The trade had just gone through and Andrew Friedman had to ecstatic. Aubrey Huff had been a great player for the Devil Rays for many years, but he was going to be a free agent after the season and the Rays had to trade him. The return they had gotten was better than they could have possibly thought. In exchange for Huff, they had received from the Houston Astros a solid middle infield prospect named Ben Zobrist, but more importantly, they had received 22 year old right-hander Mitch Talbot. Talbot, a second round pick by the Astros back in 2001, had struggled the previous couple of years but everything had come together for him to begin 2006 as he went 6-4 with a 3.39 ERA, an 8.9 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in 17 starts, a relief appearance, and 89.1 innings pitched. Armed with a great low-90′s sinker, a outstanding changeup, and a cutter that was showing flashes, Talbot was easy to picture as a number two or number three starter in the major leagues. When Talbot managed a 1.90 ERA and a 59-18 strikeout to walk ratio in 10 starts and 66.1 innings pitched to end 2006, the Rays could only have been more excited.
Mitch Talbot never panned out. His fastball showed good sink, but he struggled to command it. His changeup was nice, but it couldn’t work as his only secondary pitch as his cutter never was consistently effective and his curveball seemed to always be slurvy. The results were a disaster. In three appearances for the Rays in 2008, Talbot was about as bad as you can be, allowing 12 runs in 9.2 innings, striking out just 5 while walking 11 and allowed 3 home runs. Talbot pitched decently at Triple-A in 2008 and 2009, but his stuff just never came along and the Rays knew he would never cut it as a starter in the majors, especially considering how good their starting depth was. The Rays wound up trading him to Cleveland for Kelly Shoppach. You could say that Talbot filled his purpose for the Rays, netting them a solid role player for two seasons, but it was certainly a disappointment after just how promising Talbot had been.
The Indians gave Talbot 40 starts between 2010 and 2011 and he was terrible, going 12-19 with a 5.04 ERA, a 5.0 K/9, a 3.9 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9 in 223 innings pitched. He was non-tendered following the season and wound up signing with the Samsung Lions in Korea, where he spent the 2012 season. Now 29, he’s back in the US after signing a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins. His career isn’t over yet, but he’ll never be the pitcher the Rays thought he could be. There are so many promising prospects out there. But as Talbot shows, so many will fail to pan out.