Editor’s note: Joe Guzzardi is on vacation until July 8.
There have been six expansion drafts in baseball since 1960, and each time, it’s essentially the same story. Jimmy Breslin wrote about it in a classic Sports Illustrated piece on the 1962 New York Mets, noting, “For players, the Mets were given a list of men made available to them by the other eight National League teams. The list was carefully prepared and checked and rechecked by the club owners. This was to make certain that no bona-fide ballplayers were on it.”
The Mets went 40-120 that long, first season with a roster boasting all the allure of a JC Penny discount rack. Every so often, though, a player selected in the expansion draft goes on to respectability. Here is a starting lineup of these men:
C- Ernie Whitt, selected 34th in the 1976 expansion draft by the Toronto Blue Jays: Whitt played 12 years in Toronto and was an All Star in 1985 when he hit 19 home runs and helped the Blue Jays to the American League Championship Series.
1B- Nate Colbert, selected 18th in the 1968 NL expansion draft by the San Diego Padres: Colbert might not be the most famous first baseman selected by a new team, seeing as Gil Hodges went to the Mets in 1961. But the idea here isn’t to mine out the washed up big names that find their way into most any expansion draft. Colbert was a three-time All Star and the best thing going on some abysmal San Diego clubs in the late ’60s and early ’70s, twice hitting 38 home runs.
2B- Eric Young, selected 12th in the 1992 expansion draft by the Colorado Rockies: Quietly, Young stole almost 500 bases lifetime and led the National League in 1996 with 53.
3B- Vinny Castilla, selected 40th in the 1992 expansion draft by the Colorado Rockies: No real contest here, seeing as Castilla hit 191 home runs between 1995 and 1999, peaking with 46 homers, 144 RBI, and a .319 batting average in 1998. He hit 320 home runs in his career, not bad for a castoff from the Atlanta Braves who didn’t hold a starting job in the majors until he was 27.
SS- Jim Fregosi, selected 35th in the 1960 expansion draft by the Los Angeles Angels: Some may knock Fregosi as the lesser end of the Nolan Ryan trade in December 1971, though he made six All Star teams in his 11 years with the Angels leading up to that and had 46.1 WAR in his career.
OF- Lou Pinella, selected 28th in the 1968 AL expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots: Sweet Lou never played a day for the Pilots, getting dealt to the Kansas City Royals at the start of the 1969 season. “It was a giveaway,” teammate Jim Bouton wrote in Ball Four. “Bound to happen, though. Lou wasn’t their style.” Pinella had the last laugh, hitting .282 with 11 home runs and 68 RBI for Rookie of the Year honors. He played 18 years overall, hitting .291 lifetime.
OF- Bobby Abreu, selected 6th in the 1997 expansion draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Another player who didn’t play a day with the expansion club that nabbed him, this one might sting a bit more for Tampa, seeing that Abreu could be in the final stages of a Hall of Fame career.
OF- Carl Everett, selected 27th in the 1992 expansion draft by the Florida Marlins: Everett only had two home runs in his two seasons with Florida but went on to hit 200 more in various stops around the majors. He was an All Star in 2000 with the Red Sox and again in 2001 with the White Sox.
P- Dean Chance, selected 48th in the 1960 expansion draft by the Washington Senators: Chance isn’t the only pitcher to win a Cy Young after being selected by an expansion club, as the Seattle Pilots picked Mike Marshall in 1969 and the Toronto Blue Jays nabbed Pete Vuckovich in 1976. Chance gets the starting nod here since he had over 100 wins by his 27th birthday, and he uncorked his 20-9, 1.65 ERA masterpiece for an 82-80 Angel club.
CL- Trevor Hoffman, selected 7th in the 1992 expansion draft by the Florida Marlins: Hoffman collected just two of his record 601 saves with the Marlins, being packaged for Gary Sheffield midway through his rookie season.