MLB draft busts are unlike any other sport. There are normally over 40 rounds in the MLB Draft, and prospects aren’t expected to have immediate impacts on their teams, with most players taking a few years to reach the majors. With that being said, plenty of teams strike out with their picks, and in the 2010s, there has been no shortage of MLB draft busts.
MLB Draft Bust #10: Kyle Zimmer, 2012
Kyle Zimmer may have finally found a spot on the Royals’ roster after a nice showing in 2020. Considering how high he was drafted though, Zimmer qualifies as a draft bust. The Royals picked him fifth overall out of the University of San Francisco in the 2012 Draft. The righty showed some promise while in the minors, but suffered from various injuries and didn’t make the majors until 2019.
MLB Draft Bust #9: Gavin Cecchini, 2012
The Mets selected Cecchini 12th overall in the 2012 Draft. He was widely regarded as one of the best high school hitters in the draft, but his bat never quite showed up during his time in the Mets’ organization. In the minors, Cecchini hit just .281/.345/.395 and he looked extremely overmatched when he reached the majors.
Cecchini only had 89 major league plate appearances and hit just .217/.270/.301 (54 OPS+) with one homer and negative-0.5 rWAR. His lone MLB highlight was when he hit his only major league homer off Clayton Kershaw in 2017. To make matters worse, the Dodgers picked 2020 World Series MVP and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager six picks after Cecchini.
MLB Draft Bust #8: Carson Fulmer, 2015
Most pitchers that get drafted out of Vanderbilt go on to have very successful big league careers. Fulmer and Walker Buehler were the two Vanderbilt products taken in the first round of the 2015 Draft, with Fulmer going eighth and Buehler going 23rd. Fulmer was the first of the two to make the bigs, as he was in the majors just a year later.
While Buehler has shined in the majors, Fulmer has struggled badly. In four seasons on the Southside of Chicago, he pitched to an ugly 6.56 ERA/6.44 FIP (67 ERA+) and 1.637 WHIP. The White Sox placed Fulmer on waivers in July of 2020, and he has since spent time with the Tigers, Orioles, and Pirates.
MLB Draft Bust #7: Kohl Stewart, 2013
The Twins selected Stewart fourth overall in the 2013 Draft. He was solid in the minors but didn’t reach the majors until 2018. Furthermore, he struggled to a 4.79 ERA (92 ERA+) and 1.435 WHIP in 62 innings pitched. As a result, the Twins non-tendered Stewart following the 2019 season. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since and is currently a free agent.
MLB Draft Bust #6: Danny Hultzen, 2011
Danny Hultzen lit the world on the fire during his senior year at the University of Virginia. The lefty had a dominant 1.37 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 118 innings (12.6 K/9). It was no surprise when the Mariners selected Hultzen with the second overall pick in the 2011 Draft. While Hultzen looked strong in the minors, he battled many injuries, specifically to his shoulder. After pitching in just ten professional innings from 2014-2016, the Mariners non-tendered Hultzen. He finally reached the majors in 2019, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings with the Cubs.
MLB Draft Bust #5: Brendan Rodgers, 2015
The 2015 MLB Draft class was loaded with shortstops, with four of the first 10 picks (including the first three) all being shortstops. Many expected Rodgers to go as the top selection, but he fell to the third spot, getting taken by the Colorado Rockies. Rodgers tore up minor league pitching even as a teenager, but with the Rockies already having a shortstop in Trevor Story, Rodgers didn’t make the majors until 2019. When he’s gotten the chance to play, Rodgers has struggled, hitting just .196/.235/.227 (15 OPS+) with no homers in 102 plate appearances.
MLB Draft Bust #4: Bubba Starling, 2011
A two-sport athlete, Starling was selected fifth overall by the Royals in the 2011 Draft. The team gave Starling a $7.5 million signing bonus, which was the largest bonus ever given to a high school player. Starling never seemed to find his footing in professional ball and hit an underwhelming .244/.317/.393 in the minors. He finally made the majors in 2019 but has struggled to a weak .204/.246/.298 (44 OPS+) batting line with 83 strikeouts in 261 plate appearances.
While some may argue that Hultzen is a bigger bust than Starling, injuries never really hampered Starling while he was in the minors. Starling’s status as a bust is further magnified considering that Royals picked him just ahead of future All-Stars Anthony Rendon, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, and George Springer.
MLB Draft Bust #3: Mickey Moniak, 2016
Mickey Moniak was Baseball America‘s 2016 High School Player of the Year after he hit .476 with a .961 slugging percentage as a senior at La Costa Canyon High School. As a result, the Phillies selected him with the first overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. Moniak’s numbers have been disappointing, to say the least. He hit just .256/.302/.390 across four minor league seasons. In 2020, the Phillies finally called Moniak up to the majors, but he went just 3-for-14 in his brief audition.
MLB Draft Bust #2: Tyler Kolek, 2014
Ahead of the 2014 Draft, scouts raved about Tyler Kolek and his triple-digit fastball that topped out at 102 miles per hour. The Marlins selected him with the second overall pick, giving him a six-million dollar signing bonus. Kolek struggled mightily in the minors and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in 2016.
When he returned to the field, Kolek was shelled and never made it above A-ball. His cumulative numbers for his six minor league seasons include a horrendous 5.66 ERA, a 1.729 WHIP, and 124 walks in 163.2 innings (6.8 BB/9 and just 7.4 K/9). The Marlins granted Kolek free agency after the 2019 season.
MLB Draft Bust #1: Mark Appel, 2013
Mark Appel was actually a top-ten pick twice. In 2012, the Pirates took Appel eighth overall, but he opted to return to Stanford for his senior year. After tearing up the Pac-12, Appel was selected first overall by the Houston Astros in the 2013 Draft. Appel got off to a modest start to his professional career, but after encountering some struggles, he was shipped off to the Phillies in exchange for Ken Giles.
Appel never was able to find his form and spent most of the following two seasons battling injuries. Following a rocky 2017 season, the Phillies designated him for assignment. He decided to step away from baseball ahead of the 2018 season and has been out of baseball ever since.
Closing Thoughts on MLB Draft Busts
There are probably more draft busts in baseball than any other sport. In the 2010s, many players failed to live up to their draft-day expectations. These ten players stood out from the rest, and they serve as further caution that not every draft prospect will pan out.
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