Last year I went back 10 years and redrafted the 2002 MLB Rule 4 draft, one made famous by the book "Moneyball" and by the Pirates' insistence on taking a player they projected as a No. 3 starter with the top pick. In the same vein, I've gone back to 2003 this year and redrafted the group, again finding that the top player wasn't a first-rounder at the time, while again finding that the player taken first overall hasn't turned out to be among the 30 best prospects in the crop.
This redraft is based on two major criteria: the players' careers to date, and my projections of any value they still have to offer (although the list does include two players whose careers are likely over). I did not account for the player's signability at the time, nor did I consider a team's preference for high school or college players, pitchers versus position players, etc. -- this analysis is based purely on talent.
Please note that we included only players who were drafted in 2003 and subsequently signed with the club that selected them. Players like Tim Lincecum or Max Scherzer, for example, who were drafted out of high school but decided to attend college, were not considered. The Cubs took Lincecum in the 48th round and the Cardinals took Scherzer in the 23rd. The Rays took four players who were drafted later by other teams and became better than replacement-level big leaguers: Kris Medlen (37th round), Wade LeBlanc (36th round), Jared Hughes (16th round) and Adam Ottavino (30th round).
Also of note is that certain teams did not have a first-round pick in 2003 because they lost it by virtue of signing a Type A free agent. Cleveland, Arizona and Kansas City, on the other hand, each had two first-rounders; Cleveland also had pick No. 31 in the sandwich round, but none of the three players the team selected with those top picks panned out.
Matt Kemp | CF, Midwest City (Okla.) HS
Kemp isn't the WAR leader in this draft class, but has youth on his side and explosive potential that no one in this class can match, as long as he can return himself to the form and health that made him the NL's (lower-case) most valuable player in 2011. With roughly 20 WAR to date in both common systems, Kemp is comfortably in the top six already, but is the only player I see from this draft who still has the potential to post a 7-WAR season in the remainder of his career.
Kemp's actual draft spot: No. 181 (sixth round, Dodgers)
Tampa Bays '03 pick: Delmon Young, OF, Adolfo Camarillo HS (Camarillo, Calif.)