Top baseball draft picks tend to be immortal flops
More than a dozen mock draft “experts” predicted the Houston Astros would take Stanford pitcher Mark Appel or Appling (GA) High School outfielder Byron Buxton as the top overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
But the Astros defied the experts and threw a curveball to open the draft and selected Puerto Rico Baseball Academy 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick Monday night.
The selection set the draft into a buzz and pundits into a fury of analysis.
However, that’s the beauty of Major League Baseball’s draft. The No. 1 pick is regularly a surprise and very predictable.
But a 48-year history also tells us that Houston’s selection of Correa carries no guarantees or a lock for success in the big leagues.
Since Monday night, Correa has been compared to New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. If he lives up to that billing, the Astros will have made a very smart pick.
We’ll know in about 10 years.
There have been 48 No. 1 overall picks since the MLB draft was began in 1965 and a majority that have fallen flat.
Now, no one wants any of these young men to fail. But the reality is and always will be that the majority will.
Here’s a look back at some of the few top draft picks who were the biggest busts in the MLB draft.
Danny Goodwin is on my list of draft busts because he’s the only player in history to be drafted No. 1 overall twice.
Goodwin was originally drafted No. 1 overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 1971 draft out of Peoria Central High School in Illinois, but he chose to go to Southern University instead.
Four years later, it just so happened that the California Angels selected him again with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1975 draft.
Unfortunately, Goodwin never panned out. He played just seven big-league seasons with three different clubs, hitting just .236 in the process.
It’s a good bet that never again will anybody be picked twice at No. 1 in the MLB draft.
The Texas Rangers selected David Clyde, a high school phenom pitcher, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 MLB draft. Now, it was widely agreed that Clyde was worthy of the top overall pick drafting at No. 1.
What was shocking was Clyde went straight from starting in high school to starting in the major leagues, because Rangers owner Bob Short was looking for a way to boost lagging attendance.
He made his major-league debut just three weeks after his final high school game.
Despite pitching well initially, Clyde’s pro career went downhill from his debut, and he was out of the majors by the time he was 24 years old. He retired with a career record of 18-33.
A footnote to the 1973 draft, the Milwaukee Brewers used the No. 3 pick on Robin Yount and the San Diego Padres used the No. 4 pick on Dave Winfield.
In 1997, the Detroit Tigers decided to draft pitcher Matt Anderson, who could throw 100 miles per hour consistently, with the No. 1 pick overall.
The problem was he was going to be a closer in the majors. Now, there’s no rule against it, but relief pitchers simply shouldn’t go No. 1 overall in the MLB draft.
At first, it looked like a brilliant move as he appeared in 42 games in 1998, posting a 3.27 ERA and striking out 44 hitters in 44 innings. A few years later, in 2001, he saved a career-best 22 games.
But in 2002, Anderson tore a muscle in his armpit and he was never able to regain his velocity. Sports Illustrated noted in a story that Anderson may or may not have hurt himself in an octopus-throwing contest. He last appeared in the majors in 2005 with the Colorado Rockies.
After the Tigers took Anderson No. 1 in 1997, a few guys named J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells and Jayson Werth came off the board.
With the top pick in 2002, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Ball State pitcher Bryan Bullington, who had just set a new college record for a single season with 139 strikeouts.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the 2002 draft class has proven to be one of the best in recent memory. Among the players who were selected after Bullington are stars like B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur and Matt Cain.
As for Bullington, he only made six appearances for the Pirates, and he didn’t earn his first major-league win until 2010 with the Kansas City Royals.
He now plays in Japan.
In 1966, the New York Mets selected Antelope Valley (CA) High School catcher Steve Chilcott with the first pick overall. He had a solid frame for a catcher, his bat was powerful and he had a cannon for an arm.
Moments before the draft, the Mets’ brass debated taking Chilcott, or an Arizona State slugger by the name of Reggie Jackson.
The Mets eventually decided on Chilcott because of “character issues” with Jackson.
Apparently nobody in the Mets’ organization did a double-check comparison of the talent.
Chilcott never made it to the majors, playing just six seasons in the minor leagues for the Mets and later the Yankees after he was released. He retired due to injury, reaching only the Triple-A.
Jackson, on the other hand, was taken second overall by the Kansas City Athletics. He, of course, went on to make 14 All-Star appearances, hit 563 home runs and win four World Series championships.
The San Diego Padres opened the 2004 draft by selecting Mission Bay (CA) High School shortstop Matt Bush, who received a signing bonus of $3,150,000, the second largest signing bonus ever given to a Padres draft pick.
Bush’s pro career began with his suspension before he ever took the field, for his role in a fight outside an Arizona bar. His first season at the rookie level, he hit .192, then batted .221 in A-ball in 2005 before breaking his ankle in 2006, missing more than half the season.
In 2007, Bush’s struggles at the plate continued and the Padres converted him to a pitcher. After a promising start in rookie league, he tore a ligament in his pitching elbow and did not pitch again until the 2009 season.
He was designated for assignment in February of 2009 as soon as the Padres learned that Bush was allegedly involved in a drunken assault on a high school campus.
Five days later, Bush was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations. But a few months later on appropriately April Fool’s Day, the top overall pick was released by the Blue Jays for violating their zero tolerance behavioral policy.
He did sign a minor league contract in January, 2010, with the Tampa Bay Rays. Bush reached as high as the Class AA before the Rays placed him on the restricted list when he was arrested in March 2012 for driving under the influence and a hit-and-run traffic accident.
Oh, picking second in the 2004 MLB Draft was the Detroit Tigers. They selected a 6-foot-5 junior pitcher from Old Dominion University by the name of Justin Verlander.
Also chosen after Bush in the first round of the 2004 draft were Homer Bailey, Neil Walker, Billy Butler, Phil Hughes, Gio Gonzalez and Huston Street.
While only a few of the past 47 top picks overall (since 1965) have ended up living up to their great expectations, the majority of them have become immortal flops.
It’s sad, but it’s the reality of baseball.