Ranking Mets' 10 best first-round MLB Draft picks ever

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Strawberry Gooden Wright Treated Art
Strawberry Gooden Wright Treated Art

The Mets have the 10th pick in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft on Sunday night, and the player they choose could be ready for his big league debut in two years. Or maybe they'll take a high school pitcher who takes five years to develop. Or maybe the player they pick will never make it to the majors at all.

The point is that like every other draft, the MLB Draft is a crapshoot. For every Bryce Harper (taken No. 1 overall in 2010, current superstar), there is a Christian Colon (tabbed at No. 4 overall in 2010, career .318 slugging percentage).

For every Darryl Strawberry (selected No. 1 overall by the Mets in 1980), there is a Steve Chilcott (drafted No. 1 overall by the Mets in 1966).

In ranking the Mets' 10 best first-round picks ever, we'll be taking into account the performance of those players with the Mets and with any teams they might have played with after leaving the Mets. If New York made a good pick, that pick won't be penalized because the same front office (or a different front office) eventually traded that player.

Picks also won't be dinged too much if their success was fleeting due to injury or non-baseball reasons. In other words, if the Mets drafted a player who was at one time on a potential Hall-of-Fame track, he'll be on this list...

10. Lee Mazzilli, No. 14 in 1973

A Brooklyn native, Mazzilli carved out a 14-year career in the majors, including a three-year run from 1978 to 1980 when he was a star with the Mets (he made the National League All-Star team in 1979) as he hit .286/.374/.437 with 47 homers.

After stints with the Texas Rangers, Yankees, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1982 to the middle of 1986, the Mets added Mazzilli during the 1986 season -- with his becoming a key bench piece during their championship run. He then hit .306/.399/.460 for the Mets in 1987.

9. Scott Kazmir, No. 15 in 2002

Before the Jarred Kelenic trade, there was the Scott Kazmir trade. And it can be argued that the Kazmir trade was even worse since the 2004 Mets were not contenders. And because they traded Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, who flamed out in spectacular fashion after one decent season in Queens.

Meanwhile, Kazmir had a four-year run with the Rays from 2005 to 2008 where he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. He wound up pitching 12 years in the majors, though his early promise was derailed due to injury.

8. Gregg Jefferies, No. 20 in 1985

Jefferies did not fit in with the Mets of the '80s, leading to his stint in Flushing only lasting from 1988 to 1991. He was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the 1992 season, and blossomed with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he made the All-Star team in 1993 and 1994.

During his 14-year career, which ended after the 2000 season, Jefferies hit .289/.344/.421. with 126 homers and 196 stolen bases.

7. Jeromy Burnitz, No. 17 in 1990

Burnitz struck out a lot. But when he wasn't striking out, he was hitting balls over the fence. During a 14-year career (including stints with the Mets from 1993-94 and 2002-03), Burnitz hit .253/.345/.481 with 315 home runs.

August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field.
August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field.

6. Matt Harvey, No. 7 in 2010

That thing we said above about being on a Hall of Fame track before being derailed for non-baseball reasons? That was Harvey, who had a 2.53 ERA and and 1.00 WHIP with 449 strikeouts in 427 innings pitched with the Mets from 2012 to 2015.

Harvey missed the end of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, returned with a vengeance in 2015, and had Thoracic Outlet surgery in 2016. Despite some brief success with the Orioles in 2021, it's been downhill ever since.

5. Michael Conforto, No. 10 in 2014

Despite going through a sophomore slump in 2016, Conforto has been mostly great for the Mets since making his big league debut in 2015 at the age of 22, when he skipped over Triple-A.

Entering the 2021 season, in 632 games, Conforto has hit .259/.358/.484 with 118 homers and 121 doubles. That includes a 2017 season that ended early due to a shoulder injury that required surgery and lingered into 2018, when he returned too early. Conforto was on the upswing in 2019 and had an All-Star-worthy 2020. He dealt with a hamstring strain earlier in the 2021 season.

4. Jon Matlack, No. 4 in 1967

Lost a bit in the brilliance of Tom Seaver and his sidekick Jerry Koosman, Matlack was damn good in his own right. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1972, when he had a 2.32 ERA in 244 innings pitched, and he didn't really slow down from there.

Over 1,448 innings pitched in 203 games with the Mets (199 starts), Matlack had a sparkling 3.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while making the All-Star Game three times (1974, 1975, 1976).

Matlack pitched for the Texas Rangers after his time with the Mets ended, posting a 3.41 ERA in six seasons before retiring after the 1983 campaign.

Mets 3B David Wright
Mets 3B David Wright

3. David Wright, No. 38 in 2001

The Mets received a compensation pick when Mike Hampton signed with the Colorado Rockies after the 2000 season, and they turned it into Wright, who became the face of the franchise and the best offensive player the team produced since Strawberry.

The Captain hit .296/.376/.491 with 242 homers, 390 doubles, and 970 RBI over 14 seasons in Queens. To put those numbers in perspective, Wright hit 204 of those homers before his age-30 season in 2013, when the injuries hit. He played in only 323 games over the final six years of his career.

2. Darryl Strawberry, No. 1 in 1980

Strawberry came into the league in 1983 after being compared to Ted Williams, and all he did in his eight seasons with the Mets was win the Rookie of the Year award, make seven All-Star teams, and finish in the top six in MVP voting three times (he should've won it in 1988, but somehow lost to Kirk Gibson).

After leaving the Mets for the Dodgers for the 1991 season, Strawberry -- who struggled with substance abuse, leading to three suspensions by Major League Baseball in the '90s -- had only two more seasons where he hit as many as 12 home runs.

Strawberry retired after the 1999 season, ending his career with 335 homers and 1,000 RBI.

1. Dwight Gooden, No. 5 in 1982

Like Strawberry, Gooden was a generational talent. But it can be argued that Gooden not only had a chance to be a Hall-of-Famer, but one of the 10-best at his position in the history of baseball.

As a 19-year-old in 1984, Gooden had a 2.60 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while striking out 276 batters in 218 innings.

As a 20-year-old in 1985, Gooden spun one of the best seasons ever, with a 1.53 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while striking out 268 batters in 276.2 innings.

By 1986, Gooden -- who had a 2.84 ERA and struck out 200 batters that season -- was struggling with substance abuse, and missed the Mets' World Series parade because of those struggles. He was suspended to begin the 1987 season after testing positive for cocaine.

Had it not been for the off-field issues, Gooden -- who had a 3.10 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with 1,875 strikeouts by his age-29 season -- could've been one of the best ever.