Oh, what could have been for the fourth overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft. Taken one pick before Mark Teixeira (and many picks before David Wright), Gavin Floyd was immediately christened the Phillies' ace of the future at a time when the club was reeling after having traded Curt Schilling the year before and was in need of a serious talent infusion in its pipeline.
He peaked as high as the #9 prospect in the sport, according to Baseball America, as he climbed the ladder towards the bigs. Then, near the end of the 2004 season, we got a tantalizing glimpse of things to come. Floyd appeared in six games (four starts), going 2-0 with a 3.49 ERA over 28.1 innings. It was a solid debut that lent hope for the future, and things got even better when Floyd made the team out of spring training in 2005. He had only recently turned 22, but it was go time.
Opening as the team's fifth starter, Floyd pitched seven innings of one-run ball to defeat the Cardinals in his first outing of the season to start things off on the right foot. Unfortunately, the Braves lit him up for eight runs in his next outing. Surely the Phillies wouldn't lift their prize arm from the rotation after a single stumble, though, right? Wrong. With Vicente Padilla (more on him shortly) returning from an injury to rejoin the staff, Floyd was bumped into an undefined role. Padilla's first start of the season arrived a few days later against the Mets, who crushed him for eight runs in three innings. The first man out of the bullpen for mop-up duty was Floyd, who also gave up eight runs in three innings. Four days later, Floyd was again torched by the Braves, who knocked him around for five runs in 0.2 innings in another relief appearance. The Phillies had seen enough, and Floyd was demoted.
I maintain to this day that the Phillies ruined Floyd by the way that they handled him early in that 2005 season. GM Ed Wade, new skipper Charlie Manuel, and everyone involved failed when it came to the team's top prospect. The indecision of keeping him on the periphery once the rest of the rotation was healthy was inexcusable. There appeared to be no plan in place on how to handle a talented young arm. At any rate, Floyd made it back to the majors in time for a pair of starts and one relief appearance in September that year, "dropping" his ERA to 10.04 over 26 innings for the campaign. Another unsuccessful stint in 2006 (7.29 ERA over 54.1 innings) led the Phillies to package him along with future all-star Gio Gonzalez to the White Sox in exchange for one lousy, injury-shortened year of Freddy Garcia.
As for Floyd, he did pretty well in Chicago, winning 63 games and compiling a 4.22 ERA over parts of seven seasons. He later bounced to Atlanta, Cleveland, and Toronto, retiring at age 33 after the 2016 season. Maybe he just never would have become an ace, regardless of the situation. But the Phillies did him no favors. A missed opportunity, to put it mildly.