Roy Halladay and his former Philadelphia Phillies teammate Cole Hamels were both in the news this week; Halladay for signing a one-day contract with the Blue Jays, so he could officially retire where it all began for him and Hamels, along with fellow Phillies southpaw Cliff Lee, were both mentioned in possible trade talks, which were later refuted by the Phillies special advisor Pat Gillick on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor.
That led me to go back and look at the years Halladay and Hamels were drafted. Oddly enough, they were both chosen 17th overall in the June draft; Halladay in 1995 and Hamels in 2002.
The player drafted immediately ahead of Halladay was pitcher Joe Fontenot by the San Francisco Giants. He was later one of three prospects traded to the Marlins for closer Robb Nen, who went on to save 206 games over the next five years before calling it a career with 314 total saves.
Meanwhile, Fontenot debuted with the Marlins in 1998 with an 0-7 record and an ERA over 6. He blew out his arm and never pitched in the Majors again.
So what made the Giants pick Fontenot ahead of Halladay? Darin Erstad went first overall in 1995 and had a solid career with the Angels. Jose Cruz Jr., who also had a decent career, went third to Seattle and was later traded to the Blue Jays. Kerry Wood was the fourth pick by the Chicago Cubs and had a good career that was cut short by injuries.
The best player to come out of the first round in 1995 was Todd Helton, who was picked eighth by the Colorado Rockies and should get into the Hall of Fame someday.
After Halladay, no other player in the first round had any kind of significant impact in the Majors.
Cole Hamels was selected 17th overall in 2002. Righthander Bryan Bullington went first overall that year and was essentially a bust. He actually pitched four games with the Blue Jays in 2009 and another 13 with the Kansas City Royals the following year before disappearing from the Majors.
In that same draft, Zack Greinke went sixth to the Royals and Prince Fielder seventh to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Blue Jays had the 14th pick and chose second baseman Russ Adams, who never really panned out. Hamels went three picks later at 17 but the really remarkable one is that Giants star righthander Matt Cain went 25th overall.
A couple of more near misses for the Jays cam in 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals chose righthander Shelby Miller, who had a breakout season for them last year. Right after that, the Blue Jays chose Chad Jenkins with the 20th pick. To be fair, Jenkins did a pretty good job in long relief last season, but hasn't progressed as far as Miller just yet.
Then in 2010, the Blue Jays chose righthander Deck McGuire 11th overall. Two picks later, the Chicago White Sox grabbed lefty Chris Sale, who has already blossomed into a star.
Just think, if the Blue Jays had Miller, Hamels and Sale, we wouldn't be sitting here today saying they still need to add two starting pitchers to their rotation. But I'm sure a lot of other teams are saying the same thing. That's what makes the draft, for the most part, such an unpredictable crapshoot.