Although it's tough to measure the impact of a college—and even high school—baseball player before drafting them during MLB's annual draft, it is extremely easy to look back at what could have been had a team selected one player rather than another in drafts from years past.
For example, in 1966, the New York Mets could have drafted future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, but instead Steve Chilcott, a high school catcher who never appeared in a professional game in his career.
Or what about the 1978 draft, when the Kansas City Royals elected to take first baseman Tim Thompson instead of Cal Ripken Jr. Or 1984, when the Mets passed on Mark McGwire. Or 1985 when the Chicago White Sox decided to take a Kurt Brown instead of Barry Bonds.
This slide show will attempt to point out some of the weaker 2011 first round draft picks that general managers may regret selecting a few years down the road. Who knows, we may even have a Steve Chilcott incident take place.
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon has been one of college baseball's hottest hitters in recent seasons and was a leading candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft.
But seeing Rendon hit for power has become increasingly scarce this season, as his season was defined by frequent injuries and, when he was on the field, many walks. In fact, Rendon leads all of Division I with 76 walks this season.
Rendon's freshman year, 2009, saw him hit 20 home runs and finish batting .388. His next year at Rice was equally, if not more impressive, as he finished with 26 home runs and a .394 batting average. But this season, Rendon has come back down to earth.
Although his batting average is still well-above .300 (.325), his home run count (five) has dropped significantly. He also has only 34 RBI. Part of the reason for Rendon's struggles is his inability to remain healthy. He missed parts of the summer and fall seasons because of a fractured ankle, and then, upon returning, he hurt his shoulder, which cut down his playing time at third base.
Rendon was one of the best collegiate players during his first two years at Rice, hence his high draft stock, but is a bit of a gamble of the part of the Washington Nationals.
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Kentucky right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer has been drafted twice before, including once by the Boston Red Sox coming out of high school, but both times he elected to return to the University of Kentucky.
This season, Meyer finished with a 2.94 ERA and recorded 110 strikeouts and 46 walks in 101 innings. In addition to his high number of strikeouts, Meyer held opponents to a .222 batting average off of him.
But Meyer's first two seasons at Kentucky were not nearly as successful as his 2011. As a freshman, Meyer posted an ERA of 5.73, and as a sophomore 7.06.
He is one of the hardest throwing prospects in this year's draft, as he features a fastball that usually ranges between 93-96 mph. Drafting Meyer, a power arm, may give the Washington Nationals a strong arm coming out of the bullpen—maybe something like a Kyle Farnsworth—but he still has a long way to go before he successfully makes the transition from a thrower to a pitcher.
Plus, hard throwing pitchers often succumb to injury, so drafting Meyer may have been a bit of a gamble in regards to his ability to stay healthy.
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Taylor Guerrieri has the top high school arm in this year's draft. His fastball consistently peaks out between 92 and 97 mph and he can back that up with a power curve ball that dips into the low-80s.
But in drafting such a young arm, the Tampa Bay Rays have taken quite a gamble that General Manager Andrew Friedman may be regretting a few years down the road.
Despite all of the speed behind Guerrieri's fastball, he lacks good command and reportedly struggles with his plant foot location. Even with the plant foot struggles, I would focus in on Guerrieri's lack of consistency more than anything else.
A lack of command may, indeed, prove to be Guerrieri's downfall and may even hinder him from ever making it out of the minor leagues. At this point in time, if Guerrieri is to make it out of the minors, it appears as though he is destined to be the Tampa Bay Rays' No. 5 starter.
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University of Connecticut pitcher Matt Barnes isn't quite as good as Gerrit Cole, but has pitched his way into the first round of this year's MLB draft.
Barnes' fastball consistently peaks out in the low-90s and has great movement, something many scouts are already praising him for. His curveball and change-up are drawing rave reviews as well. Despite the three effective pitches, it's Barnes ineffective, hittable slider that will hinder him in the big leagues.
In addition to his slider, Barnes' delivery causes him many problems as well. In fact, because his delivery appears to be different every time he throws to the plate, he has developed serious control issues that need to be ironed out before he debuts in the majors.
Assuming a someone somewhere along Barnes' path to the majors can help him fix his stride and delivery, he'll be a solid starter for someone in the big leagues. But if his inconsistencies continue, teams won't rely on Barnes to be a starter, ultimately forcing him to be a long-innings reliever or something to that effect.
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George Springer, a University of Connecticut outfielder, is one of the fastest players in this year's draft and can drive the ball a long way as well.
The biggest problem with his game—as it stands right now—is his swing. Springer has a long loading process which may make it difficult for him to catch up to a major league fastball or balls that come high-and-inside.
Springer's aggressive swing is also a long swing, which may have been why some of the teams with picks earlier in the draft passed on him, but he has shown that he is capable of hitting the ball out of the park. Worse case scenario, he'll appear in the majors as a power hitting bench player.
Best case scenario, he'll work out a few kinks with his swing and become an everyday, speedy outfielder. Only time will tell.
Photo from baseballjournal.com