Draft Review: the 1994 New York Mets
I picked this class to review because the Mets were picking first in the draft, plus they had multiple choices due to the free agent defections of Sid Fernandez, Charlie O'Brien, and Howard Johnson. Let's take a look at how they handled this potential windfall.
1) Paul Wilson, RHP, Florida State University
Consensus best player in the draft, one of the best pitching prospects ever to come out of college baseball. Compared to guys like Tom Seaver and Roger Clemens. Lived up to his early billing in the minor leagues, dominating Double-A and Triple-A in 1995 with a 194/44 K/BB ratio in 186 innings and an ERA of 2.41, combining power and precision pitching. He was in the Mets rotation in 1996 and had unexpected control problems, going 5-12, 5.38 in 26 starts, then hurting his arm. He spent 1997 through 2000 trying to work his way back. Although he's had moments of adequacy since 2000, his early promise is long gone, his arm slagged from overuse in college and early in his pro career. Career record entering 2006 is 40-58, 4.86 in 942 innings.
1) Terrence Long, OF, Stanhope HS, Millbrook, AL
A good athlete with speed and a nice-looking swing, Long had problems with the strike zone early in his career, but persevered and worked his way to the majors by 1999. He developed into a "tweener," possessing a fair amount of power but not a huge amount, and eventually losing much of his speed, which also had negative effects on his defense. Had a solid year in 2000 with Oakland, hitting .288 with 18 homers, but has been steadily less effective ever since. He is useful as a reserve bat, but struggles if overexposed. If you use him the way the Padres used him in 2004, as a pinch-hitter and occasional platoon bat, he can help you a little. If you use them the way the Royals did in 2005, he hurts you. Entered 2006 with .270/.319/.406 mark in 878 career games.
1) Jay Payton, OF, Georgia Tech
Drew comparisons in college to Kirby Puckett, due to his compact size and quick bat. Began his pro career by hitting .365 in short-season ball, then .345 in 85 games in Double-A in '95. He then suffered a variety of injuries, missing most of the 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 campaigns. He was finally healthy in 2000 and hit .291 for the Mets, beginning a "have-bat-will-travel" trek through the major leagues. Hits enough help you as a bat off the bench and platoon player, more productive than Terrence Long but not a star who will carry your team. Career mark of .282/.330/.443 in 839 games entering 2006.
2) Sean Johnston, LHP, Highland Park HS, Highland Park, IL
Finesse lefty, pitched adequately in the low minors but hurt his arm and never got past Class A.
2) Matt LeCroy, C, Belton-Honea Path HS, Belton, SC
Power-hitting catcher, didn't sign. Went to college at Clemson, drafted by the Twins in the supplemental first round in 1997.
3) Bryon Gainey, 1B, Davidson HS, Mobile, AL
Power-hitting first baseman compared to Willie McCovey by some scouts. Gainey hit for power in the minors, including a 25-homer season in Double-A in 1999, but his plate discipline was awful. He collected strikeouts like Madonna collects....never mind. Fanned 184 times in 137 games in 1999 for example. Topped out in Double-A.
4) Kevin McCarthy, OF, North Allegheny HS, Wexford, PA
Speedy outfielder with a raw bat. Hit .289 with 10 steals in the Appy League in 1996, but that was his best year. Never got on track, out of baseball in 1998.
4) Ken Pumphrey, RHP, Old Mill HS, Millersville, MD
6-6 righthander with good stuff but in need of better mechanics and control. Pitched well at times, including a 12-win season in the Sally League in 1997 and a 10-win campaign in the Florida State League in 1998 but did not develop beyond that point. Pitched in the Twins and Phillies farm systems before his career ended in 2003. Never reached the majors, but won 72 games in the minor leagues with a 4.04 ERA.
5) Brian Kuklick, RHP, Horsham HS, Horsham, PA
Didn't sign, went to Wake Forest. Re-drafted by the Mets in the 55th round in 1997, but didn't sign then either. Not sure what happened to him after that.
6) David Sanderson, OF, University of Missouri
Speedy outfielder, I saw him play college ball and he could run and draw walks. But he had no power, and couldn't hit pro pitching with any authority. Hit .230 with a .291 SLG in 180 games in A-ball before being released.
7) Brett Nista, SS, Laguna Hills HS, Laguna Hills, CA
Didn't sign. Can't find any record of him playing pro ball.
8) Kevin Manley, RHP, Frostproof HS, Frostproof, FL
A raw high school pitcher, Manley posted a 17.36 ERA in rookie ball, walking 30 guys in 14 innings. He didn't make it any further.
9) Robert Cox, 3B, Santa Monica Junior College
A third baseman with a strong arm, Cox was converted to the pitching side of the game in 1996. Posted a 4.47 ERA in 56 career innings, but was out of the game by 1998.
10) Adam Piatt, SS, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, FL
Didn't sign, went to college at Mississippi State University. Drafted by Oakland in the eighth round in 1997, had some major league success before his career was ruined by bad health.
23) Scott Sauerbeck, LHP, University of Miami-Ohio
A finesse lefthander from a Midwestern college, Sauerbeck was drafted as roster filler but turned into more than that. He pounded the strike zone in the low minors and got people out, doing well in both a starting and relief role. Reached the majors with the Pirates in 1999 and has been inhabiting major league bullpens ever since. Career entering 2006: 20-16, 3.75 with a 327/225 K/BB in 360 innings.
Holding the first pick in the draft, and multiple extra early picks, the Mets got:
One major league starting pitcher who could have been a star but burned his arm out.
One major league outfielder who was pretty solid at times but injury-prone
Another major league outfielder who was the epitome of "league average"
A successful major league LOOGY in the 23rd round
And that's it. They drafted, but did not sign, two other guys who reached the majors and had moments of success, but the key fact is that they didn't sign them.
Having an early pick and/or multiple draft picks is no guarantee of success.