The only Baseball America number one prospect since 1990 (excluding 2014 and 2015 top prospects Byron Buxton and Kris Bryant, who both may be in the Major Leagues as soon as this year) to not make the Major Leagues goes by the name of Brien Taylor.
Taylor turned 43 last month and has been out of professional baseball for 15 years.
In 1991, the Yankees picked Taylor with the 1st overall pick out of East Carteret High School in Beufort, North Carolina. Taylor, the second of four children, was born to a mason and a crab picker. He played on the baseball team at East Carteret and as Taylor's onetime advisor Scott Boras put it in 2006, "Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I've seen in my life."
Taylor often hit 98 and 99 on the gun in high school. During his four years, he totaled a win-loss record of 29-6 with a 1.25 ERA. He struck out 213 hitters in 88 innings pitched. Scouts marveled at the success of Taylor. "There are certain pitchers who come along every so often and you don't know how to describe them," said Mike Fox, the head coach at the University of North Carolina. "Well, you can describe Brien pretty quickly: No one could touch him."
Taylor going number one overall to the Yankees was hardly a surprise. New York offered him a $300,000 signing bonus, the typical amount for a top draft choice at the time. The money was already a life changing amount for his family, but under the discretion of Boras, Taylor held out for more money. He held out to the point where the Yankees signed him for $1.55 million the day before he would have headed to a local community college on scholarship.
Taylor wasn't able to get a scholarship from a top university; his grades were poor in high school, but even still he was able to pressure the Yankees into signing him to the largest bonus ever.
Even before Taylor stepped on a professional mound, Baseball America ranked him as the top prospect in all of baseball. In 1992, at the age of 20, Taylor pitched 161.1 innings at the High Single-A level, posting a strikeout percentage of 28.2 percent (strikeouts/batters faced) and a walk percentage of 9.9 percent. Those numbers earned Taylor a promotion to Double-A for the 1993 season.
Taylor wasn't as good in Double-A as he was the year before, but people could not fathom a 21-year-old lefty having a ton of success at that high of a level in the minors. In simpler terms, the small regression was expected. He still went 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA that year, as both his strikeout and walk percentages didn't reach the same numbers as the prior season.
The Yankees planned for Taylor to pitch in Triple-A in 1994 and be in the Major Leagues by 1995 at the latest. Initially, New York planned for Taylor to be on the fast track to the Majors, like how the Mets expedited Dwight Gooden's debut. However, they found that he needed to hold runners at first better, and decided to have him progress through systematically.
Anyway, in 1993, Taylor was injured while defending his brother in a fistfight. He and his cousin went to confront Ron Wilson, the man who hurt his brother, but instead got into an altercation with the man's friend, Jamie Morris. According to Wilson, Taylor hurt his shoulder when throwing and missing a punch at Morris. Following the incident, Boras told reporters that Taylor had just suffered a bruise.
That was not the case. The Yankees had Taylor visit Dr. Frank Jobe, the same man who preformed the first "Tommy John surgery" on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. Jobe called Taylor's injury one of the worst he had ever seen. Jobe repaired a torn capsule and a torn glenoid labrum in his shoulder. Essentially, he tore his shoulder right out of its socket. He missed the entire 1994 season.
Taylor would come back to baseball in 1995 and over the next four seasons he never was able to get back to Double-A. In 108 2/3 innings from 1995 to 1998, Taylor walked an astounding 175 hitters, and failed to top 90 mph with his fastball. His tenure with the Yankees came to an end after the 1998 season after he could no longer get hitters out in Single-A ball.
The Mariners gave Taylor a chance in 1999, but he was released following inconsistency in his extended Spring Training games.
"Sometimes I get the ball across the plate, sometimes I feel like I've never held a ball in my life," Taylor said in 1996.
Taylor signed with the Indians in 2000 and did make their Single-A team. But at age 28, he could not find his former self within him. He pitched 2 2/3 innings with Cleveland's Single-A Columbus team, giving up 11 runs (eight earned), while walking nine and striking out just two. That was the end of Taylor's career, giving him the title of "perhaps the best pitcher we never got to see."
After retiring from the game, Taylor moved to Raleigh, North Carolina with his five daughters and worked as a UPS package handler, then as a beer distributor. He moved back home by 2006, working as a bricklayer with his father. In 2005, Taylor was charged with misdemeanor child abuse, after leaving four of his daughters (ages 2-11) home for more than eight hours.
Taylor was charged with cocaine trafficking in 2012 and was charged with 38 months in prison in August of that year. After being released in September of last year, Taylor will be supervised for the next three years. Brien Taylor has practically fallen off the face of the Earth.
Why is all this important? As we approach the 2015 season, many fans will be watching for their team's top prospects to improve at the minor league level. Every prospect comes with a little bit of doubt. This is an extreme example, but even though Taylor showed promise and progression, one injury or incident can ruin a player's career forever. The minor leagues are practically a black hole. If any player can survive them with health and with success, then they are going places.
Prospects are exactly that, prospects. Some may turn out to be great, while others, like Taylor, will be the failure stories for many years to come. Teams have to put way more effort into the background of their draftees and make sure that they aren't only a good ballplayer, but a good person as well. I'm not saying Taylor isn't. But maybe if he had made better choices, he would have been a better player.
Taylor changed the MLB Draft and how fans look at prospects forever. And taught everyone a valuable lesson. Prospects are just prospects.
All quotes are not mine. They are from outside sources.
Jesus Montero literally looks like he's "in the best shape of his life" as he reports to Mariners Spring Training
Catcher Jesus Montero has had quite the roller coaster of a career.
He was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2006, and by 2009, Baseball America had already recognized him as one of the 100 best prospects in the nation. His peak season came following the 2010 season, when he was ranked as the 3rd best prospect in baseball after hitting .289/.353/.517 in 504 plate appearances at the Yankees Triple-A affiliate.
Montero, along with Hector Noesi, was traded to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos (minors) in 2012. He hit an unimpressive .260/.298/.386 that season as the main designated hitter, his only with a full 500+ big league plate appearances.
Kendrys Morales came to Seattle to handle the DH in 2013 and Mike Zunino was their main catcher, leaving the then-23-year-old Montero in the minor leagues for most the season.
By this time, Montero had lost most of his average and power hitting abilities and had surgery on a medical meniscus in his knee on June 5. Plus, he was suspended for using PEDs. He had begun the fall down the roller coaster and the Mariners had lost their patience for him and his abilities.
Then, last Spring Training, Montero arrived 40 pounds overweight. That was considered the end of his "prospect" talent. Last season, he spent almost the entire year with Triple-A Tacoma, and didn't even register 500 plate appearances there. Montero was suspended again, this time due to an altercation with a club scout. Practically everyone had given up on him.
This offseason, Montero worked to get himself back into shape, coming back to Mariners camp looking almost like a different person. He came into camp at 230 pounds, a weight he hasn't been since 2011. It may or may not help his performance this season, but good for him to take the initiative and get himself back into shape. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what he can do in Spring Training.
Here's the transformation of Montero from last Spring Training to this Spring Training.
"It's way better to be feeling like this," Montero told the Seattle Times, "Like I am right now."
As the 2014 regular season comes to a close, here are Devan's season awards.
Most Valuable Player - Mike Trout
Mike Trout is the best player in the American League. He was snubbed out of the past two MVP awards to Miguel Cabrera and Miguel Cabrera, respectively. This year, he hasn't been nearly as good, hitting "only" a slash line of .287/.377/.561 with 36 home runs and a league-leading 111 runs batted in. However, he has struck out 184 times, which is a red flag for Trout's future. But then again, there has been nobody better than Trout and his fWAR leads all of baseball. Nobody's been more valuable than Mike.
Cy Young Award - Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez absolutely dominated this year. Only someone by the same of Clayton Kershaw has been better than he has, as his 15-6 record with his 2.29 ERA is good enough to win the award itself. But for good measure, he has struck out 248 hitters as compared to only 46 walks over his 236 innings pitched. His 2.56 FIP and 2.51 xFIP both suggest that Hernandez has been helped by some good luck this year. Hernandez has a 5.9 WAR, which ranks fourth in the AL. But his dominance deserves the Cy Young award overall. He's been absolutely fantastic.
Manager of the Year - Lloyd McClendon
Lloyd McClendon took over a Mariners team that hasn't had a winning season since 2009 and almost took them to the postseason. A Mariners win and an Athletics loss would have done the trick, but Seattle fans were let down on the final day of the season when Oakland beat the Texas Ranger 6-0 to clinch the final American League playoff spot. But the Mariners have a young pitching staff, young lineup, and $200 million man Robinson Cano may be able to take them to October next year.
Rookie of the Year - Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu was fantastic at the beginning of the season, but cooled down greatly as the season went on. He hit 36 home runs, drove in 107, and posted a .317 batting average. If there has been any rookie better than Abreu, let me know. As for the Sabermetrics, Abreu has a 165 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and a 5.2 WAR, well ahead of any rookie in either league, let alone the American League. I would expect Abreu to finish in the top-10 in the MVP voting and wrap up the Rookie of the Year award easily, perhaps even unanimously. The future is bright for the young power hitter.
Comeback Player of the Year - Wade Davis
Just last season, Wade Davis was one of the worst players in the Royals pitching staff, going 8-11 with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.677 WHIP. He posted a 78 ERA+, meaning that his ERA was 22% worse than the average pitcher, including park factors. This season, Davis was converted to a back end of the bullpen relief pitcher, going 9-2 with a 1.00 ERA and a 0.847 WHIP. He has a 109 to 23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72 innings pitched. His ERA+? A whopping 399. That is basically saying that Davis' ERA is 299 percent better than the average pitcher. This comeback was astronomical.
Defender of the Year - Alex Gordon
You have to give some recognition to the best defenders. Alex Gordon has been lights-out in center for Kansas City. He has 27 defensive runs saved and has posted a 21.9 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which measures the outfield arm runs above average, double play runs above average, range runs above average, and error runs above average and combines them. Gordon's range and arm has been fantastic this year and has made a lot of tough plays in the outfield, including a whopping 17.6% of "remote" plays (as determined by scouts) made, which generally is between 1-10%.
Most Valuable Player - Clayton Kershaw
Nobody in the National League has been better than Clayton Kershaw has this season. Let me repeat: nobody. Not Giancarlo Stanton, nor anyone else. Sure, some people may be against giving pitchers MVP awards, but Clayton Kershaw's 2014 season has been the best pitching season (in terms of ERA below 1.80) since Pedro Martinez's 2000 campaign. Kershaw's numbers are unbelievable; he's 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 1.81 FIP, and 2.07 xFIP in just 27 starts due to injury. He's struck out 239 and only walked 31. His season is better than Justin Verlander's 2011 MVP season. He's the best of the best in the NL.
Cy Young Award - Clayton Kershaw
If Kershaw is the MVP, there is absolutely no reason as to why he shouldn't be the Cy Young award winner. That's my logic.
Manager of the Year - Bruce Bochy
Bruce Bochy has had to battle injuries to his offense and pitching staff and the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, but has still been able to bring the San Francisco Giants back to the playoffs with a Wild Card birth. Bochy is a managerial wizard, and he definitely proved that this season. Even with all the woes, he led the team to an 12 win improvement last season and will be leading them to their third postseason under him. The result of the first two? World Series championships.
Rookie of the Year - Jacob deGrom
I recently wrote an article on why Jacob deGrom should win the National League Rookie of the Year over Billy Hamilton. Hamilton hasn't done anything to change my mind on that, so deGrom is still my pick to win the award. On the year, he is 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA, 2.67 FIP, and 3.03 xFIP on the season in 22 starts with the New York Mets. His 3.0 fWAR ranks fourth among rookie starters and tops in the National League. Hamilton's low OBP and high caught stealing rate really sealed the deal for deGrom.
Comeback Player of the Year - Edinson Volquez
Edinson Volquez signed a one-year, $5 million "prove it" deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to this season and boy did he prove it. Volquez, fresh off a season where he posted a 5.71 ERA, has gone 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA, 4.15 FIP, and 4.20 xFIP in 192 2/3 innings pitched. He has struck out 140 and walked 71, as compared to a 142 to 77 ratio last year in 22 1/3 less innings. Now he is headed to the postseason, where he will start the National League Wild Card game.
Defender of the Year - Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward continually made outstanding catches and unbelievable throws in right field for the Atlanta Braves. His UZR is the highest in baseball with a 25.3 mark. His range runs above average is tops in the majors as well, 5.7 runs above better than the next highest defender (Chase Headley). In terms of Inside Edge Fielding, Heyward has made 62.5% of "unlikely" plays, which is generally in the 10-40% range. Heyward has been the best defender of anyone this season.
Every contender wants David Price. Not every contender can get David Price, but everyone does want him. Put Price on any roster and he makes them automatically better. That is why his name is the one to watch for as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. The former Cy Young award winner and four-time All-Star has had a fantastic season, but the Tampa Bay Rays, however, have not. Who is the most equipped to get David Price before the 31st?
The Cleveland Indians have the pieces the Rays covet. They are already in talks over the hurler, as Robert Murray of Sports Rumor Alert reported last week. As always, the Indians would have to deal a few top prospects to get Price. Outfielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians first round pick in 2012 and their fourth-best prospect (via MLB.com), is a trade target, as could be Carlos Santana, who's on-base percentage has been historically good. The Indians' top prospect, Francisco Lindor, is off-limits, per Murray, who's source told him, "No way we give him up."
Danny Salazar, who has not pitched in the big leagues since May 15, could also be apart of any David Price deal. However, his value is likely at its lowest right now. He was fantastic last season, going 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA and a 123 ERA+ in 10 starts, netting him a postseason start, but he does not look like a guy who could be a headliner in a deal for David Price. It would take Salazar plus a lot more to acquire him. The Rays want a lot for Price (who wouldn't?) and are content on keeping him if they cannot get a deal done. That's where I believe the Indians fall short.
While the Indians do have some intriguing pieces for Price, the two sides do not match up without Francisco Lindor. The Rays are beginning to contend, meaning that they are not in a hurry to deal Price. The Indians do have a lot to offer, but it is not exactly what the Rays are looking for, thus it seems hard to see Price headed out to Cleveland. If Price was in the final year of his contract, which he will be next year, the Rays would have more intentions to move him. If they do not move him this year, keep your eyes open on Cleveland next year if this does happen again.
St. Louis Cardinals
Nick Cafardo reported on Sunday that the St. Louis Cardinals would like a financial commitment before going all out on David Price. To translate that, the Cardinals would like Price, but his contract is too short for them to really go out for him. If they do decide to bolster their pitching staff, well, very nicely, David Price is definitely out there for them. The Cardinals might just have the minor league depth to go get the biggest prize at the July 31st trade deadline.
First there is Oscar Taveras. One of the best prospects in all the minor leagues, Taveras would be the highlight of any deal for David Price. However, just like the Indians, I doubt that there is any chance the Cardinals deal him. Actually, the chances are zero. Taveras will not be moved. If the Cardinals would like a "financial commitment" before committing to Price, there is no chance they will move perhaps their entire future in Oscar Taveras.
Besides Taveras, the Cardinals do have some intriguing minor league prospects. Lefty Marco Gonzalez seems to be on the fast track to the major leagues, as is outfielder Stephen Piscotty. Both are very underrated, which could make a great foundation for a deal with the Rays. However, the Rays probably want Taveras, who they are not likely going to get. And if the Cardinals do not budge, it is the same story, the Rays will be content on keeping the lefty. That is why this whole situation is even more interesting.
If we did not learn from Robinson Cano's $200 plus million contract, the Mariners are willing to overpay. Is it possible that they go out and get David Price? I do not know. Of the three teams, they likely are the most needy. They play in what seems to be the strongest division in baseball, including the three-headed monster of the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, and them. In order to go capture a playoff spot, and go deep into the playoffs, the Mariners need to get some pitching.
David Price might be that option. However, righty Taijuan Walker, the Mariners top prospect, would have to be included in a deal for him. I believe that Walker, of the three teams' top prospects, is the most likely to be moved in the event of a David Price trade. Which is why the Mariners could be the best suitor for the starter. They do not want a financial commitment and they need to keep up with both their division rivals in the A's and the Angels, who have made some big trades already this deadline season.
Other players in a foundation for a deal could be lefty James Paxton or third baseman D.J. Peterson. The Mariners, while might not have the best prospects, may be the highest bidders for the Rays on David Price, which is why I think they ultimately go and get him. They are willing to spend and they want to continue to fight for the playoffs. This is the perfect match for the Rays and David Price.
Within the next ten days, we will find where David Price gets dealt, or even if he gets dealt. But for now, it is all speculation, as anything can happen during trade deadline season.
Boy, has this season gone by fast. It feels like just yesterday the Boston Red Sox were hoisting the 2013 World Series trophy, and everyone else was waiting for the season to start again. It feels like just yesterday that Opening Day was here and that the teams were back on the field to start a new season with a clean slate. But this first half of the season has gone by fast. Really fast. Now we are at the All-Star break, and it is time to give out some "first-half awards," talk about some surprise teams, and just recap what went on during this fantastic first half of the 2014 season.
American League Awards:
MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Trout can do it all. He can hit for average, hit for power, runs well, plays decent outfield, and has an average arm. He is the closest player in the major leagues to being a true five-tool guy. It's about time that the 22-year-old gets an MVP award, don't you think? Trout is having another fantastic season at the dish, posting the highest fWAR and wRC+ in the major leagues with 5.5 and 181 marks, respectively. He has a 1.005 OPS, which ranks tops in the American League. And he has a .310 average, good for 13th in the majors. If he is not the AL MVP, then who is?
Honorable Mentions: Josh Donaldson, Jose Abreu, and Miguel Cabrera
Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
If Masahiro Tanaka had stayed healthy, it would have been a tough choice for this award. But he couldn't. The 27-year-old Abreu, right out of Cuba, was thrown into the American game of baseball and had to adjust. The adjusting part was likely the easiest for Abreu, who has taken the major leagues by storm. With 29 homers, Abreu leads the American League in bombs, and only needs 20 in the second half to tie Mark McGwire for most home runs in a rookie season. That by itself is deserving of the Rookie of the Year award, but for good measure, Abreu has a .292 batting average and a .630 (!!!) slugging percentage.
Honorable Mentions: Masahiro Tanaka and George Springer
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
This season, Felix has just been plain old Felix. Having perhaps the greatest season of his career, Hernandez is 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA and a 2.04 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). His 5.2 fWAR leads all pitchers, and his 2.43 xFIP ranks second to only Clayton Kershaw, who, as we all know, is a National League pitcher. The amazing thing about Hernandez is that his change-up, the pitch he uses second-most (to his sinker) holds hitters to a minuscule .157 batting average (32-for-142). If Hernandez records just eight more wins, he ties his all-time high.
Honorable Mentions: Jon Lester, David Price, and Garrett Richards
Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, MGR, Los Angeles Angels
Many people still question the contracts the Angels gave to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and how they have not turned the team into a World Series contender. Well, the contracts are still bad, but the critics have to be quiet, at least for this year. The Los Angeles Angels are getting the job done in the American League West, and both Pujols and Hamilton have performed. Scioscia has managed the Angels since 2000, and he is on pace to finish with the third-highest winning percentage in his managerial career. The Angels are on pace for a record of 98-64.
Honorable Mention: Lloyd McClendon
The National League first-half awards will be announced tomorrow. Here's a teaser: Troy Tulowitzki will not win the MVP award. Be sure to check them all out!