ST. PETERSBURG: Outfielder Austin Kearns #26 of the Cleveland Indians is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
No official word (on the Web) yet, but MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Miami Marlins have signed outfielder Austin Kearns to a minor-league contract.
Kearns' career serves as a cautionary tale for those who expect young players to develop in a predictable way.
Many of them do, of course. Perhaps most. But Austin Kearns was supposed to become a big star, and didn't.
Before the 2002 season, Baseball America named Kearns the game's No. 11 prospect. He'd been a first-round draft pick (seventh overall) and had played only 59 games above Class A ... and batted .268/.364/.429 in those games, all in double-A Southern League.
Neverthless, Kearns spent just a couple of more weeks in the minors before making his MLB debut with the Reds in the the middle of April ... and it worked, as he batted .315/.407/.500 in 107 games with the big club and finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting. He was only 22, and now he really looked like a big star. Prospectively.
Well, that was 10 years ago and Kearns has never played so well again.
He got hurt in 2003, and spent chunks of both 2004 and 2005 back in triple-A ... and utterly crushed the baseball both times. But he's been injured and he's been inconsistent, he's bounced around to the Nationals and the Yankees and the Indians, and now he's just hoping to hang around in the majors for another season.
I wouldn't put it past him. If he's healthy, he can do some damage, especially against left-handed pitchers. But today's 12-man bullpens really hurt the chances of guys like Austin Kearns.