Thursday, May 14, 2015

A theory of first-round busts

Nobody uses a first-round draft pick on a prospect projected to be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a fourth outfielder. Very few guys expected to be relief pitchers go in the first round, even late in the first round, and those who do are expected to be dominant closers.

First rounders, especially early first-rounders, are supposed to be potential stars, or at least solid regulars. Players with "upside." Joe Mauer, first overall in 2001. Torii Hunter, 20th in 1993. Trevor Plouffe, 20th in 2004. Those three, right now, are the Twins 2-3-4 hitters.

But not every first-rounder reaches their expectations. Some never make it at all; others wind up as bit players. They help, but they don't star. And it's my theory that those guys seldom find that level with their drafting team, because their drafting team is too invested in the idea that he's supposed to be more than he is.

That's what I think is happening now with Aaron Hicks. The Twins took him with the 14th pick in 2008. They expected him to be the successor in the center field chain -- Kirby Puckett to Hunter to Denard Span to Hicks. It's pretty clear now that the successor is Byron Buxton. If Hicks is going to be an outfield regular, it will be in an outfield corner, and I doubt he'll hit enough for that.

His destination may well be as a fourth outfielder. And if so, he'll probably achieve that elsewhere, for a team that never invested money and hopes in a different outcome for him.

1 comment:

  1. Great observation, Mr. Thoma. All the major sports are overloaded with high-expectation draftees that did not live up to the hope/hype...and there is pressure on a young kid to be worthy of that bonus contract...but it is not relegated to modern times: even Harmon Killebrew - if you heard him speak - or even check out his 50's cards, took several years to realize potential. But back then there was less push to trade them as there is now. Which is where the investing team might get something back. This may be a case of showcasing Hicks for such a move.