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Draft can produce extreme, unusual outcomes

June 8, 2016

With the first overall pick in this year's Draft on Thursday, the Phillies will select ...Whoever they think is the best talent available.Well, of course they will. That's the point, right? For every team, especially in the first round, the idea is to acquire a hitter or pitcher who will

With the first overall pick in this year's Draft on Thursday, the Phillies will select ...
Whoever they think is the best talent available.
Well, of course they will. That's the point, right? For every team, especially in the first round, the idea is to acquire a hitter or pitcher who will help win the World Series. To that end, months of scouting provides a vast pool of information, which is then distilled and endlessly analyzed so the best possible decision can be made.
2016 MLB Draft: June 9-11 on MLB Network,
Even then, as every baseball fan knows, it doesn't always work out. The Draft is a most inexact science. Sometimes can't-miss prospects miss. Sometimes players who are overlooked make the Hall of Fame. Here's a look, with the benefit of hindsight, at some of the more odd, more unlucky, curious or just plain wrong decisions that have been made over the years:
C Steve Chilcott, Mets, 1966
Opting to take Chilcott, a high-school star from California, with the first overall pick instead of slugging Arizona State outfielder Reggie Jackson remains one of the most spectacular misses in history.
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There have been various explanations given for why the Mets made that choice. They drafted to fill a positional need. Teams at the time were reluctant to take college players; only three went in the first round that year. Money could have played a part. Chilcott signed for $75,000, while Jackson got $85,000 from the Kansas City A's in an era when the best players in the big leagues made $100,000.
The bottom line is that Chilcott became one of just two No. 1 picks to never play a game in the big leagues, while Jackson has a plaque at Cooperstown. Injuries were the most obvious culprit. In Chilcott's first full year in the Minors, he dislocated his shoulder diving back into second base, and he was never the same after that.
"I couldn't throw a ball hard enough to break a pane of glass," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994.
Chilcott later spent a month in the hospital after a foul ball off his shin led to an infection. His hand was broken by a foul tip, and he was out of baseball by the time he was 24 with a .248 career batting average.
After baseball, Chilcott became a firefighter and then a full-time housing contractor in Santa Barbara, Calif.
LHP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 2006
The twist here isn't so much that one of the most overpowering pitchers in history lasted until the seventh overall pick. It's that five of the six players taken before him -- Luke Hochevar, Greg Reynolds, Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow and Andrew Miller -- were also pitchers.
And there's more. The Dodgers tried to sign Hochevar the year before, but negotiations broke down. He went back into the Draft and was taken first overall by the Royals. That moved all the other pitchers down a spot and, in theory at least, made Kershaw available when the Dodgers' turn came up.

C Danny Goodwin, Angels, 1975
Goodwin played parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with three teams, batting .236 with a .674 OPS. Those are modest numbers for the only player to be the first overall pick twice.
That's right. Four years before the Angels drafted Goodwin, the White Sox also made him the top pick, but he chose to attend college. Once he turned pro, though, he hurt his arm and never caught a game in the Major Leagues, serving primarily as a designated hitter. Players the Angels could have taken instead that year include Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Lee Smith.
This story has a happy ending, though. Goodwin went on to become community relations director and then president of the Braves Foundation, helping develop programs to help underprivileged youth in the Atlanta area.
C Mike Piazza, Dodgers, 1988
Generally considered the best hitting catcher of all time, Piazza will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month. Not bad considering that he was taken in the 62nd round after 1,389 other players had been chosen.
Even then, it was a courtesy pick, a favor by manager Tommy Lasorda for Piazza's father, Vince.
"That wasn't the last round of the Draft, but it was the last round the Dodgers picked in," Piazza said in his 2013 autobiography, "Long Shot." "If it hadn't been for Tommy, they'd have stopped after the 61st [round]."

LHP Brien Taylor, Yankees, 1991
Nobody doubted that Taylor had the ability to become a superstar when he became the first overall player selected. Nobody. Two things about his situation stand out, though.
First is that the Yankees gave Taylor a $1.55 million signing bonus, almost three times the previous record. Second is that while injuries are a common reason players don't succeed, the circumstances surrounding Taylor's surgery were unusual. He got involved in a fight, and while he didn't land a punch, he dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum during the fight.
"He was unbelievable when he signed, but when he came back [following surgery], he wasn't the same," longtime Yankees pitching coach Billy Connors told ESPN.
Taylor never pitched above Double-A and is, along with Chilcott, one of only two players drafted first overall to never spend a day in the big leagues.
Sadder yet, after Taylor's career ended, he spent two years in prison for cocaine trafficking before being released in 2014. After his baseball career ended in 1999, he had worked for a beer distributorship and as a bricklayer.
RHP Matt Anderson, Tigers, 1997
As unusual as it might have been for a team to use the first overall Draft choice on a reliever, Anderson made it from Rice to the big leagues in one year, throwing 100 mph and striking out 44 in 44 innings as a rookie. While he was never that overpowering again, he did earn 22 saves in 2001. In May 2002, Anderson tore a muscle under his armpit while throwing in the bullpen, effectively ending his career. Earlier in the day, he had participated in a team-sponsored octopus-throwing contest, although he always debunked the notion that the stunt led to the injury.
SS Matt Bush, Padres, 2004
It was only weeks after Bush became the first overall player taken, touted as one of the best five-tool high-school players ever, that he was arrested on suspicion of felony assault, misdemeanor trespassing, disorderly conduct and underage drinking. That set a pattern that ended up in Bush bouncing through three organizations without making it past Double-A before serving 39 months in prison for DUI-related offenses.
Bush has gotten another chance, though, and has so far taken advantage of it. Two months after being released, he was signed by the Rangers ... as a pitcher. He made his Major League debut on May 13 of this year at the age of 30, and he posted a 1.54 ERA in his first 12 relief appearances.

LHP David Clyde, Rangers, 1973
Owner Bob Short ordered the Texas high-school phenom to be brought straight to the big leagues after the Rangers took him with the first overall pick. While that helped attendance tremendously, it clearly wasn't the best move for Clyde's development on or off the field. He was 24 years old when he pitched his last game in the big leagues, for the Indians, finishing with an 18-33 career record.
OF Mike Trout, Angels, 2009
Twenty-two teams passed on Trout before the Angels snagged him with the 25th overall pick. And one of those teams was the Halos, who selected Randal Grichuk one slot ahead of a player who has become one of the best players in the game.
Apparently, taking Grichuck was partly a bargaining ploy, and at any rate, the Angels always planned to take Trout at one of those spots. The Nationals went with Stephen Strasburg first overall. Fair enough. But they also skipped over Trout when they had another chance with the 10th pick.
Still, 24 players off the board before Trout? Just another reminder that when it comes to the Draft, the best intentions don't always work out as planned.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for