The last time the Braves picked in the top 5 of the draft was 1991, when they held the second overall selection (you probably remember that being the draft when the Yankees took lefty phenom Brien Taylor first overall). Kelly was an outfielder out of Arizona State University with prodigious power, good speed, and was often compared to Barry Bonds-another ASU alum. Kelly had been a three time All-American in college, as well as the 1991 Golden Spikes Award winner (baseball's Heisman Trophy). He was going to be a superstar.
When 1992 Upper Deck baseball was released, I remember buying gobs of it-determined to hoard all the Kelly rookie cards that I could find. While his first year in pro ball (1991) wasn't anything special (.250 with 6 homers in 124 ABs), I still had reason to believe my Kelly collection would one day put my future children through college. I'm surprised I didn't buy brick lots of the things. Had eBay existed then, I probably would have.
Kelly's next two seasons in the minors saw him with stops at AA Greenville in 1992, and AAA Richmond in 1993. While he did show power, there wasn't much else worth getting excited about. Oh, oh. Did I really snag all those Upper Decks hoping to cash in?
Kelly finally made the Braves big league club in 1994, making the team out of spring training. He struggled early, however, and was back in the minors by early May. After a call-up in mid July, Kelly's struggles continued, and ended up hitting .273 for the Braves. Don't let the average fool you (and I'm sure stat heads won't): his average stood at .239 on August 10th. The next day, Mike went 4-6 against the Rockies to lift his average to the .273 mark. The next day, the players went on strike, effectively ending Kelly's rookie season (as well as everyone else's 1994 season).
The 1995 season would be Kelly's last year in Atlanta: he would spend most of the year with the big league club, where his struggles continued: hitting only .190 with 3 homers in 137 at-bats. The numbers that tell the whole story, however, are the strikeouts/base on balls. In 127 games with Atlanta, Mike had 233 plate appearances (214 at-bats), where he had 66 strikeouts, compared to only 13 walks. In six major league seasons (Braves, Reds, Devil Rays, and Rockies), Mike struck out 184 times in 684 at-bats, while walking only 54 times. Yes, that's a problem.
Despite his lack of success for the Braves, I recently picked up the autographed Kelly card for less than a buck. Yes, I'll take it-thank you very much. I thought it was funny that it's numbered out of 8650. Wow-that's a lot of signatures. I wonder how long it took him to number them?
What about you? Do you have a biggest bust/disappointment for your team?