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  1. Excellent article. I remember that draft well and remember the anticipation for his ability to hit the majors. It’s a shame. I wonder if any film exists of his heyday.

    Comment by WilliaminMaine — January 4, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  2. Thank you. Believe me, I looked for video. No luck.

    Comment by Mike Axisa — January 4, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  3. awesome article. a great read

    Comment by st — January 4, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  4. I remember that time so well ; the yankees were bad and this kid was the future. Like you say Mike, so few of these prospects make it. But it’s a shame the way it happened to this kid. Thanks for capturing the story so effectively.

    Comment by Russ — January 4, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  5. Ah, for what might have been…

    How well I remember. The consensus was that Taylor was the goods, but this is a cautionary tale of how fine the line can be between success and failure. It’s unfortunate for both Taylor and baseball that he never got to display his talents at the highest level.

    Comment by Hushpuckena — January 4, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  6. that was really well-written.

    Comment by Josh — January 4, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  7. Just joining the chorus: Captivating subject, well written, excellent article, yaddah yaddah yaddah.

    Comment by mettle — January 4, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  8. “From a development standpoint, Taylor showed the Yankees all they wanted to see: well above-average arm strength, an effortless delivery and the ability to locate pitches with rare precision,”

    “rare precision” must mean that he is rarely precise. Actually, that’s not using the word correctly. precise and accurate are not the same thing. Anyway …

    I was re-reading the chapter in Between the Numbers and it features Taylor and TVP. That article stated that Taylor was thrown to the ground on his pitching shoulder by a relative/friend and the insinuation was that it might not have been all that accidental.

    I recall Buck Showalter talking about Taylor and BT not having a pickoff move and having no idea how to “spin move” to second because well, “no one in HS reached base”.

    As a side discussion, that Brien Taylor is 40yo is just a crushing blow to my ego. 40? He was a big deal when I was starting college baseball. Damn, I’m 37yo? Crap.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  9. Yeah, that line jumped out at me too. How’d he walk so many batters if he can locate pitches with rare precision?

    I also wonder if Boras ever saw Gooden in HS. He dominated MLB at 19/20 years old (17.6 WAR in those 2 seasons!) – could Taylor really have been a better HS pitcher, yet he was in A-ball at 20 years old?

    Overall it was a great article though. I especially like the blurb at the end about what he’s been doing these days.

    Comment by vivalajeter — January 4, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  10. Thanks for the article, Mike. Brien Taylor was the first prospect that I really followed and I can remember the shock and disappointment following the fight. He was viewed as a “can’t miss” prospect who had the potential to perform at the level of Clemens or Gooden (and he was a lefty!). I’ll say this: the early 90s were tough times to be a Yankee fan.

    Comment by Rockdog — January 4, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  11. Great article. Would love to see more “where are they now?” articles of fizzled prospects, and other interesting an undercelebrated baseball figures.

    Comment by Bobby Ayala — January 4, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  12. you are welcome

    Comment by infernoscurse — January 4, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  13. Chris Drury, to me, is a very interesting story. America’s wonder boy of the LLWS … chooses to play hockey and makes it to the NHL (and is pretty good too).

    IIRC, Lloyd McClendon had 5 HRs in a LLWS game.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  14. The answer to your question is “No, Brien Taylor could not have been better than Dwight Gooden as a prep pitcher.”

    Honestly, I wonder if Taylor even scored higher than Greg Maddux on the HS Scouting report.

    Taylor was tall, left-handed and threw gas.

    Compare to Clayton Kershaw who does all that plus has good non-FB pitches.

    I think a pitcher like Taylor today would be a concern in that having a live fastball is nowhere near enough. He’d be basically a slower version of Aroldis Chapman.

    But, in the early 90s there weren’t really any lefties that threw gas, so it was novel as well. Since then there’s been Randy, Billy, Aroldis, etc.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

  15. The only thing Taylor is a cautionary tale for is for other young athletes that choose to get into a brawl. He wasn’t a risky signing. He wasn’t a poor pick. He wasn’t a poor character kid.

    For there to be a cautionary tale there has to be a risky decision from which we are to learn from.

    The cautionary tale is in regards to getting into a fight when you have the most to lose. It’s like wrestling a pig, even if you win you’re still covered in ‘cuss’.

    Young athletes of my generation learned two important lessons from Brien Taylor and Len Bias.

    Taylor is still worth the signing bonus, he’s still worth the pick … and teams continue to give young players big bonuses, etc.

    Even the draft research shows that a mega-talented prep star is worth the first overall pick.

    It’s the keeping the young athlete from getting himself into trouble that’s the tough part.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  16. Tough to say about Gooden with any degree of certainty. He was the third pitcher – the second prep pitcher – drafted that year. He wasn’t even the #1 pitcher on his HS team until Floyd Youmans moved to California.

    Comment by jwb — January 4, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  17. I was a long-suffering Yankee fan at the time — they were HORRIBLE in 1990; finished in last place as I recall, and had never won a World Series in my lifetime. As a young kid, Taylor was all the hopes of the world wrapped up in a tight package… and then…

    Comment by JimNYC — January 4, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  18. As many have said before me, this was extremely well done. Thank you.

    Comment by Cody — January 4, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

  19. Rookie Ball
    ————-
    Gooden (17) – 53BB – 168K (156 IP)
    Youmans (18) – 39BB – 31K (39 IP)

    Single A
    ————-
    Gooden (18) – 112BB – 300 K (191 IP)
    Youmans (19) – 73BB/117K (134 IP)

    I find it very hard to believe that Youmans was better in HS than Dwight Gooden. Is it possible that Youmans as a senior was better than Gooden as a Junior, or were they the same “year” in HS. Good put up better numbers in every level of pro ball despite being a year younger at the same level.

    Brien Taylor
    ——————
    Age 20: A+ ball – 66 BB – 187 K (161 IP)

    Dwight Gooden
    ——————
    Age 20: ML Level – 69 BB – 268 K (276 IP)
    Age 19: ML Level – 73 BB – 276 K (218 IP)

    I just find it, based on evidence, that Dwight Gooden at 17-18 was not a better pitcher than Brien taylor or Floyd Youmans at 17-18.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  20. Sorry, last paragraph hard to read. Tying some here and there over the last hour in between tasks. I find it hard to believe that Youmans or Taylor were better than Doc as prep pitchers. They may have had more hype, more whatever, but not better quality.

    It is possible however, that Gooden matured (in all facets) in rookie and A ball, and drastically increased his quality. But, based on my experience, it’s more likely that some other players were given more hype despite having less talent or stuff.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 4, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  21. He was just another guy with a big fastball and no sense of how to actually pitch. The heater would have gotten him to the majors, but he wouldn’t have been a star. His low end would have been to be another Van Poppel. His high end, maybe A.J. Burnett.

    Comment by John — January 4, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  22. Most scouts at the time believed Taylor would be a lefty version of peak Gooden eventually at the MLB level.

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — January 4, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  23. Have you ever been in a fight defending a family member?

    Comment by BlackOps — January 4, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

  24. Fact? Damn, you’re good.

    Comment by BlackOps — January 4, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  25. Not sure whether it’s on YouTube, but I first heard of Taylor via 60Minutes…

    Comment by Crazy Benny — January 4, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  26. All bow to the great John, who can project the future of skinny lefthanded, 20-year-old fireballers in AA ball he’s never even seen. All hail the all-knowing John, who would have cut Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, or lesser beings like Ron Guidry, or and who knows how many young lefties who were still learning their crafts at 19 and 20. John knows. Let us hear more from the baseball pitching gospel according to John.

    Comment by UJS — January 5, 2012 @ 12:41 am

  27. If a member of my family were in a fight, the first thing that came to mind wouldn’t be ‘I’ve got this million-dollar shoulder to protect, the hell with ‘em’.

    As to keeping young players away from trouble, I agree. They get told from an early age that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and usually develop Everest-sized egos. Trying to tell them anything is often an exercise in futility.

    Len Bias? When he was drafted, I was living in Boston and that was a firestorm in the tabloid for months afterwards.

    Comment by Hushpuckena — January 5, 2012 @ 2:33 am

  28. This is a great read. Thanks Alex. When I was ten and growing up in New York, Taylor was hyped as the savior of the struggling Yankees from the early 90s.

    I read the NY Post story from 2006 and I think it’s worth mentioning that the account of how Taylor hurt his shoulder is from a person who claims to be involved in the fight. Brien Taylor is not the source and his account is not included in the story.

    This doesn’t mean the injury story is false, but it does make it less reliable. It would be nice to have this tale corroborated. It’s possible that since the source was involved in the fight, he may be attempting to deflect blame away from himself or his friends.

    All of this is a footnote, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

    Comment by Ryan — January 5, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  29. Why’d I write Alex?

    Thank you MIKE.

    Comment by Ryan — January 5, 2012 @ 8:40 am

  30. So rewriting other people’s content now counts as something interesting? Why not just link tot he Coffey piece and be done with it?

    Comment by Joe Pa — January 5, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  31. 1. I’ve been in fights for a lot less than defending a family member.

    It’s also been my experience that not all fights involving family members are due to “defending” that family members. Sometimes it’s just one big mess of people running their mouths leading to a fight, and some of them just happen to be related.

    Sometimes even great players, like say Ray Lewis, have to decide if they want to “defend their family” or “have their buddies backs” or whether they want to be a great athlete. You can’t always do both. I’m not saying it’s easy.

    2. I punched a window with my pitching arm at 16, and still have the 48-stitch scar on the underside of my forearm as a reminder. I am definitely NOT speaking from a position of superiority.

    My point was that drafting Taylor is NOT cautionary tale by definition. There was nothing risky about drafting him or giving him the huge bonus or expecting him to be really good. Those were all based on reasonable logic.

    The risky decision was to get in a fight that may have been unnecessary. I was not under the impression that Taylor was in a situation where he could not have said “C’mon bro, let’s just get the F outta here.”

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 5, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  32. I agree with that.

    But as an amateur Gooden had the fastball AND the curveball. Taylor only had the fastball. I think people forget just how good Doc’s deuce was.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 5, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  33. Alex added more stats to his peice and examined the effectiveness of Taylor’s minor league performance.

    The NY Daily News piece doesn’t mention much beyond his W/L record, which if you’re reading this site, you probably know isn’t a very effective measurement of performance.

    Comment by Ryan — January 5, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  34. How do you blow your arm out (one of the worst the Dr had ever seen) just by throwing a punch? This is speculation of course but chances are he would have destroyed his arm anyway even if the family fight incident hadn’t occured.

    Comment by Eric — January 5, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

  35. Perhaps a foolish moment derailed what could have been but Brien has handled it like few could. He blamed no one. He has kept his mouth shut. He raised a family and he has worked. Those times when he had to plead for a few hrs. of work, or take it from an abusive boss, what-could-have-been was always on his shoulder but he has soldiered on. I tip my hat to him and wish him well.

    Comment by Billy Ball — January 7, 2012 @ 12:45 am

  36. Good comment Billy Ball.

    Says a lot about the man.

    Comment by Vision — January 8, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  37. It went further downhill:

    http://www.jdnews.com/articles/charged-101213-cocaine-trafficking.html

    Comment by SM — March 2, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  38. Only for a few years; the Yanks finished last in 1990, but they were contending by 1993.

    1989-1992, 4 years, really isn’t all that long when you think about it.

    Comment by Raf — March 4, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  39. great article. sad i missed it the first time, and, of course, sad to see the news today about him as well.

    Comment by cable fixer — March 4, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  40. When you think about it, with all of the comments and contributions from Evan3457 and Raf, this site should be called “Faggraphs.com”

    Comment by cgehring — February 9, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

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