Fresh-faced and bright-eyed, the four young pitchers came together with the Rookie League Martinsville Phillies in 1995. The next season they were advanced as a unit to the Class A Piedmont Boll Weevils and given a nickname: The Young Guns.
Righthanders David Coggin, Rob Burger and Randy Knoll plus lefthander Jason Kershner were supposed to represent the promising future of the Phillies' pitching staff.
Instead, they came to stand for the inherent difficulty in predicting how prospects, especially pitchers, will develop and all that can go wrong between the low minors and the big leagues.
Only Coggin pitched in the majors for the Phillies, appearing in bits and pieces of three seasons, battling injuries, bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation, going 10-12 with a 4.52 earned run average in 60 appearances.
The former sandwich pick between the first and second rounds remained with the organization through 2004. He then played in the Tampa Bay and Atlanta systems before finishing his career with Orange County of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2007.
Kershner had the longest career, playing last season with the Victoria Seals of the Golden Baseball League before the franchise folded. He left the Phillies' system after 2001 and he subsequently played in the Padres, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Brewers, Reds, Phillies (again) and Mariners organizations.
The 12th-round draft pick pitched briefly in the majors for San Diego and Toronto from 2002 to 2004, making 89 appearances (two starts) with a 3-5 record and 4.22 ERA.
Knoll was a third-round pick who also was sidetracked by injuries. He advanced as far as Class A Clearwater in 1998 and was out of baseball by the following year.
Burger reached Double A Reading in 1999, but was let go after going 0-6, 13.50 in nine starts. He signed with the Rockies and played with two Class A teams in 2000, but didn't play professionally after that.
The Phillies have high hopes for their current Clearwater Threshers rotation of Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone and Julio Rodriguez. And they may very well live up to the expectations.
But 15 years ago they had high hopes for the Young Guns, too. Which just proves, once again, that there are no guarantees in baseball. *
- Paul Hagen