-drafted position player in University of Maine history despite worries about his offensive upside. The Astros helped him get stronger and get more out of his swing after he turned pro, and he responded by slamming 22 homers in 2022, when he became the second rookie to garner MVP honors in both a League Championship Series and a World Series. He’s also the first rookie to win a Gold Glove at shortstop.
A’s: Jonah Bride, 2B/3B
While the A’s have had four 2018 draftees touch the big leagues (not all with Oakland), none have been particularly productive to date. But Bride has exceeded all expectations by making it up at all as a 23rd-round pick who signed for just $1,500 as a senior out of the University of South Carolina. He’s shown a willingness to play anywhere the organization has asked him, including learning how to catch.
Mariners: Logan Gilbert, RHP
Shout out to the aforementioned Cal Raleigh for amassing 4.3 WAR, but we have to go with the M’s first-rounder out of Stetson for this one. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has already established himself as a workhorse big league starter and gets to throw to Raleigh on a regular basis.
Rangers: Owen White, RHP
White has yet to reach the big leagues but that should change in the near future. Ranked No. 48 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, the three-sport star as a North Carolina high schooler didn’t make his pro debut until May 2021 because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic. Each of his four pitches can grade as at least plus when at their best, and he owns a 4.24 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings over nine Double-A starts this spring.
Braves: Tristan Beck, RHP
This Draft hasn’t been a particularly kind one for the Braves. They didn’t sign their first-rounder, Carter Stewart, while only two to date have reached the big leagues (though 14th-rounder Victor Vodnik should impact a big league bullpen soon). They took Beck in Round 4 and went well over slot to sign him for $900K. He made it to the big leagues this year for the first time, with the Giants, but the Braves were able to package him with Dan Winkler to get Mark Melancon at the 2019 Trade Deadline.
Marlins: Alex Vesia, LHP
NCAA Division II Cal State East Bay’s all-time leader in wins (24) and strikeouts (249), Vesia became the Pioneers’ highest-drafted pitcher ever when the Marlins popped him in the 17th round. A $25,000 senior sign with a deceptive 93-95 mph fastball that has been much more effective than anticipated, he owns a 3.53 ERA in 123 relief appearances, mostly with the Dodgers after joining them in a 2021 trade for Dylan Floro.
Mets: Jarred Kelenic, OF
Opinions on the December 2018 trade that sent Kelenic (and four others) to Seattle for Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz might ebb and flow forever, but for now, the outfielder’s recent rise still makes him the best player from New York’s 2018 Draft class. Simeon Woods Richardson (who was also traded), Tylor Megill and Bryce Montes de Oca are the only three others to have seen The Show so far, and no one in that trio has Kelenic’s ceiling, led by his promising left-handed power.
Nationals: Jake Irvin, RHP
The Nats took pitchers with seven of their first nine picks five years ago, and only one of that group has made the Majors so far in Irvin, a $550,000 signing out of the University of Oklahoma. The 6-foot-6 right-hander missed all of 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic but has come back with a fastball averaging 93.1 mph and an upper-70s curveball that gets the lion’s share of whiffs. Those two pitches are getting him plenty of run in a Washington rotation balancing young and veteran arms.
Phillies: Logan O’Hoppe, C
This success story would be even greater if O’Hoppe hadn’t gotten hurt and wasn’t out for the rest of the year. Still, the Phillies did well to get the Long Island high school backstop in Round 23 and help him develop into one of the top catching prospects in the game. His big league debut, and likely future success, will come with the Angels, but the Phillies did get their starting center fielder, Brandon Marsh, in return for him last year.
Brewers: Drew Rasmussen, RHP
There’s a chance top 2018 pick Brice Turang could take this spot in time, but for now, we’ll go with the sixth-rounder who has blossomed into a legit starter for the Rays. Tampa Bay acquired the right-hander in the May 2021 deal for Willy Adames. Over four Major League seasons, Rasmussen owns a 2.97 ERA, 130 ERA+ and 1.09 WHIP over 282 innings, but his immediate future is in question after he was added to the 60-day IL with a right flexor strain.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, INF/DH
Brendan Donovan (seventh round) and Lars Nootbaar (eighth round) have already crossed the four-win career threshold (bWAR), but it’s looking more likely that Gorman will win out from this class. The 19th overall pick showed legendary power as an amateur, and that pop is coming to the fore this season with 13 homers and a .555 slugging percentage through 200 plate appearances. Gorman is still only 23, meaning he’s still younger than Top 100 prospects/fellow infielders Michael Busch, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg.
Cubs: Nico Hoerner, SS
The Cubs scored with several first-round college bats in the 2010s, including Stanford star Hoerner. Scouts began wondering why he lasted 24 picks in the 2018 Draft after he stood out in the Arizona Fall League that offseason, and he became the first 2018 draftee to advance to the Majors when he arrived in September 2019. He’s a career .278/.333/.387 hitter who signed a three-year, $35 million extension in March.
Pirates: Mike Burrows, RHP
With only two players from this class to touch the big leagues at all, first-rounder Travis Swaggerty, with nine at-bats in 2022, and 24th rounder Cam Alldred, who appeared in one game last year, we’re going to roll the dice a little bit here. The Pirates went over slot to sign Burrows in Round 11 for $500K and the Connecticut high schooler was on the cusp of knocking on the big league door this year before needing Tommy John surgery. He’ll still be just 24 years old when he gets back next year.
Reds: Jonathan India, 2B
India parlayed a huge junior year at Florida into becoming the No. 5 overall pick in this Draft. He ascended to Cincinnati in 2021 and took home National League Rookie of the Year honors after playing 150 games and homering 21 times. His follow-up wasn’t as successful, but he’s been more productive this year and his 4.9 bWAR places him sixth among all 2018 draftees.
D-backs: Jake McCarthy, OF
Arizona selected but didn’t sign first-rounder Matt McLain, making McCarthy at 39th overall its top addition. So far, the University of Virginia product has held off fellow 2018 pick Alek Thomas as the more productive Major League outfielder, and his .283/.342/.427 line in 99 games last year helped him earn fourth place in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Even while it’s been a rougher go offensively in ’23, McCarthy ranks in the 98th percentile for Sprint Speed and has been worth 3 Outs Above Average in right field.
Dodgers: James Outman, OF
Though Outman batted just .249 in three seasons at Sacramento State, the Dodgers liked his all-around tools and thought they could help him improve his swing and approach. They did exactly that and he has taken over as their starting center fielder, batting .234/.323/.469 with nine homers and six steals in 55 games.
Giants: Joey Bart, C
Bart is the Giants’ best pick from 2018, though that’s more a reflection of their Draft than him living up to expectations as the No. 2 overall choice. After starring at Georgia Tech and in the Minors, he has batted just .223/.293/.342 with 11 homers in 158 games with San Francisco.
Padres: Steven Wilson, RHP
San Diego selected players with higher ceilings in Ryan Weathers and Xavier Edwards with its first two picks, but it’s eighth-rounder Wilson, who signed for just $5,000 out of Santa Clara, who has proven to be a relatively steady bullpen presence over the last two seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander leans heavily on his low-80s sweeper and has a career 2.99 ERA and 131 ERA+ over 78 1/3 innings since debuting last year.
Rockies: Jake Bird, RHP
Bird was a money-saving senior sign who got just $50,000 to sign in the fifth round. He’s pitched his way to the big leagues almost exclusively as a reliever. A strained oblique kept him from throwing for Team Israel in this year’s World Baseball Classic, but he’s been a very reliable bullpen option for the Rockies so far this year.