Prospect Retro: Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran was drafted by the Royals in the second round in 1995, out of high school in Puerto Rico. He was considered quite toolsy but somewhat raw, and it was an open question how quickly he would develop. He hit .278/.332/.328 in 52 games of rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, not good enough to be impressed with but not bad enough to worry about. A similar player would probably get a C+ from me nowadays, "with higher potential."
Beltran moved up to Spokane in the Northwest League in 1996, hitting .270/.359/.433 with 10 steals. His strike zone judgment improved substantially, as he more than doubled his walk rate compared to rookie ball. His power increased as well, and in general he looked like he'd made significant progress refining his game. I might have increased his grade to B-, but it's hard to know for sure...I might have left it at C+ to be honest, but he was definitely a player to keep track of given his improvement.
Promoted to Wilmington in the Carolina League in 1997, Beltran hit .229/.311/.363 with 11 homers and 17 steals. These numbers don't look hot, but Wilmington was a terrible place to hit, and he skipped low-level Class A. He was one of the youngest players in the league, and his defensive skills took a step forward. I gave him a Grade C in the '97 book, but in retrospect I did not make enough of an adjustment for the park/league/age context, and nowadays I would have given him a C+ or B-.
Beltran returned to Wilmington in 1998, hitting .276/.364/.427 in 52 games. Promoted to Double-A at midseason, he hit .352/.427/.687 in just 47 games, with 14 homers, for Wichita. He also got into 14 games for the Royals, hitting .276/.317/.466, completing a very rapid rise. His progress was very impressive, as he'd gained command of the strike zone, blossoming after his promotion to the easier hitting environment of the Texas League. I gave him a Grade A- in the '99 book, rating him as a clear Seven Skill talent and the Number 11 prospect in baseball.
Beltran hit .293/.337/.454 with 22 homers and 27 steals for the Royals in 1999, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Injuries hampered him in 2000, but he roared back in '01 and has been one of the best players in the game ever since. It's interesting that he has no Triple-A experience, aside from five rehab games in 2000 which don't really count as development time. This is a good example of a guy with raw tools learning the skills to make those tools meaningful.