Per reader request, a Prospect Retro for Chuck Knoblauch
Chuck Knoblauch was drafted in the first round in 1989, 25th overall, out of Texas A&M. The Twins assigned him to Kenosha in the Midwest League to begin his pro debut, and he did well, hitting .286 with nine steals and 13 doubles in 51 games. Promoted to Visalia in the California League for the stretch run, he hit .364/.415/.494 in 18 games. It was obviously a successful pro debut. A shortstop in college, his arm wasn't the best and in the pros he projected best as a second baseman. His bat was respected due to solid plate discipline, gap power, and good speed, but his power development was uncertain. At this point I think he'd rate a Grade B prospect given his strong debut.
Moved up to Double-A Orlando in 1990, Knoblauch hit .289/.385/.384 with 23 steals. He didn't show a lot of power, hitting just two homers, but his contact hitting skills stood out with just 31 strikeouts in 432 at-bats, he got on base a lot, and was fundamentally sound. Again I think I'd go with a Grade B for a similar player today.
Knoblauch earned the starting second base job in spring training 1991, hitting .281/.351/350 with 25 steals in his major league debut. He earned Rookie of the Year honors, and was a key component in the Twins World Championship campaign. Similar seasons followed in '92 and '93. He raised his batting average over .300 in '94, then started to show additional power, eventually posting a .517 SLG with a .341 average and 45 steals in 1996.
He faded a bit in '97, then the Twins traded him to the Yankees. He got a lot of flack from Yankee fans, but he was a strong hitter in '98 and '99 before injuries started to take their toll. His glovework was very good in Minnesota, but a mental block about throwing became an issue in New York.
He faded quickly and was no longer an effective hitter after the age of 32, seemingly dragged down by the physical stress of the middle infield and a sharp decline in his defensive skills. But from 1994 through 1997, he was one of the best players in the game.
His minor league career correctly predicted his excellent strike zone judgment, speed, and contact hitting skills, but he developed more power at his peak than the minor league numbers indicated.