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More so than in any other professional sport, baseball's draft is a crapshoot, because so few prospects ever make the jump to the majors, either because they don't attain the necessary skill level or because they are sabotaged by injury. Just look at what has happened to the Athletics, who had four of the first 36 picks in the 1990 draft and used them to select four pitchers—all of whom were projected to be with Oakland by '93 or '94. Bonus baby Todd Van Poppel (the 14th pick overall) is laboring at Triple A Tacoma, and the other three have had serious arm injuries.
Don Peters (the 26th pick) has not pitched in two years because of an ailing elbow. David Zancanaro (34th) had shoulder surgery in April and hasn't worked this season. Kirk Dressendorfer (36th), who underwent shoulder surgery for the second time last season, had thrown a total of 91 innings as a pro until he returned to active status at Class A Modesto last week.
Originally projected to be the top 1990 pick among high schoolers, Van Poppel became less attractive to teams with high draft choices when he insisted that he would honor his scholarship commitment to the University of Texas. But the A's took a chance and drafted him anyway and then got him to sign a three-year, $1.2 million contract. Van Poppel, who missed much of last season with a shoulder injury, is healthy now and regularly throwing 90 mph. But through Sunday he was 2-5 with a 7.69 ERA and had 36 walks in 48 innings. He doesn't appear close to being ready for the big leagues.
"He's learning how to pitch," says Tacoma manager Bob Boone. "I know people thought, Wouldn't it be great for Todd to walk off a high school campus right to the major leagues? But that wasn't going to happen. Learning to pitch is a tedious process. But he's throwing hard, and he's learning, through negative reinforcement, that you can't just lay a fastball in there."
A MARVELOUS PICK
Best Name in the Draft: Wonderful Terrific Mons III, a centerfielder from Tennessee State, who was selected in the 50th round by the Braves. That's his real name, honest. His great-grandfather had 11 daughters, but when he finally had a son, the event was so wonderful, so terrific...well, that's what he named the boy. Mons's father, a former Canadian Football League player, was Wonderful Terrific Mons Jr.
Tennessee State coach Allen Robinson says of Wonderful III, "Fans give him hell. If he makes a bad play, they yell Won-der-ful, Won-der-ful."
"But when I have a good game," says Mons, who hit .282 this year, "they see why I got that name."
The Expos chose righthander Martin Mainville of L'Academie du Baseball Canada in Montreal with the 55th pick. That's the highest a Canadian has been chosen in the three years that Canadians have been included in the draft. Scouts from other teams say Mainville should not have gone that high, but the Expos caught hell from their fans for not signing free agents Denis Boucher (Jays) and Mark Griffin ( Dodgers), both of whom are from Quebec....