The Baseball America archives go all the way back to 1983 for their annual Top 10 prospect lists and I thought it would be fun to take a look at what those players became. We will first look at the Mets Top 10 from 1983, seeing where BA missed and the ones they were right about.
Here is the Mets Top 1-5 Prospects from 1983 according to BA:
1.) Darryl Strawberry – The Mets selected him 1st overall in the 1980 draft out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles California. He made his spectacular Major League debut at the age of 21 in 1983, hitting .257/.336/.512 with 26 homeruns and 74 RBI. He was the National League Rookie of the Year and then went on to make eight straight All-Star teams (7 with Mets) and won two Silver Slugger awards.
He was a crucial piece of the Mets World Series Champion team in 1986 but had his best individual season in 1987 when he hit .284/.398/.583 with 39 homeruns and 104 RBI. He finished sixth that year in MVP voting and would finish in the top 10 voting four times in his career.
Darryl signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in 1990 ending his career with the Mets. He finished as a career .263/.359/.520 hitter in eight season with the Mets. He also had 252 homeruns (most in Mets history), 187 doubles, 30 triples, 733 RBI, 191 stolen bases, and 1025 hits in a Met uniform.
2.) Jeff Bittiger – The Mets selected the right handed pitcher in the 7th round of the 1980 draft out of Montclair State University in New Jersey. He never pitched in the Majors for the Mets as he was traded in 1986 to the Phillies with Ronn Reynolds for minor leaguers Rodger Cole and Ronnie Gideon.
Jeff made his debut in 1986 with the Phillies going 1-1 with a 5.52 ERA in three starts. He pitched in the Majors the next three seasons with his best being for the White Sox in 1988 when he was 2-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 25 games.
Never returned to the Majors after 1989 but did keep pitching professionally until 2002 with the last six seasons coming exclusively in Independent ball for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.
3.) Ron Darling – He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 1981 draft in the 1st round (9th overall) out of Yale University in Connecticut. The Mets traded Lee Mazzilli for Darling and Walt Terrell in April of 1982. Darling made his Major League debut for the Mets in 1983 making five starts.
In 1984, he went 12-9 with a 3.89 ERA over 205.2 inning and was fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. The next season he went 16-6 pitching a career high 248 innings and was voted to his only All-Star team.
Ron had his best season as part of the 1986 championship team, going 15-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.198 WHIP, and finished fifth in Cy Young voting for the National League. He was also 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four postseason starts including starting games 1,4,7 in the World Series.
He won a career high 17 games in 1988 and his only Gold Glove Award in 1989 with the Mets. He was traded by the Mets on July 15th, 1991 with Mike Thomas to the Montreal Expos for Tim Burke. He made only three starts for the Expos before being traded to the Oakland A’s 16 days later, whom he would end his big league career with.
Overall in his Mets career he was 99-70 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.288 WHIP while also hitting had two homeruns (back-to-back games in 1989)and knocking in 19 runs. He would finish with 136 career wins and 1590 strikeouts in 2360.1 innings.
4.) Dwight Gooden -The Mets drafted Gooden as the 5th overall player taken in the 1982 draft out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida. Doc burst onto the MLB scene in 1984 as a 19-year old kid going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA. He led all of baseball in strikeouts (276), FIP (1.69), WHIP (1.073), H/9 (6.6), and SO/9 (11.4). He was named the ROY, was an all-star, finished second in Cy Young voting, and 15th in MVP voting.
He followed up his incredible rookie season with what is considered one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher and became the youngest (2o years old) ever to win the Cy Young Award. He went 24-4 while leading the Majors with 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, 229 ERA+, and 2.13 FIP. He also had eight complete game shutouts and eight more complete games.
His 13.2 wins above replacement in 1985 is still the highest in modern baseball history for any player and the 20th highest of all-time. Only two players (Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth) had season with a higher WAR in the 1900’s.
He left the Mets after the 1994 season and missed was suspended for the entire 1995 season after testing positive for drug use as a repeat offender. He returned to the Majors in 1996 with the Yankees but was never the same pitcher ever again.
In his 11 seasons with Mets he was 157 wins (2nd most in Mets history) with a 3.10 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, and had 1875 strikeouts (2nd most in Mets history) in 2169.2 innings. He also hit seven homeruns, batted .197, and knocked in 65 runs for the Mets. He was a four time all-star and won the silver slugger in 1992.
5.) Rick Ownbey – The right handed pitcher was taken by the Mets in the 13th round of the 1980 draft from Santa Ana College in California. Made his MLB debut for Mets in 1982 making eight starts, had a 3.75 ERA despite walking more hitters (43) than he struck out (28).
He will be best known from Mets fans as one of the two guys (along with Neil Allen) that were traded to he St. Louis Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Finished his big league career walking 91 hitters compared to 83 strikeouts in 146.2 innings.
This has to be one of the best Top 5 prospect years in Mets history producing one of the best hitters and best pitchers in team history. Not to mention, Darling, who is currently fourth on the Mets all-time win list and has the fourth most innings pitched as well.
Ownbey never did much with the Mets but his prospect value was useful because he helped bring Keith to New York. Strawberry, Gooden, Darling, and Hernandez all helped to bring the Mets the World Series trophy in 1986.
Notable names from other teams Top 10 lists include John Elway (#1, Yankees), David Cone (#6, Royals), Sid Fernandez (#3, Dodgers), Tim Teufel (#6, Twins), Kevin McReynolds (#1, Padres), and Ron Romanick (#5, Angels).