Pre reader request, a Prospect Retro for Brent Abernathy
Abernathy was drafted in the second round in 1996, by the Blue Jays, out of high school in Atlanta. He made his pro debut in 1997 for Hagerstown in the Sally League, and did quite well, hitting .309/.367/.398, with 30 walks but only 32 strikeouts in 379 at-bats. I was impressed with him, and gave him a solid Grade B rating in the '98 book. My expectation was that he'd prove out as a .300+ hitter at higher levels.
Moved up to the Florida State League in '98, he hit .348/.381/.425, with 44 walks, just 38 strikeouts, and 36 doubles in 485 at-bats. I gave him another Grade B rating. I also noted in the '99 book that my good friend Dave Rawnsley, who worked for Baseball America at the time, was suspicious about Abernathy's development potential at higher levels. But I was convinced by Abernathy's batting average, increasing doubles rate, and very low strikeout rate, that he would develop into a solid player and possibly a star.
1999 gave additional evidence in my favor. At Double-A Knoxville, Abernathy hit .291/.355/.435, with 42 doubles, 13 homers, 55 walks, and just 47 strikeouts. His power was obviously increasing, and he maintained an excellent K/AB ratio. Once again he got a Grade B for me heading into 2000.
Abernathy began '00 at Triple-A Syracuse, where he hit .296/.343/.399 in 92 games. He was traded to the Devil Rays in July, and played August for their Triple-A Durham team, where he hit .264/.351/.363. At this point, I started to have a few doubts. His power dropped off, not showing the same punch he did in '99, and I was getting reports from people who had seen him more than I had that his defense was deteriorating a bit. I dropped him to Grade B- in the '01 book.
Abernathy split '01 between Durham and Tampa Bay. He hit .302/.350/.429 at Durham, and .270/.328/.382 for the D-Rays. His performance in the majors was decent but not terrific. His MLEs were now showing him as a .270ish hitter, but without much power. He looked like he was leveling off as a hitter. This was confirmed by a very disappointing 2002 season, where he hit just .242/.288/.311. No power, no batting average, and a weak OBP.
The D-Rays gave up on him in '03, and he was claimed on waivers by the Royals. He hit fairly well at Triple-A Omaha (.291/.354/.408), but went 2-for-27 in a 10-game trial in Kansas City. He drifted to the Cleveland system in '04 and hit .296/.358/.466 at Buffalo. This year, he hit .326/.388/.470 at Triple-A Rochester in the Twins system, his best performance in some time, but hit just .254/.328/.322 in 21 games for the major league club.
I was wrong about Abernathy, and Dave Rawnsley was right. Abernathy's early career was very good indeed, and given a normal growth curve, he should have developed into the type of player I expected. But he didn't. He stopped growing as a player when he reached Triple-A, peaking at age 24. It's unusual, but it happens.