Don't Drink The Draft
The 24/7 news coverage has even changed the way fans view the MLB draft. Even though the 40-plus rounds dwarf its' pigskin cousin, the NFL, networks and websites have found a way to stretch and twirl each piece of player info, strategy and possible selections like it's a side-show act at Cirques du Soleil. The truth is, number 1 or 401, shortstop now or second base to the future, none of it is an exact science worthy of a crowded living room stuffed with Natural Light and Funyuns. The games will decide what is what, not ESPN or an app on your i-phone. With so many rounds and the luck-pressed trip it takes to get to the show, it is not a possibility to make predictions about a kid fresh out of high school or even college. Disagree? Ask Mark Prior his thoughts or the Pittsburgh Pirates - Yes, the true juggling clowns of the draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For every Mike Piazza taken in the 62nd round, Albert Pujols taken in the 13th round or Mark Buehrle staying hidden until the 38th round, there are picks in the top ten that leave you searching for a hairpiece after constant and rampant head scratching. And, much to the dismay and tears in the confluence of three rivers, a portion of these blunders to the Gods of Rogaine belong to the Pirates.
In 2002, Bryan Bullington was the daddy to the MAC, catching the eye and radar guns of scouts across the midwest. The Ball State pitcher was taken numero uno that year by the Pirates. Good move? No way, Jose! You beet up my face...and future of the starting rotation. Bullington lasted only a few years, and starts, when injuries landed him in Japan - where he may or may not be living with Long Duck Dong (See Sixteen Candles)
The idea behind the Bullington pick was money, like most decisions, and the smaller amounts he was willing to sign for, a thought process that many clubs choose to follow these days - Scott Boras client? Let's wait a few rounds so the guy doesn't cost me the wife's spray-tan fund. Talent obviously can be found in the later rounds, anyway. If we lose him, big deal, at least we won't have suffered a major financial crash on one unproven player.
Again, teams like Pittsburgh have also proven that talent can be misleading and the love of the radar gun, when it sings at 93, can land you in the draft "nut house," again! . Enter John Van Benschoten, a Kent State player that carried a name that took longer to pronounce than the time he spent in the big leagues. The power-righty was a true five-tool player. He could run, hit and throw with the best - I personally witnessed this guys sheer power in 2000 when he deposited an outside change-up over the fence, one-handed! He had incredible bat-speed and plate presence, so, it only made sense that the Pirates drafted him as a pitcher. Huh? That's correct, he was taken in the top- ten as a pitcher. We all get it, 93 is 93, and you can teach the pitching stuff in the minors. The problem is, smart business people would charge for pitching lessons, not pay the trainee a million-plus for the pleasure. Amazingly, and sarcastically, Johnny boy was known more at PNC Park as the pitcher that could hit, as opposed to the pitcher that could pitch. He was bounced to Chicago, then on to the milk carton of lost pitching prospects, seen only in the San Diego area from time to time. Hopefully, Mark Appel put's a cease and desist to the chain of poor picks for the Bucos. Hopefully!
The long-winded discussion of what the draft can bring to your club and the future will always be debated. Overall top picks may not work for one team, like the Marlins and Adrian Gonzalez, but they work for another, the Red Sox. Un-drafted players or Independent League gem's can help set the backbone of a line-up or a rotation, while the bonus-baby mistake may keep the team from rewarding these surprises. It happens to the best of teams and none of them will ever be able to change that. The only certainty of the draft is that it is uncertain. Enjoy the process and tip your cap, or beer, to the one's that are getting a chance to prolong the childhood dream, but, don't hold your breath waiting for the impact. Travel to the MLB dream is not a direct flight, like other sports, and the work, daily grind and countless players behind you makes it that much more difficult.
Sweat to those oldies, Richard. Like your shorts, no draft is worth looking at that closely. Ever!