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Prospect Retro: Corey Patterson

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Per reader request, a Prospect Retro for Corey Patterson.

Corey Patterson was drafted in the first round of the 1998 draft, out of high school in Georgia. The third-overall pick, he was considered to be the best high school player available in the draft that year, due to his mixture of power and speed. He signed late and didn't play in '98. I didn't give grades to just-signed players back then, but I gave him a positive review in the '99 book, based on his scouting reports and video. Some scouts compared him to a young Kirby Puckett. I compared him to a "healthy Lance Johnson with more power," thinking of the 1995-1996 version of Johnson. I would probably have given Patterson a Grade B+.

The Cubs sent Patterson to Lansing in the Midwest League in 1999. He hit very well, posting a .320/.358/.592 mark, with 35 doubles, 17 triples, 20 homers, and 33 steals in 475 at-bats. The only negative was his walk rate, just 25 free passes, with 85 strikeouts. The strikeouts weren't terrible, and Patterson seemed to have a knack for making hard contact even when he swung at pitches outside the strike zone. He also drew positive reviews for his defense and for his work ethic. I gave him a Grade A and rated him as the best prospect in baseball heading into 2000.

Assigned to Double-A West Tennessee for 2000, Patterson hit .261/.338/.491, with 26 doubles, 22 homers, 27 steals, 45 walks, and 115 strikeouts in 444 at-bats. His numbers slipped compared to '99, but it was still a fine performance considering his age (20). I gave Patterson another Grade A heading into 2001, but I wrote that "he needs a year of Triple-A" and that the Cubs were "likely to be somewhat disappointed" if they rushed him too soon. I was growing concerned about his strike zone judgment, but I figured that given his youth he had plenty of time to fix it.

Patterson split '01 between Triple-A and the majors and was disappointing at both levels. His problems with plate discipline really stood out. He hit .253 in 153 games for the Cubs in '02, with 30 doubles, 14 homers, and 18 steals, but a horrid 19/142 BB/K ratio. It looked like he made some progress in '03, but he hasn't built on that.

In retrospect, Patterson's problems with strike zone judgment ended up overriding his other tools and skills. He's shown no real skill growth for three years now. It seems likely that part of this was because he was rushed to the majors before he had solved the problem at the lower levels, although his pure athleticism was so good that he could do well in the minors even without good discipline. At age 26, he still has some time to turn things around, but the early returns in Baltimore are hardly positive, and at this point he has to be regarded as a major disappointment.

Comparable Players to Corey Patterson through 2005

Oddibe McDowell
Devon White
Claudell Washington
Junior Felix
Brian McRae