On This Date in Sports June 3, 1991: Brien Taylor, a Cautionary Tale

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

With the first pick in the MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select left-handed pitcher Brien Taylor from Beaufort, North Carolina. Taylor was highly regarded and the consensus pick as the top prospect in the draft. Called by scouts a left-handed Dwight Gooden, Taylor was viewed as a pitcher with limitless potential who could anchor the Yankees rotation for years. However, before making the majors, Brien Taylor injured his shoulder in a fight and never made it past AA. 

Brien Taylor was born on December 26, 1971, in Beaufort, North Carolina. The son of a bricklayer, Taylor dazzled scouts as he had a fastball that topped out at 99 mph. At East Carteret High School, Brien Taylor struck 213 batters in 88 innings while walking 28. WIth impeccable control, Taylor was expected to have the inside track for an express road to the majors. 

Coming off their worst season in nearly 80 years, the New York Yankees had the first overall pick. George Steinbrenner was in exile, as the once-proud Yankees lay in ruin. The Yankees, after years of pursuing high-priced free agents, committed to a full rebuild through the farm system. The first piece was going to be Brien Taylor, who was picked first in the draft. Taylor hired super-agent Scott Boras, who looked to land his client a big signing bonus. Looking for a deal similar to what Todd Van Poppel signed one year earlier, Taylor wanted a record deal. With Brien Taylor planning to enroll at Louisburg Junior College, Steinbrenner weighed in through the press, saying the Yankees should be shot if they let their top pick go unsigned. With the deadline approaching, the Yankees inked Brien Taylor to a record deal worth $1.55 million.

Brien Taylor was ranked the top prospect in MLB by Baseball America before throwing his first pitch with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1992. Taylor had some moments of brilliance, including a nine-strikeout game. In 1993, he was assigned to pitch for the Yankees' AA affiliate in Albany-Colonie. Brien Taylor was on track to pitch in AAA in 1994 and perhaps make his major league debut. He was considered to be close to being major league ready. 

On December 18, 1993, in a bar in North Carolina, Brien Taylor got into a fight while defending his brother. During the fight, Taylor landed on his shoulder. At first, he claimed it was a bruise, but upon examination, the injury to Taylor's shoulder was severe. Brien Taylor would need surgery to repair a broken capsule and a torn labrum. The surgery would force Taylor to miss the entire 1994 season. 

When Brien Taylor return in 1995, the magic was gone. He lost eight miles per hour on his fastball and could not throw the curve for a strike. Dropping down to the rookie league, Brien Taylor issued 54 walks in 40 innings as he had an ERA over six. The Yankees hoped to bring Taylor back to AA in 1996 but was released off the 40-man roster after struggling in Greensboro a single-A affiliate. Brien Taylor remained in Greensboro the next two years and continued to pitch poorly, as his days as a prospect were near an end. After being released in 1998, Taylor spent 1999 pitching in the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians organizations where his career came to an end without fanfare. 

Brien Taylor is one of two players that were chosen first overall that retired without playing in the majors. The other Steve Chilcott was taken by the New York Mets in 1966. After his career ended up, Taylor had struggles off the field as he became a bricklayer with his father and later spent time in prison for drug trafficking.