By Barry Duchan
Continuing my look at Mets' #1 selections year-by-year:
1980 - Darryl Strawberry. #1 pick in draft. Apparently, there was some thought given to taking Darnell Coles or Billy Beane, but in the end, the Mets went with the consensus and selected Strawberry, and it turned out to be the right move.
1981 - Terry Blocker. This was a fascinating draft, full of prospects. The Mets eventually wound up with several of the other first rounders including Ron Darling, Kevin McReynolds, and Daryl Boston, all chosen AFTER the Mets took Blocker, as well as Dick Schofield who was taken one pick before Blocker. Terry was a speedy guy who never fulfilled his potential.
1982 - Dwight Gooden. With the #5 selection, the Mets definitely got the gem of this draft. Surprisingly, Gooden was considered a bit of a reach by many observers as he was projected to go around the middle of the round.
1983 - The Mets had 3 first round picks and they turned out to be Eddie Williams, Stan Jefferson, and Calvin Schiraldi. There were a lot of highly touted players in the first round, and almost all of them turned out disappointing. Roger Clemens was the #19 selection by Boston, one slot before the Mets took Jefferson. Since the Mets had previously drafted Clemens out of high school, we can only wonder if they would have picked him again if the Red Sox had passed him up.
1984 - Shawn Abner. First choice in the draft. Rumor had it that the Mets were all set to pick Mark McGwire, but wanted a firm commitment that he would sign. When they didn't get it, they went for Abner and McGwire lasted another 9 picks. Imagine the late '80's, early '90's Mets with Clemens and McGwire! Or would they have traded them both to get Kevin McReynolds, as they did with Abner, who never really made it?
1985 - Gregg Jefferies. Considering this was a late first round pick, it was remarkable in that Jefferies seemed to be player of the year every year throughout his minor league career. About his career with the Mets and beyond, it is a fascinating story which I won't go into here.
1986 - Lee May Jr. A huge disappointment almost from the time he began his minor league career. There weren't many better picks later in the first round. It's interesting to note that the last pick of the second round was Todd Zeile, who soon became the #1 prospect in all of baseball. Before he was chosen, the Mets had already made their second selection, Fritz Polka!
1987 - Chris Donnels. Turned out to be a fringe big leaguer. Craig Biggio had gone 2 picks earlier and Pete Harnisch went a couple later.
1988 - Dave Proctor. A pitcher. Never came close to the big leagues. Later first rounders included Rico Brogna, Ed Sprague, and Brian Jordan.
1989 - Alan Zinter. A catcher when drafted, he was switched to first base and later traded for Rico Brogna. Finally surfaced in the majors 13 years after the Mets drafted him, but not for long. Mo Vaughn was selected just before Zinter, and Chuck Knoblauch right after him.
1990 - Jeromy Burnitz. Considered a reach at the time, but actually a pretty good pick, although his best major league years were the ones he didn't spend with the Mets. Mike Mussina went 2 picks later.
1991 - Al Shirley. One of only 2 of the top 20 picks that year who never made the big leagues. A toolsy outfielder who struck out way too much. Players chosen soon after him included Benji Gil, Allan Watson, and Aaron Sele.
1992 - Preston Wilson. Outstanding choice with #9 pick in draft. Derek Jeter was taken 3 slots earlier, and Johnny Damon 26 picks later, but otherwise no one else in the first round was a better choice. Wilson was, of course, sent to Florida in te Mike Piazza trade.
1993 - Kirk Presley. Pitcher who seemed to have arm trouble from the minute he signed (if not before). Later first round picks included Billy Wagner, Derrek Lee, and Torii Hunter. But Presley did get a few columns written about him being Elvis' cousin, despite never pitching effectively anywhere once he signed.
1994 - Paul Wilson. #1 pick in the entire draft. Expected to be great, despite starting minor league career 0-7. Has come back to show occasional flashes of solid big league pitching between serious injuries. Traded to Tampa Bay before re-surfacing with some success with the Reds. The next pick, by Oakland was Ben Grieve, and everyone expected him to be great, too. Funny how this draft turned out. In retrospect, #12 selection Nomar Garciaparra, who was shunned by 11 teams because he was considered a defensive shortstop who couldn't hit, quickly became the best player to come out of what was considered a strong draft.
1995 - Ryan Jaroncyk. A perfectly awful pick, who quit baseball when he revealed that he hated the game, and was only playing to please his father. He later tried a comeback with the Dodgers' organization (at his father's urging?), but didn't last long there. The next pick in the draft was Juan LeBron and the Mets later traded Joe Randa for him. He never made it, either. Carlos Beltran was taken by Kansas City in the second round, one pick after the Mets took Brett Herbison.
Next up, 1996 - 2006