History of Top Shortstop Prospects, 1995-2006, Part One (1995 through 2000)
Following up our recent series on catching prospects, let's look at top shortstop prospects and see how they did, beginning with the 1995 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook, written by Eddie Epstein, then proceeding through the subsequent MLSNs written by yours truly.
Alex Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners Grade A 1st round pick, 1993, Florida HS
Rated by Eddie as the top prospect in baseball, which was something of a no-brainer. Has obviously lived up to and exceeded every possible expectations, steroids or not.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees Grade A 1st round pick, 1992, Michigan HS
Rated by Eddie as the number two prospect in baseball. Like A-Rod, a Hall of Fame talent.
Alex Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays Grade A 13th round pick, 1991, Florida HS
Rated by Eddie as the number four prospect in baseball. Very long career, offense was held back by poor strike zone judgment, but held a job for a long time.
Enrique Wilson, Cleveland Indians Grade A- Free Agent, 1992, Dominican Republic
Rated by Eddie as the number 28 prospect in baseball. This one turned out to be illusionary, as Wilson was not age 19 as advertised.. . .he was one of the Age-Gate busts.
Pokey Reese, Cincinnati Reds Grade B+ 1st round, 1991, South Carolina HS
Rated by Eddie as the number 41 prospect in baseball. Major league regular at short and second for six years, showed speed with occasional op, but never lived up to early expectations.
Mark Grudzielanek, Montreal Expos Grade B+ 11th round, 1991, Trinidad State JC
Rated by Eddie as the Number 45 prospect in baseball. Grudz had done little of note until 1994 breakout season in Double-A. Very long career, can still hit .300 at age 38 but can't stay healthy.
Damian Jackson, Cleveland Indians Grade B+. 44th round, 1991, Laney College
Rated by Eddie as the Number 50 Prospect in baseball on the basis of his defensive skills and speed. Bounced around for long awhile, stealing bases and handling utility work.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees Grade A 1st round pick, 1992, Michigan HS
First book I did for STATS. I rated Jeter number four behind Johnny Damon, Paul Wilson, and Andruw Jones.
Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox Grade A- 1st round, 1994, Georgia Tech
Rated at Number 23 overall, I gave him a Grade A- despite mediocre Double-A numbers (.267/.338/.384) due to his defense and expected offensive improvement. Superstar at his peak.
Gabe Alvarez, San Diego Padres Grade A- 2nd round pick, 1995, USC
Who? Rated at Number 25 overall, Alvarez hit .353/.438/.534 in the California League right out of college at USC. It was expected he would move to third base, but was still playing shortstop at the time. Moved to third base in 1996, hit OK in Triple-A but was never able to stick in the majors, also had injury problems.
Donnie Sadler, Boston Red Sox Grade B+ 11th round pick, 1994, Texas HS
Huh? Sadler, rated at Number 40 overall, hit .283/.397/.438 with 41 steals and 79 walks in the Midwest League. He needed more defensive reliability, but a lot of people liked him at the time. Bounced between Triple-A and the majors for ten years.
Edgar Renteria, Florida Marlins Grade B+ Free agent, 1992, Colombia
Rated at Number 42 overall, Renteria played Double-A at age 20, hitting .289/.329/.388 but with erratic defense. Earned starting job in 1996 and has held one ever since.
Wilton Guerrero, Los Angeles Dodgers Grade B+ Free agent, 1991, Dominican Republic
Rated at Number 43, Guerrero hit .348/.390/.414 in the Texas League at age 20. His defense needed work and there was concern he would move to second base, as well as a lack of power, but I thought he had some upside due to his youth. Hit .282/.308/.369 in 678 games in his career.
Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox Grade A 1st round, 1994, Georgia Tech
Number Three prospect in baseball behind Andruw and Vlad.
Miguel Tejada., Oakland Athletics Grade A- Free Agent, 1993, Dominican Republic
Number 13 prospect in baseball. Showed power, speed, and defensive ability. Extremely durable 1999 through 2007, certainly lived up to and exceeded expectations.
Hiram Bocachica Montreal Expos Grade B+ 1st round, 1994, Puerto Rico HS
Number 20 prospect in baseball. Solid season in the Florida State League, with a +27 percent OPS, 21 steals, and strong plate discipline. There was talk he might have to switch positions to the outfield, but I was high on his bat. Switched to outfield in 1998. Reached majors in 2000 but injuries and lack of contact consistency prevented sustained success.
Chad Hermansen Pittsburgh Pirates Grade B+ 1st round, 1995, Nevada HS
Number 22 prospect in baseball. Converted to outfield. Famous bust due to bad plate discipline, never lived up to "age relative to league" factor.
Enrique Wilson Cleveland Indians Grade B+ Free Agent, 1992, Dominican Republic
Number 25. Never as good as he looked due to false age.
Neifi Perez Colorado Rockies Grade B+ Free Agent, 1992, Dominican Republic
Number 30 prospect. I gave him props for strong defense and youth, though warned that his bat wouldn't' be as good as it looked due to park effects. Still I expected him to be a regular for a long time due to his glovework.
Miguel Tejada Oakland Athletics Grade A- Free Agent, 1993, Dominican Republic
Number Eight prospect in baseball.
The Other Alex Gonzalez Florida Marlins Grade B+ Free Agent, 1993, Venezuela.
Number 20 prospect in baseball. Similar to the other Alex Gonzalez...showed power, defense, erratic plate discipline. Maybe they are an unknown Cylon model.
Brent Butler St. Louis Cardinals Grade B+ 3rd round, 1996, North Carolina HS
Number 25 prospect in baseball. Hit .306/.388/.485 in the Midwest League, excellent numbers with strong strike zone judgment. Eventually switched to second base, then bat began to stagnate. From seeing him in the low minors, then again in the upper minors late in his career, he just seemed to age badly, lost athleticism, even bat speed, more quickly than normal. Hit .248/.285/.380 in the majors, but .292/.348/.434 in his minor league career.
D'Angelo Jimenez New York Yankees Grade B+ Free agent, 1994, Dominican Republic.
Number 29 prospect in baseball. I loved his strong plate discipline. I was more of a fundamentalist about that back then than I am now. . .less rigid in my thinking as I've grown older. Bounced around a lot, blocked in New York, has had flashes of major league success but certainly no star.
Mike Caruso Chicago White Sox Grade B+ 2nd round pick, 1996, Florida HS
Number 47 prospect in baseball. Unexpectedly given a major league job in 1998 at the age of 21 with no experience above A-ball. He hit .306/.331/.390 as a rookie, but then fell apart completely, undone by injuries and an apparent loss of confidence. Last sighted playing independent baseball in the Northern League.
Pablo Ozuna Florida Marlins Grade A- Free agent, 1996, Dominican Republic
Number 15 prospect in baseball. Hit .357/.400/.494 with 62 steals in the Midwest League. I'll admit being seduced by the gaudy batting average, but he was a LOT of fun to watch in the field. One of the Age-Gate guys. Career .282/.318/.359 in the majors, 309 games scattered over seven seasons.
Joe Lawrence Toronto Blue Jays Grade B+ 1st round, 1996, Louisiana HS
Number 21 prospect in baseball, after he hit .308/441/.476 with 105 walks and 88 strikeouts in 454 at-bats for Dunedin at age 21. It was obvious he would have to move positions, but was still listed as a shortstop at the time. Moved to third in 1999, then to catcher, then back to second base, was ruined by injuries and defensive problems.
The Other Alex Gonzalez Florida Marlins Grade B+ Free Agent, 1993, Venezuela
Number 26 prospect in baseball. I prefer Cylon model 6 myself.
D'Angelo Jimenez New York Yankees Grade A- Free agent, 1994, Dominican Republic
Number 11 prospect in baseball. Obviously I overrated him.
Rafael Furcal Atlanta Braves Grade A- Free agent, 1996, Dominican Republic
Number 15 prospect in baseball. Speed, defense, low strikeout rate, some hints he might develop some pop eventually. Has obviously been an excellent player.
Alfonso Soriano New York Yankees Grade B+ Free Agent, 1998, Dominican via Japan
Number 23 prospect in baseball. I loved Soriano's tools, but was concerned about shaky plate discipline, defensive questions, and general rawness, thus ranking him behind Jimenez, which looks ridiculous now.
Travis Dawkins Cincinnati Reds Grade B+ 2nd round pick, 1997, South Carolina HS
Number 50 prospect in baseball. Rated highly on the strength of what looked like a breakthrough offensive season to match his glovework. Alas, he could not sustain it.
We will look at prospects from 2001-2006 in Part Two, then at all first round picks during the same period, concentrating on those not mentioned yet in Part Three, then at all starting shortstops who don't get covered in the other categories in Part Four, then draw some conclusions in Part Five.