25 'Can't-Miss' Phillies Prospects Who Never Panned out
Major League Baseball's amateur draft can be like a game of chess.
Sometimes it's like playing against an amateur. The checkmates come early and often, and in baseball terms, you find yourself drafting several players with plenty of upside that, for some reason or another, other teams have skipped over.
Other times, the draft can feel like a game of chess against a Grandmaster. Every move leads to a dead end and the result is always disappointing.
There is supposed to exist a commonality between each of these games: The first couple of moves are supposed to be simple to make, especially in today's game.
In chess, each player has his or her own strategy, but the first move is the simplest. The same could be said for most clubs' approach to the draft. In the first round, there is plenty of talent to be had. If you're picking in the first round, there is a pretty decent chance that you're drafting a very talented player.
However, sometimes, those "can't miss" prospects turn into huge busts and lost causes for teams. When teams draft players in the first couple of rounds, they're supposed to develop into MLB regulars. Sure enough, that doesn't always happen, and when "can't miss" prospects turn into "swing and a miss" prospects, it is a major disappoint.
For numerous reasons, the Philadelphia Phillies had plenty of those "swing and a miss" prospects throughout their history, and if they had chosen a little more wisely, it is certainly interesting to imagine what the history of this franchise could have looked like.
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(Dis)Honorable Mentions & a Note
Before we get into the actual list, there are a couple of important things to remember as we build this slide show. First and foremost, there is a limit as to who was considered for this list. Because the "Rule 4" (or amateur) draft was put into effect in 1965 and gave baseball it's first sense of what a "prospect" actually was, only players from 1965 and onward were considered for this list.
That brings me to a pair of honorable mentions, a couple of players I would not actually consider "busts" in the same sense as the other 25 players on this list.
J.D. Drew: Sure, Drew is one of the most hated players in the history of Philadelphia sports, but that's not because he was a "bust." The Phillies took a chance on him in the 1997 draft, taking him with the second overall knowing full well that he was represented by Scott Boras.
He didn't sign. That was the bust.
As far as his playing career goes, Drew was actually a very solid outfielder for quite a long time.
Mike Adamson: Long before Drew did it, Adamson was drafted by the Phillies in the first round and refused to sign. The Phillies selected him with the 18th overall pick in 1965, but he held out for a better deal.
Sure enough, two years later, the Baltimore Orioles made him the first overall pick. His career lasted all of 11 games.
25. Pat Combs
The Phillies weren't a very good team in 1988, and wouldn't be for a few seasons. One of the main reasons for that was a slew of bad decisions in the draft, the first being Pat Combs, a left-handed pitcher selected with the 11th overall pick by the Phils.
Combs would pitch just one full season with the Phillies in 1990, and in total, pitched sporadically for the club in four different seasons, retiring with a .500 record and an ERA of 4.22.
24. Wayne Gomes
Wayne Gomes had a so-so career in MLB, mainly as a reliever, but the Phillies had much higher hopes for him when they selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 1993 draft.
As the club excelled at the MLB level that season, Gomes was supposed to develop into the next ace of the Phillies' staff, but that never happened.
Gomes didn't even make it through the Minor Leagues as a starting pitcher, becoming a career reliever who logged just 331.2 innings for the Phillies and posted an ERA of 4.42.
23. Dave Coggin
Drafting starting pitchers early in the draft only to find them in the bullpen in MLB is a common, recurring theme on this slideshow for a number of reasons. Actually, they're more like excuses for poor draft decisions, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Another one of those promising starting pitchers on draft day that found his way into the bullpen was Dave Coggin, a tall, right-handed pitcher that the Phillies selected with the 30th pick of the 1995 draft.
Coggin did make 29 starts over three seasons for the Phillies, but he never lived up to his potential, and by that third season, he was more of a middle reliever than anything. He won just 10 games and posted and ERA of 4.52.
22. Joe Savery
It looks like the Phillies may have been able to salvage Joe Savery's career by moving him into the bullpen and using him solely as a left-handed specialist, but that is a far cry from the potential they thought he had on draft day, at multiple positions.
A talented pitcher and hitter in college, the Phillies drafted Savery as a starter, but he struggled with injuries and never showed much of his promise. As his Minor League service time grew larger, the Phillies moved him off the mound to see what he could do as a hitter, but that wasn't going to work either.
Finally, in 2011, the Phillies moved Savery into the bullpen and he found his niche, earning a September call-up and throwing his name into the bullpen mix heading into Spring Training.
21. Scott Munninghoff
At the MLB level, the Phillies were in the midst of a strong run over the rest of the National League in 1977. That season, they would win their second of three consecutive pennants and a few years later, capture their first World Series title.
It wouldn't be long after that that the franchise fell into a decline, and poor draft decisions like this one in 1977 were partly responsible.
With the 22nd overall pick, the Phillies selected a right-handed pitcher by the name of Scott Munninghoff. He would appear in just six innings for the Phillies in 1980 before riding off into the sunset.
20. Greg Golson
The Phillies love to draft "toolsy" outfielders. Of course, that means that the Phillies like to take chances on players with a lot of upside, great tools, but lack of a refined skill set.
So when the Phillies drafted Greg Golson with the 21st overall pick in the 2004 draft, that's where much of the praise went. Golson was going to be a project, but scouts loved his speed and defense, so the Phillies hoped that he'd be able to develop an offensive approach.
He never did.
He appeared in just six games for the Phillies before they sent him to the Texas Rangers, swapping him for another struggling outfielder who may now be on the verge of a breakout season: John Mayberry Jr.
After the trade, Golson would log 35 at-bats in total at the MLB level.
19. Brad Brink
After appearing in the World Series in 1983, the Phillies were heading in the wrong direction fast as the 80s wore on. Playing in one of the game's worst venues, ownership refused to spend money on the team until it was profitable, and the results showed in the draft.
In 1986, the Phillies chose seventh overall and picked right-handed pitcher Brad Brink. He toiled in the Minor League system for years and didn't appear in MLB until 1992, and his stint wouldn't last long.
Brink would appear in just 45 games (23 of which were starts) and win a grand total of zero, posting an ERA of 3.99. Following the 1993 season, he was selected off of waivers by the San Francisco Giants.
18. Reggie Taylor
With the 1993 season in the rear-view mirror, the Phillies and their fans were in for a string of losing seasons as ownership started lobbying for a new ballpark and the front office struggled in the draft.
In 1995, the Phillies drafted a promising, young outfielder in Reggie Taylor with the 14th overall pick. He struggled mightily after signing with the Phillies, and though he would eventually reach MLB, Taylor logged just 18 at-bats and produced just one hit.
To pour salt in the wound, three picks later, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted this guy named Roy Halladay.
17. Carlton Loewer
Heading into the 1994 draft, the Phillies' front office placed their collective, imaginary right hand on a book containing the history of the franchise and prayed that there was a bit of magic in the name "Carlton," drafting a right-handed pitcher by the name of Carlton Loewer with the 23rd overall selection.
Loewer flopped around in the Phillies' farm system before making his MLB debut in 1998, and in two seasons with the club, he appeared in just 41 games (34 starts,) won nine games, and posted an ERA of 5.68.
The Phillies would later package him in a deal with Adam Eaton and send them to the San Diego Padres in exchange for starting pitcher Andy Ashby.
16. Eric Valent
After the whole debacle of being unable to sign J.D. Drew the previous season, you knew the Phillies were going to go with a much safer pick in the 1998 draft, and with the compensation pick they were awarded for being unable to sign Drew, they did.
With the 42nd overall pick, the Phillies chose Eric Valent, an outfielder out of the University of California. He would make his debut a few seasons later, but like so many others on this list, wouldn't last long.
Valent logged just 56 plate appearances for the Phillies and turned but six of them into hits. After just two seasons, he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds.
15. Tyler Green
In spite of several straight losing seasons, the Phillies were quietly putting the pieces together for another run heading into the 1990s, and had several opportunities to add to a talented young core.
One of the biggest missed opportunities of the decade came in 1991, when with the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Phillies would selected right-handed pitcher Tyler Green.
Green would be in MLB by the Phillies' World Series run in 1993, but had zero impact. The same could be said for his career with the club, for outside of a ridiculous All-Star appearance in 1995, Green's career was forgettable. He won 18 games over four seasons and posted an ERA of 5.16.
A few picks later, the Cleveland Indians would select Manny Ramirez, and players like Doug Glanville and Aaron Sele remained on the board.
14. Gavin Floyd
Gavin Floyd has turned his career around enough in recent seasons with the Chicago White Sox that his inclusion on this list will surprise some people, but his career with the Phillies was absolutely abysmal.
With plans to move into their new ballpark progressing, the Phillies knew that they couldn't get away with playing around with the fourth overall pick in 2001, so the club selected Floyd, who legitimately intrigued scouts with his talent.
When the Phillies moved into Citizens Bank Park in 2004, officials wanted Floyd in MLB, though some within the organization insisted that he wasn't ready.
He was promoted and struggled mightily, winning just seven games over two seasons and posting an ERA of 6.96.
The Phillies would later trade him to the White Sox in one of the most infamous deals in franchise history, packaging him with Gio Gonzalez in exchange for Freddy Garcia.
13. John Russell
John Russell is another player that didn't necessarily have a terrible career, but was a huge bust as far as the Phillies are concerned.
The Phillies selected Russell, a catcher coming out of the University of Oklahoma, with the 13th overall pick of the 1982 draft, and he made his MLB debut just two seasons later.
He spent five seasons in Philadelphia, serving primarily as a bench player, and was unspectacular at the plate, posting an OPS of just .707. He also played sub-par defense, and the Phillies realized that his value was somewhat limited.
In 1989, the Phillies let him go for nothing, as he was purchased by the Atlanta Braves.
12. Johnny Abrego
Johnny Abrego was drafted by the Phillies in the first round of the 1981 draft, and he struggled almost immediately after signing.
Though he showed some flashes of promise in the Phillies' system, he would never appear in an MLB game with the club. In fact, he would hardly appear in MLB at all.
The Chicago Cubs drafted Abrego in the Rule 5 draft in 1983, and he appeared in just six games before returning to the minors. He would be out of baseball by 1987.
11. Mike Anderson
When the Phillies selected Mike Anderson with the sixth overall pick in the 1969 draft, he was supposed to be the type of player that the club could build its future around. A talented high school athlete, the Phillies were taking a huge risk on Anderson, and clearly, they were burned.
Though Anderson spent six seasons with the Phillies, he posted an OPS of just .691 and hit just 23 home runs—hardly numbers expected of the sixth overall pick.
His greatest contribution to the club was simple. The Phillies would later trade him to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Ron Reed, who would make a name for himself as one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history.
10. Rip Rollins
I have to throw in a disclaimer of sorts here. Some of the players in the top 10 on this list were such busts that I couldn't even find a picture for their slides. Instead, I'll add a picture of a player that the Phillies could have used their pick on. A "what if," if you will.
Coming in at number 10 on this list is Rip Rollins, who has no relation to Jimmy Rollins, as far as I'm aware.
The Phillies drafted the tall, right-handed pitcher in the first round of the 1978 draft, making him the 23rd overall selection. He couldn't make it past AA Reading, where Rollins posted a record of 7-11 and an ERA of 6.01.
He was out of baseball by 1984.
In the second round of this draft, and just one pick before the Phillies selected again, the Baltimore Orioles picked Cal Ripken Jr.
9. Jeff Kraus
Generally speaking, when teams make you the 17th overall pick in the draft, they expect you to at least make it to MLB. That wasn't the case for Jeff Kraus, who was picked by the Phillies in 1976.
Kraus, who is pictured in the first row in the middle on the left side of your screen, never made it about AA Reading with the Phillies. He spent three seasons at AA overall, including a year with the Cincinnati Reds' organization, and in total, posted an OPS of just .697 with nine home runs at AA.
He was out of baseball by 1981.
8. Trey McCall
At the time, drafting Trey McCall was a solid decision by the Phillies.
Coming out of high school, he was one of the most promising players in the country, and the Phillies were willing to use their 16th overall selection on him in 1985. He was the type of player they could afford and still posture to the fans with.
However, that wasn't the case. McCall struggled in his first professional season, and though he was promoted to A-ball in his second season, he never made it out. In four seasons of A-ball, he posted an OPS of .587 and hit 11 home runs.
7. Phil Meyer
Teams love taking chances on tall, left-handed pitchers, and the Phillies are no different.
With the 16th overall selection in the 1967 draft, the Phillies picked a left-handed high school pitcher by the name of Phil Meyers. He went to the Minor Leagues that season, and his first few professional seasons were successful before the wheels fell off.
Though he reached AAA in 1971, he would never make the MLB club, and was out of baseball by 1972.
Just a few picks later, the Baltimore Orioles once again burned the Phillies by picking Bobby Grich.
6. Henry Powell
Henry Powell wasn't in the Phillies' organization for long. The Phillies drafted him with the 13th overall pick in the 1980 draft and he joined their rookie team later that year.
In 1981, he went to A-ball, playing for Spartanburg, re-joining the club for the 1982 season as well.
By 1983, he was out of baseball.
There were a few interesting selections in the 1980 draft, including Terry Francona, who would later manage the Phillies. The Detroit Tigers selected Glenn Wilson (pictured), who would later play for the Phillies.
5. Chad McConnell
You can't always blame the Phillies.
Heading into the 1992 draft, Chad McConnell was a very highly touted prospect. He had spent four seasons at Creighton University and was named to the Olympic team, so when he was still on the board at pick number 13, the Phillies selected him.
Needless to say, his skill set didn't translate well into professional baseball. He spent just four seasons in the Phillies' organization, never advancing above AA.
4. Sammye Welborn
When you have the 12th overall pick in the draft, you try not pick career Minor League players, but that's just what the Phillies did in 1975 when they picked tall right-handed pitcher Sammye Welborn.
Welborn made it to AAA on three different occasions, but never with the Phillies' organization, in which he never made it higher than AA.
Though the first round of this draft didn't produce much talent, the Chicago Cubs did draft Lee Smith in the second round.
3. Michael Biko
Of all the prospects the Phillies whiffed on, missing in the 1966 draft may have hurt the worst because of the sheer amount of talent in this draft.
The Phillies possessed the ninth pick, and with that pick they selected a right-handed pitcher by the name of Michael Biko. Biko never made it out of A-ball, and the Phillies watched a ton of talent taken in the 1966 draft develop around them.
For instance, just a few picks later, the Pittsburgh Pirates would select Richie Hebner, who spent 18 seasons in the MLB. Hebner would also play for the Phillies during that lengthy career.
2. Mike Martin
By the time 1970 rolled around, you would have thought that the Phillies had a grasp on how to draft players that, at the very least, would be able to reach MLB, but that wasn't the case.
To make matters worse, with the fifth overall pick, there was a vast talent pool of prospects for the Phillies to pick from, and they still sunk to the bottom.
With their pick, the Phillies picked Mike Martin, who would make it all the way to AAA before leaving the organization, and by 1978, the lefty would be out of baseball.
Later in the first round, the Oakland Athletics would select talented outfielder Dan Ford. Neither of the Phillies' picks from the first two rounds would make it to MLB.
1. Jeff Jackson
At the end of day, when you're talking about Phillies' prospects that never panned out, it is really hard not to have Jeff Jackson at number one.
The Phillies selected the talented outfielder with the fourth overall pick in 1989, and at the time of the pick, the Phillies believed they had a true five-tool player. That wasn't the case.
Jackson never even made it to AAA, becoming one of the biggest busts in the history of the draft for the Phillies' organization.
To make matters worse, there was plenty of talent to be had in the first round. Just three picks later, the Chicago White Sox picked Frank Thomas. Other available players included Charles Johnson, Cal Eldred, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, and Todd Jones.