Being drafted as a first round pick in the MLB draft comes with prestige, money and notoriety. Like anything in this world there are no guarantees that future potential will turn into real world results. Every year teams spend millions of dollars, hoping that they can produce the next Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw or Mariano Rivera. The reality is that even though first rounders statistically stand a better chance to contribute in the major leagues, they are far from certain to get there. Here are some cautionary tales of how placing high values on draft picks can sometimes backfire and leave the team with nothing to show for their efforts.
Eric Duncan: Drafted 27th overall in the 2003 draft, the Yankees offered the local New Jersey native a $1.25 million signing bonus to forgo a commitment to LSU. At the time, the Yankees had hoped that he would become a power-hitting corner infielder that could take advantage of the short right field porch as a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium. Duncan shot through the farm system, reaching Triple-A affiliate Columbus in just his third season of pro ball. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t overcome his hitting struggles and found himself out of the organization after the 2009 season at the age of 24.
Andrew Brackman: One-third of the former trio of the "Killer B’s" that also included Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the Bronx Bombers chose Brackman as the 30th pick in the 2007 draft. The Yankees took him and signed him to a major league deal despite knowing that he needed Tommy john surgery before ever throwing a pitch for the organization. It was a great risk, but one the team thought he was well worth taking for. Even with the injury setback, Baseball America still ranked him in the team’s top 10 prospect lists between 2009-2011, but like many others, he just couldn’t control his pitches in Triple-A and was granted free agency after the 2011 season.
Cito Culver: He was widely viewed as a reach when the Yankees chose him with the 32nd pick in the 2010 draft. The hope was that he would develop into the team's shortstop of the future and become the heir apparent to Derek Jeter. After five seasons in the team’s farm system, his bat has still not come to life and Culver found himself exposed in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. His inability to hit has continued to haunt him and at this point his days are likely numbered.
In recent years the front office has refocused on the draft in order to collect top first-round talent, and while the strategy is a sound one, to retool and set up the team for future success, it doesn’t come without significant risk. It looks like Aaron Judge and Ian Clarkin are on the path to the big leagues, but there have been countless others that have been in their position before falling apart. Prospects and draft picks can offer hope to a fan base, but if we put too much into these lottery tickets, the disappointment will only set us back even further.