Notable Players the Mets Drafted, But Did Not Sign (Part II)

Since the first part of this article was so well received, it left no choice but to write a part two. The below list features five respectable, and former-Mets draft picks who could have certainly helped their prospective Mets team if they had signed.

Burt Hooton: Hooton will never be in Hall of Fame conversations, but a guy who won over 150 games should certainly get some respect. The Mets saw talent in the 18 year-old when they selected him in the 5th round of the 1968 draft. But the Texas-native opted to hurl for the University of Texas at Austin, which eventually led to his more generous 2nd overall nod by the Chicago Cubs in the 1971 draft. The righty’s best season arguably came in 1978 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he posted 19 Wins with a 2.71 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 1.70 K/BB. He would be edged out by just Gaylord Perry for the Cy Young voting. The pitcher also made a trip to the All-Star game in 1981, after posting a 2.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 2.30 in the first half (11 Wins, 2.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 2.24 K/BB in total). Hooton retired in 1985 after pitch 15 Major League seasons–owning a very respectable 151 Wins, and career 3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 1.87 K/BB. While a moot point, it would have been nice to see Hooton pitch in the same rotation as Tom Seaver, Kerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack during the 1970′s.

Scott Erickson: Before his successful Twins younger-years, innings-eater Orioles tenure, and injury-filled late-30′s debauchery, Scott Erickson was almost a member of the New York Mets. The Mets drafted the then 18 year-old Californian in the 36th round (821st pick) of the 1986 draft. Even though Scott Erickson was an ace–and certainly no Burt Hooton–it’s hard to groan at 142 career wins and a second place Cy Young finish. Despite never being a big strikeouts pitcher, Erickson instantly impressed with the Twins in his first full-season, posting 20 Wins with a 3.18 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 1.52 K/BB. The 21 year-old’s yearly performance was good enough to place second for the Cy Young award behind former-unsigned-Mets-draft-pick Roger Clemens. Erickson’s stellar season also helped propel the Minnesota Twins to the franchise’s most recent World Series victory. But after his sophomore triumph, Erickson’s career essentially went downhill. After 1992, Erickson owned a career 4.99 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 1.50 K/BB. And while he was a durable starter for the Orioles from 1996 to 1999 (average of 231 innings per season), he paid for it greatly (missed all of 2001 and 2003, and only averaged 69.3 innings per season in 2000, 2002, and 2004-2006). Shortcomings aside, his presence would have been a welcome addition to an early 1990′s rotation featuring drug comatose Dwight Gooden, prematurely-traded David Cone, and injury-riddled Sid Fernandez and Bret Saberhagen.

Mark Grudzielanek: Grudzielanek never exhibited great power (career-high 13 HR in 2001 or around 6 HR per 507 PA’s), long-lived speed (stole 33 in 1996, and then stole just 49 bases from 1999 to 2010), or high-shelf on-base skills (career .332 OBP), but his consistently solid across-the-boards production and good glove (combined 7.2 UZR/150 at 2B from 2002 to 2010) continually earned him starting jobs throughout his 15 year career. It’s possible the Mets saw this talent within when they plucked him in the 17th round (450th pick) in the 1989 draft, but the infielder waited until 1991 to sign–with the Montreal Expos. The infielder didn’t wow in the Minors until 1994, when he swatted a .322/.382/.477 line with 11 HR, 66 RBI, 92 R, and 32 SB in 549 PA’s at Double-A. Grudzielanek made his Major League debut in 1995 (.245/.300/.316 line in 293 PA’s), but became a starting player the following season. His .306/.340/.397 line earned the then 26 year-old a trip to the All-Star game. Even though he had many similar seasons throughout is career, it would be his final All-Star appearance. The infielder’s finest season arguably came in 1999, when he posted a lush .326/.376/.436 line with 7 HR, 46 RBI, 72 R, and 6 SB in 534 PA’s–being worth a career-high 4.1 fWAR. Grudzielanek retired at age 40 in 2010 with a career .289/.332/.393 line and 90 HR, 640 RBI, 946 R, and 133 SB. Even though the Mets had great second baseman like Jeff Kent and Edgardo Alfonso during the 1990′s, it’s possible that Grudzielanek’s presence could have prevented the infamous Carlos Baerga trade in 1996.

Darin Erstad: For the first four full-seasons of Darin Erstad’s career, it seemed as though the left-handed outfielder would surely become one of the league’s best across-the-boards players. Few players in baseball owned the balance of power, speed, and defense Erstad possessed early on. Perhaps the Mets yearned another Darryl Strawberry-type when they plucked Erstad with the 357th overall pick (13th round) in the 1992 draft. The outfielder opted to attend college, and would then be drafted first overall by the California Angels in 1995. That very year, the 21 year-old swatted a .389/.417/.611 line with 5 HR, 25 RBI, 26 R, and 4 SB in 139 PA’s in the lower-Minors. The lefty was promoted all the way up to Triple-A in 1996, and responded with a .305/.385/.447 line with 6 HR, 41 RBI, 63 R, and 11 SB in 401 PA’s. The Angels recalled Erstad in June of 1996, and handed him 229 PA’s. The North Dakota-native enjoyed a solid rookie campaign (.284/.333/.375 line), and placed 6th in the Rookie of the Year Award. Erstad’s maturation in his sophomore season was epic–posting a .299/.360/.466 line with a 16 HR, 77 RBI, 99 R, and 23 SB in 605 PA’s. The outfielder continued his Major League success in 1998, batting a .296/.353/.486 line with 19 HR, 82 RBI, 84 R, and 20 SB in 590 PA’s. But the best was yet to come. In 2000, Erstad pushed his way into elitehood, hitting to the tune of a .355/.409/.541 line with 25 HR, 100 RBI, 121 R, and 28 SB. During that season, he made his second All-Star trip, placed 8th in the MVP vote, and took home his first Gold Glove award (he would win another two in his career). But, for whatever reason, Erstad fell apart thereafter. The left-handed hitter followed-up his MVP-caliber season with a dismal .258/.331/.360 line with just 9 HR, 63 RBI, 89 R, and 24 SB in 631 PA’s. In fact, from 2001 to 2005 (his final years as a starting player) he owned a pedestrian .274/.326/.374 line with an average of 7 HR, 58 RBI, 78 R, and 16 SB per season. Erstad retired in 2009 after 14 seasons, careering a .282/.336/.407 line. Darin Erstad only enjoyed three super-productive seasons (1997, 1998, 2000), but it would have been nice if they occurred in Flushing.

Jeremy Guthrie: Jeremy Guthrie: Guthrie is the definition of a late-bloomer, as the starting pitcher didn’t experience Major League success until age 28. Ten years earlier, the Mets attempted to draft the right-handed pitcher in the 15th round (450th overall pick) of the 1997 draft, but he wisely decided to attend Stanford University. Five drafts later (in 2002), the Cleveland Indians plucked Guthrie with the 22nd overall pick. The college-grad was placed directly in Double-A the following season, posting a 1.44 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 2.50 K/BB in 62.6 IP. The Indians promoted Guthrie to Triple-A the same season (2004), but the righty struggled mightily (6.52 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and 2.07 K/BB in 96.6 IP). The pitcher continued to regress in 2004, posting a 4.69 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and 1.73 K/BB in 149.6 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. After hurling yet another dismal season at Triple-A in 2005 (5.08 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 2.04 K/BB in 136.3 IP), the pitcher was placed on waivers, and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles. Like many other late bloomers, the change of scenery did wonders for Guthire. The righty pitched to the tune of a 3.14 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 1.83 K/BB in 123.3 innings during 2007. And unlike his three previous stints in the Major Leagues (combined 6.08 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, and 1.04 K/BB from 2004 to 2006), the 28 year-old was relatively dominant as a rotation fixture (3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 2.62 K/BB in 175.3 IP). Guthrie didn’t slow down much in 2008, posting a 3.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 2.07 K/BB. The Stanford alumni endured a mediocre season in 2009 (5.04 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 1.83 K/BB in 200 IP), but settled down over his next two seasons (combined 4.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 2.15 K/BB in 417.3 IP). The 32 year-old is hardly an ace pitcher (though he’s headed the Orioles-rotation for years), but his reliable four-pitch arsenal (fastball, slider, curveball, change-up) has helped fuel a very respectable career as a starting pitcher (4.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 2.14 K/BB in 983.3 IP over five season)–a career that would have been extremely helpful in the middle or back-end of the Mets rotation in both past and present-day.

Topics: Ben Berkon, Burt Hooton, Darin Erstad, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Grudzielanek, Mets, Mets Draft Picks, New York, New York Mets, Notable Players The Mets Drafted But Did Not Sign, Players The Mets Drafted But Did Not Sign, Rising Apple, Scott Erickson

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