Brien Taylor Unmade: An oral history

June 4, 2014, 12:23 PM

— -- Baseball's amateur draft is a risky bet to begin with -- only about 17 percent of signed draft picks ever make it to the majors. But high school pitchers are the riskiest bet of all. That, plus the suddenness of his rise and fall, may be what sealed the legend of Brien Taylor.

Taylor, a shy, 6-foot-3 kid from a double-wide trailer in coastal Beaufort, N.C., was the last high school pitcher selected No. 1 overall in baseball's draft. The New York Yankees -- yes, they held the first pick in June 1991 -- had visions of a left-handed Pedro Martinez or maybe a harder-throwing Randy Johnson.

Taylor never ended up joining his one-time spring training roommate Derek Jeter on the Yankees' dynasty teams. Still, some believe he was the greatest pitching prospect in the history of the draft.

As baseball prepares for Thursday's first round -- in which high school pitcher Brady Aiken could be taken with the No. 1 overall pick -- this is the story of Brien Taylor, Scott Boras, the Yankees and the 1991 draft.

In Taylor's first two years of pro ball, he struck out 337 batters in 324 1/3 innings in Class A and Double-A. His ERA was 3.03.

He would miss all of 1994 following the fight involving his brother. From 1995 to 1998 -- as the Yankees began their Jeter-led dynasty -- Taylor would throw a total of 108 2/3 innings in Class A. His ERA was 10.85.

He was released by the Yankees after the 1998 season. He would spend two years more in baseball with the Seattle and Cleveland organizations, pitching a total of 2 2/3 innings.

In November 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 38 months in prison for distributing crack cocaine. He could not be reached for inclusion in this story.