Sluggers and slingers alike have been chosen with the 19th pick of the MLB Draft, which is where the New York Mets will choose on Wednesday.
Baseball returns to Queens this week, albeit in the form of players who won’t see Citi Field until 2021 the earliest.
Five rounds await them as they seek to end their playoff drought and keep up with the changing times in the NL East, which will continue to host the defending champion Washington Nationals. If the Mets want to achieve their own World Series dreams in the future, snagging high-end talent in the draft is necessary.
ESNY looks back on some of the finest players chosen in the No. 19 slot…
1967: 2B Bobby Grich, Baltimore
The Orioles’ early 1970s dominance coincided with the debut of Grich, an infielder who became well known for his hitting and fielding alike. In addition to four Gold Glove awards and six All-Star Game invites, Grich also earned 1981’s Silver Slugger Award as a member of the California Angels when he tied for the league lead in home runs (22 in a strike-shortened season). In the field, Grich set single-season fielding percentage records in back-to-back seasons. Cooperstown has evaded him thus far, but Grich has been inducted into the Orioles and Angels’ respective Halls of Fame and he currently holds a front-office position with the latter.
1976: C Mike Scioscia, LA Dodgers
Long before he served as the Anaheim/Los Angeles skipper for nearly two decades, Scioscia was a fine player in his own right. Had he been drafted in this new era, he might not have made it to the majors, as he was well noted for his plate blocking abilities. Despite his physical nature, Scioscia made a name for himself as one of the most durable catchers in baseball, playing in at least 100 games in all but three of his 13 MLB seasons (including a career-best 141 in 1985). Scioscia was named to two All-Star Games and partook in the Dodgers’ 1981 and 1988 titles, the former coming against his future Yankee foes from The Bronx.
1983: RHP Roger Clemens, Boston
A Rocket launched in 1983, bearing the name Roger Clemens out of Texas. Clemens’ exploits in Austin were a deal of pain to the Mets, as he was originally chosen in the 12th round two years prior (Clemens did not sign). The Mets perhaps got the last laugh in 1986, when Clemens was controversially removed from the late stages of Boston’s potential clincher in Game 6 of the World Series. He nonetheless built a career of over two MLB decades, albeit one mired with controversy before and after, and he later earned his elusive World Series title as a member of the Yankees in 1999.
1992: OF Shannon Stewart, Toronto
It took a while for Stewart to fully cement his place on an MLB roster, but he finally did so in 1997. He became a reliable presence at the top of the lineup, hitting .305 and stealing 135 bases between 1998 and 2001. Injuries prevented Stewart from truly reaching his full potential, but he managed to finish fourth in 2003’s AL MVP voting in a year spent with both the Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins.
1999: OF Alex Rios, Toronto
Rios is perhaps one of the better recent examples of “what might’ve been” in MLB history. On Triple Crown paces in the midst of his third season, Rios was perhaps never the same after a staph infection near the All-Star break robbed him of his strength. Over the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Rios earned 41 home runs and drove in 167 while batting .299 and reaching the All-Star Game in each year. He never lived up to a massive contract the Blue Jays bestowed upon him ($69.8 million in guaranteed money), but he did play a role in helping the Kansas City Royals top the Mets in the 2015 World Series. He batted .368 in the six-game ALCS victory, ironically coming against Toronto.
2012: RHP Michael Wacha, St. Louis
Baseball’s delays have prevented Michael Wacha from making his Queens debut, having signed a one-year deal in December. Wacha has spent the last seven in St. Louis, joining the team in 2012’s draft. In his rookie season, Wacha’s first career win came at Citi Field and he later went on to earn the NLCS’ MVP Award during the Cardinals’ pennant trek.
In two starts, he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to a .149 opposing batting average and outdueled Clayton Kershaw to send St. Louis to the World Series. Previously, Wacha threw 6.2 innings in the Cardinals’ wild-card round victory over Pittsburgh. Wacha also made the NL All-Star team in 2015.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags