Prospect Retro: Ryne Sandberg
Ryne Sandberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 June draft. Assigned to Helena in the Pioneer League at the age of 18, he hit .311/.397/.421 with 15 steals, solid overall performance for a young kid in his pro debut. At this point he would have been something like a C+ prospect, a young guy with good rookie ball stats but without a terrific scouting pedigree.
Moving up to Spartanburg in the Western Carolinas League for 1979, he hit .247/.331/.334 with 21 steals. Not great numbers on the surface, though he did draw 64 walks. A retrospective grade is difficult, since we know how things turned out, but nowadays, given similar numbers at a similar level from a same-age player, he'd be a Grade C+ guy or maybe "Grade C with higher potential."
Promoted to Double-A for 1980, Sandberg hit .310/.403/.469 for Reading, with 21 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers, 73 walks, and 32 steals. Damn good numbers for a 20-year-old in Double-A. That's Grade B+ or maybe even A- performance right there, power, patience, speed, age-relative-to-league.
Up to Triple-A in '81, Sandberg hit .293/.357/.397 with 32 steals for Oklahoma City. He got a cup-of-coffee with the Phillies, going 1-for-6. Although his walk rate and power dropped off a bit in Triple-A, you're still talking about an intriguing player at a difficult position. He'd remain a Grade B+/A- guy.
In January of 1982, Sandberg was traded by the Phillies to the Cubs along with Larry Bowa, in exchange for Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg took over at third base for the Cubs that year, then moved to second base in '83. His big breakout came as a 24-year-old in 1984.
In the minors, Sandberg showed solid across-the-board skills, including gradually increasing gap power, speed, and the willingness to take a walk. It was clear that he had a good chance to be a fine player, especially once he reached Double-A, although I don't think anyone projected he would be as good as he eventually was.
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