The Biggest Bust in the History of Every MLB Franchise

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2011

The Biggest Bust in the History of Every MLB Franchise

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    With any MLB transaction comes some level of risk, and inevitably some contracts turn out to be complete busts. This is all too common in the MLB draft but happens frequently in free agency as well.

    The signing period for 2011 draft picks has come and gone, and all but one first-rounder agreed to a contract, as a record amount of bonus money was dolled out. However, without a doubt, at least a handful of players from this draft class will fail to reach the majors and be complete busts.

    So here is a look at the biggest bust in the history of each MLB team, be it a can't-miss prospect who missed badly or a big money free agent who fell flat on his face.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Russ Ortiz

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: Four Years, $33 Million

    Coming off of a 111-loss season, the Diamondbacks needed help in their rotation, and they thought they had found it in Ortiz, who was coming off a 15-win season with the Braves. He was 99-54 in the six seasons leading up to the signing.

    However, he flopped horribly, going 5-11 with a 6.89 ERA in his first season in the desert. Then, he somehow managed to pitch worse the following season when he went 0-8 with an 8.14 ERA before being released in June of the 2006 season.

    With two-and-a-half years and nearly $22 million left on his contract, his release marks what is believed to be the most expensive in baseball history, and the Diamondbacks truly got nothing out of this deal.

    Special mention to Travis Lee, who was taken second overall in 1996 and never panned out, but the team was proactive and flipped him for Curt Schilling.

Atlanta Braves: Mike Kelly

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    Acquired: 1991 First-Round Pick (Second Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $575,000

    After putting together a fantastic career at Arizona State University, Kelly was the top college player in the nation entering the 1991 MLB draft, and the Braves snatched him up with the second overall pick.

    The 1991 Golden Spikes award winner, Kelly finished off a three-year career with the Sun Devils with a career line of .350 BA, 46 HR, 194 RBI placing him among the best to ever play at the prestigious baseball school.

    However, he was unable to make the transition to the pro game and despite the fact that he hit 25 HR with 22 SB in his first season he hit just .229.

    It was much of the same throughout his minor league career, and while he did reach the big leagues in 1994, he played just six seasons with a career line of .241 BA, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 30 SB.

Baltimore Orioles: Ben McDonald

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    Acquired: 1989 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $350,000

    While it is hard to call someone with 78 career wins and four seasons with double-digit victories a flop, the expectations that surrounded McDonald when he was first drafted were for far greater things.

    The 1989 Golden Spikes Award winner at LSU, McDonald helped the USA team to Olympic gold in the 1998 games pitching a pair complete games as the team's ace.

    The Orioles signed McDonald on Aug. 19th, and after two minor league starts, he was called up to the majors where he made his big league debut on Sept. 6th. He joined the rotation full-time the next season, and in six seasons, he won 57 games with the Orioles.

    Injuries cut his career short after just eight seasons, and at the age of 29, the next Roger Clemens was retired. So while he was not a complete bust, he certainly fell far short of expectations.

Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: Six Years, $52 Million (plus $51 million posting fee)

    Never has there been a more hyped-up signing of a foreign player than the media circus that surrounded the Red Sox acquisition of Dice-K prior to the 2007 season.

    After winning the rights to negotiate with Dice-K following a $51 million posting fee, the Red Sox locked him up for six seasons, and the early returns were promising, as he went 15-12 in his rookie season, then followed that up with a terrific 18-3, 2.90 ERA, 154 K's line that earned him a fourth-place AL Cy Young finish.

    However, injuries and ineffectiveness have taken their toll over the past three seasons, as he has made a total of just 44 starts, posting a less than stellar 5.03 ERA with a 16-15 record. Needless to say, he is not earning his money these days.

Chicago Cubs: Corey Patterson

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    Acquired: 1998 First Round (Third Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $3.7 Million

    Former USC stud and 18-game winner Mark Prior got some serious consideration here, but while injuries were the reason his career fell short, Corey Patterson is the true definition of a bust.

    Taken with the third overall pick in the draft, Patterson was ranked as the 16th best prospect in all of baseball heading into the 1999 season, despite having yet to make his pro debut. What a pro debut it was though, as he hit .320 BA, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 33 SB as a 19-year-old at High Single-A.

    That vaulted him up to the No. 3 spot on the Baseball America rankings for 2000, and despite his average dropping to .261 at Double-A, he climbed another spot as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball for 2001.

    In 2002, he took over as the Cubs everyday center fielder, hitting .253 BA, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 18 SB while striking out 142 times. From there, he simply didn't get any better, as he struck out a ton and became a consistent target of the boo birds at Wrigley Field.

    Now with the Cardinals, he has had a solid career as a fourth outfielder, but the sky was the limit for a guy who was viewed as a true five-tool talent and franchise cornerstone.

Chicago White Sox: Joe Borchard

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    Acquired: 2000 First Round (12th Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $5.3 Million

    A two-sport athlete at Standford University, it took a then record signing bonus for the White Sox to pull Borchard away from being the team's starting quarterback during his junior season.

    As a sophomore, Borchard went 42-of-71 passing for 747 yards and seven touchdowns as the team's backup quarterback, and he was in line to be the starting signal caller until the White Sox made him an offer he couldn't refuse to lock up his prolific power bat.

    However, he was never able to make enough contact to put his tremendous power to use, and he finished his White Sox career with a .191 BA, 12 HR, 30 RBI line over four seasons. He does hold the record for the longest home run ever hit at U.S. Cellular Field at 502 feet.

    Needless to say, that was not worth it.

Cincinnati Reds: Eric Milton

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: Three Years, $25.5 Million

    With a rotation that featured Juan Acevedo (5.94 ERA), Brandon Claussen (6.14 ERA), Cory Lidle (5.32 ERA) and Todd Van Poppel (6.09 ERA), there was little doubt what the Reds' most pressing need was in the 2004-05 offseason.

    They made a move to pick up left-hander Eric Milton, who was coming off of a 14-win season with the Phillies. While Milton had an attractive 71-57 career record, he was also a flyball pitcher coming off a season in which he gave up a league-high 43 longballs.

    That trend would continue in Great American Ballpark, as he again led the league with 40 home runs allowed in his first season with the Reds. However, the winning would not continue, as he went 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA.

    He was equally awful the next season and was shelved after just five starts in his final season with the team.

Cleveland Indians: Wayne Garland

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: 10 Years, $2.3 Million

    The year was 1977, and it was the first offseason of wide-scale free agency in the big leagues. Garland was a 25-year-old starter coming off of a 20-7, 2.67 ERA, 113 K's season with the Orioles, and he seemed primed to be the game's next big pitcher.

    The Indians decided to lock Garland up while they could, signing him for 10 seasons. He promptly led the American League in losses the following season when he went 13-19, and he was waived just five seasons and 28 wins into his mega deal.

    Paul Shuey gets a mention here, as he was taken second overall in the same draft that Derek Jeter was taken sixth. A solid reliever throughout his 11-year career, Shuey was far from the lights out closer he was pegged to be.

Colorado Rockies: Mike Hampton/Denny Neagle

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agents

    Contract: Combined 13 Years, $172 Million

    After breaking out with a 22-win season in 1999, Hampton was the top free-agent arm when he hit the open market prior to the 2001 season.  The Rockies rewarded him with what was the largest contract in sports history at the time, an eight-year, $121 million deal.

    After an uninspired 14-13, 5.41 ERA, 122 K's first season with the team, things only got worse for Hampton when he went 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA the next season.

    He was dealt to the Marlins and then Braves the following season, and while he was better, injuries limited him to just 85 more starts over the final six seasons of the deal.

    Meanwhile, Denny Neagle who signed a five-year, $51 million contract that same offseason, was just as bad as he delivered a 19-23 record and 5.57 ERA over the span of his contract, and the Rockies 1999 offseason goes down as perhaps the worst by a single team in baseball history.

Detroit Tigers: Matt Anderson

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    Acquired: 1997 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $2.5 Million

    Armed with a fastball that regularly hit triple-digits, Matt Anderson made a name for himself at Rice University as the nation's top closer and hardest thrower.

    That was enough for the Tigers to make him the top pick in the 1997 draft, and he was a staple in the Tigers bullpen by the 1998 season. In his first three seasons, he posted a 4.55 ERA in 148 appearances, as he was good but not great.

    In 2001, he got his first chance in the closer's role, and he pitched well converting 22 of 24 save chances. However, in May of the following season, he tore a muscle in his right armpit and when he returned he struggled to hit 90 with his fastball.

    Without the triple-digits heat, he was out of the league within a few seasons.

Florida Marlins: Josh Booty

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    Acquired: 1994 First Round (Fifth Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $1.6 Million

    In the Joe Mauer and Bubba Starling mold, Booty was one of the best high school football players in the nation but an equally good baseball player, and when the Marlins came calling with a then record signing bonus, he left the gridiron behind.

    Things didn't work out though, as he struck out far too much to offset his impressive power. In his final three minor league seasons he hit a total of 54 home runs but batted .206, .210 and .182, respectively.

    After just 19 major league at-bats, Booty called it quits after the 1998, and the 24-year-old enrolled at LSU to play football. He was decent in two seasons with the Tigers before heading to the NFL where he spent three seasons as a Browns backup, never taking a snap.

Houston Astros: Jason Grimsley

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    Acquired: Trade for Curt Schilling

    Contract: Minimum

    In January of 1991, the Astros pulled off perhaps the biggest steal in franchise history when they traded aging slugger Glenn Davis to the Orioles for Curt Schilling and Steve Finley. Or that is, it would have been a great steal if they had held onto Schilling.

    At 24 years old and in just his second full season in the majors, the Astros used Schilling solely out of the bullpen where he had a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 innings of work. With his value somewhat high, the Astros dealt him to the Phillies for 23-year-old start Jason Grimsley in an effort to bolster their rotation.

    Grimsley would post a 5.05 ERA at Triple-A in 1992 before being released at season's end, while Schilling took his spot in the Phillies rotation and went 14-11 with a 2.35 ERA and NL-best 0.990 WHIP, and it would only get better from there.

Kansas City Royals: Clint Hurdle

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    Acquired: 1975 First Round (Ninth Overall)

    Signing Bonus: N/A

    Coming off of a season that saw him hit .328 BA, 16 HR, 66 RBI as a 19-year-old at Triple-A and ended with a .308 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI stint over 26 at-bats in the big leagues, Sports Illustrated billed Clint Hurdle as "This Year's Phenom" heading into the 1978 season.

    He received regular playing time, but finished the season with a .264 BA, 7 HR, 56 RBI line, in what would be one of the better seasons of his career. He got regular at-bats again in 1980 but had similar results and that is the last time he would more than just a backup, as he was out of the majors by 1987.

    However, he has managed to make it as a big league manager, and could be in line for NL Manager of the Year honors with the terrific job he has done turning around the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.

Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Wood

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    Acquired: 2003 First Round (23rd Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $1.3 Million

    Brandon Wood entered the 2005 season as the 83rd ranked prospect in baseball, and he emerged as the third ranked prospect in baseball thanks to a video game stat line of .321 BA, 43 HR, 116 RBI with 53 doubles as he reached Triple-A at the age of 20.

    However, in the years to come he could never put it together when given at bats in the majors, as he fell into the dreaded Quadruple-A category of players. Too good to gain anything more from the minors but not good enough for the majors.

    Now a backup infielder for the Pirates, Wood has 161 career minor league home runs and a whopping 18 long balls over 658 major league at-bats.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jason Schmidt

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: Three Years, $47 Million

    After six seasons and 78 wins as a member of the Giants, Schmidt had established himself as one of the top pitchers in the game when he hit the free-agent market in 2007.

    He was simply awful for the Dodgers, however, as the team officially paid $15.67 million per win and $4.7 million per start in what goes down as one of the least productive contracts in baseball history.

    The Dodgers recent history is riddled with flop signings, with Juan Pierre (Five Years, $44 Million), Andruw Jones (Two Years, $36.2 Million), Darren Dreifort (Five Years, $55 Million) and Kevin Brown (Seven Years, $105 Million) coming to mind immediately, but Schmidt takes the cake here.

Milwaukee Brewers: Marc Newfield

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    Acquired: Trade With Padres for Greg Vaughn

    Originally Drafted: 1990 First Round (Sixth Overall)

    Drafted and signed at the age of 17, Marc Newfield appeared on the Baseball America Top 100 list five seasons in a row to begin his career, and despite impressive minor league numbers, he never really got a chance in Seattle before being traded to the Padres for Andy Benes in 1995.

    The following season, he was dealt again, this time to the Brewers who were looking to move free agent to be Greg Vaughn. Newfield took over Vaughn's spot in the Milwaukee lineup immediately following the trade and hit .307 BA, 7 HR, 31 RBI over just 49 games.

    The next spring, he entered camp at 24 years old and with four seasons of big league experience under his belt, as the left field job was his. He fell flat, however, hitting just .229 BA, 1 HR, 18 RBI in 50 games before being demoted.

    It was more of the same the following season, and that would be his last year in the majors.

Minnesota Twins: Adam Johnson

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    Acquired: 2000 First Round (Second Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $2.5 Million

    A Cal State Fullerton product, Adam Johnson made his pro debut at High Single-A in 2000 and impressed with a 2.47 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 62.1 innings, as he seemed to be on the fast track to the big leagues.

    However, after a 4.15 ERA in his first full pro season the following year, he would never have a season with an ERA lower than 5.00 and he struggled to rise up the ranks.

    In total, he made nine appearances at the big league level between 2001 and 2003, four of which were starts, and posted a line of 1-3, 10.25 ERA, 2.051 WHIP, 26.1 IP.

New York Mets: Steve Chilcott

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    Acquired: 1966 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $75,000

    One of just two first overall selections to fail to reach the big leagues, the Mets selected Steve Chilcott over and Arizona State University outfielder by the name of Reggie Jackson.

    His selection paved the way for teams being leery of selecting high school catchers, as he only spent 22 games above Double-A during his seven seasons in the minor leagues and in all honesty was never anywhere near reaching the majors.

    In total, he finished his minor league career with a batting average of .248, and the Mets first, first-overall draft pick goes down as one of the worst in baseball history.

New York Yankees: Brien Taylor

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    Acquired: 1991 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $1.55 Million

    One of the most highly touted high school pitching prospects of all time, Taylor drew comparisons to Dwight Gooden right off the bat, and despite Scott Boras being his adviser he was a no-brainier first overall pick for the Yankees in 1991.

    He began his career at High Single-A and posted a 2.57 ERA and 10.4 K/9 mark in his first pro season. Moving right up the ladder, he went 13-7, 3.48 ERA, 150 K's the following season at Double-A and looked to be on his way to the big leagues in 1994.

    However, on Dec. 18th, 1993, he suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum in his throwing arm defending his brother in a fist fight. When he returned, he had lost eight MPH off his fastball and could no longer locate his breaking ball, and he was never the same again.

    He would never see the big leagues and is one of the biggest "what ifs" in baseball history.

Oakland Athletics: Todd Van Poppel

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    Acquired: 1990 First Round (14th Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $1.2 Million

    While he was the consensus top player in the 1990 draft, but with Scott Boras as his adviser and a scholarship offer from the University of Texas in place, he fell due to obvious signability concerns.

    Still, he had drawn comparisons to Nolan Ryan and was not going to fall too far, and the Athletics grabbed him with the 14th overall pick. The Athletics paid a steep price to convince him to go pro, but they like most people saw a future ace in the right-hander.

    He was in the Athletics rotation by 1993, as he shot through the minor leagues despite posting average numbers at best at every stop, and it was clear he had been rushed from the on set.

    He would go on to post a record of 18-29 with a 5.75 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Athletics before waived and picked up by the Tigers in 1996.

    He stuck around in the majors until 2004, pitching mostly in relief, and it is safe to say his 40 career wins are a bit short of what most expected.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ricky Jordan

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    Acquired: 1983 First Round (22nd Overall)

    Signing Bonus: N/A

    Taken in the first round out of high school, Ricky Jordan was a solid prospect but he was not necessarily expected to be a superstar at the next level. That is until his late season call up in 1988.

    Over just 69 games and 273 at-bats, Jordan hit .308 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI as he would finish eighth in NL Rookie of the Year voting despite his limited playing time. That was more than enough for all of Philadelphia to jump on the Ricky Jordan bandwagon.

    He was decent as a full-time starter the following season when he hit .285 BA, 12 HR, 75 RBI over 523 at bats, but he hit just .275 BA, 31 HR, 182 over the next five seasons as he was never able to take his game to the next level that everyone had hoped for.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Bullington

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    Acquired: 2002 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $4 Million

    While high school shortstop B.J. Upton was the consensus top player in the 2002 draft, the Pirates passed on his high price tag and instead took Ball State right-hander Bryan Bullington.

    A 6'5", 225-pound workhorse with great command, Bullington went 11-3, 2.84 ERA, 139 K's, 18 BB in 104.2 innings as a junior, and that was enough for the Pirates to make him the top choice.

    He came out of the gates strong with a good first pro season, but his progression halted once he got above Single-A, and he would make just six appearances, three starts as a member of the Pirates before he was selected off waivers by the Indians.

    He pitched as recently as last season with the Royals but is now retired with a career big league line of 1-9, 5.62 ERA, 54 K's, 81.2 IP.

San Diego Padres: Matt Bush

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    Acquired: 2004 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $3.15 Million

    With a bumper crop of college talent led by Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew and Jeff Niemann, there was no shortage of good choices for the Padres who held the first pick in the 2004 draft.

    However, not wanting to pay the hefty bonuses that those players would seek as the top pick, the Padres reached down the draft board and selected high school shortstop Matt Bush with the first pick, immediately drawing criticism.

    Things were awful from the start, as he was suspended for fighting outside a nightclub before he ever took the field. He then hit .192 in his first pro season and .221 the following year.

    With his hitting woes, the Padres moved Bush to the mound, where he was a top pitcher in high school and had a 98-MPH fastball, but he tore a ligament in his arm. The Padres finally parted ways with him in 2009, and he is now attempting to make it as a reliever with the Rays.

San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito

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    Acquired: Signed as Free Agent

    Contract: Seven Years, $126 Million

    With 102 wins, an AL Cy Young and one of the game's best curveballs to his credit, Zito was the 2007 offseason's top commodity, and he crossed the bay to the National League for what was then a record deal for a pitcher.

    However, he left that curveball, along with that ability to win games, in Oakland, and he has yet to post a winning season five years into this mega deal.

    To make matters worse, injuries have struck this season, and he has been limited to just nine starts. That said, his injury opened things up for Ryan Vogelsong to get a chance, and considering Zito's 5.62 ERA over those nine starts, maybe it is for the best that he is on the disabled list.

Seattle Mariners: Ryan Anderson

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    Acquired: 1997 First Round (19th Overall)

    At 6'10", Ryan Anderson was immediately billed as the next Randy Johnson when the Mariners selected him in the first round of the 1997 draft, earning the nickname "The Little Unit."

    However, he was far from Randy Johnson, and while his immense potential landed him in Baseball America's Top 25 every year from 1998-2002, he was never able to put it all together as injuries got in the way, and a questionable work ethic didn't help.

    He would never make it to the big leagues, going a combined 20-27, 4.04 ERA, 483 K's, 363 IP over four minor league seasons.

St. Louis Cardinals: Rick Ankiel (The Pitcher)

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    Acquired: 1997 Second Round (72nd Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $2.5 Million

    Billed by some as a left-handed Tom Seaver, Rick Ankiel is among the most-hyped and most fast-tracked high school pitching prospects in baseball history, and he seemed up for the task as a 20-year-old rookie in 2000.

    With an 11-7, 3.50 ERA, 194 K's, 175 IP line Ankiel finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and helped the Cardinals make the playoffs.

    However, once he found himself under the bright lights of October baseball, it all fell apart as he threw nine wild pitches in four innings of postseason work, racking up and ERA of 15.75, as his confidence was gone and his pitching days more or less over.

    He did manage to rejuvenate his career with a move to the outfield in 2007, and he has hit 60 home runs in five seasons as an outfielder and currently plays for the Nationals.

Tampa Bay Rays: Josh Hamilton

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    Acquired: 1999 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $4 Million

    Billed as one of the best high school prospects of all time as both an outfielder and a pitcher, the Rays took Josh Hamilton first overall in hopes he would be the cornerstone of their fledgling franchise.

    He enjoyed a great beginning to his career but was involved in a car accident prior to the 2001 season. It was then that he began having problems with drugs and alcohol, and by 2003, he had walked away from the game.

    By now, the story of his remarkable comeback in 2007 is widely known, and he has certainly turned both his career and his life around. The fact remains, however, that he never appeared in a game for the Rays, and he is easily the biggest bust in team history.

Texas Rangers: David Clyde

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    Acquired: 1973 First Round (First Overall)

    Signing Bonus: $125,000

    A Texas high school legend, Clyde allowed just three earned runs in 148 innings of work during his senior year at Westchester High School and the Rangers kept him close to home when they took him first overall in 1973.

    Because of the tremendous buzz surrounding him, the Rangers brought him straight to the majors, with the plan being to give him two starts before sending him to the minors.

    However, he was phenomenal in those two starts giving up just three runs while striking out 14 in 11 innings of work, and that convinced the team to leave him in the rotation. He ended up pitching another 93.1 innings with the team, putting the 18-year-old at 241.1 innings of work on the year.

    As one would expect with that workload so early on, injury problems set in, and Clyde was out of baseball by the age of 24, having pitched just 84 games with a 18-33 record and 4.63 ERA.

Toronto Blue Jays: Vernon Wells

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    Acquired: 1997 First Round (Fifth Overall)

    Contract Extension: Seven Years, $126 Million

    Coming off of a .303 BA, 32 HR, 106 RBI, 17 SB season in 2006 and having averaged .288 BA, 28 HR, 97 RBI, 9 SB over the past five seasons, the Blue Jays decided to lock up the then 27-year-old Vernon Wells with a long-term deal that would make him their franchise player.

    However, in the three seasons following the signing of the mega-contract Wells averaged just .265 BA, 17 HR, 75 RBI, and his defense fell off from its previous Gold Glove level as well.

    Luckily for the Blue Jays, he bounced back last season with a .273 BA, 31 HR, 88 RBI season and GM Alex Anthopoulos somehow managed to find a taker for Wells and his contract in the Angels.

    Nonetheless, he certainly fell short of being the franchise player they thought he was.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg?

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    Acquired: 2009 First Round (First Overall)

    Contract: $15.1 Million

    While it is too early to call him a bust, as he is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, one could certainly see the Stephen Strasburg story heading in that direction.

    After being the most-hyped prep baseball player in recent history at San Diego State University, Strasburg got a record deal from the Nationals, and he shot through their system last year and took the baseball world by storm when he reached the majors.

    With a 5-3, 2.91 ERA, 92 K's, 68 IP line in 12 starts it was clear what Strasburg was capable of. However, he was shelved before the season was over, and he ended up going under the knife.

    Now on the rehab road, Strasburg was roughed up in his third minor league start last night when he gave up five runs in 1.2 innings of work at Single-A Hagerstown.

    Time will tell if he can return to form, but there is certainly reason for concern over the next Hall of Fame pitcher's health.