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1990s / Brien Taylor - Pitching Bust
Brien Taylor was one of the most hyped amateur pitching prospects ever. Born in Beaufort, North Carolina, Taylor attended East Carteret High School. In his senior season, Taylor threw 88 innings, striking out 213 hitters while walking 28. His fastball often hit 98 and 99 mph. In 2006, agent Scott Boras claimed Taylor was the best high school pitcher he had ever seen. The New York Yankees selected Taylor with the first overall selection in the 1991 MLB draft and offered him $300,000 to sign a minor league contract, the typical amount given to the first overall draft choice at that time. However, Boras, acting as an advisor, told the Taylor family the previous year's top-rated high school pitcher, Todd Van Poppel, had gotten than $1.2 million to sign with the Oakland Athletics. Taylor held out for a three-year $1.2-million deal. He eventually signed for $1.55 million the day before he was to begin classes at a local junior college. The Yankees hoped Taylor would be the next Dwight Gooden and pitch in the majors at age 19. However Taylor needed to improve his pickoff move to first base, so he was assigned to the team's farm system. In 1992 Taylor was 6-8 for the Class A Fort Lauderdale Yankees, with a 2.57 earned run average and 187 strikeouts in 161 innings. The next year, as a 21-year-old with the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees, Taylor went 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA and had 150 strikeouts in 163 innings. Baseball America named him the game's best prospect and he was expected to pitch for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers of the International League in 1994 and start for the Yankees in 1995. On December 18, 1993 Taylor suffered a dislocated left shoulder and torn labrum while defending his brother in a fistfight. In the scuffle, Taylor fell on his pitching shoulder. Dr. Frank Jobe, a well-known orthopedic surgeon, called Taylor's injury one of the worst he'd seen. Taylor was never the same pitcher again. When he returned to baseball after surgery, his fastball was noticeably slower and he was unable to throw a curveball for a strike. Taylor spent the bulk of the remainder of his professional baseball career struggling at the Single-A level. Taylor bounced around different MLB farm teams until retiring in 2000. After baseball, Taylor moved to Raleigh and worked as a UPS package handler and later as a beer distributor. He fathered five daughters. By 2006, he was working as a bricklayer with his father. In January 2005, police charged Taylor with misdemeanor child abuse for allegedly leaving four of his children--none over 11--alone for more than eight hours. He didn't show up for his court date, and at one point there were four outstanding warrants for his arrest. According to financial records, he was earning $909 per month. In March 2012, Taylor was charged with cocaine trafficking after undercover narcotics agents purchased a large quantity of cocaine and crack cocaine from him over a period of several months. He was federally indicted on cocaine trafficking charges in June 2012. Taylor pled guilty in August 2012 and was sentenced to 38 months in prison, followed by three years' supervised release.