From the desk of the Bay Area Pandas GM:
Every year the General Managers for the 30 Championship Baseball Association convene for the annual draft, hoping to snatch up the next Shinkle, Isley, or Sisti. However, some team each year has to end up selecting the worst player in that year’s draft. No GM hopes for it, it’s not a glorious title, but it’s all too real; that’s what I am here for. To bestow those honors on the players and General Managers that have earned the title “Worst Draft Pick”. Obviously, it is too early to tell on the 2029, 2030, and 2031 drafts, all we would have would be speculation based on an outdated and poorly funded OSA scouting department.
This article will focus on 2021 all the way to 2028. Since everyone’s definition of “worst” can be different I want to set the ground rules for how I am basing “worst”. A big factor of a player’s evaluation is their WAR (wins above replacement), however, another factor that was considered in this article is where the player was drafted. Taking a player worth -1 WAR in the 11th round is a lot different than taking that player in the 1st, due to the caliber of players that GM missed out on.
2021 was an interesting draft year with it being the first official amateur draft in CBA history. A big story heading into the draft were the teams that stockpiled picks to focus on building young, instead of building through the inaugural draft. However, it was not one of the teams with multiple 1st round picks that drafted the worst player in 2021 that distinction landed upon the Oklahoma Mammoths. With the 26th overall pick in 2021 the Mammoths selected P Curt Benjamin out of high school in Mississippi. Benjamin was thrown immediately into the higher ranks of the minors, posting 24 innings in Development A and 30 innings in Reserves, all out of the bullpen. Benjamin made his CBA debut in 2024 posting a 9.98 ERA in 39.2 innings for the Mammoths at the Silver League level.
Benjamin pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen in his 8 years with the Mammoths (basically all at the SL level). During which we had a career 4.96 ERA, 119 ERA+, but a -1.1 WAR. His single season best ERA was 1.20 (2030), but that was only 15 innings. His best WAR season was 2026 when he posted a 1.89 ERA in 33 innings, with a 0.3 WAR. What also hurts is the pick right after Benjamin was Justin Wright who posted a career 16.07 WAR for Miami and later SS Alvaro Mejia (20.62 WAR). I think it’s safe to say that Oklahoma didn’t plan on getting 252 innings of below average pitching out of the bullpen from their 1st ever amateur draft pick in 2021.
While 2022 sparked discussions of “who should be number 1 overall? Golden or Paddock”, it’s safe to say that neither of them came anywhere close to this list. The decision to award the worst player of 2022 mantel was difficult. Do you go with Ivan Garcia or Jace Vargo who were drafted later (6th and 4th rounds respectively) but were awful, or do you go with the higher draft pick who hasn’t been quite as awful. In the end, it’s Indianapolis with the 11th overall pick of P Sergio Cerna who earns the “Worst Pick” award for 2022.
While an argument could be made that Cerna wasn’t the worst player drafted in 2022, it would be an argument I agree with. Cerna gets this award for where he was drafted; Cerna was the 11th overall pick out of JuCo. After 2 years in the minors Cerna unceremoniously broke into the Majors, making 13 appearances, totaling 27.2 innings, and racking up an ERA of 6.18 in the Bronze League for the Hawks. That performance earned him a trip back to the minors for the entire 2026 season, one that saw him traded from the Hawks to perennial PL powerhouse Detroit Motors. Cerna split time between levels for Detroit and his time in the PL went just about as well as his time in the BL. In 25 innings for Detroit, Cerna posted a 7.92 ERA and a nice, -0.5 WAR. Cerna’s up and down nature, plus his poor performance during his short CBA stints are what earned him the “Worst Player in the 2022 Draft Award”.
That being said, can you really label Sergio Cerna the worst player, when the pick directly after him, Shane Blanchard, has been just as subpar? No, you can’t, and that is the reason why we have a tie for this award. Shane Blanchard was the 12th overall pick, also out of JuCo, by the Los Angeles Chilis. The 20 year old played for a couple of different levels, including an invitation to winter ball in 2024. Blanchard had a cup of coffee between Los Angeles (PL) and Chicago (BL) in 2024 where he gave up 19 ER in 22 innings between the 2 teams. Blanchard spent the next 3 years playing for the Chicago Gale in the Premier League, where things did not go well. After a bad 2027 season and a couple of season stuck in the minors, Blanchard was released in 2030 and is currently a free agent.
Is there anything spectacular to say about the 2023 draft? 6 players drafted have posted a career WAR over 10 and only 1 player drafted outside of the top 50 has posted a WAR over 2 (it’s Guillermo Preciado, for those who are wondering). On the other side of the spectrum, there is one player whose play has been spectacular, but for all of the wrong reasons. With the 51st overall pick (the 21st pick in the 2nd round) the Denver Wolves selected 3B John Sanders, and things did not play out the way they hoped. Sanders tore up the minors after he was drafted, however, it looks like the Wolves rushed him to the majors after he had only 132 minor league plate appearances. He appeared in 15 games for the Wolves the year he was drafted, but hit 0.145 with an OPS+ of 19.
The Wolves front office did the smart thing and gave him some more seasoning in the minors the following year, and, again, Sanders performed, earning himself another call-up. It was a different league but the same results for Sanders. 48 games, 90 plate appearances, a 0.182 average and an OPS+ of 15. For a couple of more season Sanders continued to show promise in the minors, but was completely unable to adjust to the pitching in the CBA. In total Sanders played in 124 games (pretty much a full season) at the highest level and slashed .200/.245/.302/.547 which is good for an OPS+ of 35 and a -1.9 WAR.
I am the most excited to write about the 2024 draft because this player is a doozy. While we had players who cumulated a measly -1 or -1.5 WAR, this player went all out for a career WAR of -3.18, which is more than any other player ever drafted in the CBA. This player was drafted out of Oregon, 15th overall in 2024 by the Oklahoma Mammoths. It seems like Oklahoma learned from their earlier pick as they gave Oligmueller more time in the minors and he had the stats to back up his promotion to the CBA in 2025. However, those stats did not translate to the Silver League at all. In 11 games Oligmueller was able to collect 3 hits and 1 walk for a paltry .077 average and .098 on base percentage. That atrocious showing at the plate was coupled with abhorrent defense in Left Field and earned Oligmueller a -0.9 WAR in just 11 games for Oklahoma.
Despite the previous stats Oklahoma stuck with Oligmueller for 2026, and probably would have been half decent, if he had any defensive ability whatsoever. His OPS+ improved from -35 to 73, but his defensive ratings dragged down his WAR all the way to -1.7. To this day Oligmueller keeps splitting time between reserves and the CBA, where he continues to prove that he is an AAAA player at best. Perhaps my favorite Oligmueller stat is that he has more games played than hits in all but 1 of his CBA stints.
2025 is not nearly as exciting as 2024 was, sadly. However, we get our first player who has the potential to take his name off the list. Drafted out of high school when he was just 15 years old, the kid went to the bright lights of New York at pick number 40. Forrester has spent 6 years in the minors and really started to turn on the promotion heat until 2027 when he hit .318 with an OPS+ of 145. After 2027 he continued to hit until his promotion in 2031. In 81 games in the Bronze League Forrester hit .272/.294/.334/.629 with an OPS+ of 77, however, it was mostly his defense that led to his -0.9 WAR. He has the batting tools to push himself back off this list in a couple of years.
As we get to 2026 and onward the players we are talking about will still be young, impressionable, and we are almost guaranteed to see some movement on this list. The 21st overall pick to Sacramento, Mario Gonzalez definitely checks all of those boxes. Still just 24, Gonzalez broke into last year and was pretty league average in 35 games. This year, he got the bulk of the playing time in Sacramento and was less than league average. A .239/.286/.331/.616 slash line with abysmal defense led to a -1.8 WAR for Gonzalez. There are a couple of players who posted worse seasons (DJ Crosswhite with -2.71 WAR and Ian Simpson -2.56 WAR), but since they were taken in the 7th and 12th rounds respectively. Missing that badly on such an early pick earns Gonzalez this spot.
For 2027 and 2028, we get some late round picks who had made a major negative impact in the CBA. Posting a -2.42 WAR for Arizona was 2B Brett Vieira; Vieira was drafted 86th overall and broke into the CBA in 2029. After his horrid 2029 season, Vieira has spent most of the next couple of years tolling in the minors, unable to make it back to the majors.
In 2028 we have a twofer of awfulness. 1B Jonathan Villain for Bay Area and P Miles Davis for Arizona. Villain was drafted 211th overall and posted a -2.51 WAR in just a year and a half for BAP. Since there is no one on the radar to take over 1B for the Pandas next year, it looks like Villain could add to his infamy next year. As for Mikes Davis, he was the 74th overall pick in 2028. Making his debut at 23, Davis has pitched for Arizona for the last 3 seasons, never posting an ERA until 5 in over 300 innings. It’s uncertain if Davis will have the ability to change his negative career WAR as he currently sits at -2.3.