Friday, June 3, 2011

Worst MLB Draft Picks: 2000-2010

On June 6, the MLB Draft will take place, and players such as Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Trevor Bauer, and Sonny Gray are expected to be selected high in the draft as teams hope they can pick the next superstar. But the draft is by no such thing a certanity. Yes, Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, and Evan Longoria are high draft picks that have become superstars, but players such as Matt Bush and Bryan Bullington have also been chosen early in the draft, with results that have been less than stellar. In the third of a three-part series, The Canon Review takes a look at the worst MLB Draft Picks in each year since 2000. If you want to look at the other parts of this series, well you can check out the worst picks of the 1980s here and the worst picks of the 1990s here.

2000: Adam Johnson, Pitcher, Minnesota Twins, 2nd Pick

The 2000 Draft wasn't exactly chock full of All-Stars. Of the top ten picks that year, only five ever reached the major leagues, and only two of those players had careers of any significance. Johnson did reach the big leauges, although it seems to be more because of where he was picked than anything he did. The Cal-State Fullerton pitcher reached the Twins in 2001 after a decent, but not spectacular season at AA New Britian (5-6, 3.82 ERA, 8.8 K/9). Johnson pitched in seven games that year, starting four, and was shelled by American League batters, allowing six home runs and 23 earned runs in 25 innings (8.28 ERA). The next spring, Johnson expected to make the big club on opening day, but after the Twins sent him back down to the minors, Johnson got into a heated argument with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, which is not the best way to win friends and influence people. Johnson spent the majority of the next three years in Triple-A, and had a combined ERA of 5.52. In 2003, the Twins gave Johnson another cup of coffee, and in 1 and a 1/3 innings, Johnson managed to allow seven earned runs. In 2005, the Twins gave up on their former top prospect, and after a stint in the Independent Leagues, the Athletics signed him. However, Johnson again struggled in the minors, so Oakland cut him loose the next year. Johnson last pitched in 2009 for the Orange County Flyers in the independent Golden League, and after going 2-5 with an 8.21 ERA that season, it's doubtful we will see Johnson pitch for a major league organization any time soon.

2001: Dewon Brazelton, Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays, 3rd Pick

Brazelton was an All-American at Middle Tennessee State when the Rays drafted him ahead of Mark Teixeira, among others, in the 2001 draft. Brazelton was rather effective in 2002 at Double-A (3.33 ERA) and the Rays gave him a few starts with the big club that year. In 2003, Brazelton started the year in Triple-A, made five starts, then was called up by the then Devil Rays in May. Brazelton made 10 starts there, and was shelled so badly (1-6, 6.89 ERA) that Tampa Bay sent him all the way down to single-A. In 2004, Brazelton fought his way back to the big club, primarily because the Rays' rotation wasn't exactly stocked with quality arms. Brazelton did okay that year (6-8, 4.77 ERA, 95 ERA+) and seemed to be on track to at least become a solid mid-rotation starter. The next year, Brazelton's numbers went nuclear, as he put up a 7.61 ERA and walked 60 batters in 71 innings. After the season, the Rays traded him to San Diego for Sean Burroughs, with each team hoping they could turn around the other's failed prospect. As it turns out, they couldn't. Brazelton pitched 18 innings for the Padres in 2006, and allowed 6 homers and 24 earned runs. Since then, Brazelton has bounced around the Pittsburgh and Kansas City organizations and was last seen pitching for the Kansas City T-Bones in the Northern League, where he suffered a shoulder injury in 2010. Instead of becoming a star, Brazelton was one of the many young phenoms that were rushed to the bigs too soon.

2002: Bryan Bullington, Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1st Pick

The Pirates' choice of Bullington was questioned from the beginning as many thought that the small market Pirates chose Bullington because he'd be easier to sign than other, more talented players such as B.J. Upton and Prince Fielder. Bullington did have some promise though, as he was an All-American at Ball State. Bullington started out strong in A-Ball in 2003 (13-5, 2.52 ERA), and seemed to be making his way to the big leagues when in 2005, Bullington suffered an arm injury. He missed the entire 2006 season recovering. In 2007, Bullington came back and pitched decently at AAA (4.00 ERA), but not so well in a short cameo with Pittsburgh (5.29 ERA in 17 IP). The next year, after a 5.52 ERA in Triple-A, the Pirates waived Bullington in mid season. Bullington bounced around the Cleveland and Toronto organization for the next two seasons before signing with the Royals in 2010. Last year, Bullington pitched a career high 42.2 innings in the big leagues, and even got his first victory in a start against the New York Yankees. However, he also had a 6.12 ERA, so the Royals let him go. During the offseason, Bullington signed a deal to pitch with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, so we may not have seen the last of him.

2003: Kyle Sleeth, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers, 3rd Pick

A tall right hander from Wake Forest, Sleeth tied the NCAA record for most consecutive wins without a loss (26) as a Demon Deacon. The Tigers made him the third pick in the draft. Sleeth started pitching the next year in A-Ball, and got off to a good start (3.31 ERA, 8.6 K/9) before getting called up to AA in midseason. He didn't do so well there (6.30 ERA), then he got hurt and missed the entire 2004 season. When Sleeth came back in 2006, he wasn't the same pitcher, posting an 11.90 ERA in 8 starts at Single-A Lakeland, with 21 walks and 26 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. The next season, Sleeth lowered his ERA, to 7.62. During the spring of 2008, Sleeth announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 25, never pitching above Double-A.

2004: Matt Bush, Shortstop, San Diego Padres, 1st Pick

Scared off by the potential price tags of top prospects Jared Weaver and Stephen Drew, the Padres made a 'signability' choice and picked Bush, a high school shortstop from the San Diego area, first overall in the draft. Two weeks after, Bush started his career by slugging a patron in a nightclub and earning a suspension. The Padres put him in rookie ball that year, and Bush struggled, hitting .181/302/.236. The next year, Bush spent the entire year playing for Fort Wayne in single A ball, and didn't do much better. Not only did Bush struggle at the plate (.221/.279/.276), he also made 37 errors at shortstop. In 2006, Bush broke his ankle, and in 2007, the Padres tried to salvage their selection by making the strong-armed Bush a pitcher. He threw less than eight innings before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. After an incident involving Bush beating up high school lacrosse players, the Padres finally gave up on him in 2009. In 2010, the Rays took a chance on Bush, and with a mid-90s fastball, Tampa Bay brass believes that Bush could become an effective reliever one day. Currently with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, Bush has a 5.00 ERA thus far in the season, with 25 strikeouts in 18 innings.

2005: Jeff Clement, Catcher, Seattle Mariners, 3rd Pick

A three-time All Pac-10 catcher from USC, the power hitting Clement was expected to become a star for the Mariners. Clement started strong for the Mariners in A-Ball in 2005 (.319/.386/.522) and, despite suffering some injuries, move his way to Triple-A Tacoma in 2007 and did quite well (.275/.370/.497, 20 homers). The Mariners called him up that year, and in 2008 Clement made the club. However, he didn't do so well against major league pitching, hitting .227/.295/.360 and striking out nearly once in every three at bats. The next year, Clement was traded to the Pirates in a seven player deal, and in 2010, the Pirates gave Clement a shot as their everyday first baseman. As is often the case in Pittsburgh, Clement did not impress, hitting a less than robust .201/.237/.368 in 153 at bats last year. Currently, Clement is recovering from microfracture surgery, and it remains to be seen if he can even contribute as a bat off the bench at this point.

2006: Greg Reynolds, Pitcher, Colorado Rockies, 2nd Pick

While it's true that 2006's 1st pick Luke Hochevar hasn't exactly set the world on fire, at least he's been a constant major league starter, which you can not say about Reynolds. A starting pitcher out of Stanford, Reynolds did well enough in the minors for the struggling Rockies to give him an audition in 2008. That audition did not go to well, as Reynolds went 2-8 with an 8.13 ERA and allowed 14 home runs in 62 innings. The next year, Reynolds pitched all of four innings as a shoulder injury shut him down, and in 2010 Reynolds suffered through elbow problems after being hit by a line drive during spring training. This year, Reynolds has split his time between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, and his big league numbers (2-0, 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings) suggest that perhaps he can be a contributer after all. But for now, he has to rank as the worst pick of the draft, if only because the Rockies picked him over Evan Longoria, who was the next pick in the draft. Imagine an infield with Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki. Yikes.

2007: Josh Vitters, 3rd Base, Chicago Cubs, 3rd Pick

Now, the five or six of you that will stumble across this post are probably question my decision to include the 21 year old Vitters among the worst draft picks of the decade. After all, it's possible that five years from now, Vitters will be the National League MVP and lead the Cubs to their first World Series win in over a decade. For now, though, it's doubtful whether Vitters will become a star or not. Yes, Vitters hit well in A-Ball (a .295 average across three different A-Ball leagues), but he lacks patience and didn't adjust well to pitching in Double-A last year (.223/.293/.383 line which included 13 walks in 228 plate apparences). This year, Vitters is hitting a bit better (.266/.306/416), but his defense has been horrendous (an .851 fielding percentage in 35 games at third base). The Cubs may have to move Vitters across the diamond, and at this point it is very questionable if he'll have a strong enough bat to be a quality starter at first base. Yes, Vitters is still young, but for now he has to be considered at least a mild disappointment.

2008: Kyle Skipworth, Catcher, Florida Marlins, 6th Pick

Another youngster, the 21 year old Skipworth was the Gatorade High School Baseball player of the year in 2008. Skipworth signed quickly and spent the last two months of the 2008 season in rookie ball, hitting a less than stellar .208/.263/.340. Moved up to A ball in 2009, Skipworth didn't do much better (.208/.263/.348). Repeating single-A in 2010, Skipworth did slightly better (.249/.312/.426 with 17 homers), but with AA Jacksonville in 2011, Skipworth has done very little. So far, Skipworth has hit .178/.245/.308, with 51 strikeouts in 148 at bats. Yes, Skipworth is still young and had plenty of time to improve, but thus far, Skipworth looks like a potential backup catcher at best.

2009: Matthew Hobgood, Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles, 5th Pick

Hobgood, like Skipworth, was also the Gatorade High School player of the year. He was also considered a 'signability' pick, and even signed for lower than the recommended amount for a 5th pick. Hobgood was thought to throw a fastball in the mid-90s, but once he started pitching in the rookie leagues, his fastball was usually in the mid to high 80s. As such, he has struggled slightly in both rookie ball (4.72 ERA) and A ball (4.40 ERA, 16 wild pitches in 94 innings). This year, Hobgood has yet to pitch due to a shoulder injury. Despite his young age, many scouts do not consider Hobgood a top prospect, and at this point it looks questionable that he'll even reach the major leagues.

2010: Barrett Loux, Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks, 6th Pick

Loux,a pitcher out of Texas A&M, was considered a bit of a reach when the Diamondbacks made him the 6th pick in last year's draft, but that's not why he's here. The reason why he's on this list is because the Diamondbacks decided not to sign Loux after discovering a torn labrum in his right shoulder and bone chips in his elbow. So instead, the Diamondbacks get an extra pick in this year's draft as compensation, and Loux became a free agent. The Rangers gave him a contract and assigned Loux to their high A-ball team in Myrtle Beach. Thus far, Loux's done pretty well, with a 3.75 ERA in 10 starts, and an average of 10 strikeouts per nine innings. It remains to be seen if Loux can stay healthy, but if he does, the Rangers have found themselves a first round talent on the cheap. If Loux keeps it up, he'll play himself right off this list, and some other pick that didn't make it will replace him.

Well, thanks for reading about the Worst Draft Picks over the past 11 years. If you have any comments or issues with this post, than feel free to express those in the comments section. Also, if you have an idea for a future post or ways to make this blog better, then shoot me an e-mail at

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