Prospect Retro: Roberto Petagine
Roberto Petagine was signed by the Houston Astros in 1990, out of the Dominican Republic. He made his pro debut that year, hitting .289/.379/.390 for the Gulf Coast League Astros. His best attribute was strike zone judgment: 26 walks vs. 23 strikeouts in 187 at-bats. At this point, he'd be considered something like a Grade C prospect, interesting and with obvious potential but too early to tell exactly how he'd turn out.
Moved up to Class A Burlington in '91, he hit .259/.367/.403 with 12 homers and 71 walks. Not-great production, but again he drew a lot of walks and boosted his power slightly. Grade C with higher potential.
That potential began to manifest in '92, as he hit .293/.390/.459 in the difficult Florida State League. A late promotion to Double-A went very well: .300/.359/.529 in 21 games. At this point, with his production increasing across the board, he was starting to show up on prospect lists. He'd have been something like a Grade B in retrospect.
'93 was Petagine's big breakthrough, as he hit .334/.445/.529 for Jackson, with 36 doubles, 15 homers, and 84 walks. He had the best OPS at the Double-A level. At age 22, a normal growth curve would imply star potential. Grade A- or B+ would be appropriate. It might be even a straight A were it not for his defensive limitations, but Petagine's bat was clearly special.
A broken hand limited Petagine to just 65 games in Triple-A in 1994, but he hit .316.405/.514 in those 65 games, with 19 doubles and 10 homers. Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade A- in the '95 Minor League Scouting Notebook, a grade I felt was completely appropriate at the time.
The Astros never really believed in Petagine, so he was traded to the Padres that winter. He spent most of '95 in San Diego, appearing in 89 games, but was used mostly as a pinch-hitter, receiving just 124 at-bats. He hit just .234/.367/.371, drawing 26 walks but not hitting for the power the Padres expected. Traded to the Mets, he spent most of 1996 and 1997 in Triple-A, hitting the hell out of the ball, but limited to further pinch-hitting duty in the majors. He spent '98 doing the same thing in the Reds system, hitting brilliantly in Triple-A, but pinch-hitting in the Show. He actually hit fairly well for the Reds (.258/.405/.468) in 34 games, but they didn't believe in him either.
Petagine ended up in Japan for '99, and was one of the superstars of Japanese baseball for the next six years. Back in the US for '05, he was just promoted to Boston. He's always been a stathead favorite due to his minor league track record. Although many scouts consider him a Quadruple-A player, the fact is that he proved he could dominate the Triple-A level at the age of 25, with power, walks, and a low strikeout rate for a guy who hits home runs. 307 big-league at-bats over 5 different seasons, spread out mostly in pinch-hitting duty, was hardly a fair test of his skills.