What Could Have Been

Posted: May 29, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski

What could have been?  In baseball, this is a question we ask ourselves all the time.  Whether we are talking about a player not swinging the bat with a full count, two outs, and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a crucial Game 7, or a prospect who is supposed to be great but, for one reason or another, just doesn’t pan out, the question of “what could have been” always starts a discussion.

The injury to Dylan Bundy seems to be a growing concern, and when thinking about a pitcher of his pedigree it gets one thinking about other elite prospects who prompted the “what could have been” question.

For purposes of this discussion we are avoiding the Steve Chilcott’s of the world, only focusing on elite prospects whose careers were derailed by injury, within the amateur draft era -1965-present.

Drafted with the 7th overall pick by the Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball’s first amateur draft, big things were expected of backstop Ray Fosse.  An elite defender who possessed great range with a superbly accurate arm, Fosse could also swing the bat.  In 1970, his first full Major League campaign, Fosse slugged 18 home runs, 16 of which came before the All-Star Game.  In that All-Star Game, Fosse suffered an injury that would impact the rest of his career.  In the 12th inning of a tie game, Cubs’ Jim Hickman lined a shot into the outfield and Pete Rose raced around third base to score, unnecessarily taking out Fosse by aggressively crashing into his left shoulder to score the exhibition’s winning run.  X-Rays were negative, due in large part to inflammation, and it wasn’t until the next season that it was discovered that the play had fractured and separated his left shoulder.  But it was clear the damage was done.  Fosse battled injuries the rest of his career and never again lived up to his potential.

Drafted in the 5th round of the 1968 Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros, Larry Yount, brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, made his Major League debut on September 15, 1971.  He was announced into the game and during warm-ups injured his pitching arm.  A moderate prospect (his best season came in 1970 for Columbus where he went 12-8 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 149 K’s in 184 innings) Yount is a unique case because he holds the distinction of being the only pitcher in Major League history to have been credited with pitching in a game and never throwing a pitch.  Yount was shut down the rest of the year and never again made the Major Leagues, hanging up his spikes for good in 1975, after three poor minor league seasons.  Yount later attributed the arm issues he faced that day to a military commitment earlier in the month.

In 1991, with the first overall pick in the draft, the Yankees selected young flame thrower Brien Taylor out of East Carteret High School in Beaufort, NC, and after intense negotiations signed him to a draft record $1.55 million contract.  Taylor dominated in his first two minor league seasons, striking out 337 batters in 324.1 innings.  After the 1993 season, Taylor declined the Yankees request that he play winter ball because he felt he needed to rest his arm.  A torn labrum, suffered in a fight on Dec. 18, 1993, effectively ended Taylor’s career at age 21.  Taylor attempted to come back two years later and had several more stints in the minor leagues, but struggled mightily and never again made it above class A.

Drafted with the 2nd overall pick in the 2001 Amateur Draft, Mark Prior was a dominating pitcher for University High School in San Diego.  Thanks to the internet age, Prior was already a well known commodity before he even stepped foot on a professional mound.  Prior-Mania swept the Windy City and he was so dominant at his first two minor league stops that he made the Majors in his first pro-season.  He followed that up by going 18-6, with a 2.43 ERA and 245 K’s in 211.1 innings in his sophomore campaign.  Prior showed flashes of brilliance over the next two seasons but multiple DL stints were starting to take their toll.  In 2007, Prior had shoulder surgery by noted physician Dr. James Andrews and has been trying to climb his way back to the big leagues ever since.   Now 32, Prior pitches for the Reds AAA farm club the Louisville Bats and is currently serving a stint on the disabled list.

Let’s hope Dylan Bundy doesn’t suffer the same fate.

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