Professional baseball, just like any other major professional sport, has a first-year amateur player draft every off-season that brings in the most talented future stars of the sport into the spotlight. For Major League Baseball, over 1,200 prospects, from high school standouts to college stars, will end up being drafted by one of the 30 MLB teams during the 40 round selection process.
With such a large number of prospects being selected each June, it's hard for MLB scouts to be able to fully research these players and find out how to accurately rate them before the draft. The scouts do find the time for the highly touted prospects, the ones that everyone has been buzzing about for quite some time now.
But it all comes down to the prospect himself. MLB scouts can do all the research and studying they want to on an athlete but the one thing they cannot predict is how he will respond when he ends up being drafted and playing in the big leagues. The ones who can handle it end up making it while the ones who can't, end up becoming a bust.
Let's take a look at the 15 Biggest Draft Mistakes in MLB History and see who are some of the biggest busts in baseball.
The New York Mets start us off, and this is not going to be the last time we see a draft day mistake they made, when they took Florida State pitcher Paul Wilson with the first overall selection in 1994. Their plans were simple, win more games by bulking up their pitching. This was coming off a 103 loss season, the prior year, and the fans in New York were not happy about such a terrible showing in 1993 so they had to make a splash to give them something to be excited about again.
Paul Wilson was supposed to be a part of their big three which they were referring to as the "Generation K" and featured Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher as the other two men. It wasn't until 1996 when Paul got his MLB debut and it was anything but memorable.
He started 26 games, pitching 149 innings with a 5.38 ERA, and a 5-12 record. He gave up 15 home runs and had a K-BB ratio of 109-71. To say it was bad is an understatement. Paul obviously had control issues and it, eventually, he would begin to battle the injury bug which followed him throughout his entire career.
When it comes to baseball busts, more often than not, the player is a pitcher based on many different factors. Players get hurt from putting too much of a strain on their arms, something they might not be used to, or the pressure of everything riding on their shoulders. Adam Johnson was taken in the first round by the Minnesota Twins and quickly became a bust at the major league level which was shocking because of how smartly the Twins drafted every year. They were always very consistent when it came to building a team on a budget.
The hardest part for Twins fans after the failure of Adam Johnson was that they passed on Adam Wainwright, who went on to do very big things in St.Louis.
For being so successful in college and then becoming a big time MLB prospect, Adam Johnson finished his professional career with 26.1 innings pitched and a 10.25 ERA after giving up 23 earned runs and 13 walks.
A lot of prospects that turn into MLB players, good or bad, have grown up playing baseball all the time. The better they got, the more they were told just how great they were, at each level of competition. But with Jeff Clement, his story was a little different. He wasn't being told how good he was locally, he was being told how much talent he had by just about any baseball scout or recruiter in the nation.
It has a lot to do with his high school career in which he broke the national, not state or area, high school home run record with 75 career bombs. That led to a Sports Illustrated cover at the age of 18, just before he went to USC, where he continued to dominate and win award after award.
But something happened after he was drafted in 2005 and he never was able to reach the hype that surrounded him his entire life. He played sporadically between 2007 and 2012, hitting .218 with 14 home runs and 39 RBI. He was a power hitter than could not figure out the off-speed pitch at the major league level.
As you are already learning, not every kid drafted into the majors becomes a star. It has always been this way and, even in 1979, the Seattle Mariners drafted the high school phenom, Al Chambers, with plans on developing him into the power hitting bat they needed in their lineup.
However, he struggled to hit major league pitching, as evident by his 34 strikeouts in 120 at-bat career performance. You could also include his .208 career batting average to clearly prove that Al Chambers just was not ready for the major leagues. He remains one of the only first overall draft picks to play less than 60 games in his career. He only lasted two years before retiring as a player and pursuing a career as a baseball coach. He is currently coaching the Harrisburg Kelssers in Pennsylvania.
One of the biggest draws for a potential prospect in baseball is when he excels in more than one sport. Shawn Abner was not just a baseball prodigy in high school, he was a football star at Mechanicsburg Area High School where he had his No.16 football jersey retired, along with his baseball jersey.
The highly-touted outfield superstar followed in the footsteps of two other high school standouts drafted by the New York Mets in recent years with Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Both players had their biggest years early on in their careers, at young ages, so it was believed that Shawn Abner was another future star that was set to turn the Mets luck around.
He was traded to the Padres within two years and never played a single game as a New York Met. His debut happened shortly after arriving in San Diego but his numbers were never even close to what they should have been. His best season, of his six year career in the majors, was in 1990 when he hit .245 with one home run and 15 RBI.
No one should ever blame the Detroit Tigers for drafting Matt Anderson in 1997 with the top overall pick. He was one of the best pitchers coming out of college that the majors had seen in a few years. He dominated for three years at Rice University. He finished college with a 30-7 record, 2.99 ERA, 238 strikeouts in 229 innings pitched, and 14 saves. He was only used as a starter 10 times in college so it was a little odd to see a legit closer go first overall, but he still was extremely talented.
Matt Anderson had a major league arm in college and that made him very intriguing to scouts and owners. He reached 103-mph on the radar gun and was a regular 100-mph hurler at a time when that was unheard of. But that wasn't enough as hitters started to get their bat speed up and quickly figured out how to crush him.
The biggest mistake any Major League franchise can make is signing players to a large contract that is more valuable than the player itself. This is especially true for any incoming rookie or prospect because no one knows how they are going to react once they reach the majors. Teams are basically gambling that a prospect is going to produce before ever having seen that player hit a major league curveball.
So when the Tampa Bay Rays signed Dewon Brazelton for $4.8 million, they were crossing their fingers that this wasn't going to be a bad investment. His contract even guaranteed him a spot on the roster during the final month of the regular season, regardless of his production at the minor league level.
The Rays should have known that they were getting into a big mess when his agent had that roster spot allocation added to the contract. That alone should have told them that he was going to be a problem, and he was. He was rushed through the minors and made his MLB debut on September 13, 2002. It is one thing to be rushed into the majors and failing but to be sent back down to the minors, that just causes all kinds of issues that Brazelton never recovered from for the rest of his career.
Most baseball fans do not remember hearing about Joe Borchard but Stanford football fans do after he helped them beat UCLA after stepping in for the injured starting QB. He threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in that game which turned him into a USA Today National Player of the Week. It also tied him for the school record for passing touchdowns in one game.
But he future wasn't football, it was baseball. Or so the Chicago White Sox thought when they signed him to a deal that included a $5.3 million signing bonus, which was almost $2.3 million more than anyone else in the entire draft. For being a 12th overall pick, he earned one of the largest signing bonuses in baseball history. It was a record then but was since broken before the CBA rules changed.
The White Sox were worried that he would go to the NFL and wanted to give him a large enough sum to deter him from that choice. They probably should have let him go to the NFL because he only played through the 2005 season in Chicago producing 12 home runs, 30 RBI, 93 strikeouts in 298 at-bats, and a .191 batting average.
An athlete that excels at more than one sport in high school is not something new. In fact, some of the best athletes of all-time excelled in college and some of them even made it to the pros where they continued to play in two sports. Players like Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are two of the most popular two-sport stars of our time.
However, Josh Booty was being touted as one of the best high school QB's in the country while also being an amazing baseball player too. He was the first high school player to ever pass for 10,000 yards which turned him into a name that NFL scouts were going to monitor but he ended up choosing baseball after the Marlins drafted him fifth overall in 1994 and gave him a signing bonus of $1.6 million.
He never made it though and struggled for many years before finally giving it up and enrolling back at LSU to play football in 1999. Maybe he was always dreaming about football or knew that if he didn't make it in baseball, he could always play football and that is how he failed. No one knows why but the numbers do not lie. He was one of the worst mistakes the Marlins have ever made on draft day.
Bryan Bullington was never a first overall selection by any means. He was more of a top-20 draft pick that was going to be easier to sign if the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him. Although they ended up giving him a $4 million signing bonus, which was the second highest signing bonus of the entire draft that year, they ended up passing on Zack Greinke, Melvin Upton Jr, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Joey Votto, Brian McCann, and about 100 other players that outperformed Bryan at a cheaper rate.
The logic made no sense after they handed him a large bonus and the baseball Gods made them pay for it as he would go on to play for four teams finishing with a 1-9 career record, 5.62 ERA, 26 Games, 10 Games Started, 81.2 innings pitched, 54 strikeouts and 31 walks.
After such a promising college career, the former first pick of the draft went from hero to zero and he left the U.S. for a chance at playing in Japan, where he played through the 2015 season.
The first time Major League Baseball had an Amateur Draft was in 1966. The first pick of the draft was none other than the legendary New York Mets draft bust, Steve Chilcott. What makes him such a bust?
The Mets were looking at two players, Steve Chilcott and Reggie Jackson. Now do you understand? The Mets passed on future Hall of Fame legend Reggie Jackson for a man that played zero innings in the majors after suffering from chronic shoulder pain following a hard slide he made early on in his career. He slide head first and dislocated his shoulder which caused even more trouble.
You can ask any Mets fan about Steve Chilcott and they will tell you about how close the Mets were to changing the entire history of baseball by almost drafting Mr.October, Reggie Jackson.
Maybe it is finally time to forget about all of Matt Bush's troubles and constant disappointments because, earlier this year, he finally reached the majors. Back in 2004, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres as the first overall selection and then signed a contract that landed him a $3.15 million signing bonus which might have been a little too much money to give a kid that had all the talent in the world but the worst of luck in his personal life.
He has had troubles with the law since the first year he entered the league and was suspended after a bar fight. That was in 2004. By 2012, he was moved to pitcher and ended up getting into some serious trouble after being arrested for a DUI along with several other charges after hitting a 72-year old man with his car, while intoxicated, and leaving the scene.
He was released from prison earlier this year and signed with the Texas Rangers where he finally showed off his first round value pitching in nine games and finishing with a 7-2 record with a 2.48 ERA in 61.2 innings and struck out 61 batters.
Baseball America ranked baseball's top prospects each year and in 1991 they ranked Brien Taylor, who never even pitched an inning at the major league level yet, above, both, incoming draftee's and current prospects in the minors already. He was ranked higher than Pedro Martinez, Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Manny Ramirez, and Kenny Lofton. That hype helped secure him the top overall selection by the New York Yankees for $1.55 million, a record contract for a rookie at the time.
It turned out to be the worst thing to happen to Brien as he never fully recovered from they hype that was built around him when he was 18 years old. He was then rushed through the farm system because the Yankees wanted to sell tickets and get this phenom on the MLB roster but that also turned into a debacle as he just could not handle the pressure and he never pitched a single inning in the majors.
In high school, Todd Van Poppel went from being a kid to a future MLB Cy Young winner when his incredible pitching abilities turned him into one of the hottest prospects available for the upcoming 1990 MLB Draft.
After being taken by the Oakland A's in the first round, he signed a $1.2 million contract and would soon become the face of the organization after his popularity continue to grow even after being sent to Oakland's Double-A team. A lot of his popularity can be attributed to the rise in trading card collecting as it was just beginning to explode in the '90s. But that popularity and hype all came to an end when he started to battle with arm injuries in 1992.
He had an amazing fastball and was being compared to Nolan Ryan. However, his fastball had little movement and it did not take long for major league hitters to figure it out. His first career start was horrible. He pitched 4.2 innings and gave up five earned runs on seven hits. He did manage to get six strikeouts but that was not as important compared to his 9.64 ERA. He finished his MLB career with a 40-52 record, 5.58 ERA, and 711 strikeouts in 907 innings pitched.
If you had a few months, you could list out every single Major League Baseball bust since the beginning of the first year Amateur Player Draft in 1966. But since no one wants to do that much research, and because it isn't very useful to showcase all of the busts, we cut it down to the top-15. But if you did see all of the thousands of busts, not a single one of them was ever drafted first overall, twice.
Danny Goodwin was first taken in 1971 by the Chicago White Sox, with the first pick but he decided to go to college instead. It is unheard of in this day and age that a player would be taken in the top-10 and not go pro but Danny Goodwin did. After college was over and he was eligible again, he was taken first overall in 1975, this time by the Angels.
However, he worked hard in the minor leagues between Double-A and Triple-A throughout his first few years while also being pushed, maybe a little too quickly, into the majors. Looking back, maybe the Angels should have let him work himself up instead of thrusting him into the majors in his first year. It could have helped out his development in the long run.