Years ago the promising career of Brien Taylor came to an unceremonious ending, but the former top prospect has found himself in the news once again, receiving a 38 month prison sentence in his home state of North Carolina. The 40 year old pleaded guilty in August on charges of distributing crack cocaine, stemming from months of undercover work by the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office and the Morehead City Police Department. Upon his release, Taylor will also be subject to three years of outside supervision.
After a standout high school career for Carteret High, where he was heavily scouted, Taylor was widely considered the best player available as the 1991 Draft approached, even being called a “once in a generation talent” by his agent Scott Boras (a line the super agent would use again years later for Stephen Strasburg). To no surprise the New York Yankees selected Taylor with the 1st overall pick before signing him to a then-record $1.55 Million deal. Expectations were high for the left-hander as he was immediately bumped atop Baseball America’s prospect rankings heading into the 1992 season.
Taylor was a workhorse for the Yankees early on in his career, throwing over 160.0 innings in each of his first two seasons. By 1993 he’d reached Double-A already, going 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA in 27 starts on the year. Over the winter things changed drastically for Taylor, however. He’d get into an argument with an old childhood friend at a local bar, throwing a punch and missing, tearing a muscle in his shoulder in the process. He’d miss the entire 1994 season while rehabbing the injury but would never be the same pitcher again. He’d suffer through four mediocre seasons in the Yankees’ low minor leagues before being granted his release following the 1998 season. Taylor latched on with Cleveland for one more season, making five brief appearances in 2000 before calling it quits.
Taylor’s story has long been compared to that of Josh Hamilton, considering both were “can’t miss” prospects before having their careers derailed by uncommon means. Hamilton, as we all know, was able to overcome his drug addiction to revive his promising career while Taylor was not, but the comparison is often an unfair one. Taylor’s drug problems only came later on, once his career was over, and were not the reason behind why he was never able to live up to his promise.