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The AL Robinson Start-up Draft Study
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The Good, the Bad, and the Wonky 

I limited the study to the first eight rounds, because some managers were making some fairly uninspired choices by that round. Ron Karkovice? A 28 year old .246/.308/.399 hitting back-up catcher? I refused to even include him. I should have stopped after 7 rounds, but I didn’t want anyone to accuse me of choosing the number of rounds based on hiding my mistakes. Kevin Appier was my 7th pick - Alvin Davis was my eighth.

 

First, I’ll review what I think were the inaugural picks which exceeded expectations the most. I say review, because the Stars Get Hitched article mentioned some of these. I expanded the list to include players who would have already been protected, but still underrated based on how far down they were picked. Last year’s article focused just on would-be picks available for returning teams. However, I still left off picks such as Rickey Henderson who, although, certainly was an excellent high impact pick – the best lead-off batter in baseball for another five years, did not exceed expectations significantly. He was the number 3 pick overall in 1991.

 

No. 1 overall:

Ken Griffey – Well, this isn’t too much of a surprise. He was certainly my first choice at the time and possibly all of ours. He was only 21 and had already put in two impressive seasons – winning the Rookie of the Year award with great speed and a .749 O+S, then improving to .847 and winning his first of a long sting of gold gloves. Not very surprisingly, he kept getting better the next three years then plateau-ed for seven glorious seasons (excluding one injury filled season in the middle of that run). No matter how great a player’s prospects are, you just can’t count on his actually attaining superstar status and holding it there for a decade. For that, we have to include this as an obviously successful use of a number one pick in a start-up league.

 

No. 5 overall:

Roger Clemens – probably has had the greatest impact of all players taken in 1991. The Rocket’s first full season in the majors was at age 23 and he pitched 254 innings. They next year he pitched 282 innings, followed by two more over 250. In 1990 he only completed 228 innings and complained his shoulder felt completely burnt out. If his drafting manager knew that – and it was all over the sports news – then he was brave for investing his top pick in a worn out pitcher.

 

No. 8 overall

Robbie Alomar – has not had the impact as Griffey or Clemens, but getting a borderline Hall of Famer at no. 8 was a steal. This Alomar was still 22 at the time of the draft and already had three very solid seasons as the Padres secondbaseman. He showed improvement in that third season and made the all-star team. I listed him second after Griffey. This was a touch extra gratifying because all of the managers in our league were from the Toronto area, and I – the native American – snatched the new Blue Jay stud away. Alomar played in the next 11 all-star games.

 

Third Round:

Frank Thomas – really slipped through the cracks. The White Sox were loaded with excellent prospects (Ventura, Alvarez, Ruffin, Rufcorn, Sele), so he was lost in the bunch. In 1990, he destroyed AA pitching and was called up for 60 games. He didn’t have much problem in Chicago either (.983 O+S), but the 22 year old was only up for 60 games so it went somewhat unnoticed or discounted. Thankfully, I somehow noticed and listed Thomas sixth.

 

Fourth Round:

Juan Gonzalez – although I ranked him ninth, I was shocked to get this 21 year old in the fourth round. Gonzalez was more highly acclaimed than Thomas and he did fine hitting .838 in his 25 game call-up for Texas. You could bank on Juan Gone’s mid 40s total of home runs in a non-strike shortened season for the next 7 years.

 

Fifth Round:

Randy Johnson – although, he looks like a hick, Randy Johnson is a college guy. The Expos drafted him out of the distinguished USC. He moved up through the minors one level at a time generally striking out more than one batter per inning. By the AL Roby draft, Big Unit was 27 and had two major league seasons - the second of which was in Seattle and presented a 3.65 ERA in 220 innings with 194 strikeouts. By today’s understanding of pitchers, he should have been drafted long before the 5th round, but I guess we were all bonobos back then – at least, in this league. Johnson is known for a high 90s fastball and since 1993: a devastating hard slider.

 

Sixth Round:

Jack McDowell – went to an even more prestigious university: Stanford. He shot up to the majors after only 5 starts in the minors in time for 4 September starts. He was electrifying. The next year did not go so brightly. He kept his ERA under 4.00 for over 150 innings, but his elbow didn’t hold up. He came back for 20 overall miserable minor league starts in 1989. In 1990, however, McDowell bounced back to a healthy 3.82 ERA, 165 strikeouts in 205 MLB innings. Perhaps, considering his earlier troubles, sixth round seemed reasonable for this 25 year old. It was a steal. McDowell was a Cy Young candidate the next three years (winning in the third) pitching about 260 innings with a roughly 3.30 ERA each time. A split-fingered fastball pitcher McDowell was merely an above average starter the next two seasons, then suddenly washed up.

 

Seventh Round:

Tony Phillips – in 1991 was a 31/32 year old who went from being a steady .700 O+S hitter to a steady ,775-.877 hitter who would play every day and qualify at 2B, 3B, OF, and sometimes SS. How could anyone have guessed that, I’d like to know.

 

Eighth Round:

Kevin Brown – proves it is not impossible for the Texas Rangers to develop a great pitcher – let alone a really good one. Kept to about 190 innings his first two major league seasons at 24 and 25, Brown did his part and kept his ERA in the mid 3.00s. After our league started his workload increased to 211 innings, however his ERA swelled to 4.40. Even though Brown’s Scoresheet manager dropped him, it is arguable most would not have given up so easily. Brown’s workload increased even further to 266 in his stardom break-though season of ’92. He was 27. Praise the owners who protected him when as a free agent he switched to the National League Marlins. In that first season he had a 1.89 ERA on his way to a championship. For five years in a row Brown was one of the top pitchers in baseball coming close to the Cy Young award almost every year. An elbow injury shortened his 2001 season, but in 2003 he seemed about as good as ever. That was Brown’s last hurrah.

 

Edgar Martinez – was stuck in the minors way too long. No doubt they wanted him to develop his fielding. However, he had mastered hitting in the PCL by 1987 and even showed MLB he could sustain it in his short call-up. Yet, he had to repeat AAA in 1988. Then he spent more time there in ’89 before was promoted to be a bench player in the majors. Finally in 1990 at the age of 27 Martinez has his first starting job. That is pretty old to have your first starting job, and he didn’t show much power. However, a .397 OBA should gave grabbed more attention. Edgar kept slowly improving reaching his plateau from 32 to 38. Even at 40, he was still a valuable DH playing every day and hitting almost .900.

 

Late 1st phase:

Devon White – had been the Angels centerfielder for four seasons and showed a moderate decline down to a .633 O+S despite maturing into his prime years. Now 28 in ‘91, Pat Gillick essentially trades Junior Felix for him, and he is drafted in the 9th round of our inaugural draft. White immediately blossoms into a .797 hitter and wins the next five golden gloves. (He was beautifully graceful.) He was a worthwhile base-stealer, too.

 

Scott Erickson – I lucked out with this low strikeout dude with a 2.87 ERA in his first 17 starts, but only 53 Ks in 113 innings and 51 BBs. After the draft he put in two very good years, before he became steady 5.00+ ERA innings muncher. I was much smarter for cashing him in on time as an upgrade from Steinbach to Tettleton.

 

Tom Candiotti – a 33 year old knuckleballer peaked the year our league started: 238 innings 2.65 ERA and finished the season in Toronto. He was a crossover after that, but one well worth keeping for a couple years.

 

Jimmy Key – from ’85-’87 was an outstanding starting pitcher for the locals (Blue Jays). In 1987 at age 26 Key’s inning total under Jimy Williams grew to 261 innings. In 1988, Key developed an elbow problem. For the next three seasons ’88-‘90 Key averaged about 165 innings, while his ERA crept up to 4.25. One manager took a chance on him this draft and he was about as good as ever for the next four seasons.

 

Robin Ventura – didn’t hit much (.642 O+S) in his rookie season 1990. He must have made an impression defensively, though, he did get some Rookie of the Year votes. Coming from Oklahoma State University and the U.S. Olympic baseball team, he only spent one season in the minor leagues. An eleventh round pick was a good investment as Ventura’s hitting improved in ’91 (.809) and essentially each year of his first six in the majors. A broken leg in ’97 was a major set-back, but Ventura had one last excellent year after signing with the Mets in 1999 at the age of 32/33 finishing sixth in MVP voting. Four years later, his decline came more rapidly.

 

Melido Perez – as a 24 year old with three seasons in the majors, Perez showed promise, but not an ERA below 4.60. In ’91 he brought it down to 3.12 as a reliever-starter – just enough to encourage his manager to protect him for his big pay-off. In 1992 Perez pitched 248 innings producing an ERA of 2.87. His manager did win the championship that year. Perez wasn’t of much use after that, however, except as entertainment for his wild behavior.

 

Danny Tartabull – had an funny shaped career path. His first peak came at age 24 in 1987 with a .931 On Base plus Slugging. However, in 1989 and 1990 his O+S was down from there to about .810. That’s when our league started and he wasn’t taken until the 11th round. Although, never managing to play more than 138 games in any one season, his O+S shot up to .990 in ’91, then dropped somewhat steadily, but still productive through 1994 at age 31.

 

2nd phase:

Paul Molitor  - roster balancing can do strange things – such as allow Ron Karkovice, Lee Guetterman, and Alvaro Espinoza to be drafted ahead of Paul Molitor. Each of those teams already had the secondbase spot filled when those 2nd/3rd phase types were drafted ahead of Molitor a steady .800 hitter who still qualified as a secondbaseman in 1991. The fact that he would be 34 and a firstbaseman was the turn-off for this start up league, where no one would protect DHs Chili Davis or Harold Baines no matter how well they hit. (See below.) Molitor was picked in the 12th round. Converting to 1B and DH did well for his hitting as well as his injury history. For the next four years Molitor hit 40% above league average when his stadium is factored in. That is about .870 in Milwaukee and .920 in Toronto where he signed as a free agent in 1993.

 

Travis Fryman – here’s another player who it is difficult to believe he dropped to the 12th round. (The first phase in those days was 11 rounds.) He was only twenty-two, eligible at shortstop and third base and hit .818 in his first 232 at bats. However, he was not a highly touted prospect and was expected to just play thirdbase, now that Trammell was healthy. It turned out Trammell wasn’t that healthy and ended up playing some third base when he came back, so Fryman was eligible at short and third for the next four seasons. He continued as roughly an .800 hitter for ten seasons with a gold glove and MVP consideration at age 29 and 31. However, an elbow injury seems to have been his down fall at age 32.

 

Jim Abbott – the one armed guy who went straight from the University of Michigan to the California Angels in 1989 pitching 181 in his first year as a professional. In his second year, Abbott pounded out another 212 innings – no problem. He was drafted R#13 (second phase) in time for Abbott to become a star. In his third year, turning 23 early in the season, Abbott pitched 243 innings. Thank you, managers Doug Radar and Buck Rogers. Abbott was still excellent in ’92, though, lowering, his ERA from 2.89 to 2.77. The next three years Abbott pitched about average. That was followed by four years of struggling for a job in the majors.

 

Carlos Baerga – Puerto Rican started his pro career at 17. They moved him up essentially one level at a time straight to Cleveland in 1990 at the age of 21. Baerga’s O+S was about in the lower half of the .700s all the way. Considering his youth and ability to adjust to each level, green lights should have been flashing. One manager noticed and Baerga was his R#15. The secondbaseman improved to .745, then .809, then .841 garnering MVP support, .845, then a slight slip to .807 as a 26 year old. Suddenly for the rest of his career, Baerga struggled to keep his job and his O+S above .700. I wonder if players with low walk totals as Baerga develop just as predictably well as high walk young players, but suddenly get worse at an earlier age.

 

Terry Steinbach – was 29 at the time of the draft and appeared to be slowly going down hill. His O+S for his first four seasons ’87-’90 was getting a little worse each year: .812, .736, .671, .663. Hence, he wasn’t drafted until the 18th round in 1991. Steinbach was protected for the next eight seasons with his O+S averaging above .750. His career year (.871) came at age 34 – the last year of his contract with Oakland.

 

Mike Mussina - was drafted R#28 in 1991. This prospect aged 22 was a Stanford grad with an amazing repertoire of pitches who pitched a mere 9 professional games – albeit at the AA and AAA levels. In that short trial he threw a strikeout per inning, a walk per 5, and at both levels his ERA was under 1.50. Mussina was called up during the 2nd half of first full professional season and became the Orioles’ instant ace.

 

Chuck Knoblauch – was Minnesota’s first round pick in 1989. He went professional immediately and by the end of the season was promoted to the California League. In 1990, Knoblauch took another step towards the majors with an acceptable, but not sensational year in AA. One manager was impressed enough with his scouting reports to draft this 22 year old on the 31st round of our inaugural draft. He won Rookie of the Year. A few years later he was rivaling Robbie Alomar as the A.L.’s top 2ndbaseman.

 

Ivan Rodriguez – was signed by the Rangers as a 16 year old Puerto Rican in 1988. His first year as a 17 year old pro in the South Atlantic League was a success and he moved up to the Florida State League in 1989 playing against adults several years older. Once again he more than held his own, so he started 1991 in AA. That didn’t phase him either, so when the Rangers’ starting catcher Geno Petralli injured his back in mid June, they called up 19 year old Rodriguez to take over catching for a staff that included Nolan Ryan, Jose Guzman, Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown, Oil Can Boyd, and Kenny Rogers. Ivan Rodriguez was the first player drafted in the supplemental draft that soon followed. He finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting. He’s been an all-star almost every year since, winning one MVP award, and surely a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

 

Perpetual hitting machines from that draft who never got respect on protection lists:

 

Chili Davis – a veteran of nine major league seasons after a career year at age 24 and settling into six years in a row of hitting (O+S) .755-.791. In 1991 he signs as a free agent with the Twins, is selected with an R#17, turned into a full time DH, and plays for most of his next nine years as a consistent impact hitter averaging well into the high .800s until tailing off to the low .800s those final two seasons at 38 and 39.

 

Harold Baines – a rookie at 21, still a useful hitter at 41. Baines’ first year after the draft was at age 32. From 22-31 Baines’ On Base plus Slugging ranged from .758 to .902. During his 32-40 years (excluding an off year at 33), he hit from .820 to .943.

 

Seemingly breakthrough prospect who ultimately disappointed:

 

The manager who dropped Ben McDonald was not the manager who drafted him – the original manager died. However, one player protected in his place stands out as a huge bust:

Carlos Quintana - was a 26 year old firstbaseman-outfielder coming off a .787 rookie season (in On-Base Average + Slugging Average). He hit well in the minors with good walk totals, so drafting this young starting firstbaseman in the 12th round wasn’t an outlandish notion. During the 1991 season Quintana was about an average starting firstbaseman, while McDonald was a little below average for a starting pitcher. Quintana missed all of 1992 due to injury and never had a productive year in the majors again.

 

Bill Spiers – not really a prospect, but broke out with a huge season as the 24/25 year old shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1991 achieving an On Base Average + Slugging Average higher than the league averages summed. That’s when he went from an R#20 to a sure protect, of course. A back injury wiped out his 1992 season. Was a shoulder injury in 1990 a warning? It took Spiers five years to recover and be a highly productive full time shortstop. Then Spiers gave Houston four terrific seasons in a row until 2001 at age 34/35 his back gave out for good.

 

Milt Cuyler – started his pro career at 17. He never really hit very well in the minors, but was slated to be Detroit’s starting centerfielder, anyway, and the 22 year old was drafted early in the 3rd phase. Cuyler ended up playing nicely enough to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting. For some reason his walk rate dropped dramatically the following season and it never came back up. 1991 was Cuyler’s peak in both OBA and Slugging!

 

Mark LewisCleveland’s top prospect, no. 9 overall – according to USA Today. We obviously weren’t into prospects as much back then, because he wasn’t drafted until the third phase, but the 21 year old shortstop played 314 ABs in 1991 mostly at secondbase. His averages were: .264/.293/.318. He was protected. He continued to stink. His best year was with the Tigers five years later: .270/.326/.396. This is Baseball America’s 1991 Top 25 prospects. It is an interesting mixture of players who did very well and players who were huge disappointments:

1.      Todd            Van Poppel,       rhp,            Athletics
2.      Andujar        Cedeno,              ss,              Astros
3.      Ryan             Klesko,               1b,             Braves
4.      Jose              Offerman,          ss,              Dodgers
5.      Roger           Salkeld,              rhp,            Mariners
6.      Arthur          Rhodes,              lhp,            Orioles
7.      Ivan              Rodriguez,         c,               Rangers
8.      Reggie          Sanders,             of,              Reds
9.      Mark             Lewis,                ss,              Indians
10.    Maurice        Vaughn,             1b,             Red Sox
11.    Bernie           Williams,            of,              Yankees
12.    Wilfredo       Cordero,             ss,              Expos
13.    Rondell        White,                of,              Expos
14.    Raul              Mondesi,            of,              Dodgers
15.    Willie            Banks,                rhp,            Twins
16.    Rich              Garces,               rhp,            Twins
17.    Tim               Costo,                 1b,             Indians
18.    Tino              Martinez,            1b,             Mariners
19.    Mike             Mussina,             rhp,            Orioles
20.    Jeff               McNeely,           of,              Red Sox
21.    Reid             Cornelius,           rhp,            Expos
22.    Eddie           Zosky,                ss,              Blue Jays
23.    Royce           Clayton,             ss,              Giants
24.    Kurt              Miller,                 rhp,            Pirates
25.    Mark             Whiten,              of,              Blue Jays

 

 

Phil Plantier – as a 19 year old struggled in the Florida State League. However, Plantier blasted through the Carolina League as a 20 year old. The next year he was tested in the International League and passed with 33 home runs and a .901 On Base + Slugging. Plantier had the required high walk totals of a good prospect, but he wasn’t drafted into our league until the 32nd round. The Red Sox kept him in AAA for another four months, but his .989 O+S demanded a shot in Beantown. In his 53 games for the Fenway faithful he kept jaws dropping with a 1.035 O+S managing some Rookie of the Year support despite his brief time up. Plantier started off 1992 as Boston’s every day rightfielder. However, after awhile, his hitting did not go so well and Brunansky won his job back. Plantier was even sent back to Pawtucket for 12 games in which he hit a ridiculous .425/.501/.800. Although, born in New England, Plantier went to high school in California. A change in scenery, if not leagues, seemed like a good idea, so Boston traded Plantier to San Diego for long reliever Jose Melendez – who gave them 12 quality innings in ’93 before a neck injury bludgeoned his career. Plantier gave the Padres an .844 O+S his first year, then .742 his second year playing just against right-handers. While suffering hand and leg injuries Plantier was traded or released or granted free agency for some other team seven times over the next three years, never able establish himself as a solid major leaguer!

 

 

The really bad picks

 

1991 – first eight rounds of the inaugural draft

 

No. 2 overall:

Ben McDonald – was more of a prematurely dropped player than a really bad pick. In 1989 was the first overall pick of the real draft. The next year, with only 67 minor league innings of experience, McDonald was tested with Baltimore for 119 innings with an ERA of 2.43. That was enough for McDonald to be the 2nd overall pick in AL Robinson’s 1991 inaugural draft. His second year produced a 4.84 ERA (league average was 3.98) in 126 innings. With only 11 protection slots, he was dropped. In 1992 Johnny Oates now managing the Orioles turned McDonald into something of a workhorse at age 24. He would pitch 447 innings over the next two years with that second year being McDonald’s best season boasting a 3.39 ERA suggesting he should have been protected and not even be on this list. However, he certainly does qualify as a disappointment overall. The following season was strike shortened to 157 innings. That was followed by a shoulder injury shortened season. As a free agent McDonald signed up to be the Brewer’s workhorse which lasted over a year and a half until his shoulder gave out completely.

 

Is this short but at times brilliant career the fate of today’s young pitching stars Harden, Liriano, Kazmir, Weaver, Verlander, Bonderman, Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez? If Dontrelle Willis’s career were to suddenly sink, his career would be comparable to McDonald’s. Not all young pitching stars end up in disaster. That Clemens guy is still pretty good 20+ years after he reached stardom as a young ace. A more recent case Carlos Zambrano has followed his fine rookie season as a 21 year old with four even better seasons. Kerry Wood made an even more impressive debut at the same age for the same team only four years earlier and has not been so fortunate.

 

No. 6 overall:

Kelly Gruber – had a career year as a 28 year old in 1990 finishing 4th in MVP voting. The Blue Jays had won their division and he was the most admired player on the team for his diving plays at thirdbase and his 73 extra base hits (36-6-31). With Fred McGriff having been traded to the Padres, he was clearly the consensus favorite Blue Jay available for the draft. All the managers were from the Toronto area. Pitching ace Dave Steib was a sourpuss. In 1992 Gruber’s O+S dropped from .842 to his normal .751. He was protected again, but in the Jays’ first championship year, they won in spite of Gruber’s .627 O+S. At one point there were rumors that he was snorting cocaine and water skiing when he was supposed to be recovering from an injury. For 1993 he was dropped by his Scoresheet owner and traded to the Angels where he finished his career playing in only 18 more games.

 

Second Round:

Bobby Thigpen – Naturally, 1991 was just after the 27 year-old’s record breaking 57 save season. That was 89 innings in 77 appearances. He did give his Scoresheet manager one more decent season. However, he continued to go rapidly down hill. Thigpen threw the standard repertoire of fastballs, sliders, curves, and change-ups.

 

Sandy Alomar – at draft time in 1991 he was 24 and the reigning Rookie of the Year (although his brother was younger and had already played in an all-star game). I had both Alomars in my top 5. Fortunately, I didn’t get this one. He played in 51 games and his hitting regressed horribly. It took him four years for his hitting to improve past his rookie season of the reasonably attainable .744. It took him six years to be healthy enough to play more than 90 games! Once he did, he put in some excellent years, but it wasn’t worth protecting him through that string of early bad ones.

 

Third Round:

Bobby Witt -  The hard throwing Witt looked as though he was going to be a dominant star after a 222 inning, 221 strike out, 3.25 ERA, 17-10 1990. He was only 26 years old. A shoulder injury ruined his 1991 season and he was never again anything but an average starting pitcher.

 

Fourth Round:

Alan Trammell – turning 33 at the time of our start up draft Trammell was coming off one of his many excellent years as a shortstop: .307 BA, 68 BB, 37 2B, 14 HR. Always a dirty shirt type of infielder, the bumps and grinds seemed to catch up with Trammell in ’91. An ankle injury put him on the DL for a month mid-season and he ended up with slightly below league average stats. The next year his ankle broke and he missed most of the season. When he came back in ‘93, Travis Fryman was the shortstop. Trammell played 35 games at thirdbase proving he was sound, then switched positions with Fryman. At 35, his season that year would be Trammell’s last outstanding one (.884 O+S). He played three more years slowly winding up his career.

 

Dave Stieb – You would think the pitching ace for the local team of all 10 managers – having pitched consistently for the three previous seasons 208 innings and a 3.10 ERA – would have been drafted much higher than 35th overall. Fortunately, for 9 of us, he wasn’t. Stieb had nine starts in 1991 of his usual brilliance, then he suffered injuries to his shoulder and back from which he never regained his worthiness for a rotation spot. (Sreib had a stretch in the mid 80s in his mid 20s where he averaged 275 innings and a 2.90 ERA.)

 

Bo Jackson – Bo knows injuries. As far as I know, you know that Jackson was the first two sport super star since Jim Thorpe. He finished 10th in MVP voting in 1989, and played even better in 1990 until his season was shortened by a shoulder injury. A hip injury during the football season (do I have that right?) was more serious. A Scoresheet manager in my league took a chance with Jackson as his fourth pick. However, the Royals released him in spring training. His trial with the White Sox didn’t go much better and that was the end of the “Bo knows” era.

 

Don Mattingly – is actually another case of an owner giving up on a player too soon. From ’84 to ’89 Mattingly was a persistent MVP candidate. In 1990, he experienced back problems which reduced his playing. Drafted on the speculation of a comeback, Mattingly still struggled somewhat in 1991, so his owner gave up on him. In ’93 and ’94 Mattingly played well enough to garner some MVP votes - although, he really wasn’t that good – not even a Derek Jeter.

 

Fifth Round:

Alex Cole – was a 25 year old rookie with a decent OBA (.385), but no power whatsoever (.357 SlgA. and 6 home runs in his 5 minor league seasons). Speed he did have. Forty steals in 49 attempts along with his .300 batting average earned him some Rookie of the Year votes and the 41st pick of our inaugural draft. In ’91, his hitting continued about the same, but he lost his art of stealing – getting caught 17 times out of 44. Cole was never protected.

 

George Brett – by 1991 Brett was 37 and no longer qualified as a thirdbaseman. He was coming off a typical .900 O+S season as a hitter, however. That was his last one. He slipped to about .730 his last three seasons.

 

Pat Borders – took over as the Blue Jays’ catcher in 1990 with a career year .816 O+S. He was 27. For the rest of his long career (although, only a few more as a regular), he was a .660 hitter.

 

Glen Davis – a perennial MVP vole getter with the Astros was traded to the Orioles in one of the most lopsided Major League trades of all-time (excluding some of salary dumps of recent years). Rib and neck injuries reduced Davis to an essentially useless ballplayer, while Harnisch, Schilling, and Steve Finely went on to have fine to excellent careers. The fact, that we held off on the nearly 30 year old Davis until the fifth round demonstrates either our practicality regarding the drafting of an injury risk or our ignorance about a player who’s excellence was obscured by the Astrodome and playing in “the other league”.

 

Sixth Round:

Kevin Seitzer – peaked in 1987 as a 25 year old rookie hitting .869 (O+S) covering third base. His next seasons went down to .794, .724, .716. Then AL Robinson started and he .700. Although, older at his breakthrough, his position, walk totals, which are high, and career path remind me of someone: hmmmmm, could it be Hank Blalock?

 

Jerry Browne – only 25 and coming off back to back years of hitting above league average – very nice for a secondbaseman. Despite being a hitter who walks more than he strikes out and having reasonable semblance of pop, Browne struggled in 1991. New manager Mike Hargrove decided to play their phenomenal rookie Mark Lewis at second base instead. (See “Other players protected for 1992 .. .” above.) For the rest of Browne’s career, he was a 3B-2B-OF utility player.

 

Walt Weiss – was solidly, at least, an average shortstop over his first three seasons ’88-’90. Now (1991) 27, he is drafted in the 6th round. In April he suffered an ankle injury, tried to come back in May, then went back on the DL in June for the rest of the year. His Scoresheet manager protected him anticipating his comeback. He came back in 1992 to hit .212 with no homers and only 7 extra base hits in 316 at bats. Finally, his manager cut him. He was traded to the NL and had his real comeback playing seven more seasons as an average shortstop.

 

Seventh Round:

Eric King – from the same manager who snatched up the tired armed Roger Clemens in the first round, an inconsistent Randy Johnson in the fifth round, a budding young ace Jack McDowell in the 6th round, and another Stanford graduate who just pitched his first 55 professional innings in third phase (Mike Mussina) . . . in the 7th round drafted . . . King. Back in ‘86 when Detroit was a perennial contender, they patched up an aging rotation by calling up a 22 year old Eric King. He gave them 11 wins, 4 losses, 138 innings, and a 3.41 ERA. In 1987 Detroit had the best record in baseball, but no thanks to King who’s ERA dropped to 4.89. Detroit’s champion 1984 pitching coach Roger Craig had been hired away to manage the Giants. For many years after Detroit failed to find anyone who knew how to teach young pitchers, unless you count Sparky. Sent back to the minors, King eventually made it back for 69 innings posting an ERA of 3.41. The next year King was traded to the White Sox for Kenny Williams. In June, King experienced some shoulder troubles, but rehabbed his way back to log 159 innings of 3.39 ERA. The next year King had another shoulder problem, this time in August. His results for the year were about the same: 151 innings and a 3.28 ERA. After he was drafted in AL Robinson, of course, he had another shoulder problem, and, again, he pitched 151 innings only this time his ERA was 4.60. He came back to a more desperate Detroit club in ’92, had more shoulder troubles, pitched only 79 major league innings with a 5.22 ERA and he was done. Shoulder injuries are a red flag which should have been heeded. If not, then his dropping strikeout rate was.

 

Jessie Barfield – Josh’s dad peaked at ages 25 and 26 tying the league lead in home runs in 1986 and hit a .927 On Base + Slugging. Mid-’89 Blue Jays’ G.M. Pat Gillick was traded Barfield to the Yankees for prospect Al Leiter. In 1990 the 30 year old Barfield continued to get by with his cannon arm and .815 O+S. After he was drafted in our historical 7th round, the Yankees benched Barfield for hitting only .759. In 1992, he couldn’t hit at all and was released.

 

Eighth Round:

Kevin Brown – a different Kevin Brown. This is Kevin DeWayne Brown who was a Brewer with 23 major league innings. THE Kevin Brown was picked on the next round which would have been one of the best picks of the draft, if that manager had hung onto him. The lesson here is be sure you drafting the right player.

 

Alvin Davis – was my worse pick of the first 20 rounds, if not the whole draft. For the seven seasons leading up to the draft Davis had been a steady offensive brute hitting 20-50% better than the league average as a firstbaseman in O+S. His best year was 1989 as a 28 year old reaching .920. For my team in ’91 as he arrived at the magic age of 30, he hit a vaporous .643 and vanished.

 

Doug Jones – in 1990 was one of the most reliable stoppers in the game. As Cleveland’s closer the 34 year old had ERAs of 3.15, 2.27, 2.34, and 2.56 leading up to the draft. (Those were his first four full seasons!) Well, in ’91 his ERA blew up to 5.54. Of course, with only 11 protection slots you can’t keep a reliever who does that. Next year the 36 year old reliever had an ERA of 1.85. Then 4.54. Then 2.17. Then 5.01 followed by 4.22. But at 40/41 Jones came back with an ERA of 2.02. Jones was a slow ball pitcher. He fooled batters with varying rates of slowness and he fooled Scoresheet managers with his random switches between great and terrible seasons.

 

Kurt Stillwell – only 25 when drafted in ’91, though Stillwell already had five MLB seasons. Unfortunately, that experience didn’t translate into much improvement. Stillwell’s best year was his third year 1998, when he hit league average – which is, of course, good for a shortstop. However, the following two years leading up to the draft saw his stats decline. From ’91 on, Stillwell’s playing time declined steadily, too.

 

Billy Ripken – had his career year in 1990 preceding the draft at age 25 batting .291/.342/.387 in 401 At Bats. This famous brother stayed in the Majors for another eight years as an out machine. Baltimore played him in over 100 games per each of his years there from ’88 to ’92.

 

Teddy Higuera – jumped from 117 innings to 203 innings in the Mexican League as 22 year old. At 24 he was pitching 222 innings. Milwaukee signed him and gave him 212 innings his rookie season in the Majors at 26. They decided he was a workhorse and gave him 737 innings over the next three seasons. Finally, at 30 in 1989 Higuera began experiencing back and shoulder troubles. He pitched a more cautious 170 innings in 1990. The former stud was worth risking a seventh round pick in this inaugural draft. He pitched only 36 more innings. For the next three years, he tried to come back, but was washed up.

 

Aging Time bombs – players who fooled us with excellent ‘91s, but shouldn’t have been kept (in hindsight, of course):

 

Willie Randolf – Not having had an outstanding season since ’87, Randolf surprised us with this nearly .800 O+S in 1991. So, he was protected, and being 37 he broke his wrist and retired.

 

Julio Franco – What? Yes. In 1991, he was still an impact hitter playing a defensive position. Even fifteen years ago in 1991, he was an overachiever for his age. At 32 turning 33 that August playing secondbase Franco finished with a .409 OBA and .474 Slugging (.883 total). He had 36 steals in 45 attempts to boot! However, a knee injury essentially wiped out his 1992 season. Except for a 35 game experiment back at 2B in 1997, he’s been a 1B-DH-PH ever since.

 

Lance Parrish – perennial all-star catcher at 35/36 in 1992 began playing halftime as overall skills gradually declined.

 

Ruben Sierra – was one of the most over-protected players in the history of A.L. Robinson. Never known for milking a walk, Sierra was always over-rated by the less statistically sophisticated managers of which there was a greater abundance only a few years ago. Sierra was a solid rookie as a 20 year old – something that gets you tagged as a potential Hall of Famer. The next year 1987 he reached the 30 homer milestone. In 1989 Sierra was a close runner-up to Robin Yount as the American League MVP. Now his star was firmly in the heavens. His last season before the start of AL Robinson produced only 16 home runs to go with his .280 BA and mere 49 BBs. However, his 37 doubles, 9 steals without getting caught all at the young age of 24 made him a reasonable pick for the third round. He rewarded his owner with another outstanding year: .307 BA, 25 HR, 44 2B, 5 3B, 56 BB, .859 O+S. That would be the last of them for a decade! Yet, Sierra was protected for another six years by four different managers ’93-‘96 hoping for comeback seasons. But then, perhaps I have higher standards for protection. Although, more inconsistent, Sierra’s bad protected seasons were overall about equal to:

 

Luis Polonia – was protected for four seasons (’92-’95 ages 28-31). The left-fielder was a pretty consistent .790 hitter (O+S) as a platoon player, more around .730 when playing full time. He stole lots of bases, but was cut down too often for it to be worthwhile. He continued steadily like this (except for a easing off on the basestealing), given his release, played for the Mexico City Tigers a couple of years, came back and played for the Detroit Tigers a couple years with precisely the same MLB stats as before.

 

Bill Gullickson – from ’81-’86 at the ages of 22-27 Gullickson was an outstanding pitcher. Although, his fastball was slow and his strikeouts totals low, his ERAs for five years in a row as a full time starter were in the early-mid 3.00s. He was a workhorse, too, sometimes knocking back over 240 innings. Then in 1987, Gullickson has a nasty strand rate and his ERA fattened to 4.86. So, he plays the next two years in Japan. He comes back and pitches OK, but not well enough for Houston that they want to keep him. Detroit sucked him up in ‘91 and he was their ace for the year. He actually won 20 games. He was a no-brainer protectee, right? The next year, the 33 year old finesse and junk pitcher is mediocre, which he follows with seasons that are worse and even worse. To be fair, Detroit’s defense was going in the same direction. Lesson: low strikeout pitchers need good defenses behind them.

 

I hope you enjoyed this foray into 15-16 years ago. I have to get back to reality for awhile, but I am looking forward to digging some more through the history of AL Robinson and Major League baseball to finish these projects.

- John Carter