Mike Mussina and the 1990 MLB Draft

The MLB draft kicked off yesterday with the Minnesota Twins selecting California high schooler Royce Lewis first overall. Over the next couple days the 2017 MLB draft will continue for more than 40 rounds.

Back in 1990, Mike Mussina had just finished his third year at Stanford where he had pitched to a 14-5 record with a minuscule 0.99 ERA. These stats earned the junior economics major All-American honors and attention from MLB scouts prior to the 1990 draft in early June.

The 1990 MLB draft would prove to be an eventful one, full of future HOF players, a few All-Stars, and lots of players who would cross paths with Mussina during his MLB career.

Eighteen-year-old Florida phenom Chipper Jones was picked #1 overall by the Atlanta Braves. Chipper is certain to join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only #1 overall picks to make it to Cooperstown when he joins the HOF ballot in January.

Future Mussina teammate Tony Clark went second to the Detriot Tigers. Clark is now the head of the MLBPA.

Mike Lieberthal was drafted third by the Phillies, for whom he would play continuously over the next 13 season.

Alex Fernandez went fourth to the White Sox. He’d suffer a no-hit fate similar to Mussina in 1997, when he lost a no-hitter to the final batter. He’d win 107 games in his career and post a career WAR of 28.9.

RHP Kurt Miller went fifth, but would never see more than a few cups of coffee in the show, totalling only 81 innings over parts of five season.

The tenth pick in the 1990 draft turned out to be future Mussina perfect-game nemesis, Carl Everett. Everett was drafted by the Yankees but left unprotected two years later in the expansion draft where Florida took him to join MLB’s 27th team. What might have been had the Yankees chosen otherwise?

Other pitchers selected ahead of Mussina include Ronnie Walden by the Dodgers, Todd Ritchie to the Twins, Donovan Osborne by the Cardinels, the Athletics’ selection of Todd Van Poppel, the Rangers’ selection of LHP Dan Smith, and Eric Christopherson who was selected the pick before Mussina by the San Francisco Giants.

Walden, the #9 pick, and Christopherson would never reach the major leagues. Dan Smith barely made it, pitching in just 17 games for the Rangers. Ritchie and Osborne would have flashes of excellence. Both won double-digit games a few times and played until 2004. Osborne finished his career as Mussina’s teammate in 2004 when he appeared in nine games for the Yankees. The highly regarded Van Poppel would never reach the heights that his agent, Scott Boras, hoped. While he played in more than 530 games over 11 seasons, his inability to control his dynamic stuff (4.6 career BB/9) gave him a negative career WAR despite more than 900 innings pitched.

The Orioles selected Mike Mussina 20th overall. The Orioles had drafted Mussina in the 11th round three years earlier, but Mussina decided to attend college instead.

To put it lightly, the Orioles were less successful with their subsequent 44 draft picks. Only seven of them would ever see the major leagues. These seven include Bill Simas and Joe Nunnally, late round selections who didn’t even sign with the Orioles, electing instead to return for the 1992 draft. The players the Orioles did draft and sign in 1990, who weren’t named Mike Mussina, would produce less than a combined four WAR for their careers.

Other noteworthy selections in the 1990 MLB draft include first rounder Rondell White, Garret Anderson in the 4th, second basemen Ray Durham and Bret Boone in the 5th, and notable selections by the Yankees in the 16th round (Ricky Ledee), 22nd (Andy Pettitte), and 24th (Jorge Posada).

Posada made his first and only appearance on this year’s HOF ballot. He only earned 3.8% of the vote and will be removed from next year’s ballot for failing to hit the 5% threshold. Andy Pettitte will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2019 and is likely to get stronger support.

Mussina’s path to Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium did not take many stops after the 1990 draft. The Orioles and Mussina signed on July 2nd. The Orioles gave him a $225,000 bonus and assigned him to Double-A. He’d finish the season at AAA Rochester and be in the major leagues on August 4th the next year. When he left Baltimore in the winter of 2000, he was 7th in franchise history in WAR (47).

In between the end of his 1990 minor league season and spring training 1991, Mussina returned to Stanford to complete his economics degree. According to Jay Jaffe of SI, Mussina’s senior thesis was entitled “The Economics of Signing out of High School as Opposed to College.”

Good luck to the MLB draft class of 2017.

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