New York Mets Prospects That Never Lived Up to the Hype
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When it comes to analyzing prospects, baseball is a very tricky science. Former Met Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and went on to post Hall of Fame numbers during his brilliant career.
On the flip side, pitcher Brien Taylor of the New York Yankees was the number one overall pick in the 1991 draft and never made it to the major leagues.
There are no guarantees.
With the New York Mets franchise, for every Dwight Gooden there is an Alex Escobar. For every Darryl Strawberry, there is an Alex Ochoa.
Let's take a look at five Mets prospects that never lived up to the hype.
No. 5: Fernando Martinez
F-Mart was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic by former Mets General Manager Omar Minaya in 2005 when he was just 16 years old.
Regarded as a five-tool player, Martinez was beset with various injuries throughout his young career and really struggled once he arrived in Flushing, NY. Ranked as New York's number one prospect by Baseball America in 2007 and 2008, the left-handed hitting outfielder made his major league debut on May 26, 2009 against Washington and went 0-for-3 with one RBI.
Martinez appeared in just 29 games for the Mets that season and hit a meager .176 with one HR and eight RBI. Battling a variety of injuries—including arthritis in his knees—over the next two seasons, F-Mart managed to bat .183 with two HR and 12 RBI in just 47 games with the parent club.
The Mets finally gave up on Martinez by placing him on waivers on Jan. 11, 2012 and he was subsequently picked up by the Houston Astros. F-Mart hit .225 in 52 games for the Astros before being designated for assignment earlier this month.
The 24-year-old Martinez cleared waivers and has been claimed by the AAA Oklahoma City Red Hawks.
He's still very young so time is on his side but Martinez's major league career has certainly gotten off to a dismal start.
No. 4: Alex Escobar
The hype surrounding Alex Escobar began in 1998 after the Valencia, Venezuela native hit .310 with 27 home runs and 91 RBI for Single-A Capital City. Signed as an amateur free agent in 1995 at the tender age of 17, the right-handed hitting outfielder was touted as a five-tool player.
That never came to pass.
After beginning the 2001 campaign with Triple-A Norfolk, Escobar was summoned to the majors on May 8, 2001 and went 1-for-4 with a RBI in New York's 12-4 loss to Colorado. Things went downhill from there, however, as Escobar hit just .200 in 18 games for the Mets before being sent back down to Norfolk
Escobar hit .267 for Norfolk that year with 12 HR and 52 RBI. In December 2001, the Mets were very interested in acquiring Cleveland second baseman Roberto Alomar. The Indians liked Escobar so the two teams pulled the trigger on an eight-player deal that brought Alomar to New York and sent Escobar to the shores of Lake Erie.
As it turned out, Alomar was a shell of his former self and hit .just 265 for New York over two seasons. Escobar never played for the Tribe in 2002—he tore his left ACL during spring training and was never quite the same again.
He played two more seasons in Cleveland (2003-04) and then finished his career with the Washington Nationals in 2006.
When it was all said and done, Escobar concluded his major league career with 13 HR, 52 RBI and a .258 average.
Not exactly the statistics of a five-tool player.
No.3: Lastings Milledge
June 4, 2006. Shea Stadium. Giants 6, Mets 5. Two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Lastings Milledge steps to the plate to face San Francisco closer Armando Benitez.
Milledge connects on a 1-2 pitch and sends the ball over the left field fence to tie the game. It was his first major league home run. This writer was at that game and old Shea Stadium never sounded louder than at that moment.
His future with the Mets looked bright.
However, that was the highlight of Milledge's short-lived Mets career. A first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2003, the flamboyant Bradenton, FL native high-fived fans as he returned to his position in right field. That irked manager Willie Randolph and several of his teammates, who were not thrilled with his cocky display of emotion.
In 56 games for New York that season, Milledge batted .241 with four HR and 22 RBI.
Milledge made the opening day roster in 2007 but saw very limited action and was sent down to AAA-New Orleans on April 12. He suffered a foot injury but was called back up to the majors right after the All-Star break. He finished his 2007 campaign with a .272-7-29 line.
By that time though Milledge was starting to wear out his welcome with his brash demeanor. He also appeared in a rap song, "Bend Ya Knees" by Manny D. The combination of his mediocre production and off the field issues were too much for the Mets and they subsequently traded Milledge during the off-season to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
No.2: Bill Pulsipher
The southpaw entity in the Generation K trio, Pulsipher was a second round draft choice of the Mets in 1991. The Fort Benning, GA native turned down a full scholarship at Old Dominion University to sign with New York.
Pulsipher was outstanding in the minor leagues and was named the Mets' Minor League Player of the Year in 1994. Blessed with outstanding stuff, Pulsipher made his major league debut on Jun. 17, 1995 against Houston and finished his rookie campaign with a 5-7 ledger and 3.98 ERA for a 69-75 Mets squad.
The problem was that Pulsipher had to be shut down three weeks prior to season's end due to a sore elbow. Injuries plagued him for the rest of his career. He missed the entire 1996 season with torn ligaments in his elbow and Pulsipher also battled depression.
Pulsipher pitched in the minors until he was recalled by the Mets in 1998 but he continued to struggle. Pitching mostly in relief, the left-hander posted a dismal 6.91 ERA in 15 games and was finally shipped to Milwaukee at the July 31 trade deadline for outfielder Mike Kinkade.
He would return to the Mets briefly in 2000 but Pulsipher appeared in just two games and owned a 12.15 ERA. All in all, Pulsipher went 5-9 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in three seasons with New York.
No.1: Paul Wilson
A tall, lanky right-hander, the former first overall pick in the 1994 draft was supposed to be the ace of New York's dynamic Generation K trio (along with the previously mentioned Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen).
That never worked out.
Oh, how the Mets wished Generation K could be New York's version of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves back in the 90's. That dream was never realized.
After two injury-plagued minor league seasons, Wilson made his MLB debut for the Mets on Apr. 4, 1996 against St. Louis and pitched pretty well, allowing three runs in six innings of work. He walked two and fanned six. The FSU product seemed to be on his way.
However, the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder really struggled after that. In 26 starts, Wilson posted a 5-12 record with a 5.38 ERA. Over the next few seasons, Wilson battled shoulder and elbow issues and did not pitch for the Mets again following his rookie campaign.
New York finally threw in the towel on Wilson when he was traded along with Jason Tyner to Tampa Bay for Bubba Trammel and Rick White on Jul. 28, 2000.
Wilson would pitch three seasons with the Devil Rays and three more with the Cincinnati Reds before hanging up the spikes following the 2005 season. He finished his major league career with a 40-58 ledger and a 4.86 ERA.