'Don't Count' draftee Matthews out
Prep pitcher chosen by Cardinals with 1,502nd and final pick
NEW YORK -- Charles Matthews had a pretty good idea he'd be selected sometime during the latter half of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. So much so, that he didn't even bother to listen on MLB.com.
So when the Cardinals announced they had selected Matthews with the 1,502nd pick on Wednesday, the 6-foot-5 right-hander from The Athens Academy in Georgia was at the beach, relaxing. However, by virtue of his being selected with the final pick, he earned what MLB.com has been calling for eight years the "Don't Count Him Out" award.
Matthews, who was 7-1 with a 0.93 ERA this season and has gone 14-2 over his final two years of high school, is the lowest player drafted since 1997, when Ron Ricks was chosen with the 1,503rd pick by the Angels. There were 1,607 players drafted that season.
So while the youngster was off beginning his summer vacation, his father Jim, who is also a part-time scout for St. Louis and a former Braves' farmhand, was at home listening to the draft and heard his son's name called.
"Since I'm a scout, I was keeping up with the whole draft anyway, but I knew he was going to be drafted by the Cardinals if no one else took him," said Jim Matthews, who became a contracted part-time scout for the Cardinals this year after Roger Smith, the club's Georgia scout, became the Southeast cross-checker. "He has a good pitcher's frame and he throws with a three-quarter arm slot. He's in the mid-80s [mph] now, but is interesting because he has movement on his fastball.
"He has what scouts call plus-plus movement on his two-seam sinker. He gets a large amount of ground balls. I think the thought process is that if he increases his velocity four or five miles an hour and throws that sinker in the high 80s or low 90s, then he's a definite prospect. We hope he does that over the next year, and if not, he'll go back into the draft."
Charles Matthews will get the chance to hone his skills at Georgia-based Young Harris Junior College next season. He says he has no intentions of playing ball this summer; rather, he'll work on adding to his frame and resume playing at school in the fall.
"I don't think there's more pressure on me being a draft-and-follow," said Charles Matthews, who allowed 37 hits and had a four-to-one strikeout ratio in 60 innings this season, earning Georgia's Region 8A pitcher of the year laurels. "I was going to try and make progress anyway, so whatever happens, happens.
"Sometimes having my dad as a scout is helpful. I don't throw that hard and I know they like people who throw 95. But my dad tells me they like people better who have control of their pitches, and that helps."
The last player chosen in the draft has never gotten above Rookie level, either in the regular June draft or its secondary phase, which ended after 1986. No player chosen last in either the regular or the secondary phase of the January draft, which also ended after 1986, has ever reached the Major Leagues or gotten above Rookie ball.
Four players chosen last, however, did reach the Major Leagues after going back into the draft and then being selected higher.
Outfielder Desi Wilson was chosen last in the 1989 draft by Houston after the Red Sox chose him in the 15th round two years earlier. Wilson, however, went back to Fairleigh Dickinson University after the Astros selected him with the 1,488th pick in '89, before going in the 30th round to the Rangers in 1991. He played 14 years in the Minor Leagues and in Japan, reaching the Major Leagues for 41 games with the Giants in 1996.
Catcher Don Wakamatsu was taken by the Yankees out of Arizona State with the final pick of the June draft in 1984, and he was selected by the Reds a year later in the June draft. He eventually played 18 games for the White Sox in 1991.
The Twins grabbed infielder Brad Mills with the final pick (No. 211) of the regular phase of the January draft in 1977, but he opted not to sign. The Expos selected him two years later in the 17th round of the June draft, and he went on to play in 106 games over four years for Montreal.
Pitcher Danny Boone was chosen by the Angels with the 71st and final pick of the secondary phase of the 1974 January draft, but he didn't sign despite the fact California had also selected him in the 15th round the previous June. Boone would be drafted by the Yankees in the 14th round of the June draft in 1975, while the Angels continued their pursuit of him by taking him in the secondary phase of the June draft in '76.
It wasn't until the Padres chose him in the secondary phase of the following January draft that he actually signed. He reached the Major Leagues, appearing in 61 games for San Diego and Houston over four seasons.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.