There is always the urge to want a team to rush a top prospect to the majors to help a franchise return to glory faster. Todd Van Poppe and the Oakland Athletics are a cautionary tale.
The Oakland Athletics were never supposed to get Todd Van Poppel. He was considered the top talent in the draft, but there were concerns about his signability. The Atlanta Braves, sitting with the top selection in the 1990 MLB Draft, had to choose between Van Poppel and a switch hitting shortstop named Chipper Jones.
Eventually, the Braves elected to take Jones, who went on to be a cornerstone player for the franchise, a Hall of Fame third baseman and one of the greatest switch hitters in history. This pick was made easier by Van Poppel outright telling Atlanta that he refused to sign with the team, instead anticipating that he would be taken early in the draft regardless.
Those questions about signability led to Van Poppel free falling down the draft boards. He certainly had the numbers that were worth the top overall pick, posting an 11-3 record with a 0.97 ERA and 170 strikeouts as a senior in high school. Van Poppel had the blazing fastball that scouts loved, making his drop down the board even more surprising.
Eventually, he fell to the Oakland Athletics, who were overjoyed to add him with the 14th overall selection in the draft, signing him to a major league contract at the time. The hope was that he would be the next ace, keeping the A’s window of dominance open.