Monday, August 14, 2006

Midnight Train To Obscurity - Part 2

Continuing from the last entry, we begin with...

Andres Santana, 2B, SF - Santana was a switch hitter with fantastic speed, but had such little power he was unable to crack the major league lineup after being considered the best 2B prospect in the game over Bret Boone. Santana had made his debut in 1990 for a primarily pinch running 6 game stint. Two years later he was considered a top prospect. A year later the Giants figured out he wasn't and traded him to the Marlins for Brian Griffiths. Santana would never play another major league game - a rarity for a "top prospect." Usually they don't play their last game at age 22.

Eddie Zosky, SS, TOR - Zosky was considered by scouts to be a defensive stalwart with a rifle arm. Well, that's great, but if you can't hit, you just can't play. Zosky was coming off a '91 campaign in which he showed the Blue Jays some defensive talent and did very little at the plate. Those 18 games would end up a career high. For some weird reason, he kept hanging around with organization after organization, and despite playing only 6 games in a 6 year period, the Brewers and Astros thought he would help in '99 and '00, respectively. When finally granted free agency for the last time, we were able to lay his .160/.173/.260 career line to rest... Thankfully.

Sam Militello, SP, NYY - This guy absolutely tore up the minor leagues, going 34-8 with a 1.76 ERA in his first 3 years. In '92 he was 12-2, 2.29 with 152 K's in 141 1/3 innings in the International League. Minor league managers named him the top AAA prospect in the game, and after a 3-3, 3.45 stint with the big league club, it seemed like they were onto something. In his major league debut, he pitched 7 innings and allowed only 1 hit. In fact, he was the premier star on that '92 Columbus Clippers team, overshadowing guys like JT Snow, Dave Silvestri, Hensley Muelens (hey, remember him?), Gerald Williams, Russ Springer, and Shawn Hillegas... Not to mention a trio of guys named Brad Ausmus, Bob Wickman, and Bernie Williams. What happened to him? Well, all I can find is that injuries derailed his career, which is a shame. It really looked bright, although he needed to cut down his walks. Now he's the pitching coach for the University of Tampa, I believe, where he still holds the all-time strikeout record by FAR.

David Nied, SP, ATL - He wasn't quite the bust that some of these others were, but he's a personal favorite of mine. Why? Because his 1992 callup was one of the most brilliant I've ever seen. What a line: 23 innings, 3-0, 1.17 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 19-5 K:BB, and all in an Atlanta uniform. Then, something puzzling happened: John Schuerholz didn't protect him when the expansion draft rolled around, and he was the #1 pick by the Colorado Rockies. He was actually even more dominant than Militello in the IL, with a K:BB ration of 159:44. So what happened? The easy answer is Denver, but in '93 and '94, Nied wasn't that bad in Denver, getting ERAs of 5.17 & 4.80, the latter actually being better than league-average. I found an interesting analysis of famous pitchers when they were at Richmond:
Player Age IP K/9 BB/9 ERA
Pitcher A 20 82.1 7.54 2.30 3.39
Pitcher B 20 190.1 4.87 3.92 3.83
Pitcher C 21 135.1 7.65 2.46 2.79
Pitcher D 22 60.2 6.82 2.37 1.93
Pitcher E 22 161.2 7.57 3.73 2.34
Pitcher F 23 168 8.52 2.36 2.84
Of the 6, one was David Nied. The other 5 all turned out to be very good major league pitchers. Which looks like a future star? The guy who logged a ton of innings with the highest K:BB rate, pitcher F. So, who was who?
Pitcher A was Steve Avery. Pitcher B was Tommy Glavine. Pitcher C was John Smoltz. Pitcher D was Kevin Millwood. Pitcher E was Jason Schmidt. Pitcher F was the one sure star - David Nied. He never had any serious injuries that I know of, so I can only assume the stress of pitching in Colorado got the best of him... Too bad, really.

You know, to be quite honest, there were no huge flops in '94. The preseason top rookies all were contributors in their careers, with some big names coming out in that class: Carlos Delgado, Alex Gonzalez, Steve Karsay, Rich Becker, Rick Helling, Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Salomon Torres, Willie Greene, and Phil Nevin. Besides, it's only fitting that my analysis for '94 be shortened...

Bill Pulsipher, SP, NYM - Very few prospects have ever been as famous or as heralded as the Mets' trio of young studs in the mid 90's which consisted of Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Pulsipher, and were collectively known as Generation K. In '95, he didn't disappoint, showing promise in 126 innings with the Mets at age 21. The next spring, however, while preparing for his sophomore season, he blew out his elbow, sidelining him until '97. He then battled depression, retired, came back, and is still trying to make it. It's a really interesting story concerning easily one of the 10 biggest pitching prospects of the last 15 years. For more info on Pulsipher or a really good read, his story (as told by him) can be found here:

Brien Taylor, SP, NYY - Easily one of the 5 most famous flameouts of all time, I felt he needed to be included somewhere. Taylor, along with Steve Chilcott, is one of the only 2 #1 overall draft picks to never reach the major leagues. He got into a well-documented trailer park fight in 1993 and tore his labrum. He was never the same.
Taylor the player was always lost in sight of Taylor the draft pick. He really changed the game, and is probably one of the 50 most influential people to ever be involved with the game. Taylor, who held out for a then record $1.55 million, set the standard for top talents who want respect. His high school reputation was impeccable: in 88 innings, he struck out 213 batters. Scott Boras still says Taylor is the best high school pitcher he's ever seen. The lefty could hit 99 routinely on the gun, and he was the definition of unhittable. Until that fight in '93, he was unhittable in the minors as well. Now he's a bricklayer and still drives the suped up Mustang he bought with his signing bonus money; it's such a sad story for such a talented player.

Brad Woodall, SP, ATL - One of the more forgettable Atlanta pitching prospects, but in a year with a lot of risky pitching prospect picks like Taylor, Woodall seemed like the easy choice for stardom. He dominated the IL with Richmond, and scouts left and right were comparing him to Tom Glavine. Woodall shared that ability to spot his fastball and nibble at corners. Unfortunately, he just never got the chance in Atlanta and resurfaced in Milwaukee, where he started 20 games in 1998.

Jose Oliva, 3B, ATL - There was a ton of optimism surrounding Oliva going into 1995, mainly because he homered once every 3 games in his callup the previous fall. In '95, however, he lost his ability to hit home runs so rapidly and he was traded to the Cardinals. After 22 games with STL, he would never play in the majors again. He went home to the Dominican Republic, where he died in 1997 when his car flipped off the road. At the time of his death, he was leading the DR winter tournament in home runs and rbi, and would be posthumously named MVP. His teammate, Julio Franco, would eventually find his way back to the majors.


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