Thursday, November 12, 2009

First Round Drafting Around the NL East

As Brett Myers departs from the Philadelphia Phillies organization, has another bust of a first round draft pick been secured in team history?
Myers was the second highest paid Phillie in 2009. With the Phillies locked into the $12 million range on Myers, there was no chance of him returning. I can easily concede that Myers was successful at times and will forever be cemented in team lore for closing down the 2007 East Division title and for his efforts in the 2008 postseason, but were a few shining moments enough to prove him worthy of a top draft spot?

This makes two consecutive offseasons where the Phillies will have cut ties with former first round picks, with last year's casualty being 1998 #1 overall pick Pat Burrell. Letting these players go before they could evolve into the faces of the franchise that Phillies phans hoped they'd both become, in the late 90's, got me wondering if they were busts. That then got me reflecting on all the top draft pick busts I grew up following, like Wayne Gomes and Tyler Green. On top of that, I wondered what type of success the other East Division teams have had by comparison. Ahead, I dig in a bit and pit the division rivals' first rounders up against the Phillies' choices.

Before starting, figure in the 2004-2005 draft classes are a fair point to expect a sample to begin trickling into the Major Leagues at this point. Any more recent, has not allowed the players ample time to excel, so 2005 will be our cutoff for discussion. The farthest back I will go is 1994....when the Phillies were defending NL champs for 2 years, thanks to a strike. Anything farther back feels like an athlete's generation ago.

In 1994, the Phillies selected RHP Carlton Loewer. Loewer reached the majors by June, 1998, and started the 1999 season on the Phillies' roster. Loewer played just those two seasons with the Phils and then two more seasons with the Padres. With just a 9-14 record and a 5.68 ERA in 41 games with the team, nothing else needs to be said to label Loewer a huge bust.

1995's first round choice was Reggie Taylor. Taylor reached the majors with the Phils by 2000 and played 14 total games as a Phillie, prior to being traded to the Reds for relief pitcher Hector Mercado in 2002. Reggie Taylor batted .231 in 260 career major league games- bust.

1996's first round draft choice by the Phillies was Adam Eaton. Eaton was traded, along with Loewer, to San Diego. Eaton was twice a bust...first as a draft choice, then as a free agent. Eaton returned to the Phillies in 2007 and went 14-18 with a 6.10 ERA as a Phillie.

In 1997, the Phillies had the second overall pick in the draft and wasted it on JD Drew, after Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, made their financial demands known and told the Phillies not to draft him if they weren't prepared to meet the demands. Drew didn't sign with the Phillies, and thus they missed out on a top draft pick. Bust.

Pat Burrell...1998...top overall pick. Nine years with the team and 251 homers are great...a success by most standards. However, expectations are high with that #1 overall selection. With names like Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Josh Hamilton also being #1 overall selections in the 90's, it's not difficult to see why expectations for that slot are so high. Burrell was never an all star, which is a big reason why I wondered if Burrell was a bust. If I set the astronomical expectations of "top overall pick" aside, and look at Burrell's place among all time Phillies offensive leaders (RBI- 7th, HR- 3rd, top 20 for many others), then he is certainly a success. The late 90's is when things began to turn around for the Phillies.

Brett Myers was the #1 pick in 1999. Always a promising prospect, he never became an ace, but was a solid starter and even closed for the 2007 NL East champions. 73-63 record with a 4.40 ERA in 8 seasons with the team. Brett Myers was not a bust. We'll call Myers a moderate success.

2000's first round draft choice by the Phillies was Chase Utley. Utley, as we all know, has become a premiere offensive threat, and could very well go down in history as one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game. Five straight seasons with an OPS over .900...Great success!

Gavin Floyd in 2001...another bust, unfortunately. He had all the tools, but didn't have any success until the Phillies traded him to the White Sox. Certainly a bust for the Phils, potentially a success elsewhere.

The Phillies chose Cole Hamels with their first round pick in June, 2002. Hamels would pitch in the Hall of Fame game for the Phillies, in Cooperstown, against the Tampa Bay Rays the following June, the same team he would earn World Series MVP honors against, 5 years later. Chalk another one up for Great Success!

No first round pick in 2003...Jim Thome signing related. The final first rounder in the review window was Greg Golson in 2004. The Phillies traded him to Texas for John Mayberry Jr. last offseason. Golson is still just 24 and could still excel, but it won't be as a Phillie, so...BUST.

Summary list of Phillies busts- Loewer, Taylor, Eaton, Drew, Floyd, Golson.
Summary list of Phillies successes- Myers, Burrell, Utley, Hamels.


Here are some looks at other NL East teams and their draft choices during the same stretch.

Braves' bust list-
Chad Hutchinson (1995 first round, did not sign).
Jason Marquis (1996 draft supplemental 1st round, 4 seasons as a Brave, 14-15 record, traded WITH Adam Wainwright for JD Drew and Eli Marrero). That trade was a bust too.
AJ Zapp (1996 pick, never played in the majors).
Troy Cameron (1997 first rounder, never played in the majors).
Aaron Herr (2000 supplemental first round, never played in majors).
Scott Thorman (2000 1st round, .222 avg in 175 ML games).
Adam Wainwright (2000 1st round pick, traded away to succeed w/ St. Louis).
Josh Burrus (2001, didn't play in majors), Macay McBride (2001, traded away), Jeff Francoeur (2002, traded away), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2003, traded away), Joey Devine (2005, traded away).
Braves jury's still out on list-
Kelly Johnson (2000).
Braves great success list-
No one.

Mets' bust list-
Paul Wilson (1994 first rounder, went 5-12 in his only season as a Met).
Ryan Jaroncyk, Robert Stratton, Geoff Goetz...(95, 96, 97...none reached the majors).
Jason Tyner (1998 first round pick, played 13 games as a Met).
Bobby Keppel (2000 first round supplemental, released after 2005 season without ever playing as a Met).
Billy Traber (2000 first round pick, never played as a Met).
Aaron Heilman (2001 first round pick, 26-37 over 7 seasons as a Met).
Scott Kazmir (2002 first rounder, traded to Tampa for Victor Zambrano).
Lastings Milledge (2003 first round pick, traded).
Philip Humber (2004 first round pick, traded in the 2008 Johan Santana deal, has pitched in 18 major league games).
Mets jury's still out on list-
Mike Pelfrey (2005).
Mets great success list-
David Wright (2001 supplemental first round pick).

Marlins' bust list-
Josh Booty (1994 first round pick, played 13 games in the majors).
Jaime Jones (1995 first rounder, never played in majors).
Mark Kotsay (1996 first rounder, played 4 seasons w/ Marlins hitting 31 homers, then traded).
Aaron Akin (1997 first rounder, never played in majors).
Chip Ambres (1998 first round pick, batted .233 in 80 career ML games).
Adrian Gonzalez (2000 first round pick, traded for Ugueth Urbina in '03).
Jeremy Hermida (2002 first round pick, traded to Red Sox last week, otherwise he'd be a jury still out candidate).
Jeffrey Allison (2003 first rounder, has never played in majors).
Ryan Tucker (2005 supplemental 1st round pick, 8.27 ERA in 13 career ML games).
Marlins jury is still out on list-
Taylor Tankersley (2004 first rounder pick, missed 2009 season with injury, appeared in 141 games in relief over 3 seasons with Marlins).
Marlins great success list-
Josh Beckett (2nd overall pick in 1999, helped win 2003 World Series, traded in deal that brought Hanley Ramirez to Florida).

Nats' (formerly the Expos) bust list-
Hiram Bocachica (1994 first round pick, last name was fun to say, never played as an Expo/Nat). Mike Thurman (1994 supplemental first round pick, was 25-36 in 5 seasons with the Expos).
Michael Barrett (1995 first rounder, 5 yrs as an Expo but only two years with an OPS above .700).
John Patterson (1996 first round pick, 18-25 in 88 career games).
In 1997, the Expos had an astounding 7 supplemental first round picks and a regular first round choice. All 8 of those players combined played only 173 major league games, 171 of which were by pitcher TJ Tucker, who went 13-9 in his career for the Expos/Nats. Bust times 8! (Side note: found in 1997's 2nd round- Randy Wolf, Scott Linebrink, Tyler Walker, Aaron Cook, Rick Ankiel, Jeff Weaver)
Brad Wilkerson (1998 supplemental first round pick, bated .256 with 83 homers in 5 seasons with Expos/Nats).
Josh McKinley (1998 first rounder, never played in majors).
Josh Girdley (1999 first round choice, did not play in majors).
Justin Wayne (2000 fifth overall pick, pitched just 26 ML games with a 6.13 ERA).
Josh Karp (2001 sixth overall pick, did not play in majors).
Clint Everts (2002 fifth overall pick, did not play in ML).
Bill Bray (2004 first round pick, pitched in just 19 games as a Nat, before being dealt in the 2006 Felipe Lopez/Austin Kearns trade with the Reds).
Nats Jury's still out on list-
Chad Cordero (2003 first round pick, once a great closer, injuries have set him back a great deal).
Nats' great success list-
Ryan Zimmerman (2005 fourth overall pick, Was in the majors before the end of the '05 season, now an all star and Gold Glove Award winner).

No one within the division even comes close to the Phillies' good fortune with drafting in the first round. The savvy Phillies are the three-time defending NL East champs and their effective methods of selecting amateurs is what has enabled them to be so triumphant. Do it again, with the next wave of first rounders, Phillies! Kyle Drabek and Joe Savery, you are both on deck.
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