Draft Disasters: Top Ten Busts Since 1980

Baseball’s draft is far less predictable than its other professional counterparts. A first round selection is hardly a guarantee to perform at the premier level. Even with these lackluster expectations, there have been some disappointments. Tyson Qualls breaks down the top ten picks that have embarrassed management and made fools out of the scouting department.
10. Shawn Abner: #1 Overall 1984 New York Mets

Drafted by the Mets, Abner never saw the light of day with the franchise. He would make his Major League debut three seasons later with the San Diego Padres. Abner underachieved and when it was all said and done, he finished with a whimper of a career. His mundane marks of .227, 11 HR, and 71 RBI do not represent that of a former first overall pick.

9. Mark Prior: #2 Overall 2001 Chicago Cubs

Prior vs. Joe Mauer as the top overall pick is the MLB’s version of Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning. While Prior does not have the poisonous personality of Leaf, he did disappoint nonetheless. Prior’s career started on the right track, but quickly derailed due to injuries. Having remained absent from the big leagues since 2006, Prior has four years of dust to shake off if he is going to make one last attempt at a career.

8. Todd Van Poppel: #2 1990 Oakland Athletics

As one of the poster boys for not living up to expectations, Van Poppel turned promising talent into a sub par career. The former Oakland Athletic posted a 5.58 career ERA and routinely reminded the team that they could have had Mike Mussina.

7. Mark Merchant: #2 Overall 1987 Pittsburgh Pirates

Merchant never played in the Majors. His selection one spot behind Ken Griffey Jr. is the closest he would ever get to fame.

6. Adam Johnson: #2 Overall 2000 Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins selected Johnson at #2 overall, but watched as their first pick of the millennium floundered at the highest level. Johnson last pitched in 2003 and finished with dreadful 10.25 ERA and a 1-3 record.

5. B.J. Wallace: #3 Overall 1992 Montreal Expos

Wallace’s best performance came during his stint on the United States Olympic team. Wallace struck out 14 batters in a single game, propelling him to the top of the 1992 pitching class. Unfortunately, that would be the peak of his career. A shoulder injury would end his profession as a pitcher before it could get started. Adding insult to injury, Wallace was selected ahead of Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Todd Helton.

4. Kyle Sleeth: #3 Overall 2003 Detroit Tigers

Similar to a few other top draft busts, injuries marred the career of Sleeth. After being drafted in 2003, Sleeth would last five injury-riddled seasons before calling it quits for good.

3. Matt Anderson: #1 Overall 1997 Detroit Tigers

1997’s top selection performed well in his first Major League season, posting a 5-1 record and a 3.27 ERA. Anderson was able to regularly top 100 MPH on the radar gun and looked to be headed for an inspiring career. Following an injury to a muscle in his armpit, the once flame-throwing right-hander could no longer hit 90 MPH on the gun, let alone 100. His career fizzled and he never returned to his pre-injury form.

2. Matthew Bush: #1 Overall 2004 San Diego Padres

Bush could write a manual on the worst possible ways to start a professional career. Altercations, brawls, and assault charges were the most interesting aspects of his tenure with the Padres. Bush is on pace to become the third top pick in history to retire without ever getting a taste of the big leagues.

1. Brien Taylor: #1 Overall 1991 New York Yankees

As the premier member of this list, Taylor continues the trend of mediocrity. Until Bush officially retires he holds the infamous distinction of one of only two top picks to never see the majors. (Drafted in 1966, Steve Chilcott is his counterpart)

Following a fistfight in 1993, Taylor never returned to his previous skill level. A glaring lack of control also contributed to the end of his career. Before being shown the door, Taylor would post record walk numbers. In 1996 he pitched 16.1 innings, walking 43 batters and going 0-5 with an 18.73 ERA.

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