Everything seemed so magical at the first year player's draft last night, didn't it? The gleaming, peach-fuzzy faces of the players, their weeping moms, the showmanship and warmth exuded by the Commissioner....
Yet we know from experience that not all of these young men will have fruitful baseball experiences. Some will have short or mediocre big league careers and some, like the subject of this 1993 Memphis Chicks baseball card -- a player who defines a misguided first-round selection -- will never get there at all.
Mets scouts saw something in Lee May, Jr. - something beyond his rather mundane .326 batting average, five homers and 15 RBI as a senior at Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati. I'm guessing that what they saw was his name and his physique (if this card from seven years later is any indication as to what he looked like at 18) and took him with the 21st pick in the first round of the 1986 draft.
It had to be apparent almost from the start that Lee was never going to make it out of the minors. In his first year in rookie ball, playing against a group of his young peers, he managed two extra base hits in 213 plate appearances and finished the year with a .480 OPS. (That's to go along with an .880 fielding average in the outfield!) That's probably what you might expect if the Mets had placed him AA or AAA to start his career. Has anyone who reached the majors ever had an inaugural season so short on promise? May was back in rookie ball the next year -- which is kind of like repeating the first grade - and he did improve a little.
If he had been taken in a lower round or hadn't had the lineage, would the Mets organization kept him around as long as they did? Three years after being drafted, May was still playing in the short-season New York-Penn League. He was even promoted as high as AAA in 1991, in spite of a .554 OPS at AA. The transcendence never took place, however, and his playing days ended soon after that.
Happily for May, he has made a career for himself in baseball.