Prospect Retro: Troy Glaus
Troy Glaus is attempting to rebuild his career this year with the Braves, after missing almost all of 2009 with a shoulder injury. He's an interesting study for retrospective prospect analysis.
As a high school star in Carlsbad, California, Glaus was well-known to scouts. Rated as a definite first round talent in the 1994 draft, he fell to the second round due to signability concerns. The Padres were unable to sign him away from UCLA, and he went off to college. He hit .352 with 16 homers and 12 steals as a freshman, earning All-Conference honors. After a weak sophomore season, his big breakout occurred in 1997, with a monster junior campaign for the Bruins resulting in a .409 average with 34 homers, drawing comparisons to Mike Schmidt and Matt Williams. The Angels drafted him third overall. He signed too late to play professionally in '97. I did not give letter grades to new draftees back then, but he would have rated at least a B+ prospect and probably an A-.
Glaus began 1998 with Double-A Midland, hitting .309/.430/.691 in 50 games and making Texas League pitchers look helpless. Promoted to Triple-A Vancouver, he continued to terrorize moundsmen with a .306/.374/.598 mark. He showed outstanding bat speed and power at both levels, along with solid strike zone judgment, drawing 60 walks against 96 strikeouts in 407 at-bats. The strikeouts were a little high, but considering the high walk rate and the power production, no one was too concerned about it. He also drew raves for his defense at third base; some scouts considered him a future Gold Glover. The only negative was an attitude that was called "arrogant" by some observers. His work ethic was praised, but he came across as excessively confident to some people.
This arrogance took a peg downward after he was promoted to the majors: he hit just .218/.280/.291 in 48 games, 165 at-bats for the Angels, with 15 walks and 51 strikeouts in 165 at-bats. Some people asked "what's wrong with Glaus, where is his power?" But most analysts (including me) just felt he needed additional adjustment time. I used a 50-game limit for book inclusion back then, so even though he was past official rookie eligibility, I put him in the 1999 Minor League Scouting Notebook, giving him a Grade A rating, a "future star" notation, and ranking him the Number Four prospect in baseball (the top five were J.D. Drew, Eric Chavez, Rick Ankiel, Glaus, and Brad Penny).
Glaus erased doubts about his power by hitting 29 homers in 154 games in '99, though his overall .240/.331/.450 line still disappointed some people. That was erased with a .284/.404/.604, 47 homer, 102-RBI line in 2000. He's been a consistent source of home runs and walks ever since, although his batting averages have never been great and he's been vulnerable to injury. He used to have some speed, but has lost that as he's aged. Although he never did win the Gold Glove, his defense has been solid, and he's made five All-Star teams. His career line stands at .255/.359/.497, 121 OPS+.
Glaus didn't develop into a Hall of Famer like Mike Schmidt, but he's had a very fine career. Sim Score comparables are Matt Williams, Dean Palmer, Darryl Strawberry, Pat Burrell, Schmidt, Roger Maris, Robin Ventura, Jack Clark, Rudy York, and Richie Sexson. PECOTA comps are Corey Koskie, Glenn Davis, Wil Cordero, Steve Buechele, Rico Petrocelli, John Jaha, Keith Ginter (?), Paul Sorrento (?), Mike Sweeney, and Robin Ventura. Travis Fryman and Travis Hafner clock in at 12 and 14. In this case, I think the Sim Score list is a better expression of where Glaus stands historically. He's been a very very good player, excellent occasionally, but not one of the very elite in historical terms.
In terms of prospecting, remember what happened to Glaus back in '98: he had a terrific pedigree as a prospect, dominated college, thrived in Double-A and Triple-A, and still struggled in his first major league exposure. We need to remember this as we watch the development of players like Matt Wieters and Jason Heyward in the coming years.