Prospect Retro: The Brothers Benes
Prospect Retro: Andy Benes
Andy Benes was the first player picked in the 1988 draft, a college pitcher from the University of Evansville. He was certainly no secret, a dominating college arm with improving command. He went 16-3 with a 1.42 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 146 innings for Evansville. Most scouts expected him to be ready for the major leagues within one year, projecting him as a rotation anchor in the Roger Clemens mode. He would be a Grade A- prospect at a minimum, certainly regarded as one of the top five pitching prospects in the game, maybe even the best one overall depending on how concerned you were about the fact that he signed too late to post pro numbers in '88.
Benes began his pro career by going 8-4, 2.16 in 16 starts for Double-A Wichita in 1989, with a 115/39 K/BB ratio. He posted a rough 8.10 ERA in five starts after a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, but the Pads were undeterred, and he entered the major league rotation in the second half, going 6-3, 3.51 with a 66/31 K/BB in 67 innings.
Benes had a long and successful major league career, going 155-139 with a 3.97 ERA in 2505 innings. However, he didn't quite live up to the potential perceived by scouts, being an above-average starter rather than a Clemens-type. Injuries eventually dragged him down, his career over by age 35, but certainly this was a first pick, Grade A/A- prospect who made good. The frustration here was that he never improved from where he was early in his career: his performance never improved much from where he was as a rookie.
Comparable Pitchers to Andy Benes
Prospect Retro: Alan Benes
Alan Benes was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 1993, 16th overall, out of college at Creighton University. Alan wasn't quite as well-regarded as Andy as a collegian. He didn't throw quite as hard, but his stuff was certainly above average, and he was a legitimate first-round pick, earning the call on his own skills not his brother's reputation. He was mediocre in his pro debut, going 0-4, 3.65 in 7 starts in the New York-Penn League. At this point he'd be a Grade B+ prospect based on his draft position and college reputation.
Alan pitched brilliantly in 1994, going 17-3 between two levels of Class A, Double-A, and Triple-A. His K/BB was outstanding at 184/52 with a combined 2.27 ERA. Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade A rating in the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, rating him the second-best pitching prospect in baseball (behind White Sox prospect Scott Ruffcorn, if you remember him. That's a topic for another day).
Benes got off to a good start in 1995, posting a 2.41 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Louisville. But he missed most of the second half with a sore shoulder. Surgery was avoided, and by the end of the season he was reportedly healthy. I gave him a Grade A- in the 1996 book, hopeful that he would stay healthy.
The Cardinals put Benes in their rotation in 1996. He won 13 games in 32 starts, but also posted a 4.90 ERA, undone at times by shaky command. Still, he was one of the more promising young pitchers in the game. He improved greatly in 1997, with a 2.89 ERA in 23 starts, but at that point the injuries began. He hurt his shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff and missing all of 1998 and most of 1999 on rehab. He returned as a reliever in 2000, but neither his velocity nor his command ever returned to pre-injury standards. He's spent the last two seasons in Triple-A.
Alan is the classic example of a talented young pitcher ruined by injuries. He was pitching great in 1997 before getting hurt.
Comparable Pitchers to Alan Benes
William Van Landingham