So far, worth the Price

Back before the draft, a story in Sports Illustrated described agent Scott Boras telling the Nationals that two “50-year players” — the kind of talents that only come around twice a century — would be available to them in 2009 and ’10 in the form of Stephen Strasburg, a 50-year pitcher, and Bryce Harper, a 50-year hitter.

And as good as Strasburg has been, perhaps he’s not the first pitcher selected No. 1 overall to finally be worth the choice. In 2007, two years before Strasburg was drafted, the Rays took David Price out of Vanderbilt. A little more than a year later, he was closing out the Red Sox to send the Rays to the World Series. Now, three years and a month after being drafted, Price, at 24, is the youngest All-Star Game starting pitcher since a 23-year-old Dwight Gooden in 1988. (That’s how good Gooden was back then — at 23 in ’88, he made his second career All-Star Game start, two years after his first.)
Looking back at the pitchers selected first overall, it’s not a very notable bunch. Price has now tied Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore and Andy Benes for the record in All-Star selections and just one other hurler taken first, Tim Belcher, joins those three in pitching at least 10 seasons. And those four pitchers, plus the heralded Ben McDonald (who pitched nine seasons), are the only ones with a career WAR higher than 10. As of this All-Star break, Price is already at 4.2 in his career.
It feels premature to do so, but based on his success thus far — an All-Star starting assignment, a key save in the ALCS and career numbers over 257 innings (what used to constitute a full season for a top starter) that would garner Cy Young consideration — Price may be the best pitcher selected No. 1 overall in the history of the sport. Of course, the praise was similar for Gooden during his first few impressive seasons, but the early returns are promising. We’ll just have to see how it plays out — not just how Price ranks historically, but in a career that will unfold alongside that of Strasburg over the next decade or so, we can hope.

Pitchers selected No. 1 overall
Year Pitcher Throws Team WAR
2009 Stephen Strasburg RHP Nationals 1.8
2007 David Price LHP Rays 4.2
2006 Luke Hochevar RHP Royals -1.1
2002 Bryan Bullington RHP Pirates -0.2
1997 Matt Anderson RHP Tigers -1.4
1996 Kris Benson RHP Pirates 11.1
1994 Paul Wilson RHP Mets 0.5
1991 Brien Taylor LHP Yankees
1989 Ben McDonald RHP Orioles 19.8
1988 Andy Benes RHP Padres 29.6
1983 Tim Belcher RHP Yankees 24.6
1981 Mike Moore RHP Mariners 24.9
1976 Floyd Bannister LHP Astros 24.1
1973 David Clyde LHP Rangers 0.4

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