Thirty years ago, prior to one of the most magical season in New York Mets team history, a young shortstop by the name of Kevin Elster was the Mets #1 prospect according to Baseball America. Elster became one of three players on this Top 10 list to play for the Mets in the 1986 championship season.
Here is BA’s Top 10 prior to 1986 season:
1.) Kevin Elster – Made his Major League debut with the Mets in September of 1986 going 5 for 30 in 19 games and hitless in four postseason at bats. Played in seven seasons for the Mets hitting .224/.288/.343 with his best year coming in 1989 when he had 25 doubles, 10 homeruns, and was worth 1.9 dWAR at short. He set the record for most consecutive errorless games at shortstop with 88 which is now held by a another former Met, Mike Bordick with 110 games.
He would go on to play six more years (13 overall), setting career highs in almost every offensive category during the 1996 season with the Texas Rangers. He hit .252/..317/.462 with 24 homeruns, 99 runs batted in, and 32 doubles. Drafted by the Mets in the 2nd round of the 1984 January draft.
2.) Shawn Abner – The Mets selected the outfielder with the first overall pick in the 1984 draft only to trade him in December of 1986 in the eight player deal to get Kevin McReynolds from the Padres. Batted only .227/.269/.323 in six major league seasons that included time with the Padres, White Sox, and Angels. His career came full circle in 1995 when he last played professionally for the Mets Triple-A team the Norfolk Tides.
3.) Stan Jefferson – The Mets former first round pick (1983) made his debut with the Mets in 1986 as well, going just 5 for 24 in the regular season. That was it for his Metropolitan career as he was traded after the season to the Padres as part of the previously mentioned McReynolds deal.
The speedy outfielder (144 steals in first 4 MiLB seasons) played in parts of six big league seasons and hit .216/.276/.326 in his career spanning 296 games. Played his final MLB game in 1991 with the Cincinnati Reds but was a replacement player with the Mets in spring training of 1995. He would later go on to become part of the NYPD, he was on duty at the time of the 9/11 attacks and worked at ground zero of the World Trade Center.
4.) David West – The tall lefty was taken by the Mets in the 4th round of the 1983 draft and made his Major League debut 1988. The next season he struggled to start the year with a 7.40 ERA in 24.1 innings for the Mets before he was part of the package that brought Frank Viola to Flushing. Best part of is New York tenure was his ability with the bat, he was 3 for 7 with a double.
West went on to pitch in ten big league seasons, he finished with a 31-38 record and 4.66 ERA.
5.) Randy Myers – He is the third and final player on this lists that played for the Mets in their last championship season. Randy actually made his MLB debut the prior year with two scoreless innings and gave up five runs in 10.2 innings in 1986. He finished his Mets career with 56 saves and a 2.74 ERA while striking out 264 batters in 240 innings over five seasons. The Mets took him in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 1982 draft.
Overall, he collected 347 saves and struck out 884 hitters in 884.2 innings during the regular season. He excelled in the postseason as well, picking up eight saves and won two games in the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Accolades include being a four-time All-Star selections, three top 10 Cy Young finishes, and four top 25 MVP finishes.
6.) Gregg Jefferies – Taken by the Mets in the first round of the 1985 draft and made his MLB debut two years later during the 1987 season as a 20-year old. In five seasons in New York he hit . 276/.332/.416 with 96 doubles, 42 homeruns, and 205 RBI while walking 140 times compared to 134 strikeouts.
He enjoyed a career year in 1993 with the St. Louis Cardinals when he batted .342/.408/.485 with 16 homeruns, 83 RBI, and 46 stolen bases. It was his first of two straight seasons in which he was an all-star and finished in the top 25 for MVP voting. He retired after 14 seasons in the majors and was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 1986 and 1987.
7.) Keith Miller – Signed as an amateur free agent in 1984 with the Mets, made his debut in 1987 hitting .373 with eight stolen bases in 25 games. His final season in New York was his best, hitting .280/.345/.411 while playing six different positions.
After the season he was traded along with Jefferies and McReynolds to the Royals for Bill Pecota and Bret Saberhagen. In nine major league seasons he hit .262/.323/.351 in 1326 at bats. Once his playing days were over he became an agent for Aces Inc. and was part of the reason why David Wright chose the agency.
8.) Billy Beane – The Mets took Beane with the 23rd pick in the 1980 draft and gave him a $125,000 signing bonus to keep him from going to Stanford. He never lived up to expectations as a player, getting only 18 at bats with the Mets before they traded him in 1986 to the Twins for Tim Teufel.
The day after being reassigned to the minors in spring of 1990 he asked General Manager Sandy Alderson to give him a job as a scout instead. In 1997 he became the GM of the A’s succeeding Alderson and I’m sure you now the rest of the story thanks to Moneyball which is a great book by the way.
9.) Jose Bautista – The right-handed pitcher was signed by the Mets in 1981 out of the Dominican Republic. After pitching for the Double-A Jackson Mets in 1987 the Mets left him unprotected and he was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Orioles.
Jose was 32-42 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.317 WHIP in nine major league seasons with five different teams. He finished with 312 games pitched which is in the top 10 all-time for Jewish pitchers. He has been a pitching coach in the minor leagues since 2001 including the last five seasons with the Kannapolis Intimidators, the Chicago White Sox Class-A affiliate.
10.) Reggie Dobie – The only player on this list to never make it to the major leagues, topping out at AAA for both the Mets and the Mariners. The right-handed pitcher finished his minor league career going 59-44 with a 3.56 ERA in 892.2 innings.
Definitely some big swing and misses in this group, Mets did manage to get value out of a few these guys in trades. Last month I took a look at the Mets Top Prospects from 1983 which was a group that turned out much better with the likes of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden.