Baseball is a sport where young, talented prospect players can be notoriously slow to develop into elite superstars. Generally, it takes 4-6 years for a high school or college draftee to finally make the big leagues, though some exceptional players may make the jump straight away.
But ten years after a draft is about when you can reflect on the quality of a particular draft class and properly assess the players who were drafted. Here, one month before the 2017 draft, we look at the Class of 2007 draftees. Who is still hot, who is not, and some who will never be.
JUDSON ‘FIVESPOT’ MARTEL (RHP) – BOSTON BRAWLERS
2008-2016: 73-40, 146 G, 3.58 ERA, 1,050.0 IP, 997 K, 23.5 WAR
Without any shadow of a doubt, the top player to come out of the 2007 draft was it’s #1 overall pick, Judson Martel. Boston had a particularly poor 2006, finishing 32-48 and earning the right to choose the first draft pick the following season. First rounders are normally a safe bet to be quite good – but with Martel they hit pay dirt.
It was 2009 before he finally broke into the rotation full time, after only going 0-2 with an 8.85 ERA the year before, when Boston once again finished in last place. But in his first full season at the top level, a 22-year-old Martel improved to 6-3 with an ERA of 4.74, one of only three hurlers with a winning record on the team that year. Meanwhile, Martel did the heavy lifting, throwing a team-leading 104.1 innings and 72 strikeouts, giving the Brawlers their first 2nd place finish since 2001, and a wildcard entry into the playoffs.
He continued to improve the following year, despite the team falling back down to a 4th place finish again, but by 2011, Martel had established himself as one of the league’s premier pitchers, going 8-5, with a 3.71 ERA, and retiring 114 batters on strikeouts over 128.2 innings, and bringing Boston back into playoff form with another 2nd place finish, and another wildcard into the postseason.
In 2014, after winning a Sandy Koufax Award the year before with a lot less, he led the league in wins (12) and games (18), hitting a career-high (at that time) 141.2 innings and also leading in WAR for a second season in a row, with 4.1. He also hit a career-best 1.01 WHIP, and cracked the 10 K’s per 9 innings mark for the first time (where he’s been every season since).
Last season, he set a new career-best for innings (142.0) and strikeouts (158), leading the LL in both categories. After the end of the season, Boston could not come to terms with the ascendant Martel, and he took his services to Montreal for a 4 year deal worth $100.8 million. Martel seems destined for the Hall of Fame, and so the contract may end up being a bargain for the Metros.
AARON REED (RHP) – DENVER HIGHLANDERS
2008-2016: 46-57, 131 G, 4.41 ERA, 844.1 IP, 633 K, 13.7 WAR
While not nearly as successful as Martel, the #2 overall pick, Reed, has put up reliable numbers for four AEL teams since the 2007 draft and continues to be a solid workhorse in the Seattle Salts middle-rotation, where he will be entering his second year.
It was 2013 before Reed had his first winning record season, when he went 7-5, finally dropping his ERA below the 4.00 mark to his .384 on the season, and striking out 104 batters. But, Denver failed to sign him to an extension, and by 2014, Reed had moved on the the Nevada Speeders, where he broke the 10-wins mark, going 10-6. Nevada had a particularly bad showing that year, and Reed exercised his opt-out to look for a better team. Arizona signed him to a 3-year, $18.4 million deal and in 2015, he completed his 500th strikeout with the Cowboys, in an 8 inning, 107-pitch effort against the Dallas Lawmen. He would set a career-best for WAR of 3.0, also hitting career numbers in strikeouts (123) and innings (125.2).
But once again, Arizona was not going where Reed wanted to go, as they crashed to a last-place finish of 29-53, so Reed exercised another opt-out clause and was signed as a free agent to Seattle, where he seems happy to pitch for a genuine contender, one that was predicted to win the Bull Cup for 2017.
CORROSIVE ‘MASSACRE’ JOSEPH (SS) – CHICOUTIMI CINQUANTES
2010-2016: 406 G, 471 H, 11 HR, 7 SB, .310 AVG, 9.1 WAR
Picked 10th overall, Joseph only spent three years at the top level with the Cinquantes before he was traded to New York, and by then he was a valued commodity, hitting .336 by the end of his trade year, 2012. In his first full season with New York, the following season, he played 78 games, getting 106 hits, 26 doubles, and 33 runs, while batting a career-best .338 (4th on the LL leaderboard that season).
Just before the 2016 season started, New York dealt him to Ohio along with Travis Moore, to snag LF Chris Chrism, a solid-hitting veteran. Joseph was reliable, hitting .299 with a trio of triples and a pair of homers, as the Oxen steamrolled their way to a Bull Cup Championship that year.
While he may never be a top-half of the batting order guy, he remains a great contact hitter who has incredible fielding skills and instincts.
HONORABLE MENTION 1ST ROUNDERS
KEVIN FAITH (4th overall, Kingston) – 2008-2016: 16-17, 7 SV, 4.14 ERA, 343.1 IP, 4.6 WAR – Now playing for Toronto
HUGH LAMBERT (5th overall, Hamilton) – 2011-2016: 358 G, 335 Hits, 29 HR, .258 AVG, 3.4 WAR – Now playing for Jacksonville
DUD 1ST ROUNDERS
SIMON NELSON (6th overall, San Diego) – 2008-2016: 184 G, 135 Hits, 9 HR, 9 SB, .229 AVG, -3.1 WAR – Now playing for Detroit’s AAA Miami
PAUL COY (3rd overall, Chicago) – 2009-2014: 276 G, 176 Hits, 19 HR, 10 SB, .189 AVG, -0.6 WAR – Now with Norfolk’s AAA Windsor.
SUPPLEMENTAL ROUND 1
RUSTY ROWE (LHP) – RICHMOND RAVENS
Chosen 10th in the supplemental round (26th overall), Rowe was traded to Denver where he had an All-Star year his second season there, in 2015. He’s accumulated a respectable 34-17 record, with 37 saves, and a 3.28 ERA, with a 7.5 career WAR. Ohio, recognizing they needed a reliable closer, signed him as a free agent to a generous $24 million, 3-year deal.
BRADFORD SEYMOUR (SS) – CALGARY CHINOOKS
A 40th overall pick, and 24th in the supplemental round, Seymour was a minor leaguer who was bargained away in 2011 by Calgary to Denver in a six player deal that saw Sam Chute come to the Chinooks (now Inferno) in exchange for Seymour and 4 other players. Denver started him out in the bigs the next year, though he disappointed, hitting just .189 in 21 games. He improved by a quantum leap next season, moving up to a career-best .256, swiping 14 bases, and scoring 47 runs. Denver kept him one more year before letting him go to the Toronto Ducks (now Nomads) for Mike Isennock and Dwain Tessier. His career 24 homers and 38 steals maintains his effectiveness in the Toronto lineup.
ED LANGSTON (1B) – CHICOUTIMI CINQUANTES
After getting off to a slow start, Langston finally made the jump to the Cinquantes top roster in 2014, and since then has managed 35 homers and a .264 average. He has managed a 3.3 career WAR, which may not bring home any MVP trophies, but neither does it leave the now-Detroit Motorheads looking for a replacement.
Sadly, the later rounds of the 2007 draft have thus far produced no clear stars, with many not yet reaching the major-level, or if they did, not staying long. One exception was Denver’s second round pick, 2B Eric Hart. He broke into the Bull League in 2011 with the Denver Highlanders (now Denver Danger) and had a seemingly solid year in a bench role, hitting .278 and showing flashes of speed with a trio of steals over 24 games. He followed up with other solid role-playing years before being waived and claimed by California in 2014. After four seasons he was hitting .322, but few hits went for extra bases, and he was struggling to lay off bad pitches. He has bounced around minor leagues as a free agent, and now finds himself once again in free agency but has not yet convinced any team to sign him.