The goal of a college baseball program isn’t to develop major league players, although that’s certainly a secondary aspect of any successful program. But if you’re winning games and reaching the Men’s College World Series on a regular basis, you’re probably producing future major leaguers.
We’ve ranked this year’s eight Men’s College World Series teams based on the combined total of major league WAR produced by players from each school since the draft era began in 1965. Texas ranks first in large part to Roger Clemens’ 138.7 career WAR over 24 big league seasons — although, surprisingly, the Longhorns have produced just two position players with at least 10 WAR in the majors, Brandon Belt and Spike Owen. Lesson there: Reaching 10 career WAR in the majors is hard!
(For the purposes of tabulating WAR, we included only players with a positive WAR, as close to half the number of future major leaguers from a school are players who receive a cup of coffee and produce negative WAR.)
Here’s a snapshot for each CWS team:
MLB WAR of drafted players: 369.9
Major leaguers from draft era: 73
College World Series appearances: 38 (titles in 1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002, 2005)
No program comes close to the Longhorns’ 38 College World Series appearances and only USC has won more titles with 12. This will be the Longhorns sixth trip to Omaha since last winning the title in 2005. They went 3-2 last year under coach David Pierce, losing 4-3 to Mississippi State and just missing the final. After losing the first game of the super regional this year to East Carolina, the Longhorns rallied for 9-8 and 11-1 victories. Ivan Melendez bashed his NCAA-leading 32nd home run in the clincher.
Highest drafted player: Greg Swindell, second overall (Cleveland, 1986).
Top five WAR leaders: Roger Clemens, Burt Hooton, Greg Swindell, Belt, Shane Reynolds
Best current major leaguer: Belt hit .285/.393/.595 for the Giants over the 2020 and 2021 seasons in 148 games.
All-time great: Clemens won 25 games in his two seasons with the Longhorns and won the 1983 title game with a complete-game 4-3 victory over Alabama (although Calvin Schiraldi was named most outstanding player of the CWS that year). Somehow he lasted until the 19th pick of the 1983 draft.
Fun blast from the past: Danny Peoples, the slugging first baseman who won Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1996, hit .375 with 17 home runs that same year and went 28th overall in the draft to Cleveland. He hit 34 home runs his first year in the minors in 1997 but stalled out at Triple-A.
MLB WAR of drafted players: 337.9
Major leaguers from draft era: 84
College World Series appearances: 18 (titles in 1987 and 1988)
The second-ranked Cardinal make their second straight CWS trip under coach David Esquer after a 13-year absence from 2008 until 2021. The two-time champs and three-time runner-ups lost their first game of the super regional to Connecticut before their bats carried them to 8-2 and 10-5 victories. Catcher Kody Huff had the deciding blow in the clincher with a grand slam, part of a six-run fourth inning that helped Stanford rally from an early 3-0 deficit.
Top five WAR leaders: Mike Mussina, Jack McDowell, Bob Boone, Rick Helling, Jeremy Guthrie
Best current major leaguer: Tommy Edman didn’t hit much at Stanford, batting .281 with four home runs in three seasons, but he’s developed into a solid major league hitter with the St. Louis Cardinals. His outstanding defense makes him an All-Star candidate in 2022.
All-time great: Mussina was part of the loaded 1988 championship team that featured eight future big leaguers and then he went in the first round to the Baltimore Orioles in 1990. He won 270 games with the Orioles and New York Yankees, had nine top-six Cy Young finishes, recorded 20 wins in his final season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019.
Fun blast from the past: David McCarty — the third overall pick by the Minnesota Twins in 1991 after hitting .420 with 24 home runs for Stanford that season — never hit much in the majors, although he stuck around for 11 seasons despite an OPS+ of just 76. He even tried pitching a little at the end of his career and threw two scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox in the final game of the 2004 season.
MLB WAR of drafted players: 243.2
Major leaguers from draft era: 32
College World Series appearances: 6 (no titles)
The Tigers return to the CWS for the second time under coach Butch Thompson, last making it in 2019 when they went 0-2. The Tigers upset No. 3 Oregon State in Corvallis to reach Omaha, winning Monday’s clincher 4-3 as three pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and Sonny DiChiara hit a big two-run homer — his 22nd of the season.
Top five WAR leaders: Frank Thomas, Tim Hudson, Josh Donaldson, Gregg Olson, Terry Leach
All-time great: Thomas gave up football and hit .403/.568/.801 with 19 home runs his junior season, going seventh in the 1989 draft to the Chicago White Sox. He went on to win two MVP awards and made the Hall of Fame as one of greatest hitters in major league history.
Fun blast from the past: Hudson is the best two-way player in Auburn history (he went 15-2 and hit .396 with 18 home runs as a junior), but Bo Jackson is the best two-sport star. How’s this for a calendar year: In 1985, he hit .401/.500/.864 with 17 home runs in 42 games for the baseball team and then in the fall won the Heisman Trophy. The Kansas City Royals drafted Jackson in the fourth round in 1986. He surprised everyone by initially choosing to play baseball — and reached the majors that September.
MLB WAR of drafted players: 239.9
Major leaguers from draft era: 38
College World Series appearances: 11 (no titles)
The Razorbacks are making their fifth CWS appearance since 2012 and seventh overall under longtime coach Dave Van Horn. They were runner-ups in 2018, losing to Oregon State after taking the first of the best-of-three finals. They reached Omaha this year with a two-game sweep of No. 10 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, winning on Sunday with two runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Highest drafted player: Jeff King, first overall (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1986).
Top five WAR leaders: Cliff Lee, Kevin McReynolds, Johnny Ray, Dallas Keuchel, Jeff King
Best current major leaguer: With Keuchel in decline, Andrew Benintendi takes top honors. The seventh overall pick by the Red Sox in 2015 as a draft-eligible sophomore, Benintendi was second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 and is in the midst of a second straight solid season with the Royals.
All-time great: Lee went from part-time starter and fourth-round draft pick at Arkansas to Cy Young winner with Cleveland in 2008, when he went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Injuries ended his career early, but he won 143 games and finished with a 42.5 career WAR.
Fun blast from the past: Pitcher David Walling was a two-time All-American for the Razorbacks in 1998 and 1999 and then was selected by the Yankees with the 27th pick in 1999. He reached Double-A in 2000, but then developed a compulsion to keep throwing to first base when a runner was on base. He ultimately walked away from the sport in 2022.
MLB WAR of drafted players: 114.9
Major leaguers from draft era: 52
College World Series appearances: 11 (titles in 1951 and 1994)
Under coach Skip Johnson, the Sooners are back in Omaha for the first time since 2010 — looking to bring home the double after the school’s softball team won its second straight championship last week. The Sooners upended No. 4 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the super regional, winning the third game 11-2 as Tanner Tredaway went 4-for-5 and Peyton Graham hit his 20th home run.
Top five WAR leaders: Jason Bartlett, Witt, Russ Ortiz, Gray, Bob Shirley
Best current major leaguer: Gray has been up and down during his career, flashing signs of dominance mixed with minor injuries. He signed a big deal with the Rangers, but getting out of Colorado hasn’t helped his numbers.
All-time great: We’ll go with Witt, who did win 142 games despite battling wildness for much of his career. Bartlett, though, actually leads in career WAR (18.4 to Witt’s 14.6). Despite a rich history on the collegiate level, the program has produced few stars on the major league level.
Fun blast from the past: Outfielder Chip Glass was named the most outstanding player when the Sooners won the College World Series in 1994. He hit .339/.365/.547 with six homers for the Sooners that year but didn’t go until the 37th round of the draft. He played six seasons in the minors, hitting .275.
6. Texas A&M
MLB WAR of drafted players: 113.2
Major leaguers from draft era: 44
College World Series appearances: 7 (no titles)
Under first-year head coach Jim Schlossnagle, the Aggies are back in the College World Series for the first time since 2017, when they went 0-2 in losing to Louisville and TCU. They advanced out of the super regional with 5-4 and 4-3 wins over Louisville on home turf. Reliever Jake Palisch picked up a win and a save in the two games.
Highest drafted player: Asa Lacy, fourth overall (Royals, 2020).
Best current major leaguer: A.J. Minter has had an inconsistent career as a reliever with the Atlanta Braves, but he had a big postseason in helping them win the World Series last year and is dominating in a setup role in 2022.
All-time great: Knoblauch. His best seasons came as a second baseman with the Twins, including averaging 7.4 WAR per season from 1995 to 1997. He hit .321 over those three seasons and swiped 153 bases — and even won a Gold Glove in 1997.
Fun blast from the past: Jeff Granger was the fifth pick in 1993 by the Royals, after an All-American junior season in which he went 15-3 with a 2.62 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 127 innings. However, his big league career lasted just 31 innings.
MLB WAR of drafted players: 102.5
Major leaguers from draft era: 31
College World Series appearances: 6 (no titles)
Coach Mike Bianco has produced a steady stream of winning teams during his 22 years at Ole Miss, but this is just the second time one of his teams has reached Omaha — joining the 2014 squad that went 2-2 and losing twice to Virginia. In the super regional, the Rebels swept No. 11 Southern Mississippi with back-to-back shutouts, 10-0 and 5-0.
Highest drafted player: Drew Pomeranz, fifth overall (Cleveland, 2010).
Top five WAR leaders: Lance Lynn, Jeff Fassero, Zack Cozart, Pomeranz, Seth Smith
All-time great: Lynn, a current White Sox starter, has the most career WAR of any Ole Miss player at 30.6, although the biggest legend is former Yankees catcher and College Football Hall of Famer Jake Gibbs, who quarterbacked Mississippi to a 10-0-1 record in 1960 and was the SEC Player of the Year. He later coached the baseball team from 1972 to 1990.
Fun blast from the past: Stephen Head was an All-American two-way player in 2004 and 2005, hitting .346 and .333 with 31 home runs across the two seasons and posting ERAs of 2.82 and 2.54 as the team’s closer. A second-round pick by Cleveland as a position player, he made it to Triple-A.
8. Notre Dame
MLB WAR of drafted players: 98.9
Major leaguers from draft era: 23
College World Series appearances: 3 (no titles)
After making just one postseason appearance from 2007 to 2019, third-year coach Link Jarrett guided the Fighting Irish to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and now the school’s first College World Series since 2002, when the program had a long run of success under Paul Mainieri. The Irish pulled off the biggest upset of the college baseball season, shocking No. 1 Tennessee with a come-from-behind 7-3 win in Sunday’s super regional clincher.
Top five WAR leaders: Pollock, Craig Counsell, Jeff Samardzija, Trey Mancini, Lidge
Best current major leaguer: Pollock or Mancini. Mancini is having the better season, although Pollock had the better 2021. Or maybe we should go with Counsell, who may be the best major league manager.
All-time great: Do you include Carl Yastrzemski? Yaz attended Notre Dame as a freshman before signing with the Red Sox. He played baseball, but only on the freshman team. Otherwise, you’re looking at Pollock (22.9 WAR) or Counsell (22.4 WAR) as the best ever Notre Dame player with honorable mention to Lidge and Samardzija.
Note: Some sources will list Hall of Famer Cap Anson as a Notre Dame baseball player. He did take preparatory classes at the then College of Notre Dame in 1865 (when he was 13 years old), but his listing is even more dubious than Yastrzemski’s.
Fun blast from the past: Steve Stanley was the leadoff hitter and ignitor for that 2002 CWS team, hitting .439 with 32 stolen bases. The Oakland Athletics took him in the second round, part of their infamous “Moneyball” draft featured in Michael Lewis’ book. He hit .292 in five minor league seasons, but topped out at Double-A.