It’s only fitting that the Rays release Wade Townsend only days after Andrew McCutchen delivers on a three homer game. Back in 2005 the team was in the midst of transitioning to a new owner. Still in large for one last draft, Chuck LaMar and company decided to override the scouting department’s recommendation of McCutchen and instead select Townsend eighth overall. McCutchen went a few picks later (as did Jay Bruce and Cameron Maybin) and the rest is history.
Townsend was the second consecutive pitcher from the University of Rice taken by the Rays in the first round; joining Jeff Niemann who is currently enjoying his first season in the Rays rotation. Prior to the 2004 draft Townsend was pegged by Baseball America as the eighth best prospect in the draft, saying this about the 6’4” right-hander (The talented trio comment refers to the rotation formed by Niemann, Townsend, and former Mets/Twins prospect Phil Humber):
Townsend has the best fastball among Rice’s talented trio, but he must mature and improve his command.
Other scouting reports talked glowingly about Townsend’s hard curve and his bulldog mentality. Stating that at some point a switch to the bullpen might be best. After helping deliver a championship trophy to the University cabinets Townsend was selected eighth by the Baltimore Orioles but couldn’t come to terms with the team and instead returned to college, gaining his degree and re-entering the 2005 draft. The Rays took him despite reports of down velocity in pre-draft workouts and never saw him reach Triple-A.
Townsend endured arm injury after arm injury, including Tommy John Surgery that caused him to miss the entirety of 2006. Upon returning to action in 2007 Townsend pitched decently in A-ball and reached Double-A in 2008 as a reliever. Entering this year false reports of his retirement coincided with Townsend being assigned to the Gulf Coast League.
After three appearances, Townsend’s line sat at 2.2 IP, 1 HR, 7 BB, and 3 SO. 26-year-old pitchers struggling in the GCL are simply biding their time before finding a new profession. Ultimately a draft bust, Townsend’s name will live in draft folklore as to highlight the dangers of taking an overworked arm.
Too bad, because his college career was a thing of beauty.
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