Prospect Retro: Craig Monroe
Craig Monroe was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round of the 1995 draft, out of high school in Texarkana, Texas. He was athletic and toolsy, his best attribute being speed although he had some raw power potential. Assigned to the Gulf Coast League Rangers, he hit .249/.316/.301 in his pro debut, not very impressive, though he did collect 13 steals in 15 attempts. He'd rate as a Grade C prospect at that point.
Monroe began 1996 with Charleston in the Sally League and was totally overmatched: he hit just .150 in 49 games. Demoted to Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League in June, he did much better, hitting .276/.336/.437 with 21 steals in 67 games. Still a Grade C. . .could he adjust to full-season ball?
The Rangers moved him aggressively to the Florida State League in 1997. He struggled at times, hitting .235/.320/.375 in 92 games, although he did steal 24 bases in 25 attempts. He also drew 44 walks. Despite the low batting average, there were some positive signs here, namely a secondary average of .345. I'd still rate him as a Grade C, showing some promise.
Monroe returned to the Florida State League in 1998, hitting .242/.334/.434 with 17 homers and 50 steals and 66 walks in 472 at-bats. Again, the batting average was low. But he showed a broad base of skills: power, walks, and speed. I gave him a Grade C, but noted in the book that "if he can hit .250 and keep the steals and power production, he could have a pretty good career."
The Rangers sent him back to the FSL in 1999, and he put up a similar season: .260/.321/.415 with 40 steals and 17 homers. He gained 18 points in batting average but was less patient, hurting his OBP and resulting in no net offensive gain. He retained a Grade C rating. . .I noted that he still had the power/speed combo, but that his overall performance did not improve.
Monroe finally got a shot in Double-A in 2000 and he did very well, hitting .282/.366/.506 with 20 homers, 64 walks, and 12 steals. Yet again I gave him a Grade C rating, writing that "no one sees him as a starter, but he has a chance as a reserve if he improves his fundamentals and maintains decent plate discipline." At the time, Texas League scouts were complaining that for all of his speed, he was not a very good defensive outfielder because he ran poor routes.
Promoted to Triple-A in 2001, he hit .280/.358/.512 with 20 homers, 10 steals, and 46 walks in 114 games. He reportedly worked hard to improve his defense. I kept him at Grade C; the basic idea among scouts was that he'd be a good fourth outfielder but not a regular. I wrote that Monroe "has power, works hard, runs a bit. Better than some guys with jobs, but no room for him in Texas." He hit .212/.293/.346 in a 27-game trial with the Rangers, not enough to force his way into a job.
Indeed, there was no room in Texas, and the Rangers stuck him on waivers. The Tigers claimed him, sent him to Triple-A Toledo, and watched him hit .321/.379/.511 in 99 games. I didn't put him in the 2003 book, one of the guys cut for space reasons, but would have maintained him at Grade C (by this point due to being 25 years old) and rating him as a good fourth outfielder type.
Monroe got into 128 games for the Tigers in 2003, hitting .230 but with 23 homers. He's been a regular member of their outfield ever since, averaging 22 homers per year over four seasons. He's lost most of his speed, and his on-base skills are rather sketchy. But he is a useful player. His minor league record is intriguing, in the sense that he had some tools, usually played well, and showed a broad range of abilities, but never received much notice from either scouts or statheads. A lot of guys like this remain trapped in the minors, but Monroe has made the most of his chance in the Show.