The Top 30 Position Players in Baseball: How They Were Seen as Prospects
Here is a list of the Top 30 Position Players in Major League Baseball in 2012, as rated by Fangraphs WAR. Listed with each player is a look at how I graded them as prospects.
1) Mike Trout, OF, Angels (WAR 10.0): 2010 Grade B+; 2011 Grade A; 2012 Grade A. I'm satisfied that I graded him correctly, but holy shit.
2) Buster Posey, C, Giants (8.0): 2009 Grade A-; 2010 Grade A. No problem.
3) Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers (7.9): 2006 Grade B+; 2007 Grade A-. Satisfied.
4) Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (7.8): 2002 Grade C; 2003 Grade C; 2004 Grade C+; 2005 Grade B-. I was definitely too low on him. He turned out much better than I expected.
5) David Wright, 3B, Mets (7.8): 2002 Grade B; 2003 Grade B+; 2004 Grade A-. Reasonable.
6) Chase Headley, 3B, Padres (7.5): 2006 Grade B; 2007 Grade B; 2008 Grade B+. Reasonable.
7) Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (7.4): 2006 Grade B+; 2007 Grade A-; 2008 Grade A-. Reasonable.
8) Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers (7.1): 2001 Grade B; 2002 Grade B+; 2003 Grade A-. Reasonable.
9) Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (6.6): 2008 Grade B+; 2009 Grade A-; 2010 Grade A. Reasonable.
10) Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers (6.5): 1997 Grade A-; 1998 Grade A. Reasonable.
11) Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (6.5): 2002 Grade C; 2003 Grade C+; 2004 Grade C. I liked his glove but I didn't think he would become much of a hitter, writing that he would be a "very empty .260 hitter" but that he could last awhile due to his defense. That assessment looked correct until he suddenly began hitting in 2008, then spiked power in 2011.
12) Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers (6.5): 1998 Grade A. He blew past rookie qualifications very quickly. I did not rate him in 1997 since I did not have room to write about short-season players in the old STATS Minor League Scouting Notebooks.
13) Michael Bourn, OF, Braves (6.4): 2004 Grade C; 2005 Grade B; 2006 Grade C+. 2007 Grade B-. Much of his WAR value comes from defense.
14) Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks (6.2): 2004 Grade B+; 2005 Grade B. I thought he would be a solid regular but bat has exploded over the last year.
15) Martin Prado, 2B, Braves (5.9): 2004 Grade C; 2005 Grade C+; 2006 Grade C+; 2007 Grade C; 2008 Grade C. He looked like a utility guy to me. I didn't expect him to develop into a .300 hitter with moderate power.
16) Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (5.9): 2005 Grade B+; 2006 Grade C+; 2007 Grade B+; 2008 Grade A. Reasonable.
17) Ben Zobrist, SS, Rays (5.9): 2005 Grade B; 2006 Grade B-. He was an older prospect, age 25 in 2006 and had yet to play in Double-A, but I wrote positive reports about him.
18) Alex Gordon, OF, Royals (5.9): 2006 Grade A; 2007 Grade A. This looked wrong for awhile but he's been one of the best players in baseball the last two years.
19) Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins (5.8): 2008 Grade C; 2009 Grade B+; 2010 Grade A-. I was cautious at first due to rawness coming out of high school, but he blossomed quickly.
20) Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (5.5): 2006 Grade C+; 2007 Grade C; 2008 Grade B; 2009 Grade B; 2010 Grade B. His minor league performance was never that great and even scouting reports were mixed, but there was something here I liked. Quoting from the 2010 book, "I can't say that Jackson profiles as an elite prospect on paper. I can't point at anything objective, but I think he can turn into a better player than the numbers currently imply."
21) Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies (5.5): 2005: Grade C; 2006 Grade C; 2007 Grade C. He was an older guy who suddenly started hitting in the high minors and I was suspicious, seeing him as primarily a backup. Like Yadier Molina, his glove kept him employed long enough for him to figure out the hitting.
22) Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals (5.4): 2006 Grade C; 2007 Grade C; 2008 Grade C+; 2009 Grade C; 2010 Grade C+. I liked his tools but his performance was spotty enough to keep me cautious.
23) Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (5.3): He was in the minors for two years before I started doing this for a living. He was in my first book in 1996, Grade C+. 1997 Grade C+; 1998 Grade C; 1999 Grade C+. He always had strong tools but his minor league track record was erratic and it took him two years to figure out A-ball pitching. I was more of a stathead back then than I am now and the grades reflect that.
24) Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals (5.1): 1999 Grade C; 2000 Grade C+; 2001 Grade C; 2002 Grade C; 2003 Grade C; 2004 Grade C. One of the big misses. He always had good tools, but he did not hit that well past rookie ball, slugging below .400 three out of five years in the high minors. His blossoming in the majors was unexpected, to me anyway.
25) Joe Mauer, C, Twins (5.0): 2002 Grade B+; 2003 Grade A; 2004 Grade A. Reasonable.
26) Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks (5.0): 2006 Grade C+; 2007 Grade B+. Came out of nowhere in 2005. Catchers seem to have unusual development curves at times.
27) Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (4.9): 1998 Grade C+; 1999 Grade C+; 2000 Grade B-; 2001 Grade B-. I was somewhat skeptical at first, seeing him as a utility guy with good speed, but his bat developed more than I anticipated.
28) Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers (4.9): 2003 Grade B; 2004 Grade A-; 2005 Grade A-; 2006 Grade A-. Reasonable.
29) Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals (4.9): 2011 Grade A; 2012 Grade A. Reasonable.
30) Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics (4.8): 2008 Grade B-; 2009 Grade B; 2010 Grade B; 2011 Grade B-. Much of his WAR value comes on defense.
Looking over this list, for the most part I'm happy with it. The biggest misses are catchers who started hitting in their late 20s, middle infielders who developed more bat than I expected, and a couple of tooled-up outfielders in Holliday and Hunter who turned things on eventually.
Robinson Cano is the guy that really turned out much better than I thought he would. I consider him one of my biggest misses.