Looking Back: 1987 MLB Draft

1987 MLB Draft

The fourth installment of “Looking Back” will take a look at the 1987 MLB Draft. This draft has two Hall Of Fame players which includes the first overall pick. It also has another player who some believe should be in the Hall of Fame. This draft also has a super value pick in the 58th round.

Additionally, there are two really good compensation picks received after key players who helped their former team win a World Series left via free agency. There is also a player who set a record that no one wants. This draft is also filled with star and fringe star players.

Number One Pick

The number one pick in the 1987 MLB draft belonged to the Seattle Mariners who selected Ken Griffey Jr. out of Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. The son of former player Ken Griffey, Junior was born to play baseball. Junior was tabbed to become one of the greatest players ever to play the game. It’s safe to say Griffey lived up to those expectations.

Griffey was the US High School Player of the year in 1987. His minor league career would be very short as he played in 130 games across two seasons. Griffey slashed .318/.425/.572. He hit 27 HR and drove in 92 runs and scored 103 times.

The Kid is Good

Griffey was named the starting centerfielder for the 1989 season and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He then would go on to have a career that landed him on the All-Century Team. In 22 seasons Griffey was a 13 time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger award, and the AL MVP in 1997.

In his MVP season, Griffey slashed .304/.382/.646 leading the AL with 56 HR and an MLB high of 147 RBI. For his career, Griffey slashed .284/.370/.538 with 1,836 RBI, 1,662 runs scored, and 184 stolen bases. Griffey’s 630 career HR is good for seventh all-time. In 18 postseason games, Griffey slashed .290/.367/.580 with six HR and 11 RBI and five stolen bases. Junior’s numbers would be bigger if he didn’t have knee injuries in his later years.

Griffey and his father would be the first father and son to hit back to back HR in MLB history. Griffey is also one of three players to hit homers in eight straight games. The other two are Don Mattingly and Dale Long. In his 22 year career, Griffey played for the Mariners, his hometown Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox.

Near Unanimous

Griffey was a first-ballot Hall of Famer with a then-record of 99.32 percent of the vote. It’s not often that the first overall pick in the draft lives up to the expectations. But Griffey did just that becoming the first number one pick to ever make the Hall of Fame. There are now two other players in this very exclusive club. Chipper Jones was drafted number one in 1990 and was elected in 2018. Harold Baines was drafted number one in 1977 and was elected in 2019.

In addition, Griffey was born on the same day and in the same city as fellow Hall of Famer Stan Musial. Griffey also went to the same high school as a former teammate and another Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

The Versatile Biggio

Fellow first-round draft pick Craig Biggio is the second Hall of Famer in this draft. Biggio was the 22nd pick selected by the Houston Astros. Biggio had quite the career playing 20 years all as an Astro. Originally a catcher Biggio moved to second base after he was already an All-Star behind the plate. His 5-11 185 pound frame was better suited at second base where once again he was an All-Star. Later on in his career, Biggio played centerfield.

Biggio was the ultimate team player as proved by his willingness to switch positions twice in his career. His career offensive numbers also show he was an asset in any role he was given. His slash line of .281/.363/.433 does not show his full arsenal. Biggio hit 291 HR, 668 doubles, 55 triples with 1,175 RBI, and 1,844 runs scored. He also could play small ball with 414 stolen bases, 101 sac bunts, and 81 sacrifice flies.

Biggio is arguably the greatest all-around player in Astros history. He is in the top ten of most major offensive categories in Astros history. In addition, he won the Hutch award in 2005 and the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award in 2007. Biggio was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2015 and is the first player to have the Astros uniform on his plaque. Biggio’s son Cavan Biggio plays for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Belle Does Not Toll

The Albert Belle story is quite interesting. He is one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game. But he is also one of the most polarizing players we have ever seen. His bad relationship with the media cost him the 1995 MVP where he had better numbers than Mo Vaughn who won the award. Buster Olney wrote that the P in MVP stood for PERSONALITY. Olney admitted he voted for Vaughn over Belle because of Belle’s personality and not by his play on the field.

Belle had nine straight seasons of 100 RBI and hit at least 20 HR in 10 straight seasons. Opposing pitchers could not stop Belle but a bad hip ultimately did. Belle retired after the 2000 season at 33 years old. But still, on a bad hip, Belle hit .281 with 23 HR and 103 RBI in that final season.

For his career, Belle slashed .295/.369/.564 with 381 HR and 1,239 RBI. With the designated hitter had Belle stayed healthy he could have easily padded those numbers making himself a lock for the Hall of Fame regardless of his popularity. Belle was a five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner. He played for the Cleveland Indians, White Sox, and the Baltimore Orioles.

Broken Belle

Albert Belle had his share of incidents on and off the field. In 1994 he was suspended for using a corked bat. In 1996 after knocking down Fernando Vina then with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was fined. Belle once ran down a teenage trick or treater after his home was hit by eggs.

Off the field, his relationship with the media was nonexistent. Before Game 3 of the 1995 World Series Belle yelled profanities at Hannah Storm who was an NBC reporter at the time. Commissioner Bud Selig fined Belle and asked him to apologize which he refused to do. Belle was quoted “The Indians wanted me to issue a statement of regret when the fine was announced, but I told them to take it out. I apologize for nothing.”

Bill Madden was also not a fan of Belle. Madden made these comments following Belle’s retirement in 2001. “Sorry, there’ll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle. He was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he’s a hurt surly jerk….He was no credit to the game. Belle’s boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers’ Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame.”

Madden was speaking on behalf of the Baseball Writers Association. In Belle’s first year of eligibility in 2006, he only received 7.7 percent of the votes. It was high enough for Belle to appear on the 2007 ballot. Belle would receive 3.5 percent in 2007 and was never on the ballot again. Maybe if Albert Belle had been a nicer person he could very well be in Cooperstown.

Super Value Pick

This player was drafted way down in the draft in the 58th round with the 1,226 pick. The Kansas City Royals selected Jeff Conine out of the University of California. What could you expect from a player taken so late in the draft? How about 214 career HR and 1,071 RBI. Conine would play 17 years with six different teams. After two brief stints with the Royals, Conine was selected in the expansion draft by the then Florida Marlins.

Conine played five seasons with the Fish and was a two-time All-Star and played on the 1997 Marlins World Championship team. He was traded six times and also played for the Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, and New York Mets. Conine would sign a one day contract to retire as a Marlin.

After retiring, Conine competed in triathlons and Ironman competitions. He also won a racquetball amateur championship when he was 18 years old. Conine’s son Griffin Conine is currently a minor leaguer in the Blue Jays organization. He is one of many sons of major league players in the Blue Jay organization.

Compensation Picks

Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish was a big part of the 1984 juggernaut team that easily won the World Series. However, following the 1986 season, the Tigers let him walk in free agency. Parrish signed with the Phillies and the Tigers received Philadelphia’s first-round pick, the 22nd overall, and a sandwich pick after the first round. With the 22nd pick, Motown selected Bill Henderson. But it was the second pick, the 30th overall where the Tigers found a gem in Travis Fryman.

Fryman spent eight years in Detroit where he was a four-time All-Star. Fryman hit 149 HR and drove in 679 runs in his Tiger career. Following the 1997 season, the Tigers traded Fryman to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. Two weeks later Fryman was traded once again. The Diamondbacks traded Fryman to the Indians in a more significant deal. The Diamondbacks received Matt Williams who two years later had an MVP caliber season.

Injuries would ultimately derail Fryman after five seasons in Cleveland and he would retire at 33 years old. Fryman for his career slashed .274/.336/.443 with 223 HR and 1,022 RBI.

Power Hitting Catcher

Before Mike Piazza became the face of the Mets there was Todd Hundley. Following the Mets championship season in 1986, World Series MVP Ray Knight left via free agency and signed with the Orioles. The Mets would receive the Orioles second-round pick 39th overall and selected Todd Hundley.

Hundley was called up to the Mets when he was 20 years old in 1990. He would struggle until the 1994 season where he started to put things together. In 1996 Hundley had a historic season for a catcher. His 41 HR was a single-season record for catchers as well as the Mets single-season record. Javy Lopez has since broken the record for HR by a catcher and Pete Alonso now owns the Mets single-season record.

Hundley would hit 30 HR the next season but then injuries hit. In May of the 1998 season, the Mets acquired Piazza which spelled the end for Hundley behind the plate. He would try to play leftfield but that experiment did not work. Following the season the Mets traded Hundley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson.  The haul for Hundley was significant for the Mets as they would trade Cedeno in a package to the Astros for Mike Hampton. The Mets would also ship Johnson to the Orioles for Armando Benitez who would go on to blow some of the biggest games in Mets history.

Hundley had a pair of 24 HR seasons with the Dodgers before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs then back to the Dodgers where he would retire at 34 years old. For his career Hundley slashed .234/.320/.443 with 202 HR and 599 RBI.

A Dubious Honor

Losing can be contagious. Sometimes when you get on a cold streak it’s very hard to get back on track. Such is the case of the 969th pick in the draft. The Mets in the 38th round drafted a pitcher, Anthony Young. If the name sounds familiar then you must remember the MLB record 27 consecutive losing decisions Young had between 1992-1993.

It’s really hard to believe that a pitcher could lose so many decisions without winning one. But to be fair about Young not all of these decisions came as a starting pitcher and it was not in consecutive appearances.

Streaking

The streak began on May 6th, 1992 against the Reds and lasted until July 24th, 1993 against the Dodgers. Young appeared in 77 games during the streak. He started 17 games and went 0-14 with three no-decisions. Young made 60 appearances in relief suffering 13 losses with 31 no-decisions. The Mets record during the streak was 25-52. Young did save 16 games. So it was not all bad.

Breaking The Streak

The Anthony Young streak would end on July 28th at Shea Stadium vs the then Florida Marlins. Nothing came easy to Young and this game would be no different. Young entered the game in the top of the ninth inning in a 3-3 tie. Benito Santiago led off the inning by dunking a single to right field. Hundley then booted Darrell Whitmore’s sac bunt which led to runners on first and second. Next up was Walt Weiss who laid down a bunt which was fielded by Young who immediately turned to throw the ball to third base but no one was there. The bases are now loaded with no outs.

Rick Renteria then hit a groundball to third. Bobby Bonilla who was playing third fields the ball and fires home to Hundley who then completes the 5-2-3 double play. Young is now one out away from getting out of this jam. With second and third Chuck Carr lays down a bunt and he beats out the throw to first. Whitmore scores giving the Marlins a 4-3 lead.

Mets Comeback

The Mets were a dead team in 1993 so that in itself was a reason not to expect the Mets would get Young off the hook. Jeff McKnight leads off the inning with a single and Dave Gallagher bunted him over to second. Ryan Thompson hit a one-out single tying the score at four. Joe Orsulak flew out to left. Next up was Hall of Famer Eddie Murray who smoked a double to right field scoring Thompson from first and at long last ending the streak.

To be fair to Young the Mets were a bad team. They didn’t do much right. Young did not pitch terribly during the streak. There were games he started that the Mets did not score any runs. Young was a dominant pitcher in the minor leagues. In 1990 the Sporting News named him the top Double-A prospect of the year over Bernie Williams and Jeff Bagwell. That year he went 15-3 with a 1.65 ERA and a 1.063 WHIP. Young ironically set the Mets minor league record for consecutive wins.

The Mets would trade Young to the Cubs where another streak would continue. This time Young would go 27 straight starts without getting a win. The Mets and Cubs would go 4-23 during those 27 starts. Young would have 13 quality starts across those 27 starts.

Other Notable Players

The first round of this draft had other good players. Jack McDowell was drafted fifth overall by the White Sox. Kevin Appier was drafted ninth overall by the Royals. Derek Bell was drafted in the second round, 49th overall by Toronto. Ray Lankford was drafted in the third round, 72nd overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. Reggie Sanders was drafted by the Reds in the 7th round with the 180th pick.

The Astros selected Darryl Kile in the 30th round with the 782nd pick. The Texas Rangers took Robb Nen in the 32nd round with the 831st pick. The New York Yankees drafted Brad Ausmus with the 1,152nd pick in the 48th round.

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