Surely, I can’t be serious. I am. And don’t call me Al Shirley. That’s because in the 1991 MLB Draft, the New York Mets received a compensation pick for losing Darryl Strawberry in free agency to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the 18th overall pick, they selected an outfielder out of Virginia, Al Shirley.
Compensation picks are only as fair as your scouts’ success in picking those players. Selecting Shirley, as history shows, wasn’t the right move to make.
Remembering Al Shirley’s career with the Mets organization
Shirley’s time with the Mets organization began in 1991 as a teenager. Some terrific potential, he had some fantastic speed but one horrific bat when it came to making contact.
Shirley swiped 17 bases in his first 51 professional games. However, he struck out 62 times and batted just .176.
One bad rookie professional year doesn’t tell the full story of a guy’s career. Shirley did manage to rebound with a .313 average the following year. Unfortunately, that was the extent of his truly productive seasons.
Without breaking down his career season-by-season, let’s leave in some high and lowlights from his minor league career. In 1993, Shirley hit .158 in 474 trips to the plate. The following year, while hitting .213 in Single-A, he found his power stroke in a season which saw him blast 23 home runs and drive in 56. However, this came in a 208 strikeout campaign.
At the time, Bobby Bonds’ 189 strikeouts in 1970 were the most any player ever had at the major league level in a single season. Shirley blazed through it in 498 plate appearances.
This was the story throughout much of Shirley’s career. He hit .213 in the minors across 614 games and amassed a whopping 854 strikeouts. One could see how the Mets once viewed him as a potential replacement for Strawberry—hitting for power, stolen bases, and striking out often. Unfortunately, he never made it above Double-A, an achievement he wouldn’t have until he joined the Kansas City Royals organization in 1996.
I was but a wee lad when Shirley was one day viewed as a future Mets outfielder. I can only imagine how those who watched him flame out quickly felt. Thank goodness there was no social media in the 1990s.
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If there’s any consolation, the 1991 draft began with a bad omen for New York. The New York Yankees selected Brien Taylor first overall. The lefty pitcher never did make the major leagues. Sadly, for the Big Apple teams, they managed to pick two of the five players who never would see an inning of major league action.