Prospect Retro: Brian Jordan
Brian Jordan was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the supplemental first round in 1988, from the University of Richmond. He was considered one of the top athletes in the draft, but his baseball status was clouded by a commitment to NFL football: he was a very good strong safety. After hitting .310 with a .549 SLG in rookie ball his first summer, he split the next few years between playing for the Atlanta Falcons and brief spurts of playing time in the Cardinals farm system. He was an alternate Pro-Bowler in 1992.
In baseball, he was only adequate after reaching the high minors, hitting just .264/.320/.410 in 61 games in Triple-A in 1991 for example, though he did steal 10 bases. His athleticism and tools were obvious, and at times he would flash baseball skill, but it was equally obvious that the split between the two sports was hampering his diamond development. Strike zone judgment was a major problem.
Jordan hit .290 in 43 games in Triple-A in 1992, earning a call to the majors. He hit just .207/.250/.373 in 55 games for the Cardinals, hitting five homers and stealing seven bases but posting a poor 10/48 BB/K ratio in 193 at-bats. But the taste of the major league life agreed with Jordan, and he gave up the gridiron in 1993.
He immediately blossomed as a baseball player, hitting .309/.351/.543 in 67 games for the Cards in '93. By 1995 he was one of the best power/speed players in the majors, whacking 22 homers, stealing 24 bags, and hitting .296 that season. But injuries were a constant problem, perhaps a holdover from his football days. Eventually he lost most of his speed, but he was a very effective hitter for much of the mid-to-late 1990s into 2003. He even developed adequate strike zone judgment.
It is interesting to consider what kind of player Jordan could have been if he had concentrated on baseball from an early age. His track record is clear. . .he wasn't very good until giving up football, and then all of a sudden he was solid, even excellent at times. If he had given up football earlier, would he have been more durable? Would his power have developed more? Would he have been a potential batting champion? Or would he be just what he was, a pretty solid player with occasional bouts of outstanding performance?
Comparable Players to Brian Jordan
Hank Bauer (solid Yankee outfielder from the 1950s)
Rico Carty (but Jordan was better defensively)