Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worst MLB Draft Picks 1990-1999

What do Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, and Derek Jeter have in common? Well, for one thing, they won't be found on this list. Instead, in the second of a three part series, here is a look at the worst draft picks from each year of the 1990s in the MLB Player Entry Draft. Once upon a time, these players were looked upon as future stars, but things didn't exactly work out for them or otherwise, they wouldn't be on a list chronicling the worst draft picks of the 1990s.

1990: Kurt Miller, Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates, 5th Pick

Miller was all of 17 years old when the Pirates made him their first choice in the 1990 draft. Although Miller pitched well in the Pirates organization, the team traded him for Steve Buechele during the 1991 season. After Miller struggled some in Double-A, the Rangers traded him along with Robb Nen to the Florida Marlins for middle reliever Cris Carpenter. While Nen soon became a star closer for the Marlins, Miller failed to find his footing despite the expansion Marlins being desperate for pitching. Over the course of 1994-1997, Miller pitched 73 2/3 innings and compiled an ERA of 7.45. Still only 25, the Cubs traded for Miller, and Kurt was solid for AAA Iowa in 1998 (14-3, 3.81 ERA). In 1999, Miller suffered a ribcage injury and pitched only 20 2/3 innings between Iowa and the Cubs, and the Cubs released him after the season. Miller finished his career in Japan, and by 2001 he was out of baseball.

1991: Brien Taylor, Pitcher, New York Yankees, 1st Pick

Coming out of Beaufort, NC, Taylor was the most hyped pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. The Yankees picked him first overall, and gave Taylor a then record 1.55 million dollar signing bonus. The next year, Baseball America named Taylor the number one prospect in baseball, and in 1993, they named Taylor the number two prospect. After a season in Double-A where the then 21 year old Taylor had a 3.48 ERA and 8.3 K/9, Taylor went back home to Beaufort. But an offseason fight resulted in a torn shoulder for Taylor, and he missed the entire 1994 season. When Taylor came back, his velocity was down and his once stellar control was gone. Over the next four season between rookie ball and single-A ball, Taylor pitched 108 2/3 innings, and walked 175 batters, an average of  14.5 per 9 innings. Taylor attempted a comeback with the Cleveland Indians organization, but by 2000 Taylor was out of the game, becoming only the second number one overall pick (Steve Chilcott being the other) to retire without playing in a MLB game.

1992: B.J. Wallace, Pitcher, Montreal Expos, 3rd Pick

Selected three picks ahead of Derek Jeter, Wallace was largely thought to be a 'signability' pick by the budget-conscious Expos. That's not to say that Wallace was without talent though, as he had pitched in the Olympics for Team USA and set the Mississippi State record for strikeouts in a career. Wallace started his career in single-A in 1993, and did quite well (11-8, 3.28 ERA, 8.3 K/9). In 1994, the injury bug caught up to Wallace, and he had to have surgery to repair his damaged shoulder. The Phillies picked him up in 1995, but Wallace's once strong fastball was gone, and Wallace lasted only one season in the Phillies organization before retiring in 1995, about the same time that Jeter began his Hall of Fame career with the Yankees.

1993: Jeff Granger, Pitcher, Kansas City Royals, 5th Pick 

Granger, like the men listed above him, is further proof of the old sabermetric axiom TINSTAAPP, a.k.a. There is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. Granger, not only a pitcher but also a quarterback at Texas A&M, was thought of so highly by the Royals that he was pitching in the majors by the end of his first professional season. Of course, that might be part of the reason why Granger didn't succeed in the majors. Granger spent the next two seasons in double-A, with two cameo starts for the Royals in 1994. He pitched decently in those seasons (4.72 ERA, but also 7.5 K/9 with decent control), but the Royals decided to switch him to relief in 1996. The move seemed to pay off, as Granger had a 2.34 ERA in 77 innings at Triple-A, but when Granger got the call, he struggled again (6.75 ERA). Granger was traded to the Pirates in 1997, and in typical Pirates fashion, they had no idea what to do with him, alternating between making Granger a starter and a reliever. Predictably, Granger struggled (6.26 ERA in 87 2/3 innings between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Calgary), and the Pirates gave up on Granger after the season. Granger pitched for four different organizations over the next three years, but never regained the form that once made him one of the top prospects in baseball.

1994: Antone Williamson, 3rd Base, Milwaukee Brewers, 4th Pick

Finally, a position player.Williamson was an All-American from Arizona State whom the Brewers felt would excel for them for many years to come as a high-average, power hitting third baseman. Williamson could hit minor-league pitching right away, although he didn't display the power the Brewers had hoped for. To make matters worse, Williamson struggled at the hot corner, making 29 errors in only 76 games for Double-A El Paso in 1995, putting up a horrible .862 fielding percentage. Nevertheless, he was promoted to Triple-A the next year, and had to undergo surgery after hurting his shoulder. Williamson got a brief cup of coffee in 1997 after hitting .286/.389/.434 in AAA that year, but it was clear by 1998 that the Brewers lost all confidence in him, and after hitting .204 in AAA in 1998, the Brewers sent him back down to double A. Williamson finished his career playing for Greenville in the independent Texas-Louisiana league, and after hitting .226, he was gone, with a mere 60 at bats and 11 hits in his brief big league career.

1995: Ben Davis, Catcher, San Diego Pardres, 2nd Pick

Instead of choosing Kerry Wood or Todd Helton, the Padres selected Davis, a high schooler from Malvern, PA, as their top pick in the 1995 draft. Davis started the next year in a high A-ball league, and hit .201/.264/.286 in 98 games. However, Davis did recover, and worked his way to the big leagues by 1998. In 1999, Davis served as a backup for the Padres and hit .244/.307/.361 in 77 games that year. By 2001, Davis had won the starting role, but after a season where he hit .239/.337/.357, the Padres decided to go in another direction and traded Davis to the Mariners. In Seattle, Davis failed to snatch the starting catching job away from Dan Wilson, and after a 2 and a half year stint where he hit .237/.289/.383, Davis was once again traded, this time to the White Sox. Davis played 54 games for the Sox, then bounced around baseball over the next few years, even becoming a pitcher in the Independent leagues. Earlier this year, Davis retired, and is now a post game analyst on Philadelphia Phillies TV broadcasts.

1996: Seth Greisinger, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers, 6th Pick

Greisinger was an All-American at the University of Virginia and was supposed to be a part of a young Tigers rotation that included Justin Thompson, Matt Drews, and Mike Drumright, among others. Well, that didn't exactly work out for the Tigers. Greisinger was rather awful in his debut at double-A Jacksonville in 1997 (5.20 ERA), but made the jump to Triple-A in 1998 anyway. After a strong start at AAA (2.92 ERA), Greisinger came up to the big leagues in 1998, and started 21 games for the Tigers, with mixed results (6-9, 5.10 ERA). Like so many pitching prospects before him, Greisinger's elbow gave out on him, and he missed nearly three whole seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he came back in 2002, Greisinger struggled in eight starts with the Tigers, posting a 6.21 ERA that was unacceptable even for the low standards the Tigers had at the time. After spending the entire 2003 season in Toledo, where he pitched decently (3.97 ERA), the Tigers gave up on him. Greisinger bounced around the Twins' and Braves' organizations before winding up in Japan, where I believe he still pitches today for the Yomuri Giants.

1997: Matt Anderson, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers, 1st Pick

An All-American at Rice University with a fastball that often topped 100 mph, the Tigers made Anderson the first selection in the 1997 Draft with the hopes that he would become their closer in the near future. Anderson shot threw three levels in 1998, and ended up pitching 42 games for the Tigers that year with a solid 3.27 ERA, striking out a batter an inning. However, Anderson, like many other fireballers before him, struggled with his control, and was inconsistent over the next two years. In 2001, Anderson was the Tigers closer with mixed results, although his 22 saves and his downturn in walks (from 8.3/9 in 1999 to 2.9/9 in 2001) was enough for the Tigers to sign him to a contract extension through the 2004 season. In an unfortunate turn of events, Anderson hurt a muscle in the armpit of his throwing arm, and he lost about 10 mph on his fastball. After three years of struggling in both Detroit and Triple-A Toledo, Anderson went through three organizations over the next four years before retiring in 2008. Anderson attempted a comeback with the Phillies this year, but was waived at the end of spring training.

1998: Jeff Austin, Pitcher, Kansas City Royals, 4th Pick

The second college pitcher picked by the Royals named Jeff featured here, Austin came out of Stanford University and was supposed to solidify the Royals rotation for years to come, because Lord knows nobody else was around this time. Austin held out before finally signing just before Spring Training opened the next year, and he started his pro career in high-A Wilmington. By 2000, Austin reached Triple-A, but in two years at Omaha, he didn't do so hot (5.34). But since the Royals didn't have much other options, Austin got his shot in the big leagues. After a 5.37 ERA in 35 innings over two years, the Royals traded him to the Reds. For some reason, Austin started seven games for the Reds in 2003, and he was just awful, with an 8.58 ERA and 21 walks in 28 1/3 innings. Somehow, he won two games for the Reds that year. By 1005, the Reds had had enough, releasing Austin, and after a stint with the Long Island Ducks in the independent leagues, Austin was done as a pitcher.

1999: Eric Munson, Catcher, Detroit Tigers, 3rd Pick

The third Tigers pick in four years to be featured on this list, Munson was a power hitting catcher from USC. The Tigers quickly decided that Munson didn't have the defensive ability to catch in the big leagues and moved him to first base. While Munson was a prodigious slugger in the minors (26 HRs in AA in 2001, 24 in AAA in 2002) he never hit with enough consistency at the big league level. In 2003, the Tigers had the bright idea to make Munson a third baseman, and not only did he hit below average (.240/.312/.441), he was terrible on the field, making 19 errors in 91 games and compiling a .920 fielding percentage. In 2004, the Tigers tried the same experiment, probably because of a lack of options, and Munson neither hit (.212/.289/.445) nor fielded (16 errors in 94 games) well enough to be a major league level third baseman. Munson was released by the Tigers after the 2004 season, and has played in five different organizations since then. Today, Munson is playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League. For his major league career, Munson hit .214 with 49 home runs in just over 1,000 at bats.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts about this list, than feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have any ideas for future posts on this blog, then send them over to me at KtheC2001@gmail.com.

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