As the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft approaches, Spencer Torkelson is the favorite to go first overall. Almost every MLB mock draft has the Arizona State University first baseman in the top spot, and only time will tell how this works out for the Detroit Tigers, if they do indeed draft him.
The draft began in 1965 -- with ASU's Rick Monday being the first player ever to be selected (by the Kansas City A's) -- and only four number one overall picks failed to reach the Major Leagues. We now present those four stories, and one additional pick that also went awry.
1. 1991, New York Yankees, Brien Taylor, LHP, East Carteret High School.
After a stellar 1993 season in AA ball, the Yankees wanted Taylor to head to the instructional league. Instead he went home to North Carolina, where he seriously injured his pitching shoulder in a fistfight. He missed the entire next season and was never the same again.
Long after his baseball career ended, his life took another wrong turn as he was indicted on cocaine trafficking charges in 2012. Taylor was released from prison in 2015.
Notable Stats: Season ERAs after that fateful fight: 6.08 (1995), 18.73 (1996), 14.33 (1998), 9.59 (1999), 27.00 (2000)
2. 2013, Houston Astros, Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford.
When Appel joined the Quad Cities River Bandits in 2013, he made history with Carlos Correa. It marked the first time that two consecutive first overall picks played for the same minor league team. Appel made it as high as AAA, with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. His career ended there in 2017 as repeated shoulder injuries took their toll.
Notable Stats: His $6.35 million signing bonus in 2013 is worth $6.99m in today's money.
3. 2014, Houston Astros, Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School.
The Astros seem to be as adept at making number one overall selections as they are at playing by the rules. Aiken never signed (becoming the first overall #1 not to do so since Tim Belcher in 1983), and re-entered the next year's draft.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Aiken was selected 17th overall by Cleveland and then struggled for two seasons in their farm system. His career is in doubt after only pitching twice since 2018.
Notable Stat: While Correa's career is off to a fine start, he's the only player of the four selected first overall by Houston to provide them more than one season of Major League service.
4. 1966, New York Mets, Steve Chilcott, C, Antelope Valley High School.
Once again it was a shoulder injury that derailed everything. The only non-pitcher on our list had an injury plagued career that saw him released by one New York team, and then signed by the other. After baseball he went into construction.
Notable Stat: After playing 24 games in the Yankees organization, he was done with baseball at age 24.
5. 2002, Pittsburgh Pirates, Bryan Bullington, RHP, Ball State.
Only member of this list who found a happy baseball ending; albeit in Japan's NPB league. Fans of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp know Bullington as a 2011 Central League All-Star. He won one Major League game (against nine losses); over the Yankees and A.J. Burnett.
Notable Stats: All-Star season with the Carp- 2.42 ERA (Sixth best in the league), 13-11 W-L
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TV, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Now and SB Nation.