COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees are often accused by fans of rival teams of attempting to buy championships. Perhaps they do that because, quite simply, their track record in the first round of the amateur draft has been less than spectacular.
The successes have been few. The Yankees took Derek Jeter with the sixth overall pick in 1992. They tabbed Thurman Munson fourth overall in 1968. And ... that's about it.
The Yankees' history in the first-round of the draft is littered with many more misses than hits. Here are the five biggest first-round busts in the history of the franchise.
5. Steve Taylor, p, taken No. 23 overall in 1977
Steve Taylor had been a star pitcher at the University of Delaware who the Yankees took in the first round in 1977.
He showed some early promise, moving quickly to the Triple-A level in just his second year in pro baseball. But that seemed to be the ceiling for Taylor, who bounced back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A for the next two seasons. An arm injury while pitching for Double-A Nashville in 1980 was the beginning of the end. He tried to come back in 1981, was released, and pitched briefly in the Houston Astros' organization before leaving the game at age 25.
4. Jeffrey Pries, p, taken No. 22 overall in 1984
Jeff Pries had been drafted in 1981 by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., but opted to go to UCLA.
After three years at UCLA, the Yankees took the right-hander in the first round in 1984. Pries, however, had a problem with control. He walked 159 batters in 343 minor-league innings and he never got beyond Triple-A, where he had an 8.28 ERA for Columbus in 25 innings in 1986.
He was done after the 1987 season after posting a 4.57 ERA in Class-A ball. According to the baseball-reference.com Bullpen, Pries answered a higher calling after leaving baseball, becoming a pastor.
3. Jim McDonald, 1b, taken 19th overall in 1975
Jim McDonald was a 6-foot-2, 190-pound prospect taken out of Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles with the 19th overall pick in 1975. He played six years in the Yankees' organization and never quite bloomed the way the club hoped. He did hit .281/.333/.458 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs for Double-A West Haven in 1978, but that wasn't enough to earn him a promotion and he was benched in 1979 in favor of a prospect named Buck Showalter. McDonald was released after the 1980 season, when he hit .262/.327/.352 with two home runs in 325 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus. He played a year in the Mexican League, signed with the Houston Astros' organization in 1982, was released again and played one more season for Veracruz before retiring at age 25 having never made the show.
2. Doug Heinold, p, taken 13th overall in 1973
Doug Heinold seemed to be on track, progressing to Triple-A in his third pro season after he was drafted in the first round out of Stroman High School in Victoria, Texas, in 1973. Triple-A was where he peaked, pitching at Syracuse in parts of three seasons (1975-77) before injuring his arm in 1977. He attempted a comeback in 1978, but pitched in only 19 games at three levels (Class A, Double-A and Triple-A) before hanging it up at age 23.
1. Brien Taylor, p, taken first overall in 1991
Brien Taylor was the Can't Miss Kid. Until he missed, that is. Taylor received a then-record $1.55 million bonus from the Yankees after he was taken as the first pick in 1991, but never threw a pitch in the major leagues. He injured his shoulder in a fight with an old friend in Beaufort, N.C., after he threw a punch that never landed. The force of the punch ripped his shoulder apart and he was never the same.
The Yankees cut him loose after the 1998 season, when he hadn't been able to advance beyond Class A after the injury. The Cleveland Indians gave him a look in 2000, but he was released.
Last November, Taylor was sentenced to 38 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of distributing crack cocaine.
That's a long fall for a kid who supposedly couldn't miss.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- Steve Taylor
- Brien Taylor
- Houston Astros