That's a scary memory as the Twins eye a handful of collegiate hurlers with this year's second pick, but fortunately the history of the draft slot has been much brighter since the Johnson bust.
Below, you'll see a list of the players taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 11 years since 2000.
|2001||Cubs||Mark Prior, RHP|
|2002||Rays||B.J. Upton, SS/CF|
|2003||Brewers||Rickie Weeks, 2B|
|2004||Tigers||Justin Verlander, SP|
|2005||Royals||Alex Gordon, 3B/OF|
|2006||Rockies||Greg Reynolds, RHP|
|2007||Royals||Mike Moustakas, 3B|
|2008||Pirates||Pedro Alvarez, 3B|
|2009||Mariners||Dustin Ackley, 2B|
|2010||Pirates||Jameson Taillon, RHP|
|2011||Mariners||Danny Hultzen, LHP|
That's got to be viewed as an encouraging group. Every player taken from 2001 to 2008 reached the majors and all have had success with the exception of Reynolds, who would qualify as the one clear bust on the list. Alvarez has been a disappointment since a strong rookie campaign but can crush the ball and he's still only 25. The rest rank mostly as solid regulars (Upton, Weeks, Gordon), some with star potential (Moustakas, Ackley). Then there's a pitcher who was arguably the best in the game before injuries ravaged his career (Prior) and one who is arguably the best in the game now (Verlander).
Taillon and Hultzen, drafted No. 2 in the past two years, haven't had time yet to reach the majors but both are very much on the right track. Taillon was ranked by Baseball America as the game's No. 15 prospect prior to the season and he's currently pitching very well as a 20-year-old in High-A. Hultzen was ranked the No. 21 prospect by BA and he's been dominant after being placed in Double-A to start his pro career.
Johnson and Reynolds are the only No. 2 picks since Y2K who have failed to crack Baseball America's Top 25, and – to the publication's credit – they are also the only two who have been abject failures in the major leagues. Coincidentally enough, both were college pitchers from California.
This year, as the Twins decide between the likes of Mark Appel and Kyle Zimmer (two college pitchers from California) along with Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman, you can bet they'll bear in mind the lessons of the past. This organization is badly in need of high-end pitching, and to whiff on an arm the No. 2 pick would be catastrophic.
College pitchers are generally considered "safe" draft picks, but when it comes to the No. 2 selection, in recent history they have been anything but. There will be plenty of opportunities to stock up on pitching with five picks in the top 75, so it's important that with their top pick, the Twins make sure they take the best player available. There's a good chance that won't be a pitcher.