Taking a look at 13 top-3 Draft picks to not make Majors

With his debut in Texas, Bush removes himself from dubious list

Taking a look at 13 top-3 Draft picks to not make Majors

By joining the Rangers and making his Major League debut Friday, Matt Bush is off an ignominious list. It was a long and rocky road to get there, but the shortstop-turned-reliever will no longer be among the No. 1 overall picks in the MLB Draft who never reached the Majors.

That list is down to two -- left-handed pitcher Brien Taylor, selected by the Yankees in 1991, and catcher Steve Chilcott, selected by the Mets in 1966. In fact, there are only 13 players who were drafted in the top three overall spots whose careers ended before they got to don a Major League uniform, including four No. 2 picks and seven No. 3 picks.

While some more recent Top 3 picks are still finding their way to the bigs, to one degree of success or another, the unfortunate 13 who came up short of becoming Major Leaguers before hanging up the spikes are as follows:

1. 1991, LHP Brien Taylor, NYY
He was 6-foot-3 with a rocket arm and seemed to be a can't-miss star. The Yankees paid him a record $1.55 million signing bonus hoping for big things, but he wound up being a cautionary tale, particularly as it relates to drafting high-school pitchers. It went sour for Taylor relatively quickly in the Minors, and he never pitched beyond Double-A ball before retiring for good in 2000. Taylor wound up being imprisoned on a federal drug charge, and was released in 2014.

1. 1966, C Steve Chilcott, NYM
Until Taylor came along, Chilcott was one-of-a-kind, the only No. 1 pick to fall short of the Majors. He had been picked by the Mets out of Antelope Valley (CA) High School in the second-ever amateur Draft, but a shoulder injury suffered in his second season at Class A wound up derailing his career. The No. 2 pick in that 1966 draft? A guy from Arizona State named Reggie Jackson, now residing in Cooperstown.

2. 1987, OF/1B Mark Merchant, PIT
The No. 1 pick that year is headed to Cooperstown himself this summer -- Ken Griffey Jr. Merchant was the No. 2 pick, and he toiled in the Minors for a better part of a decade, including the last three at Triple-A, before hanging them up in 1997.

2. 1982, SS Augie Schmidt, TOR
The Majors' loss has been Carthage College's gain. Schmidt worked his way up the ladder to Triple-A before injuries and talent like Alfredo Griffin and Tony Fernandez in front of him left him short of the goal. He retired in 1986 after playing for his hometown Class A team in Kenosha, Wisc. He has been the head baseball coach for Carthage College there since 1988.

2. 1980 SS Garry Harris, TOR
Another draftee at shortstop who didn't pan out for the Jays, Harris was drafted one spot after Darryl Strawberry in 1980 and had topped out at Double-A by 1983, his final year of pro ball.

2. 1975, LHP Mike Lentz, SD
The 1975 Draft was topped by the only player to be drafted No. 1 overall twice -- Danny Goodwin -- and then Lentz led a run of No. 2-5 that all fell short of the Majors. Lentz topped out at Double-A and after shoulder and knee injuries he wound up finished with baseball in 1979.

3. 2003, Kyle Sleeth, DET
Sleeth had a great amateur resume coming out of Wake Forest University and was off to a good start to his career, up to Double-A and playing in the 2004 All-Star Futures Game. But then Tommy John surgery derailed him, and Sleeth called it quits at the end of Spring Training in 2008.

3. 2002, RHP Chris Gruler, CIN
A big right-hander who signed out of high school, Gruler ran into shoulder problems and was released by 2006 after just reaching Class A ball. Other starters drafted in the first round that year included Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.

3. 1992, LHP B.J. Wallace, MON
After a stellar career at Mississippi State, Wallace was drafted by the Expos, only to top out at Double-A in 1994 after shoulder surgery knocked him off course.

3. 1979, C Jay Schroeder, TOR
Yes, that Jay Schroeder. He played in the Blue Jays' system while going to UCLA, and he left baseball behind for a career as a quarterback in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl ring as backup QB of the Redskins in 1987.

3. 1975, Les Filkins, DET
After making his way up the ladder to Triple-A and going to Spring Training with the Major League club, Filkins was blocked by talented outfielders at Detroit, including Kirk Gibson. He wound up taking a deal to play in Japan in 1983, his last year in pro ball.

3. 1969, 3B Ted Nicholson, CWS
Nicholson was a high-school third baseman out of Mississippi, and he had elevated to Class A in two years. But he missed two seasons due to military service, and he was done after trying to come back in 1973.

3. 1968, C Martin Cott, HOU
Cott went 0-for-4 at Triple-A but otherwise played only at Class A and was done after 1970. He was picked one spot ahead of Thurman Munson, the catcher who went on to become a Yankees icon.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.