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Adrian Beltre Prospect Retro

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Prospect Retrospective: Adrian Beltre

Adrian Beltre was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1994. He hit .307 in the Dominican Summer League in '95, at age 16. He skipped rookie ball, heading directly to the Sally League to start 1996, hitting .307 with 16 homers in 68 games. Promoted to the California League at mid-season, he hit .261 with 10 homers. At age 17, this was superb performance. I gave him a Grade A- in the 1997 book, rating him as the Number 14 prospect in baseball.

Beltre spent all of 1997 at Vero Beach in the Florida State League, hitting .317 with 26 homers, 104 RBI. He showed exquisite strike zone judgment, with 67 walks and only 66 strikeouts in 435 at-bats. And he was just 18. I promoted him to Grade A, and said he should be a "Pedro Guerrero type hitter" although with better defense. He was clearly the best prospect in baseball.

Beltre started '98 with San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League, hitting .321/.418/.581 in 64 games. At age 19. He spent the second half in Los Angeles and struggled, hitting just .215, but no one really worried too much about it. At age 20 in 1999, he hit .275/.352/.428. Given a normal age curve, he was a sure-fire superstar in the making.

But Beltre's age curve was not normal. After a strong '00 season, he had health problems related to a botched appendectomy in '01, then stagnated in '02 and '03. But it was important to remember that he was still very, very young. He rebounded in '04, regaining the plate discipline that had eluded him for two years, having a superstar season and earning himself a big free agent contract. In '05, the switch in leagues has been a problem for him, with his plate discipline slipping again, resulting in a decline back to his '02 and '03 production numbers.

I'm not exactly sure what to expect out of Beltre. His '04 season was what his minor league career said he was capable of. But could it have just been a salary drive? Good luck? A combination of both? I don't know. He's still young enough for his career to go either way.

Comparable Players to Adrian Beltre, no actives listed.

Ron Santo
Ken Keltner
Tony Conigliaro
Ken Boyer
Gary Gaetti
Graig Nettles
Ernie Banks
Davey Johnson
Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones

Those are all good players of course, a Hall of Famer, one guy who should be in (Santo), plus a bunch of guys who were quite good. If '04 was his peak, Beltre will be more in the "good not great" category.

What do you guys think? Was '04 a fluke?