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Was Corey Patterson a bust?

Mike Ehrmann

I've never known quite what to think about Corey Patterson. He was a ball player, though, for a long time. Maybe not any more, unless you count the Atlantic League ...

Patterson turns 34 in a few months, so I wouldn't just assume that we'll never see him again. After all, he's played in the majors for six organizations, and in the minors for two more. But considering that Patterson didn't escape Triple-A last season, and batted .175 at that level this season before drawing his release, this might be the end of the line.

Fifteen years ago, Patterson was the third pick in the amateur draft.

1. Pat Burrell
2. Mark Mulder
3. Corey Patterson
4. Jeff Austin
5. J.D. Drew

Hey, it could have been worse; the Cubs could have drafted Jeff Austin. Instead they took Patterson and left Austin -- now there's a bust -- to the Royals (who passed on J.D. Drew and C.C. Sabathia, the two best major leaguers in the first round).

Baseball America loved Corey Patterson. After his first pro season, they made him their No. 3 prospect. After his second pro season -- at 20, he batted .261/.338/.491 in Class AA -- they made him their No. 2 prospect. But Patterson was always a tools guy, with more potential than performance. The first real warning signs appeared in his third pro season, when he batted .258/.308/.387 in Triple-A.

The Cubs brought him up anyway, and he struggled. He did eventually play well, if inconsistently, for the better part of five seasons. Two of those came with the Orioles, who acquired Patterson in exchange for a bucket of batting-practice baseballs and a case of Big League Chew.

Probably because of his pedigree, Patterson kept getting chances to play, but from 2007 through 2011, he rarely hit at all while somehow getting into 506 games.

Was Corey Patterson a bust? I don't know. He did make a living as a baseball player for 15 years, earning upwards of $15 million. He was actually a good major leaguer for a few seasons. He didn't meet our expectations, but maybe our expectations were simply too high. Maybe Corey Patterson wasn't the bust. Maybe the bust was us.