“If you’ve seen it before, you can see it again." --Branch Rickey
Last year we witnessed Delmon Young enjoying a breakout season with the Minnesota Twins. Young, 25, was selected with the first overall selection of the 2003 draft. However, in his first three years in the major leagues, he averaged just 12 home runs and a .316 on-base percentage. In 2010 he finally put it together, hitting .298/.333/.493 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 46 doubles, 21 home runs and 112 RBIs and helping the Twins to win the AL Central. His down year this year can be directly attributed to his rib and ankle injuries, and he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Now that he’s healthy again, Young should bounce back to last year's levels.
Similarly, this year we’ve seen Kansas City's Alex Gordon bust out. The 27-year-old was the team's first-round pick (second overall) of the 2005 draft. In his first four seasons with the Royals, he never had an OPS north of .785. With seven weeks left in the season, Gordon already has more hits and runs scored than in any other season of his career. By season’s end he will finish with by far his best offensive numbers of his career while finally settling in defensively in left field.
These types of transformations by former first-round picks happen every year. Players drafted in the first round always are physically able to be stars. However, there is so much more to success than the talent. For many players, it takes years to find the keys to success, while many will never find them. Sometimes it's just a matter of repetition, and they need a few years to get used to speed of the major league game and make the proper adjustments. Sometimes it's just a maturity issue, and players thrive once they learn to cut back on partying. More often it's a case of learning how to handle failure, something most of these players never had to do before reaching the pros.
With that in mind, here are five former first-round picks who have struggled but I think are poised to break out in the near future.