Five times, never signed: Matt Harrington, Greg Van Gaver redux

Earlier, I mentioned Greg Van Gaver, who was drafted five times in the early 1970s only to spent a few games in the low minors. Here’s a brief rundown on Matt Harrington, who was once a first round pick … and a second round pick … and a 13th round pick … and …

Regarded as one of the game’s top amateur prospects out of Palmdale High School in Palmdale, Calif., pitcher Matt Harrington was selected by the Rockies 7th overall in the 2000 amateur draft, ahead of future stars Chase Utley, Yadier Molina and Edwin Encarnacion. Unable to come to terms with Colorado—he demanded a huge signing bonus—he declined to sign a contract and chose to played independent baseball instead.

Not a good career move—he struggled to a 9.47 ERA in 19 innings with the St. Paul Saints in 2001 … but big league teams wanted him, nevertheless. With his stock still pretty high, he was taken in the second round by the Padres that year.

Still, no dice on a contract, back to indy ball, back to struggling.

In 2002, his ERA was 6.75 between two clubs in two different leagues. The Devil Rays took him in the 13th round that year. He was still just 20 years old—why not. No contract.

He improved to a 3.64 ERA for the Fort Worth Cats in ’03. As his game was elevating his draft prospects were plummeting; the Reds chose him in the 24th round. No deal.

He had a 2.77 ERA in 2004. Major league teams had had enough. The Yankees gave him one last chance, selecting him in the 36th round. Still, he didn’t sign.

He remained in indy ball through 2007, with the Cats through 2006. Having been taken in five drafts without one game in the affiliated ranks to show for it, he is the only player ever chosen that many times without signing a deal with a big league club.

He retired with a 4.49 ERA and a losing record.

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