The 10 Worst Top-5 MLB Draft Busts of the last 30 years

June 5, 2013 – 2:23 am by Hickey

Matt Bush

It’s one thing to be recognized as one of the best in your craft. But to be recognized as one of the worst in your craft — well, that takes some real doing.

Without further ado, here are the 10 most disappointing players selected in the top-5 of the Major League Baseball draft in the last 30 years.

Bryan Bullington

10. Bryan Bullington, Pirates (1st pick, 2002): It seems no one has ever done one of these lists without including Bullington, but I’m actually going to defend the guy. The only reason the right-hander was selected so high is because the cheap-ass Pirates knew he’d be easy to sign. Let’s face it, no one from Ball State should be picked first in anything unless it’s Late Night TV Host, and NBC even passed on David Letterman for that distinction.

Bullington bounced around with the Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays and Royals before finding his calling overseas pitching for the Hiroshima Carp. In parts of five major league seasons he compiled a 1-9 record with a 5.62 ERA.

Drafted before: Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Joey Votto 

Luis Montanez

9. Luis Montanez, Cubs (3rd pick, 2000): This wasn’t a particularly solid first round — Adrian Gonzalez was picked first, and after that there is a sharp drop-off before Chase Utley at No. 15 — but what makes this galling is Adam Wainwright was taken 29th. Wainwright will likely win the Cy Young this year, with half of his wins coming against the Cubs.

Meanwhile, Montanez, a career .223 hitter in the bigs, is playing for the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.

Montanez was a shortstop out of Miami Coral Park High School in Florida, but he never came close to sniffing his potential.

Drafted before: Chase Utley, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee

Adam Johnson

8. Adam Johnson, Twins (2nd pick, 2000): Turns out he’s even worse than Montanez. Johnson was a hard throwing starting pitcher out of Cal State Fullerton, but his grand contribution to the big leagues is a 1-3 record with a 10.45 ERA. His line from 2003 is truly phenomenal: two games, 1.1 innings pitched, 47.25 ERA. And that was the last time he wore the uniform.

Don’t feel bad for him, though. While at Fullerton, Johnson was sent home for throwing rocks at people from a rooftop at the Notre Dame Regional. And when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sent him down to the minors after spring training in 2002, he ripped up his paperwork in front of the manager.

Drafted before: Chase Utley, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee

Kurt Miller

7. Kurt Miller, Pirates (5th pick, 1990): You expect to see Pirates scattered all over this list — just not from an era where they actually fielded competitive teams.

Miller, a starting pitcher out of West Bakersfield High School, made it to the bigs with the Marlins in their second season of existence, and kept getting called back up for some reason. He finished playing parts of five seasons with a career record of 2-7 and a 7.48 ERA. He walked 50 and allowed 11 home runs in 80.2 innings.

Drafted before: Carl Everett, Dan Wilson, Jeromy Burnitz, Mike Mussina, Rondell White

Josh Booty

6. Josh Booty, Marlins (5th pick, 1994): Booty Booty Booty Booty rocked nowhere in his short time in the majors. The Louisiana schoolboy star was a big deal at one time — a kid who moved to my high school bragged about being friends with him, though none of us believed it.

Booty, a shortstop out of Evangel Christian High School in Shreveport, played a whopping 13 games with the Marlins from 1996-98, getting seven hits in his 30 plate appearances. After failing to pan out, he went back to college to play quarterback at LSU. He spent one year with the Seahawks (2001), where after failing to pan out there he got tased in the face. That at least got him some dough.

Drafted before: Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Konerko, Jason Varitek, Todd Walker, A.J. Pierzynski

Greg Reynolds

5. Greg Reynolds, Rockies (2nd pick, 2006): Oh, what could have been. The Rockies snagged Reynolds out of Stanford because they thought he fit the type of hurler that could work at Coors Field. They could have taken third baseman Evan Longoria, who fell to the Rays with the next pick. The thought of Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki manning the left side of the infield – not to mention Longoria’s power in Denver – would be worth buying season tickets for from five states away.

Instead, Reynolds pitches like an airliner — a 7.47 career ERA to go along with a 5-8 record in parts of two seasons.

Drafted before: Evan Longoria, Brandon Morrow, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy

Bill Bene

4. Bill Bene, Dodgers (5th pick, 1988): Do you believe in the Curse of Bill Bene? The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since they wasted their first-round pick on a guy who walked 133 batters in 147.1 innings as a starting pitcher at Cal State Los Angeles — if that’s even a real school. Bene went 18-34 with a 5.45 ERA in his minor league career, which obviously didn’t pave the way for a call-up. However, this goes back the Bullington principle — should we really be blaming a guy when the team who picked him was clearly stretching? In this case, yes, because we wouldn’t have a list otherwise.

Things only got worse for Bene after his career ended. He was arrested last year for illegally copying and selling 122,000 karaoke songs.

I couldn’t possibly make that up if I tried.

Drafted before: Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez, Royce Clayton, Charles Nagy, Ed Sprague, Brian Jordan

Matt Anderson

3. Matt Anderson, Tigers (1st pick, 1997): Perhaps the only major league career ever derailed by an octopus — allegedly.

The fireballer from Rice University was a protoype for what the Tigers actually now have in Justin Verlander, so you can hardly blame them for drafting him. But everything in Anderson’s career fell apart when he was injured after participating in a team-sponsored octopus-throwing contest with teammate Jeff Weaver that was supposed to earn four lucky fans tickets to a Red Wings playoff game. Anderson later came out and said the injury was actually suffered later that night, but we still like to think the octopus played a role.

He was never the same after, appearing in a combined 35 games with the Tigers in 2003 and the Rockies in 2005. At least he has 15 career wins to his name.

Drafted before: J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells, Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland, Lance Berkman, Jayson Werth, Randy Wolf

Brien Taylor

2. Brien Taylor, Yankees (1st pick, 1991): It’s hard to remember that there was a time when the Yankees sucked. Totally sucked. It was picks like Taylor that undoubtedly led to the premise of the movie “The Scout,” as the late ’80s and early ’90s produced continual flops.

But no one flopped quite as much as Taylor, a pitcher out of East Carteret High School in Beaufort, North Carolina, who never made it any higher up than Double-A. Part of the problem was a shoulder injury suffered in an offseason bar fight that ended up killing his pitch velocity. He is one of only two No. 1 picks since 1982 who hasn’t at least gotten a cup of coffee in the majors. (SPOILER ALERT!)

Drafted before: Dmitri Young, Tyler Green, Shawn Estes, Manny Ramirez, Cliff Floyd, Shawn Green, Aaron Sele

Matt Bush

1. Matt Bush, Padres (1st pick, 2004): If you looked up “worthless piece of crap” in the dictionary — which you can’t, because it’s more than one word — you’d find a picture of Matt Bush. Bush was a star shortstop and pitcher at Mission Bay High School in San Diego, so the hometown Padres decided to snag him with the top pick in the 2004 draft. Big mistake.

This towering douchemonger managed to get suspended for fighting security officers at a bar before he even played his first minor league game. And he’d only just begun.

In 2009, he attacked a high school lacrosse player with a golf club while screaming “I’m Matt f*cking Bush!”

Did I mention he wasn’t done yet?

The attacking a high school kid incident was enough for the Padres, who cut the cord and dealt him to Toronto. The Blue Jays weren’t long for him, though, as they released him after he assaulted a woman at a party in Florida.

Did I mention he wasn’t done yet?

For some reason, the Rays saw something in Bush other than a reason to hit him in the nuts repeatedly with a bat. By that time he had been converted into a pitcher, then pissed everything away again when he ran over the head of a 72-year-old motorcyclist while drunkenly driving during 2012 spring training. Luckily the old dude had a helmet on, saving Bush from life in prison. However, he’s still in prison and is scheduled to be there until May 2016.

One thing’s for sure: at least the prison softball league probably has the sense not to waste its first pick on Matt Bush.

Drafted before: Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, Phil Hughes, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia

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  1. 21 Responses to “The 10 Worst Top-5 MLB Draft Busts of the last 30 years”

  2. What about Kris Benson for Pitts.31 pick overall…what a flop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By randy on Jun 6, 2013

  3. Kris Benson, #1 pick overall..sorry for mistake……….still a flop.

    By randy on Jun 6, 2013

  4. Shawn Abner could have made this list.

    By Shawn on Jun 6, 2013

  5. Shawn Abner played parts of seven seasons and at least hung around a little. He was a bust, but the guys on this list are absolute screw ups. I’d put Abner in the (dis)honorable mention category.

    By Ryan Phillips on Jun 6, 2013

  6. Shawn Abner graduated form my High School. The pride of mechanicsburg. We have his first career Major League Hit ball the trophy case

    By Justin on Jun 6, 2013

  7. Abner was a joke.

    By Whatta Toole on Jun 6, 2013

  8. It’s a shame when God given talent is wasted!!!!!!!

    By e norman on Jun 6, 2013

  9. Todd Van Poppel. I seem to remember him being the first big Scott Boras douche bag draft pick. Should have been #1 but told Atlanta he wouldn’t play for them, so they got Chipper Jones.

    By Peder on Jun 6, 2013

  10. Exactly right Peder. Hugely fortunate for the Braves. Todd Van Poppel was a giant dudwad.

    By Ben on Jun 6, 2013

  11. The only bust that matters in Kris Benson’s life is his wife’s.

    By Hickey on Jun 6, 2013

  12. The main reason the Padres took Bush wasn’t because he was a hometown kid. It’s because Scott Boras demanded a huge signing bonus for Verlander or Jared Weaver (which in hindsight, would have been worth it). Any decent player they would’ve drafted by now would’ve been gobbled up by the Yanks or Sox due to big market, cheap small team market economics.

    By AC on Jun 6, 2013

  13. They weren’t in on Verlander actually. A ton of teams were scared off of him because his velocity dropped into the high 80s at the end of that spring. Weaver and Stephen Drew were the two guys they were deciding between and Boras demanded way too much.

    By Ryan Phillips on Jun 6, 2013

  14. Hard to blame the Yankees for taking Taylor though. Before his asshattery, he was on the fast track to Yankee Stadium. If memory serves me right he won 17 games with over 200ks in high-A right before messing up his shoulder.

    By Mark on Jun 7, 2013

  15. This is the year that the Pirates WILL break the 20 year curse of Sid Bream — you heard it here first!

    By Tom on Jun 7, 2013

  16. Shawn Abner does not fit – more than 20 years ago. Brien Taylor was the real deal until the arm injury in the bar fight. I saw him toy with the opposing team in the Florida minor leagues. An MLB player was there on injury rehab and could not touch him. A real shame!

    By Coach on Jun 7, 2013

  17. Taylor, if I’m correct, was recently convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He became a drug dealer….and failed at that!

    By He Will Never Get It on Jun 10, 2013

  18. Show me how the Royals have begun to recupe their money on #1 draft Bubba Starling. Where’s he at now?

    By WhoDat on Jun 19, 2013

  19. Where the heck is Shaun Bradley taken by the Sixers??? I know you’re probably saying, “Hey there wait just a gosh, darn minute, this is a bunch of baseball 1st round busts…the 76er’s picking Bradley in the 1st round was such a horrific draft blunder it actually leaks over into other sports draft dreck like this…

    By Ed Hardiman on Jun 20, 2013

  20. They forgot to mention Taylor being sentenced to 38 months in prison for drug trafficking (11/07/12).

    By Crumbums on Jun 20, 2013

  21. Taylor pick was. It a mistake at the time…..his high school stats were unreal….the only thing that he really sucked at was fielding……..when asked why he was so horrible in fielding his position he said he never had much experience cause no one ever hit he ball off him in school. There is also a rumor that the guy who hurt him purposely thee him on his pitching shoulder.

    He was defending his brother….if hat was indeed the case……it’s hard to blame him…..

    By N on Aug 2, 2015

  22. What about Josh the biggest bust ever Vitters!

    By John on Aug 14, 2016

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