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The Five Worst Drafts of 2002
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
February 24, 2008

While the Oakland A’s 2002 Moneyball draft may not have been the best in baseball (or all it was cracked up to be), it certainly wasn’t close to the worst.  In researching who compiled the best collection of draftees that year, I also came to a conclusion about which teams had the least success in 2002. 

A number different factors went into deciding just who was the worst of the worst of ’02, such as the number of each teams successful picks (judged simply as players who spent at least one day in a major league uniform), the success (or lack thereof) of those players once in the majors, how much of their (relative) success was attained in the uniform of the team that drafted them, what that drafting team may have (or may not have) acquired in exchange for them, whether or not they even signed them in the first place, and, of course, the failures of those draftees who didn’t make it.  So without further adieu, I present the five worst drafts of 2002.

#5 – Houston Astros

In 2007, the Astros became the last major league team to send one of its own to the majors when 4th round pick Mark McLemore finally made it to the show.  McLemore went 3-0 with a pitching line of 3.86 ERA/1.60 WHIP/.270 BAA in ’07, while pitching 35.0 innings in 29 games out of the Houston pen.  Those were respectable numbers for the 27-year old lefty. While he’s not a high end prospect, as a left-hander, he has a chance to make a comfortable living in the majors if he can improve on them even slightly.

Meanwhile, top pick Derrick Grigsby (29th overall) out of Northeast Texas Community College lasted just two seasons in the Astros organization before retiring, reportedly due to debilitation depression.  Two years prior to the draft, Grigsby tragically lost his mother during a routine operation, and he now makes his living racing stock cars on dirt tracks in Texas and Louisiana. 

Second round pick Mitch Talbot was traded along with Ben Zobrist to Tampa Bay in exchange for Aubrey Huff in July of ’06.  He currently occupies a spot on Tampa’s 40-man roster and is ranked as the Rays 11th best prospect by Scout Magazine.  Huff hit .250 with 13 home runs in 68 games for the Astros before leaving as a free agent for Baltimore.

Third round selection Rory Shortell remains in the Houston system, although in five seasons, he has yet to rise above high A-ball.  Fifth round pick Pat Misch made it to the majors in 2006, but only after spurning Houston and being redrafted by the Giants in ’03. 

#4 – Cleveland Indians

The Indians had seven picks in the first three rounds in 2002, including three first round picks and two second rounders. Thus far, all they have to show for them are 54.2 major league innings pitched.  Noted Moneyball pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was the Tribe’s top pick at #22 overall after slipping due to outrageous contract demands made by his agent Scott Boras.  He posted a 6.08 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP in just 37.0 innings for the Indians before he was claimed off waivers by Baltimore last January. 

Third baseman Matt Whitney, a supplemental first rounder chosen with the 33rd overall pick whose bat has been compared to Manny Ramirez', suffered a severe leg injury during a pickup basketball game in 2003 and spent much of the next three years battling back from that.  In 2007, he was moved to first base and responded by hitting 32 home runs and driving in 113 with a combined line of .299/.364/.545 while splitting time between Low-A Lake County and High-A Kinston.  That caught the attention of the Washington Nationals who grabbed him in the major league portion of the Rule V draft this past December where he’ll have to make the opening day roster or be offered back to the Indians. 

High school second baseman Micah Schilling, the 41st and last player selected in the first round of the 2002 draft, failed to rise above High-A ball in five years with Cleveland and was released in March of ’07.  He signed a minor league deal with the Mets and spent the year with the Brooklyn Cyclones, with whom he posted a nifty .427 OBP in 71 games. 

Second round pick Brian Slocum (63rd overall) made it to the majors in 2006 and pitched 17.2 innings for the Tribe, posting a line of 5.60/2.04/.360 before missing most of the 2007 campaign with shoulder and elbow injuries.  He pitched just 26 innings for AAA Buffalo last season but remains on the clubs 40-man roster.  Scout ranks Slocum 12th among all Indians prospects.

Pat Osborn (2nd rd – 72nd overall), despite an outstanding 2004 season with Kinston (.342/.418/.531), struggled in 2 ½ seasons of Double-A ball and was released in the middle of the ’07 season.  He was picked up by the Astros and finished the year with class-A Salem.  Third round picks Jason Cooper (82nd) and Dan Cevette (94th) have both struggled, yet remain in the Indian system. 

The Indians' best chance at draft redemption from 2002 rests with outfielder Ben Francisco, a .294/.357/.464 career minor league hitter who was recalled in June after David Dellucci was disabled.  A high school teammate of Indians first baseman Ryan Garko, Francisco hit .274/.303/.500 with 3 HR and 12 RBI in 25 games for Cleveland in 2007 and was the International League batting champion at Buffalo, where he hit .318 with 12 HR in 95 games.  The speedy Francisco has stolen 121 bases in 155 minor league attempts (78%) and projects as a nice fourth outfielder or platoon player at the major league level.  He is ranked by Scout as the Indians 3rd best prospect.

#3 – New York Yankees

For the Yankees at the major league level, 2002 was business as usual with a league-leading $125 million payroll.  Perhaps if they’d spent a bit of that on minor league scouting, they’d have had a bit better draft results and developed a few more players of their own like Robinson Cano (signed as an amateur free agent in 2001).  They wouldn’t have had to rely so much on acquiring expensive stars from outside the organization, a strategy that saw their payroll balloon to a whopping $218.3 million in 2007. 

Minus a first round pick that year due to the signing of Jason Giambi the previous winter, the Yankees draft of 2002 has produced just one solitary major leaguer in journeyman lefty Brad Halsey, an 8th rounder (246th overall) out of the University of Texas who missed most of last year in the A’s system with a torn labrum.  He ripped the Oakland organization last year over a disputed MRI and was sent outright off the club's 40-man roster immediately following the season.  Halsey sports a record of 14-19 with a pitching line of 4.84/1.53/.297 in 88 career appearances (40 starts).  He threw just 32.1 innings as a Yankee, all in his rookie campaign of 2004, and posted an unimpressive line of 6.47/1.72/.306.  He was traded in January, 2005 to the Diamondbacks along with Dioner Navarro and Javier Vazquez in the deal that brought Randy Johnson to the Bronx.

While Halsey is the only player to have graduated to the majors from the Yankees' 2002 draft, only three players from that year – Gabe Lopez (17th rd – 516th overall), Eric Hacker (23rd rd – 696th overall) and Charlie Isaacson (29th rd – 876th overall) – have even made it as high as Triple-A.  Lopez slipped back down to Double-A last year, Hacker has only pitched 2.2 innings (1 game) at the AAA level, and Isaacson hasn’t pitched professionally since 2005. 

The club’s top pick, right-hander Brandon Weeden out of Edmond Santa Fe high school in Edmond Oklahoma, pitched just two seasons in the Yankee system before he was dealt along with Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban to the Dodgers in exchange for Kevin Brown in December 2003.  He pitched two seasons for L.A. before Kansas City selected him in the minor league phase of the 2005 Rule V draft.  He spent only one season with the Royals and is now out of baseball, having never risen above High-A ball.

#2 – Chicago Cubs

When you get right down to it, you would think that four failed first round draft picks along with two second round busts would be more than enough to merit the title of Worst Draft of 2002, but thanks to Pat Gillick and Rich Hill, the Cubs will avoid earning that dubious distinction.  Hill was selected by the Cubs in the 4th round of the ’02 draft out of the University of Michigan with the 112th overall pick.  He was the 9th player taken that year by the Cubs, who had 11 picks in the first five rounds, but in June of ’05, he became just the first player from that class to reach the majors.  By the time he made it to the show, three of the top eight players selected by the Cubs had already played their last game in the Chicago organization, including supplemental first rounders Chadd Blasko and Matt Clanton.  In 59 career games (52 starts), Hill has a record of 17-17 with a line of 4.39/1.25/.235.  In 2007, his first full season in the majors, he made 32 starts and went 11-8 with a line of 3.92/1.20/.235.  He enters spring camp as one of just three pitchers (Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly are the others) guaranteed a spot in the Chicago rotation.

Bobby Brownlie was the Cubs top pick in ’02 (21st overall), but after pitching well in his first two pro seasons, he spent the next three battling injuries and pitching poorly, and was eventually released in March of ’07.  He was signed by the Indians for the remainder of the year and put up a respectable line of 3.17/1.16/.227 in 9 games at Double-A Akron, but became a free agent following the season and signed a minor league contract with Washington in November.

Luke Hagerty was the first supplemental round selection taken by GM Andy MacPhail with the 32nd overall pick.  After a solid first season (1.13/0.98/.198 – 50K/15BB in 48.0 IP at Class-A Boise), he broke down,  requiring Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow and missing the entire ’03 season.  Over the next three seasons, he would pitch just 32.1 innings, posting a 12.25 ERA while walking 53 batters and uncorking 16 wild pitches.  He was released by the Cubs last May and wound up pitching three times in two different stints for the Independent Rockford River Hawks, where he walked 8 more in just an inning and a third before they released him for a second time in August.  In one typical start for Rockford he lasted just 9 batters, allowing two hits including a leadoff home run, walking four, hitting one, and throwing two wild pitches while recording only two outs.  Hagerty was a teammate at Ball State with 2002 top overall pick Bryan Bullington.

Blasko, the 36th player taken in the first round of the draft, was outstanding in his debut season in 2003, going 10-6 with a 1.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in stops at Lansing (Low-A) and Daytona (High-A) where he also earned a spot on the Florida State League All-Star team.  However, the Cubs allowed him to throw 147.1 innings that year, over 60 more than he had thrown the previous year at Purdue, and in 2004 he began to experience pain in his elbow.  He wound up missing both the 2005 and 2006 seasons after having surgery to repair a torn labrum.  Despite reports that he was finally healthy, he was released just one week after the club waived Brownlie in March.  He signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats, where he made two appearances before signing with the Baltimore Orioles.  He made 17 appearances for class-A Fredrick where he was 0-3 with a line of 7.33/1.70/.224 while walking 24 batters in just 27 innings.

Clanton, the 38th overall pick and last of the Cubs four first round selections, had plenty to say about the Cubs following his release in January 2006.  A litany of injuries doomed his career, as he made just two appearances as a professional. 

The Cubs didn’t have much better luck in the second round, either.  Brian Dopriak (#56 overall) created a lot of excitement by hitting 39 home runs and slugging .593 at Low-A Lansing in 2004, and he was added to the team’s 40-man roster in November of 2005.  Despite hitting a combined 33 home runs at High-A Daytona in ’05 and ’07, he has hit just .244 with only 2 home runs in two stints in Double-A ball and was removed from the 40-man roster last August.  Justin Jones (#62 overall) was dealt in 2004 to the Twins as part of a four-team trade that brought Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago.  Like Dopriak, he has also failed to rise any higher than DoubleA-ball, and he spent the 2007 season in the Washington organization.  The Nats released him in December.

The third round did produce right-hander Billy Petrick, a career starter in his first 63 professional appearances who failed to rise above High-A ball before a move to the bullpen changed his fortunes in 2007.  He pitched 33 times in relief at three different levels, posting a line of 3.15/.1.16/.252 with 50 K and 12 BB in 54.1 IP to earn a call to the big leagues.  One of 22 different pitchers to appear in a game for Chicago in 2007, he pitched 8 times in relief, allowing 8 runs on 8 hits and 7 walks in 9.2 IP.  He is no longer ranked among Scout’s top twenty Cub prospects and will likely need a very strong spring to break camp headed for Chicago. 

Their other third round pick Matt Craig (96th overall) made his Triple-A debut in ’07 after batting .326/.416/.514 in 87 games for AA West Tennessee; he batted .273/.331/.464 in 31 games at Iowa.  Craig’s a corner infielder with Aramis Ramirez and Derrick Lee ahead of him at the major league level and 3B Casey McGehee and 1B Micah Hoffpauir, not to mention 2007 top pick (3rd overall) 3B Josh Vitters, ahead of him at the minor league level.  At age 27, he’s not much of a prospect anymore and is unlikely to ever see the majors.

Hoffpauir was the Cubs 13th round selection (393rd overall) in ’02, and he batted .319/.365/.552 with 16 HR and 73 RBI in 82 games for Iowa last year to put himself back on the Cubs map and earn – along with McGehee – an invitation to spring training.  Though he’s a long shot, he could become just the second position player drafted by the Cubs in 2002 to appear in a major league game, joining 9th round pick Adam Greenberg (273rd overall). 

Greenberg, who spent the ’07 season with the Wichita Wranglers in the Royals organization, made just a single pinch hitting appearance for the Cubs in July, 2005 which resulted in an inglorious hit by pitch.  Valerio de los Santos plunked him in the back of head with a 91 mph fastball, concussing him and putting him on the disabled list for the rest of the season.  He still reportedly suffers from positional vertigo, but will be back with KC in 2008 after re-signing in December.

Finally, fourteenth round draft choice Rocky Cherry (423rd overall) made his big league debut for the Cubs in 2007, pitching 15 innings over 12 appearances, winning one and losing one while compiling a line of 3.00/1.27/.224 before he was traded along with Detroit’s former 2002 first round pick (8th overall) Scott Moore to Baltimore on August 31 in exchange for Steve Trachsel.  For the O’s, Cherry pitched 16.1 innings over 10 outings and gave up a line of 7.71/1.84/.279.  Trachsel, meanwhile, went 1-3 in 4 starts with an 8.31 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in September for Chicago before re-signing with Baltimore earlier this month.

#1 – Seattle Mariners

For Pat Gillick and the Seattle Mariners, the path to least success was blazed by their failure to sign top pick John Mayberry.  Mayberry, whose father by the same name was the Astros top pick back in 1967, slipped to #28 due to signability concerns.  Although he was reportedly close to signing, he ended up going to Stanford instead.  The Rangers took him with the 19th overall pick of the 2005 draft and will have him in camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. 

Furthermore, the club also failed to sign their third round pick (100th overall), Eddy Martinez-Estevez (subsequently redrafted by the Giants in the 2nd round in 2004), while second round pick Josh Womack has languished in six unimpressive minor league seasons, rising no higher than High-A ball.  Additionally, the Mariners failed to sign 23rd round pick Travis Buck, who made his major league debut for division rival Oakland in 2007.

Their ’02 draft has produced just two players who have appeared in the majors: 6th round pick Troy Cate – an admitted steroid user who was suspended in 2005 for testing positive – and 30th round selection T.J. Bohn.  The left-handed Cate, the 190th player taken in 2002, was released by Seattle in September of 2005 and signed the following January with St. Louis as a free agent.  He appeared in 14 games for the Cards in ‘07, pitching 16.0 innings (3.38/1.69/.290) before he was designated for assignment in September.  He became a free agent following the season and signed a minor league deal with Oakland.

Bohn, the 910th overall selection, earned the distinction of becoming the lowest player drafted to reach the majors when he played in 18 games for Seattle in 2006, going 2-for-14 at the plate.  He was claimed off waivers by Atlanta that November and spent 2007 in the minors for the Braves before Philadelphia claimed him in September.  That same month, he was supplanted first by Nyjer Morgan (33rd rd, 973rd overall) and then by Drew Macias (35th rd, 1045th overall) as baseball’s version of Mr. Irrelevant.

And if all that lack of success wasn’t enough, there is virtually no chance of ever seeing things improve.  Cate is the only player drafted by the Mariners in the first ten rounds to have made it as high as Triple-A, while of the 11 players taken that year by the M’s who have made it to that level, only one – first baseman Bryan Lahair, who was taken in the 39th round with the 1,180th pick of the draft – remains in the Seattle system.

The Mariners 2002 amateur draft was noted by the failure to sign both their first and third round picks, seeing their second, fourth and fifth round picks that year go bust, and the production of just 16 innings and 14 at bats in total from the entire draft, and offers little promise of ever producing anything more.  It was that combination of ineptitude that allowed Gillick and the Mariners to earn the title of The Worst Draft of 2002.

View individual career 2002 draftee player pitching stats here
View individual career 2002 draftee player hitting stats here
View composite 2002 draft team hitting stats here
View composite 2002 draft team pitching stats here




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.

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