Elite Pitching Prospects: 2003 through 2006
Last week, I looked at the Top 25 Pitchers in 2011 (according to Fangraphs WAR) and how they were rated as prospects. Today I'm doing something slightly different, and looking at all pitching prospects that I rated Grade A or A- between 2003 and 2006.
I'm not doing earlier years because the way I rated players in the old STATS Minor League Scouting Notebooks was slightly different than the way I do it in the Baseball Prospect Book. I'm not looking at years past 2006 because I want to look at guys who are firmly established. I am not looking at players who had lower ratings than Grade A- because I want to keep the focus manageable and looking just at the super-elite, top 20 type guys. Keep in mind that there is often not a lot of difference between a Grade B+ and a Grade A-.
First, here is how I define Grade A/A- prospects in my book:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
The year the player was an A or A- is in parentheses. Players are listed alphabetically.
Kurt Ainsworth (2003): 29 games, 22 starts, 127 innings, 4.88 FIP, Peak WAR 0.8, Total WAR 0.8. Career ruined by injuries.
Chad Billingsley (2005, 2006): 192 games, 163 starts, 1014 innings, 3.71 FIP, Peak WAR 4.5, Total WAR 16.8. Although he hasn't developed into a Cy Young type, he's been quite solid and I consider this a verified grade.
Joe Blanton (2004): 206 games, 198 starts, 1244 innings, 4.19 FIP, Peak WAR 5.6, Total WAR 18.1. Solid inning-eater. Hasn't been exceptional, but he's had a good career.
Matt Cain (2005, 2006): 204 games, 203 starts, 1317 innings, 3.69 FIP, Peak WAR 5.2, Total WAR 24.2. Very durable, very effective, very consistent, and still getting better.
Cesar Carrillo (2006): 10.1 innings, 11.42 FIP, -0.7 WAR. Ruined by injuries.
Jesse Crain (2005): 443 games, 4 saves, 447 innings, 3.99 FIP, Peak WAR 1.2, Total WAR 3.9. He's been a solid middle reliever when healthy. Why was he ranked so high? Back in the 2003-2006 window there was a big push in fantasy circles to find future closers, and I thought Crain could be one. This also impacts some of the other guys on his list. I don't rate closer prospects so highly now, one way that experience has altered my thinking.
Gavin Floyd (2003, 2004, 2005): 165 games, 153 starts, 959 innings, 4.37 FIP, Peak WAR 4.5, Total WAR 14.6. It took him a bit of time, but he developed into a solid starter. Verified.
Jesse Foppert (2003): 27 games, 23 starts, 122 innings, 5.27 FIP, peak WAR 0.4, total WAR 0.1. Derailed by injuries.
Jeff Francis (2005): 181 games, 180 starts, 1066 innings, 4.40 FIP, peak WAR 4.1, total WAR 16.5. Missed a year with injuries, but a decent enough pitcher when healthy.
Zack Greinke (2004): 238 games, 197 starts, 1280 innings, 3.51 FIP, peak WAR 9.3, total WAR 30.7. I'd say this one is fully verified. Cy Young winner.
Cole Hamels (2004): 181 games, 180 starts, 1161 innings, 3.63 FIP, peak WAR 4.9, total WAR 23.0. Excellent pitcher, fully verified.
Craig Hansen (2006): 95 games, 94 innings, 5.27 FIP, peak WAR 0.2, total WAR -0.3. Was supposed to be an ace closer but command issues prevented it. Major bust.
Rich Harden (2003): 170 games, 160 starts, 928 innings, 3.95 FIP, peak WAR 4.5, total WAR 17.3. He's been very effective when healthy but he has big problems staying healthy.
Felix Hernandez (2005): 205 games, 205 starts, 1388 innings, 3.31 FIP, peak WAR 6.8, total WAR 32.7. This one turned out really well, fully verified. Cy Young winner.
Mike Hinckley (2005): 28 games, 23 innings, 4.70 FIP, peak WAR 0.3, total WAR -0.1. Quality of both command and stuff faded, ended up in relief, had a brief bit of success in Nationals bullpen in 2008. Obviously a bust of course.
Jason Hirsch (2006): 32 games, 29 starts, 166 innings, 5.82 FIP, peak WAR 0.9, total WAR 0.2. A few moments of success but trade to Colorado didn't help, topped out as a Quadruple-A guy.
Kris Honel (2004): Ruined by injuries.
Edwin Jackson (2004): 203 games, 173 starts, 1079 innings, 4.34 FIP, peak WAR 3.8, total WAR 14.0. A decent starting pitcher.
Francisco Liriano (2006): 134 games, 113 starts, 683 innings, 3.61 FIP, peak WAR 6.0, total WAR 14.3. Outstanding when healthy, but he's only been healthy twice.
Scott Kazmir (2004, 2005): 180 games, 179 starts, 1022 innings, 4.15 FIP, peak WAR 5.3, total WAR 16.6. Excellent early in his career before injuries struck.
Brandon McCarthy (2005): 135 games, 81 starts, 543 innings, 4.28 FIP, peak WAR 4.7, total WAR 8.1. Looked like a bust until 2011.
Dustin McGowan (2004): 80 games, 60 starts, 375 innings, 4.15 FIP, peak WAR 3.9, total WAR 6.3. Pitched quite well in 2007-2008 before injuries.
Dan Meyer (2005): 103 games, 7 starts, 114 innings, 4.92 FIP, peak WAR 0.5, total WAR -0.1. Some moments of relief success, but chance to be more was ruined by injuries.
Adam Miller (2005): Career ruined by injuries.
Greg Miller (2004): Injuries, control problems.
Francisco Rodriguez (2003): 604 games, 291 saves, 649 innings, 2.93 FIP, peak WAR 4.0, total WAR 16.4. Became an excellent closer. Verified. Rolaids winner.
Rafael Soriano (2003): 384 games, 90 saves, 434 innings, 3.30 FIP, peak WAR 2.0, total WAR 7.6. Successful relief pitcher with two strong years as a closer. Rolaids winner.
Huston Street (2005): 417 games, 178 saves, 436 innings, 3.09 FIP, peak WAR 2.4, total WAR 10.0. Successful closer.
Justin Verlander (2006): 199 games, 199 starts, 1315 innings, 3.49 FIP, peak WAR 8.3, total WAR 32.4. Obviously excellent. Cy Young winner.
Ryan Wagner (2004): 148 games, 165 innings, 4.50 FIP, peak WAR 0.3, total WAR 0.2. "Can't miss" closer prospect missed due to control problems and injuries.
Adam Wainwright (2003, 2004): 182 games, 119 starts, 874 innings, 3.36 FIP, peak WAR 6.1, total WAR 18.5. An excellent starter now at his peak.
Jerome Williams (2003): 86 games, 77 starts, 469 innings, 4.69 FIP, peak WAR: 2.0, total WAR 4.0. Started off well but faded.
There were 32 pitchers rated as Grade A or A- prospects between 2003 and 2006. Of this 32, we had seven guys I regard as definite injury busts (Ainsworth, Carrillo, Foppert, Honel, Meyer, and both Millers). Others were also impacted by injuries although still showed at least something in the majors.
As I wrote about with Crain, I don't rate closer prospects as aggressively as I used to. Of the relief prospects on the list, K-Rod, Street, and Soriano were all successful, while Crain was a reasonable middle reliever. Hansen and Wagner busted.
There are three Cy Young winners, two Rolaids winners. Twelve of these pitchers have thrown 900 or more innings. Seventeen had seasons with a peak WAR of 3.0 or higher, and that doesn't include Street or Soriano (WAR doesn't give closers enough credit).
Overall, I am quite happy with this.