In a comment thread yesterday, a reader asked how veteran outfielder Grady Sizemore was viewed when he was a young prospect. We can answer that!
Grady Sizemore was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the third round in 2000, out of high school in Everett, Washington. He was considered a first round talent due to his excellent physical tools, but he had a football scholarship to the University of Washington, and it took $2,000,000 to convince him to play baseball. He hit .293/.380/.376 with 16 steals in 55 games for the GCL Expos, showing strong speed and strike zone judgment, but not much power. I gave him a Grade C+ entering 2001, noting that he did have some power potential but that scouts said he needed to refine his swing.
Sizemore spent 2001 with Clinton in the Low-A Midwest League, hitting .268/.381/.335 with 32 steals, 81 walks, and 92 strikeouts in 451 at-bats. His power remained unimpressive, but the plate discipline and speed also stood out. Scouts complained a bit about his route-running and said his defense needed work, and also worried that his line drive swing was not conducive for power at that point. I gave him a Grade B-.
2002 began at Brevard County in the Florida State League, where he hit .258/.351/.348 in 75 games. He was traded to the Indians in the Bartolo Colon deal, and the change in organizations seemed to wake him up: he hit .343/.451/.483 in 47 games after the trade. Although he hit just three homers on the season, I wrote that "additional power will make him a Seven Skill guy, and given his size and knowledge of the strike zone, I think it will come." I gave him a Grade B, and wrote "that could be too low a year from now."
Sizemore unleashed his ability in 2003, hitting .304/.373/.480 for Double-A Akron, hitting 26 doubles, 11 triples, and 13 homers. I wrote that he could "end up being a .300, 20-homer guy", and also that if he could boost his basestealing a bit (he swiped just 10 in '03) he would be a pure Seven Skill player. I gave him a Grade A-, and ranked him the number 11 hitting prospect in the game.
He hit .287/.360/.438 with 15 steals for Triple-A Buffalo in 2004, then .246/.333/.406 in 43 games for the Indians. Although no longer a rookie due to 138 at-bats, I went ahead and put him in the 2005 book as a Grade B+. I would break the rookie rule occasionally back then, but no longer do so because it just leads to headaches. In any event, I wrote that I thought he would be a steady development time. I predicted that he would hit .277 with 14 homers and a .349 OBP in 2005 (actual numbers were .289 with 22 homers and .348 OBP), then .291 with 17 homers and a .370 OBP in 2006 (actual .290, 28 homers, .375 OBP), then would take off from there. I got really close on the OBPs but underestimated the power.
As you know, Sizemore was simply excellent from 2005 to 2008, making three All-Star teams, winning two Gold Gloves, and collecting a total of 28 fWAR in a four-year period. But injuries struck in 2009, Sizemore missing almost all of the next four years with a variety of physical maladies including two sports hernias, an elbow injury, two serious knee injuries, and a back injury that required surgery. When he came back in 2014 he was a shadow of his former self, occasionally showing a flash of his old talents but unable to perform consistently well, ending up on the roster shuffle with the Red Sox, Phillies, and Rays.
The young uninjured Sizemore was one of the best players of his era. As a prospect, he got off to a slow start initially but found his power stroke and blossomed after his trade to the Indians. Sizemore is a great example of a tools player made good. It took him four years to fully tap into his strength and power, but even in the low minors he always showed good plate discipline, giving him an advantage over other raw athletes who can't do that.