Brien Taylor

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Brien Taylor
Born: (1971-12-26) December 26, 1971 (age 41)
Beaufort, North Carolina
Bats: LeftThrows: Left
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Brien Taylor
Born: (1971-12-26) December 26, 1971 (age 41)
Beaufort, North Carolina
Bats: LeftThrows: Left

Brien McKeiver Taylor (born December 26, 1971) is a former pitcher in minor league baseball. Chosen by the New York Yankees with the first overall selection in the 1991 Major League Baseball Draft, an arm injury shortened his professional career. He retired in 2000, having never played a meaningful game above Class AA. Taylor is the second amateur player to be picked first overall in the MLB draft to never reach the major leagues (Steve Chilcott, 1966).

Early life and MLB draft[edit]

Taylor was born in Beaufort, North Carolina to parents Willie Ray, who worked as a mason, and Bettie, who was a crab picker at the local seafood plant.[1] He was the second of four children, named for the lead character in the movie Brian's Song.[1] Taylor attended East Carteret High School in Beaufort and played on the school baseball team. In high school, Taylor had a record of 29-6 and an earned run average of 1.25.[2] He also struck out 213 hitters in 88 innings pitched while walking 28. His fastball often hit 98 and 99 mph. In 2006, Scott Boras claimed that Taylor was the best high school pitcher he had seen in his life.[3]

The New York Yankees selected Taylor with the first overall selection in the 1991 Major League Baseball Draft, and offered him $300,000 to sign a minor league contract,[1] the typical amount given to the first overall draft choice at that time. However, Boras, acting as an advisor, advised the Taylor family that the previous year's top-rated high school pitcher, Todd Van Poppel, was given more than $1.2 million to sign with the Oakland Athletics, giving up a scholarship to the University of Miami in the process. The Taylors held out for a three-year $1.2 million contract,[4] "Van Poppel money," even though they had less leverage because Brien's poor grades in high school prevented him from getting a major college scholarship offer. They threatened the Yankees that Taylor would not sign and instead attend Louisburg College, a local junior college, as leverage to get the Yankees to agree to their terms.[1][5] The Yankees were without the official services of owner George Steinbrenner, who was serving a suspension at the time, but through the media, Steinbrenner said that if the Yankees let Taylor get away, "they should be shot."[6]

Taylor signed for $1.55 million on August 26, the day before his classes were set to begin. Further delay would have meant the deal could not be signed until after the school year ended, which coincided with the following year's draft.[4][5]

Professional career[edit]

Initially, the Yankees had hoped that like Dwight Gooden, Taylor would be ready for the big leagues at the age of 19. However they found he needed a better move to first base to hold base runners.[2] In 1992 he was 6-8 for the Class-A Advanced Fort Lauderdale Yankees, but with a 2.57 earned run average and with 187 strikeouts in 161 innings. The next year as a 21-year-old with the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees, Taylor went 13-7 with a 3.48 ERA and with 150 strikeouts in 163 innings. He also led the Eastern League with 102 walks. Nonetheless, Baseball America named him the game's best prospect and he was expected to pitch for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers of the International League in 1994, and start for the Yankees in 1995. The Yankees had asked Taylor to report to an instructional league so he could spend the winter of 1993-94 working on fundamentals. However Taylor declined the Yankees' request, claiming he was tired from the pressure of the season. He said he needed the rest and chose to remain near his North Carolina home.

On December 18, 1993 the normally mild-mannered Taylor suffered a dislocated left shoulder and torn labrum while defending his brother Brenden in a fistfight. The New York Times reported that Brenden confronted a man named Ron Wilson, who he had fought with in Harlowe, North Carolina. Brenden suffered head lacerations in his fight with Wilson. Once Brien found out his brother had been hurt, he and a cousin went to Wilson's trailer home to confront him. There, Taylor got into an altercation with Jamie Morris, Wilson's friend, and Taylor fell on his shoulder.[7] According to Wilson, Taylor attempted to throw a haymaker at Morris, and missed, which caused the injury.[1]

In the hours following the altercation Boras told reporters the injury was a bruise. However when the Yankees had Taylor visit Dr. Frank Jobe, a well-known orthopedic surgeon, he called the injury one of the worst he'd seen. Jobe, a well-known orthopedic surgeon, repaired a torn capsule and a torn labrum in Taylor's shoulder.[1] Initially Jobe told Taylor that he would throw again with similar velocity and that his shoulder might even be more durable.[8] However, he was never the same pitcher again. When he returned after surgery, he had lost 8 mph off his fastball and was unable to throw a curveball for a strike. He was at Double-A before the incident but spent the bulk of the remainder of his professional baseball career struggling at Single-A.

Taylor was able to get his fastball back into the low to mid 90's, and he had also filled out, gaining 35 pounds from when he first signed. However, he had control problems. In 1995 he pitched for the Yankees Gulf Coast League team, and walked 54 batters in 40 innings. In 1996 he pitched for the Single-A Greensboro Bats, and walked 43 batters in 16 13 innings, going 0-5 with an 18.73 ERA. At Greensboro again in 1997, he walked 52 batters in 27 innings, going 1-4 with a 14.33 ERA.

He was released by the Yankees at the end of the 1998 season, and pitched for minor league affiliates of the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians until retiring in 2000. In his final stint with the Indians' Columbus affiliate in 2000, he gave up 5 hits, 9 walks, and 11 runs (8 earned) in 2 23 innings.

After baseball[edit]

After retiring, Taylor moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and worked as a UPS package handler and later a beer distributor. He is the father of five daughters. By 2006, he had moved back home and was working as a bricklayer with his father.

In January 2005, police charged Taylor with misdemeanor child abuse for allegedly leaving four of his children (ages from 2 to 11) alone for more than eight hours. He didn't show up for his court date, and at one point there were four outstanding warrants for his arrest.[1] According to financial records filed in a child support application, he makes $909 per month.[1]

In March 2012, Taylor was charged with cocaine trafficking after undercover narcotics agents purchased a large quantity of cocaine and crack cocaine from him over a period of several months.[9] He was federally indicted on cocaine trafficking charges in June 2012.[10] Taylor plead guilty in August 2012 and was sentenced to 38 months in prison, followed by three years' supervised release.[11] Taylor, inmate 56437-056,[12] is currently serving his sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Coffey, Wayne (July 14, 2006). "Tracking Down Brien Taylor". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Anderson, Dave (March 7, 1994). "Baseball: Sports of The Times; Brien Taylor Goes From Being Yanks' Future to Invisible Phenom". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ Passan, Jeff (June 5, 2006). "The arm that changed the Major League draft". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Curry, Jack (August 23, 1991). "Baseball; Yankees' No. 1 Pick Packing for College". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Kurkjian, Tim (September 9, 1991). "A New Standard". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 7, 2006. 
  6. ^ Marcus, Steve (August 25, 1991). "Steinbrenner Upset Over Taylor Situation". Sun-Sentinel. p. 3C. 
  7. ^ Curry, Jack (September 29, 1994). "No Regrets as Taylor Rebuilds His Fastball". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ Curry, Jack (December 29, 1993). "Surgery Finishes Yankees' Taylor for 1994 Season". The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Man charged with cocaine trafficking". Jacksonville Daily News. March 1, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ Glanville, Doug (June 29, 2012). "Dream to Nightmare". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Former Yankees pitching prospect Brien Taylor sentenced to 38 months in prison on drug charge". 
  12. ^ 56437-056 Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chipper Jones
First overall pick in the MLB Entry Draft
Succeeded by
Phil Nevin