Rays righthander Matt Garza, member of the vaunted 2005 draft, was throwing a no-hitter into the seventh inning last Thursday—until, that is, he faced another alum from what well may be the best... draft... class...ever. And there went Garza's bid for history. Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (the No. 23 pick) legged out an infield single against Garza (No. 25), Boston's only hit that night.
Garza was the ALCS MVP in 2008, and Ellsbury was a World Series hero the year before, yet neither was considered even close to the cream of the '05 bumper crop. "That first round, especially the first half of that first round, is amazing," says acting Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo, who as Arizona's scouting director that year took outfield superstar-in-waiting Justin Upton with the first pick. "I can't remember one draft with more big names or more impact. It's like a Who's Who of amateur players."
Six players from that class—Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz—appeared on the cover of SI's Baseball Preview last year (inset). But there are dozens more where they came from: Of the 30 players selected in the regular phase of the first round, 20 have already reached the majors. "There are a lot of guys who will be All-Stars, win awards and maybe go to the Hall of Fame," says Josh Byrnes, the Diamondbacks G.M. who was part of a Red Sox front office that plucked shortstop Jed Lowrie and potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher Michael Bowden along with Ellsbury and Buchholz. "Twenty years from now it's going to be special to be labeled one of the best from the '05 draft."
Several members of the class are off to solid starts. Reds outfielder Jay Bruce (No. 12) had five homers in April, Marlins righthander Chris Volstad (No. 16) was 2--0 with a 2.67 ERA at week's end, and Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus (No. 28) had a .365 on-base percentage. Then there is lefthander Ricky Romero (No. 6), whom the Blue Jays were widely criticized for picking ahead of Tulowitzki (No. 7). After a slow start in the minors Romero—who had a 2--0 record with a 1.71 ERA before straining his right oblique muscle—has the look of a No. 3, maybe even a No. 2, starter. With free-agent arms so reluctant to come to the AL East unless teams are willing to overpay, says Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi, "if we don't draft pitchers, we're not going to get pitchers."
The Rays were able to acquire a gem in Garza, who was drafted by the Twins. "We thought we'd get a good player even picking 25th," says Minnesota scouting director Mike Radcliff. "Garza had a rather pedestrian record in college—nobody had him in the top five, 10, 15 or even 20—but he elevated his velocity." Desperate for offense, however, the Twins dealt Garza to the Rays before the start of last season for outfielder Delmon Young. Minnesota tried to interest Tampa in Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn, but the Rays insisted on Garza, who is shaping up to be the premier pitcher of a historic draft class.
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