By Barry Duchan
1996 - Robert Stratton. A big, strong powerful hitter who spent lots of years in the minors hitting the long ball and doing little else. Surprisingly, never earned a big league shot. Eric Milton and Gil Meche were taken several picks later.
1997 - Geoff Goetz. Sixth pick. Mediocre minor league pitcher, dealt to Florida. Later first round picks included Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland, and most notably Lance Berkman who was passed up by 15 teams.
1998 - Jason Tyner. Still in the big leagues after all these years, so maybe not such a bad pick after all. C.C. Sabathia was chosen one pick before, but no one taken soon after Tyner has come close to achieving his level of success.
1999 - The Mets had no first round pick. Their second pick was pitcher Neal Musser.
2000 - Billy Traber. Sent to Cleveland as part of the Roberto Alomar deal. Has battled arm trouble off and on, even since before signing. No obvious "better" picks were available.
2001- Aaron Heilman. Again, considered something of a reach, and then, a bust, Aaron has turned it around with good work out of the pen. So, in retrospect, this was quite a good choice, although Jeremy Bonderman went eight picks later.
2002 - Scott Kazmir. The Mets were fortunate that he fell to them. But, alas, he was dealt for Victor Zambrano. Good choice, bad trade.
2003 - Lastings Milledge. I am still convinced that Lastings will be a star in the major leagues. Whether with the Mets, or elsewhere, we shall see. It will take a few years before we can say whether this pick and the next two were great, ok, or awful. (Note: This was originally written before Milledge was traded.)
2004 - Philip Humber. Has already undergone Tommy John surgery and appears to be making a nice comeback. Of course, how good he'll turn out to be is still unknown. It's interesting to note that #1 pick Matt Bush, by the Padres looks to be a bust, while several of the other first-rounders would appear to be top prospects.
2005 - Mike Pelfrey. It's too early to pass final judgment, but frankly, I haven't liked what I've seen. He's already reached the big leagues as have 3 other pitchers taken later in the first round. At this time, it's too early to tell how good or bad this selection was. It's just that the reports on Pelfrey were so good, that when I finally saw him pitch, I was very disappointed, because I don't see a future ace.
2006- Again, no first round pick. Kevin Mulvey at #62 was the Mets' earliest choice. Mulvey appears to be making good progress at AA.
In retrospect, the Mets' draft history has a few notable mistakes, and a few excellent selections. Although we bemoan picks like Chilcott, Thurberg, Presley, Jaroncyk, and several others, every team has a similar history of mistakes. It is interesting to note that some of the choices that were criticized at the time for being made for reasons beyond talent, such as "local boy" Mazzilli or "Mookie's son" Preston Wilson actually turned out to be among the best ones.