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2016 Cubs Spring Training Countdown: 20 Days

Here's a blast from the past.

Sporting News via Getty Images

Corey Patterson came along about 15 years ago in a long line of Cubs prospects who was supposed to be "the next big thing."

15 years ago. Man, sure doesn't seem like that long, does it?

Patterson was the Cubs' No. 1 pick (third overall) in the 1998 draft. Among those chosen in that round after him were J.D. Drew, Carlos Pena, CC Sabathia and Brad Lidge.

But Patterson, who also played high-school football, was supposed to be can't-miss. Five-tool. All the clichés. He was Baseball America's No. 3 overall prospect in 2000 and No. 2 in 2001.

Despite playing just a bit over 300 games in the minors, where he hit well but not Kris Bryant-well, he got callups in September 2000 and again in September 2001. He was handed a starting job for the 2002 Cubs and hit .253/.284/.392 with 142 strikeouts (and just 19 walks), which isn't good. 142 strikeouts was ninth-most in the N.L. in 2002 -- it would have been OK if he had walked more, but he didn't.

Patterson was off to a much better start in 2003 when he injured his ankle in early July against the Cardinals and missed the rest of the year. Truth be told, that injury might have won the division for the Cubs, because if it doesn't happen the Cubs don't trade for Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez.

Corey had a decent season (2.2 bWAR) with 24 homers in 2004, and walked more (45 times), but then in 2005 had what was the worst offensive season for any 150-game regular since 1968. He posted -1.2 bWAR, hit .215/.254/.348 with 118 strikeouts in 451 at-bats, and his defense got worse. That got him traded to the Orioles for two guys you've never heard of.

Somehow, he hung on for five more big-league seasons -- and two more in the minors trying to get back. He didn't hang it up for good until after 2013.

He was rumored to be a player who wouldn't listen to coaching. Whether that's true or not I don't know. What I do know is that ego appeared to get in the way of talent at times for Patterson, who once appeared in a Chicago magazine feature that wasn't about baseball:

Corey Patterson appears shirtless in a photo in a Chicago Magazine feature highlighting the city's most eligible singles.

"They've seen it," a somewhat embarrassed Patterson said of his teammates.

Have their remarks been intelligent or cutting?

"Both," Patterson replied.

I wish there were a photo online of that feature, but there isn't.

It's possible that if Patterson had spent more time in the minor leagues he might have developed differently. It's possible that the 2003 injury changed his career trajectory, although it didn't affect his speed, as he stole 45 bases in 2006. That's one thing Corey did well, steal bases: 218 in 282 career attempts, a .773 percentage.

The current Cubs baseball management, as they have done with players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber (both of whom played college ball, while Patterson didn't), would have likely been more willing to keep Patterson in the minors for development, as they have done with (for example) Albert Almora. For that, we should be grateful.