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The Elite Prospects: 2003 through 2006

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Last week, I looked at the Top 30 Position Players in 2011 (according to Fangraphs WAR) and how they were rated as prospects. Today I'm doing something slightly different, and looking at all prospects that I rated Grade A or A- between 2003 and 2006.

I'm not doing earlier years because the way I rated players in the old STATS Minor League Scouting Notebooks was slightly different than the way I do it in the Baseball Prospect Book. I'm not looking at years past 2006 because I want to look at guys who are firmly established. I am not looking at players who had lower ratings than Grade A- because I want to keep the focus manageable and looking just at the super-elite, top 20 type guys. Keep in mind that there is often not a lot of difference between a Grade B+ and a Grade A-.

First, here is how I define Grade A/A- prospects in my book:

Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases

Grade A or A- Hitters, 2003 through 2006. The year the player was an A or A- is in parentheses. Players are listed alphabetically.

Erick Aybar (2005): 629 games, 2376 PA, Peak WAR: 4.0, Total WAR: 10.0. He developed into a regular.
Daric Barton (2005, 2006): 438 games, 1765 PA, Peak WAR 5.1, Total WAR 7.2. Has seen regular playing time, had one excellent year so far.
Miguel Cabrera (2003): 1351 games, 5777 PA, Peak WAR 7.3, Total WAR 43.7. Developed into a superstar.
Hee Seop Choi (2003): 363 games, 1086 PA, Peak WAR 1.4, Total WAR 3.1. One of the more famous "busts" of the last decade, career sabotaged for a variety of reasons, but when he played he was a decent hitter, according to the numbers anyway.
Jeff Clement (2006): 129 games, 397 PA, Peak WAR 0.3, Total WAR -0.2. Massive bust. Value took a nosedive after he moved off catcher.

Bobby Crosby (2004): 747 games, 2846 PA, Peak WAR 3.7, Total WAR: 7.2. Career got off to a very good start, a star in the making, but he fell apart. I don't regard this one as a failure for the grading scheme.
Mike Cuddyer (2003): 1139 games, 4555 PA, Peak WAR 3.1, Total WAR 14.6. Developed into a solid long-term regular.
Stephen Drew (2006): 733 games, 3090 PA, Peak WAR 5.1, Total WAR 12.0. Excellent peak, a regular but erratic.
Prince Fielder (2004, 2005, 2006): 998 games, 4210 PA, Peak WAR 6.4, Total War 23.4. Developed into a superstar.
Adrian Gonzalez (2003): 1017 games, 4346 PA, Peak WAR 6.6, Total WAR 27.5. Developed into a superstar.

Alex Gordon (2006): 559 games, 2332 PA, Peak WAR 5.3, Total WAR 11.8. It took a bit of time but he verified.
Joel Guzman (2005, 2006): 24 games, 62 PA, -0.1 WAR. Turned into minor league slugger. Tools bust with contact issues, and perhaps he wasn't as young as everyone thought.
Travis Hafner (2003): 1035 games, 4220 PA, Peak WAR 6.0, Total WAR 21.4. Verified.
Scott Hairston (2003): 643 games, 2001 PA, Peak WAR 2.2, Total WAR 5.2. Became a role player, disappointing.
Jeremy Hermida (2005): 619 games, 2234 PA, Peak WAR 2.5, Total WAR 2.7. A strange case. Did he just peak early?

Conor Jackson (2006): 658 games, 2485 PA, Peak WAR 3.2, Total WAR 4.3. Looked good until injuries intervened.
Howie Kendrick (2006): 655 games, 2638 PA, Peak WAR 5.8, Total WAR 15.1. Played like a star last year. Verified.
Casey Kotchman (2003, 2004, 2005): 791 games, 2891 PA, Peak WAR 2.9, Total WAR 5.3. Didn't live up to expectations, but he's had good moments and playing time as a regular.
Jason Kubel (2005): 753 games, 2846 PA, Peak WAR 2.7, Total WAR 3.9. Doesn't look too hot with WAR, but he can hit and has held a regular job when healthy.
Nick Markakis (2006): 946 games, 4085 PA, Peak WAR 6.3, Total WAR 20.1. A very solid long-term regular and an underrated player.

Andy Marte (2004, 2005, 2006): 302 games, 924 PA, Peak WAR 0.4, Total WAR -2.0. A gigantic bust. Age-relative-to-league didn't pan out with this one, and maybe there is a reason.
Victor Martinez (2003): 1149 games, 4819 PA, Peak WAR 5.4, Total WAR 29.0. A star. Verified.
Jeff Mathis (2004): 426 games, 1360 PA, Peak WAR 0.2, Total WAR -1.8. There was a brief moment in time when I thought he would develop as a hitter. At least I gave up sooner than the Angels did.
Joe Mauer (2003, 2004): 918 games, 3911 PA, Peak WAR 7.9, Total WAR 35.7. Superstar.
Dallas McPherson (2005): 139 games, 414 PA, Peak WAR 0.6, Total WAR 1.3. Undone by injuries and too many strikeouts, but he's actually been slightly above average in his limited playing time.

Lastings Milledge (2006): 433 games, 1659 PA, Peak WAR 0.6, Total WAR 1.1. Great tools, but hasn't developed them.
Justin Morneau (2003, 2004): 1017 games, 4237 PA, Peak WAR 5.1, Total WAR 20.5. Excellent when healthy.
Chris Nelson (2005): 80 games, 216 PA, Peak WAR -0.3, Total WAR -0.6. Lots of injuries here. Wants to be Brandon Phillips when he grows up, but that's a huge longshot at this point.
Brandon Phillips (2003): 1041 games, 4366 PA, Peak WAR 6.0, Total WAR 23.0. Looked like a bust at first, but blossomed into a star.
Carlos Quentin (2005, 2006): 616 games, 2432 PA, Peak WAR 4.8, Total WAR 8.0. One really good year, has held a job, effective when healthy.

Hanley Ramirez (2005): 852 games, 3757 PA, Peak WAR 7.5, Total WAR 31.1. Excellent player.
Jeremy Reed (2004, 2005): 483 games, 1376 PA, Peak WAR 2.5, Total WAR 2.3. An old lesson: don't be seduced by pretty batting averages. He did have one decent year according to WAR.
Jose Reyes (2003): 1050 games, 4840 PA, Peak WAR 6.4, Total WAR 33.4. Excellent.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2006): 353 games, 1285 PA, Peak WAR 2.5, Total WAR 2.9. Lots of injuries. He was good last year and this one could yet verify as a long-term regular.
Grady Sizemore (2004): 892 games, 4047 PA, Peak WAR 8.0, Total WAR 30.2. An excellent player for awhile.

Ian Stewart (2005, 2006): 432 games, 1418 PA, Peak WAR 1.5, Total WAR 3.3. Disappointing so far, but this one could still verify, and he'll stick around awhile.
Jason Stokes (2003): Never reached majors. Career over at age 26 due to injuries.
Mark Teixeira (2003): 1374 games, 6034 PA, Peak WAR 7.4, Total WAR 39.7. Verified as a superstar slugger.
Rickie Weeks (2004, 2005): 760 games, 3338 PA, Peak WAR 6.5, Total WAR 18.6. Injury issues, but verified as a very productive regular.
Brandon Wood (2006): 272 games, 751 PA, Peak WAR 0.1, Total WAR -2.6. Handled poorly, but ultimately undone by severe contact problems.

David Wright (2004): 1106 games, 4783 PA, Peak WAR 8.9, Total WAR 39.3. Verified as an excellent player.
B.J. Upton (2004): 820 games, 3430 PA, Peak WAR 5.0, Total WAR 19.8. Very effective.
Justin Upton (2006): 581 games, 2402 PA, Peak WAR 6.4, Total WAR 14.6. Excellent.
Chris Young (2006): 784 games, 3225 PA, Peak WAR 4.6, Total WAR 13.5: Solid regular.
Delmon Young (2005, 2006): 729 games, 2967 PA, Peak WAR 1.8, Total WAR 1.6. WAR hates him due to butchery defense but I can't say I see him as a bust.
Ryan Zimmerman (2006): 845 games, 3669 PA, Peak WAR 7.3, Total WAR 30.2. Verified as an excellent player.

For me, I consider it a success and a verified grade if a Grade A or A- turns into a superstar, star, or long-term regular.

The successes are obvious, but I think we learn more from our failures. If a guy sees his career ruined by injuries, but demonstrated regular-caliber skills when healthy, I don't see that as a failure for the grading system.

What do the busts have in common, and what can we learn from them?

We will look at the pitchers tomorrow then try to draw some conclusions.