Toronto Blue Jays: 5 Disappointing Draft Picks in Jays History
With the MLB June draft on the horizon, it's a perfect time to take a look back at the Toronto Blue Jays draft history.
The Jays have recently been lauded for the drafting and development but that was not always the case. During the 1980s, the franchise had a string of unsuccessful high draft picks but balanced those out with strong picks in the lower rounds.
Either way, the team produced many disappointments over their history. Drafting is an inexact science, but that does not mean we're prohibited from looking back and dwelling on the team's mistakes over the years.
A warning for readers: This list attempts to include players that most fans would have heard of. Think of the list as a rundown of the teams most disappointing prospects rather than their downright worst draft picks.
Garry Harris, 2nd Overall, 1980
Garry Harris was one of the stars of the 1980 MLB draft.
Along with eventual first overall pick Darryl Strawberry and the poster boy for the inaccuracy of baseball scouting, Billy Beane, Harris was a five-tool prospect who was projected to be the shortstop of the future for the growing Jays franchise. While Beane may be the most famous of the draft busts from 1980, it's important to note that Harris was drafted higher and never played a game above Double-A.
Like many other high school draft picks in any decade, Harris never lived up to his scouting reports.
Five-tool players were supposed to hit for average, hit for power, field, throw well and steal bases. Harris hit .244 in four full seasons in the minor leagues, added just 32 home runs and struggled defensively.
In 1980 in rookie ball, Harris was the worst defensive shortstop with an .825 fielding percentage and 54 errors.
Add that Harris' batting average and OPS dropped in every consecutive season during his short professional career and you can begin to understand why he never played one major league game.
For the player drafted directly behind Darryl Strawberry, Harris was clearly one of former general manager Pat Gillick's biggest draft errors. That being said, many scouts would have taken Harris ahead of Strawberry.
Funny enough, another infielder taken in the top 10 in 1980 went on to win a World Series with the Jays.
Players Taken After Harris: Kelly Gruber (10th), Danny Tartabull (71st), Doug Drabek (87th)
Augie Schmidt, 2nd Overall, 1982
The Blue Jays had some trouble in the 1980s with their highest draft picks.
We've already covered Garry Harris and now we'll skip over Matt Williams (fifth overall in 1981, 10 total MLB games) which brings us to Augie Schmidt.
While Harris was a part of a group of supremely talented high school prospects in 1980, Schmidt was seemingly the best college player available in 1982. After being drafted by the Reds out of high school, Schmidt went to the University of New Orleans, allowing the Jays to snag him three years later.
He had clearly grown as an athlete and was given the Golden Spikes Award as the United States' best amateur baseball player in 1982.
To re-enforce how confusing Schmidt's collapse was, here are a few other winners of the Golden Spikes Award over the years: Robin Ventura, David Price, Buster Posey and Stephen Strasburg.
Schmidt seemed to be the right choice at the time and after his first season in Class-A Kinston, he still seemed like the right choice. He hit .297 and quickly moved up to Double-A in 1983. However, in similar fashion to Harris, Schmidt's batting average dropped with every year he spent in the Jays minor league system.
He was traded to the Giants in 1984 after hitting just .201 in Triple-A Syracuse.
What's more confusing than how quickly the Jays soured on Schmidt is how quickly he was out of baseball entirely. A season in his hometown of Kenosha, Wisc. in 1986 was his last pro campaign.
Luckily for the Jays, their next two picks were two starting pitchers named David Wells and Jimmy Key.
Players Taken After Schmidt: Dwight Gooden (fifth), Barry Bonds (39th), Barry Larkin (51st)
Dustin McGowan, 33rd Overall, 2000
The Dustin McGowan story is like a movie that never ends.
The power right-hander was drafted by the Blue Jays 13 years ago, and he is still a part of the organization. That alone makes it very tough to include McGowan on this list considering the team has never truly "given up" on him.
Compared to the other inclusions on this list, McGowan has been fairly successful. He beats Harris and Schmidt just by having played a single MLB game. McGowan has made 80 major league appearances, a stat that would make the former second overall draft picks salivate.
McGowan was also a solid starting pitcher for at least a season and a half during 2007 and 2008. He was certainly nothing special, throwing up a 4.08 and 4.37 ERA during those seasons, but he was a contributor.
So, he was an average starter for two years and is still with the organization after 13 years. The question of why he's on this list is a good one.
The reason is the hype that came with McGowan throughout his time as a Jays prospect.
He was on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list four times in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006, peaking at No. 18. He received glowing scouting reports, and to put it simply, he was the most-hyped Jays pitching prospect of the 2000s.
To be fair to McGowan, his struggles were compounded by consistent nagging injuries of which he is still trying to recover from. He's currently sporting a 20.25 ERA in Triple-A Buffalo, and despite those numbers, it is not ridiculous to expect to see him in a Jays uniform at some point in 2013.
Players Taken After McGowan: Grady Sizemore (75th), Cliff Lee (105th), Aaron Hill (200th)
Russ Adams, 14th Overall, 2002
In another draft made famous by Billy Beane and Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Russ Adams was the Jays' new prize prospect in 2002.
Like most disappointing prospects, Adams showed promise in his first few years in the minors.
In his first pro season, he tore up Low-A ball, earning a very quick promotion to High-A. Adams essentially cruised through the minor leagues at an encouraging pace but consistently had trouble with his throwing arm.
When he arrived with the Blue Jays in 2004, he put up very good numbers in just 22 games. A .306 batting average and an .887 OPS over that time period allowed the Jays to pencil him in as their new starting shortstop for 2005.
Despite this successful rise through the minors and a promising major league debut, Adams career stalled and then fell at a rapid pace.
In 2005, he was a solid contributor.
In 2006, he made throwing error after throwing error while seeing his batting average drop below .220 and was sent down to Syracuse. Adams never recovered and spent the next four seasons bouncing around the minors before retiring at the age of 30.
There was plenty of promise in Russ Adams, and that's why he was such a frustrating disappointment.
Players Taken After Adams: Nick Swisher (16th), Cole Hamels (17th), Joey Votto (44th)
Travis Snider, 14th Overall, 2006
Travis Snider represents the opposite of Dustin McGowan in terms of how the Blue Jays franchise handled their star prospects.
The two have many similarities despite their age and positions. Like McGowan, Snider was one of the most hyped prospects the Jays have ever had. Like McGowan, Snider was ranked by Baseball America as one of the top 100 MLB prospects in several years.
Snider, according to Baseball America, was the sixth best prospect in America in 2009.
That was only four years ago for those keeping track.
Dustin McGowan was drafted in 2000 and is still with the Blue Jays. That's where Snider and McGowan's similarities end.
For whatever reason—and this is still particularly confusing—the Jays gave up on Snider after four-and-a-half fairly productive seasons. During those years, Snider never played more than 82 games, and his best season was also the season the Jays decided to trade him to Pittsburgh.
Snider should not be on this list. His OPS in 2012 with the Jays was a very strong .856 and he should have been given full opportunity to be the team's starting left fielder.
However, since the organization neglected Snider's talent as a hitter, he is on this list. He spent his formative years in Toronto and is only now hitting his stride with another team.
Consider Snider a top prospect who never panned out for the Blue Jays, but seems to be panning out fine with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Players Taken After Snider: Trevor Cahill (66th), Mat Latos (333rd), Ian Kennedy (21st)