It was all there right in front of him.
Top pick in the baseball draft, a likely mega-signing bonus, and a fast lane to the future with a ballclub that desperately needed pitching.
All there, and now it’s gone, at least for the foreseeable future.
Brady Aiken, Cathedral Catholic High School pitching star, will be released from the hospital this weekend, after undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery.
So talented, such a bright future, now no contract, no draft status, and no baseball for the next 12-to-16 months.
The bad news to a really good young man just will not go away.
The top pick in last June’s draft, taken number 1-by the lowly Houston Astros, it was right there that everything went off track. He had pitched Cathedral Catholic to a banner season, going (7-0) with a 1.06 ERA and a torrid 228-strikeouts in 111-innings. Carefully handled, rested between starts, kept on a fairly consistent pitch count, it seemed as if everything had fallen into place. Instead his career has fallen apart.
He never signed with the Astros, caught in the middle of a war of words about a pre-signing physical, in which a deformed, or smaller than normal elbow ligament showed up on scans.
What was a $6.5M signing bonus package was pulled off the table, replaced by an insulting 1M-offer. Then when the story leaked out, the Astros, who had built a reputation for cheapness in gutting their once famous franchise, upped the offer again, to $3.5M. The acrimony would not go away. Then at the deadline, with the team taking hits from everywhere, they upped the offer a second time to $5M. The family, insulted, rejected it.
Aiken had been recruited to UCLA, but if he enrolled, he would not be eligible for the draft again till 2017. He elected to stay out of school, and attend the IMG baseball academy, to continue to train, and pitch in exhibitions, awaiting next year’s draft.
He had pitched internationally for the US under 18-team, beating teams in Japan and Taiwan with no signs of health issues.
But last week, in his lst exhibition outing for IMG, he came off the mound after 12-pitches with pain in the elbow. A torn UCL-ligament, and immediate surgery.
No one knows the full story. Was he handled and pampered in high school because the family knew of the ligament issue? Did they sit on the story, and hide it from all the teams at the top of the draft, because clubs cannot give pre-draft physicals? Did they believe the ligament would hold up since he had never had problems?
The Astros, who had every right for the physical after the draft pick was made, no longer look like the villains they were initially. They get an additional draft pick this coming June for not having signed him. But the pitcher no longer has a future.
Sports medicine is spectacular, and Aiken will be back on the mound sometime by the first of the year. Whether he can become an even better pitcher with a stronger ligament is open to debate.
Sports medicine surveys show 82% of the pitchers who have the TJ surgery get to pitch again. Baseball says 25% of pitchers on rosters last year in the majors had the surgery and got back to the show. No one really knows however, if they come all the way back and become dominant again.
What a cruel year it has been for Brady Aiken. No contract, no draft slot now for this coming season, and no team to pitch for. A good kid deserving better than the bad hand he has been dealt with that elbow.