The MLB Draft is not like other professional sports’ drafts in the sense that other professional sports’ drafts usually see players reach the pros within a year or two of being drafted. In the NBA and NFL the players normally make the pros the same year they are drafted, while in the NHL if a player is a first rounder they often make it the year they are drafted, but if they are a second rounder or later it takes a couple of years. Given the depth of the minor league systems in Major League Baseball, players can spend years in the minors regardless of their prospect status. Sure there’s the outliers like Mike Leake who never played a game in the minor leagues before reaching the big leagues, or even Brandon Finnegan who joined the Kansas City Royals in the middle of a pennant race rather than having to prove himself in the minor leaguers. Those cases do exist, but the norm in the MLB is to spend some time in the minors. With each passing year that players drafted do not make the big leagues, however, the pressure to do so rises. For the early draft picks, watching players drafted after them make it before them can be excruciating for both the players and the fanbases. Players can be labeled disappointments after enough time, and when they get the bust label it can be brutal for their careers. We are ready to hand out some labels, however, as let’s take a look at 15 recent draft picks that are already busts.
15 Christian Colon
In a remarkable twist of fate, Christian Colon managed to somehow be a player that hit a World Series winning hit, yet is still a tremendous bust. Colon got the game winning single in game 5 of the 2015 World Series for the Kansas City Royals against the New York Mets, but outside of that hit his career has been a total bust. In fact, when Colon got the hit everyone was so surprised because so little was expected of him. Colon was selected 4th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft (the furthest back we will go) ahead of Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Sale, Christian Yelich, Aaron Sanchez, and Noah Syndergaard. Colon has 80 hits and one home run to his name at the age of 27. Yikes. At least he has a memory for his lifetime regardless of what happens moving forward.
14 Mark Appel
Mark Appel is an infamous name for a few different reasons. First, Appel was going to be drafted first overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, but his signing bonus demands scared the Houston Astros away. He was instead selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates 8th overall, and refused to sign with the club. Appel re-entered the draft the following year and was taken first overall by the Houston Astros. 2nd overall? Kris Bryant, World Series champion and NL MVP at the age of 25. You may be wondering what happened to Appel. After pitching to a 9.74 ERA in single-A, Appel was promoted to AA because the Astros wanted to see him pitch in a different environment. This upset various members of the organization, causing rifts among the team. Appel’s damage was not yet finished, as he struggled at every level he pitched at with the Astros, while Bryant continued to mash dingers. Appel eventually became a piece (but not the piece) in a trade for Ken Giles, a relief pitcher. Not quite what the Astros expected when they drafted the so-called phenom.
13 Barret Loux
Returning to the 2010 Draft, but with a twist of Appel-like shenanigans, we bring you Barret Loux. See, Loux has not carved himself any MLB career, nor is he ever expected to do so. Currently, Loux is pitching for the Laredo Lemurs. We don’t know who the Laredo Lemurs are either. Loux was selected sixth overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2010 Draft, again ahead of Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Sale, Christian Yelich, Aaron Sanchez, and Noah Syndergaard. The Diamondbacks could have had a future ace or big bat in their lineup, but instead they went with Loux. Loux never even signed with the Diamondbacks, as injury concerns caused the team to shy away from their own draft pick. The results were disastrous, and we know Loux will never have the MLB career the Diamondbacks thought he would when they selected him. He won’t even have the minor league career they expected.
12 Brandon Nimmo
It’s difficult to put Brandon Nimmo on this list because he is in the MLB and looks like he will carve out a fine MLB role for himself, but considering his role and the players selected after him, we feel he belongs. Nimmo will be a 3rd or 4th outfielder for the entirety of his career most likely, and fit in fine in his limited time with the Mets. However it is worth mentioning when the Mets acquired Jay Bruce, Nimmo was originally expected to be the headliner. Nimmo was selected 12th overall and expected to be a future star outfielder for the Mets, so headlining a Jay Bruce trade does not quite add up. Selected after Nimmo in the 2011 Draft were Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and New York native Joe Panik. The Mets regret the pick, even if Nimmo is going to be an MLB player moving forward.
11 Cito Culver
The New York Yankees shocked the baseball world in 2010 when they selected Cito Culver with the 32nd pick in the MLB Draft. 32nd is not an automatic spot for a team to get a future MLB player, but the concern was that Culver had zero fanfare at the time. It was like the Yankees ignored all scouting reports, all prospect rumors, all of the hype, and selected a name out of a hat. Maybe they liked the initials C.C. because CC Sabathia was pitching so well for them, or maybe they wanted a shortstop so they could say they were grooming Derek Jeter’s replacement. Who knows. But what we do know is that Cito Culver predictably never hit for anything in the minors, and the Yankees let his contract expire this past offseason rather than protecting him from the Rule V draft. The Yankees could have had Noah Syndergaard. Instead, Cito Culver. Yikes.
10 Bubba Starling
Another disastrous draft pick by the Kansas City Royals organization that reached the World Series in consecutive seasons, winning the second in 2015. So the Royals should not be too ashamed of themselves, but the Starling draft pick turned out to be a disaster for the team. Starling was selected in hopes of being a free-swinging, big power bat in the outfielder for the short to long distance, but instead Starling failed to hit throughout his minor league career. Starling is currently on the Royals’ 40-man roster, but recently hit .185 in AA. That’s correct, he hit .185. In AA. Starling was drafted 5th overall in 2011, ahead of Anthony Rendon, Archie Bradley, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez. The Royals want a redo on that one, and stat.
9 Kyle Zimmer
Another ranking, another Kansas City Royals prospect. Zimmer is a different case in that he still has a case to salvage his MLB career, but at the age of 25 having never reached the MLB, the cause is a tough one. Perhaps what concerns us the most is the stretch of drafting the Royals did, or the fact that Zimmer was taken with yet another high pick, this time 5th overall. The 2012 MLB Draft was not the best in recent history by any means, but again, Zimmer has yet to play a single MLB game and is 25 years old. Among the players that have reached the MLB while being drafted after Zimmer: Addison Russell, Corey Seager, Michael Wacha, and even Lance McCullers Jr., who was taken 41st overall by the Houston Astros. Simply put, the Kansas City Royals blew it. Again.
8 Courtney Hawkins
Hawkins stole the show when he was selected 13th overall in that same 2012 MLB Draft. After being introduced as the pick by the Chicago White Sox, Hawkins did a backflip while wearing a shirt and tie and pants, and also his Chicago White Sox jersey. Hawkins was touted as the next Torii Hunter by some, but instead became a quick bust. After being ranked as the White Sox #1 prospect before the 2013 season, Hawkins spent the entire 2013 in single-A without moving up to any other level. That would have been concerning enough on its own, but Hawkins later hit .178 with 160 strikeouts in 383 at bats. Hawkins never figured out how to hit in the minor leagues, and his career is rapidly ending rather than moving towards an MLB future. As the White Sox pile up prospects during their firesale, the name Courtney Hawkins will be forgotten. The White Sox likely want it that way at this point.
7 Jed Bradley
Bradley earns the honor of currently being on an MLB roster, but his career has not been remotely close to what was expected of him when he was taken 15th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 MLB Draft. Bradley was selected ahead of: Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, Joe Ross, Joe Panik, Jackie Bradley Jr., Michael Fulmer, and more. Bradley managed to rise through the Brewers’ farm system by finding his talent in single-A and being converted into a relief pitcher (thereby already lowering his value, considering he was drafted as a starter) but the Brewers gave up on him in 2016 when he was moved to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations. Being traded for cash considerations is never a good sign for your value, folks. Bradley was later waived by the Braves (another bad sign) and latched onto the Baltimore Orioles roster, where he will continue pitching with the bust label on his back.
6 Max Fried
Returning to the 2012 Draft, Max Fried was taken 7th overall by the San Diego Padres. The Padres have a history of struggling in the draft, so it should be no surprise that Fried did not live up to expectations in San Diego. Fried, a left handed pitcher, was given $3 Million to sign with the Padres rather than going to UCLA. In hindsight, the Padres should have let the kid go to college. With the Padres organization, Fried managed mainly injuries and missed time, factors out of his control, but factors that contribute to his being a bust all the same. Fried was a component of the major Justin Upton trade between the Padres and the Atlanta Braves, and currently is on the Braves’ 40 man roster. He can revitalize his career with the Braves, but for the Padres he will always be a bust.
5 Phil Bickford
Bickford is a difficult pitcher to place because he could have a tremendous MLB career for all we know, but he was mishandled by two separate teams. This is one instance where we are blaming the teams, not the player. First, Bickford was selected 10th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2013 MLB Draft. Although Bickford was considered unlikely to sign, the Blue Jays decided to go for it anyway. It failed, and Bickford did not sign. In 2015, the San Francisco Giants selected Bickford with the 18th overall selection. It was a wise pick, as Bickford showed serious promise with the Giants organization. However, the Giants shipped Bickford off to the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade for….Will Smith. Will Smith is a fine relief pitcher, but Phil Bickford is a legitimate pitching prospect. So we aren’t sure if we can call Bickford a bust here, but there’s a lot going on and someone needs to be blamed for it. What a strange beginning to a prospect’s journey.
4 Touki Toussaint
In a strange turn of events, Toussaint was traded alongside Bronson Arroyo to the Atlanta Braves in a salary dumping maneuver by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The move is unheard of in baseball, and brought a lot of complaints from managements and fans alike. The thought was that Toussaint, drafted 16th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, was a legitimate prospect, being moved just to save some money. However, Toussaint has not shown any ability to be an MLB pitcher, despite the big name status that came with the move. Toussaint has shown an inability to adapt to minor league play, so the likelihood of his being able to adapt to major league play is small at best. It appears as if the Diamondbacks may have known what they were doing when they moved the prospect, but still, using a 16th overall pick to dump salary is thinking pretty lowly of that selection. And they made the pick themselves!
3 Ty Hensley
It pains us to include Hensley on this list, as the former New York Yankee draft pick was so eager to become a New York Yankee. Hensley, drafted 30th overall by the Yankees in the 2012 MLB Draft, and his Mother would tweet about his future in pinstripes, and the Yankees appeared to have a legitimate draft steal on their hands for once. It would all be for naught, however, as a bevy of injuries mixed with a controversy ended Hensley’s Yankees career before it ever started. Among the list: an abnormality in his pitching shoulder, an ab strain, surgery to repair both hip labrums, an assault that broke his jaw, and Tommy John surgery. Hensley was selected in the minor league portion of the recent Rule V Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, so his Yankees days are over.
2 Brady Aiken
Aiken was selected first overall by the Houston Astros in the 2014 MLB Draft, but failed to sign with the organization. There were plenty of barbs thrown by both sides, and the whole ordeal managed to turn ugly over time. Aiken was the first, first overall selection since 1983 to not sign with the team that drafted him, a major slight on the Astros organization. While Aiken moved on and re-entered the draft in 2015, the Astros lost out on: Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Trea Turner, and Luke Weaver. Aiken did not turn out so great himself, dropping to the 17th overall selection in the 2015 Draft, losing plenty of money along the way, and failing to look like anyone who would become anything in his minor league time with the Indians thus far. Aiken could go down as a player that disappoints two organizations.
1 Dillon Tate
Tate could become a useful pitcher for the New York Yankees, his new organization, if he can get his pitching act together. Many believe Tate will become a relief pitcher at best, a move that no organization wants to hear about a player drafted to be a top flight starter. Of course the Yankees will be happy with what they get out of the flame-thrower, as they did not draft Tate. Instead, they acquired him in a deal with the Texas Rangers in return for Carlos Beltran. Beltran played 3 months with the Rangers, lost in the first round of the playoffs with them, and moved onto their rivals, the Houston Astros. Tate was selected fourth overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2015 MLB Draft, and all the Rangers managed to get out of him was three months of Carlos Beltran. Oh, and the Rangers had to add additional prospects to the package just to get Beltran. Tate’s stock was that low. Tate could become something with the Yankees, but for the Rangers he is an eternal bust.