When the most successful years of a player’s career come in Japan, you know that player did not make it. What makes this even worse is that Bryan Bullington was the number one overall selection in the 2002 draft.
Bullington was considered one of the top college arms, but, like the others earlier, not a slam dunk pick. Many speculated that the pick was more about signability rather than selecting the most talented player available. In a 2002 interview with mlb.com, Littlefield said this about the selection:
"“There was quite a bit of discussion on where we were going to go. It wasn’t a situation where we were trying to be crafty. It was more a situation that it wasn’t a year where it was one player standing above anybody else, and we felt we had to consider a lot of different factors. We feel very comfortable and good about drafting Bullington.””Being a college pitcher, he’s going to be a little closer than a high school draftee…I’d anticipate we’re looking at him a couple of years away.” Ed Eagle, 2002"
There are all the key words in the quote. He is going to be closer to the Majors, there was not clear player above any other, and not going to be crafty which suggests that they did not want to have to over spend or put the time and development in on a more raw prep player. Who did they pass on? To name a few: Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, and Melvin Upton Jr.
Bullington pitched in six total games for the Pirates one in 2005 and the other five in 2007. His career ERA was 5.89 for the Bucs with an 0-3 record. In his Major League career he appeared in 26 games posting a 1-9 record with a 5.62 ERA. He has found success in Japan and pitched there from 2011 until 2015 when an injury to his shoulder got him released.
The fact is that when selecting a pitcher number one overall you hope to get a Stephen Strasburg or a Gerrit Cole. A pitcher who from day one is the most logical pick and looks to be a future ace. Bullington was a first rounder, but not viewed as a top five worthy pick. The Pirates could have gotten him at pick ten just as easily as they did at one. This is supported by him only appearing in 26 games in his career.
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