Matt Harvey is one of the best No. 7 draft picks ever.
It is because of controversy, injury and failure to translate talent into sustained success that Harvey was a bust. But if you are looking for busts, the No. 7 pick has two of the all-time greats, reminders how difficult it is to get drafts right even when selecting in the top 10:
In 2000, another righty pitching Matt H. — Matt Harrington — was taken seventh overall by the Rockies, made large demands, never signed and ultimately would become the first player taken in five consecutive drafts never to sign with the drafting club. He briefly played in the minors, never in the majors and wound up working in the tire department at Costco.
Another Matt, White, was taken seventh in 1996 by San Francisco. His representative, Scott Boras, found a loophole — the Giants did not offer a contract within 15 days — that led to White being declared a free agent. The Rays, who would not even begin play as an expansion club until 1998, saw opportunity and gifted $10.2 million to the consensus best high school pitcher in that draft. White, at times overused and at times rushed through the system, never made the majors.
Harrington and White represent two of the 17 No. 7-overall picks in the June draft who have never reached the majors. That includes the four most recent No. 7s who were in the minors last year. That still leaves 13 who never made it.
Of those that have, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and Coopertown-bound Clayton Kershaw represent the best of the group. With health, perhaps Prince Fielder and Troy Tulowitzki also would have had a shot at enshrinement. Mike Minor and Aaron Nola are among the better starters in the game right now.
Nick Markakis has had a tortoise career — steady quality with endurance. Trot Nixon was another lefty-hitting right fielder with an above average career. Andrew Benintendi, like Nixon a lefty-hitting Red Sox outfielder, has been a talented roller coaster so far.
Those nine — Thomas, Kershaw, Fielder, Tulowitzki, Minor, Nola, Markakis, Nixon and Benintendi — are the only No. 7 picks I am definitely taking over Harvey. You could make arguments for steady catchers such as Ray Fosse and Dan Wilson. Rich Dotson had some big moments for the White Sox in the 1980s, winning 22 games one year. Homer Bailey? Austin Kearns? Archie Bradley?
I would take Harvey over all of those from that second group, because when Harvey was healthy and great, he was good enough to start an All-Star Game, draw fans to games and be a front-of-the-rotation force on a pennant winner. I will take high-end excellence over average longevity, which is easier to find.
As one AL player personnel executive said, “In terms of seventh-overall picks, historically he is in the top 25 percent. People forget how tough this [drafting] is.”
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