With 20 years of prospect lists on the docket, I am going back and reviewing the top prospects from my books, the STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook (1996 through 2002) and the Baseball Prospect Book (2003-2016). The very brief comments provided include a statistical summary (through the 2016 season) and a marker on whether I considered the grade verified or not.
The lists from 1996 through 2002 were unified Top 50 lists with both hitters and pitchers.
There is a gray area of course, some players who were not as good as expected but not exactly failures, either. For me, a bust is a player that you get nothing out of.
Generally speaking, I am more interested in the players who didn’t make it than the ones who did.
1) Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers, Grade A: Didn’t live up to this spot but had good seasons.
2) Sean Burroughs, 3B,Padres, Grade A: Did not verify.
3) Carlos Pena, 1B, Rangers, Grade A: Grade verified.
4) Wilson Betemit, SS, Braves, Grade A-: Good role player but grade too high.
5) Mark Teixeira, 3B, Rangers, Grade A-: Hit .268/.360/.509 in 6992 PA, wRC+127, fWAR 45.0. Excellent career. Grade verified.
6) Nick Johnson, 1B, Yankees, Grade A-: Grade verified when healthy.
7) Mike Cuddyer, 3B, Twins, Grade A-: Grade verified.
8) Austin Kearns, OF, Reds, Grade A-: Grade verified.
9) Angel Berroa, SS, Royals, Grade A-: Hit .258/.303/.374 in 2807 PA, wRC+73, fWAR 0.4. Rookie of the Year in 2003 then faded very quickly. Was using a false age and was two years older than claimed. Would not have rated this highly if the true birthday had been known.
10) Kelly Johnson, SS, Braves, Grade A-: Hit .247/.330/.422 in 5139 PA, wRC+102, fWAR 18.5. Good solid player. Grade verified.
11) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Marlins, Grade A-: Career .290/.362/.492 in 7607 PA, wRC+130, fWAR 39.0. Excellent career. Grade verified.
12) Hee Seop Choi, 1B, Cubs, Grade B+: Did not verify.
13) Gabe Gross, OF, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Hit .239/.330/.385 in 1682 PA, wRC+91, fWAR 5.0. Had some value as a role player 2006-2009 but didn’t live up to the grade.
14) Joe Borchard, OF, White Sox, Grade B+: Did not verify.
15) Jayson Werth, C, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career .269/.362/.458 in 6077 PA, wRC+121, fWAR 35.4. A very productive long-term regular. Grade verified.
16) Ben Broussard, 1B, Reds, Grade B+: Good role player.
17) Joe Mauer, C, Twins, Grade B+: Career .308/.391/.446 in 6820 PA, 125 wRC+, fWAR 45.9. Another star and one of the best catchers in history, grade verified.
18) Brandon Phillips, SS, Expos, Grade B+: Career .275/.320/.421 in 7361 PA, 95 wRC+, fWAR 30.6. Struggled early in his career but grade eventually verified.
19) Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Marlins, Grade B+: Career .321/.399/.562 in 9001 PA, 153 wRC+, fWAR 68.0. One of the best hitters of his generation, a genuine superstar. Grade verified.
20) Chin Feng Chen, OF, Dodgers, Grade B+: Did not verify.
21) Drew Henson, 3B, Yankees, Grade B+: Did not verify.
22) Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins, Grade B+: Career .281/.348/.481 in 6392 PA, 116 wRC+, 247 homers, fWAR 22.5. Excellent hitter until injuries took their toll. Grade verified.
23) John Buck, C, Astros, Grade B+: Career .234/.301/.398 in 4004 PA, wRC+ 84, fWAR 10.6. Another guy who was not a star but has had some useful seasons.
24) Chris Burke, SS, Astros, Grade B+: Hit .239/.315/.359 in 1443 PA, wRC+76, fWAR 0.7. Good Triple-A player but never hit well enough to hold a big league job permanently. Did not verify.
25) Xavier Nady, 1B, Padres, Grade B+: Career .268/.323/.432 in 3241 PA, wRC+99 but hit 104 homers, fWAR 4.4. Had some useful moments due to his power but didn’t live up to expectations.
26) Chris Snelling, OF, Mariners, Grade B+: Career .244/.360/.400 in 273 PA, wRC+107, fWAR 0.2. One of the great recent what-ifs: I think Snelling would have been a fine player but he could not stay healthy.
27) Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Astros, Grade B+: Hit .263/.362/.468 in 2580 PA, wRC+116, fWAR 14.3. Played regularly for four years, career didn’t last long but he was productive. Grade verified.
28) Jose Reyes, SS, Mets, Grade B+: Career .289/.338/.431 in 7528 PA, 105 wRC+, fWAR 42.3. Grade verified, another successful long-term regular.
29) Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies, Grade B+: Career .275/.329/.430 in 6123 PA, wRC+ 102, fWAR 22.4. A long and productive career overall despite some ups-and-downs. Grade verified.
30) John Ford Griffin, OF, Yankees, Grade B+: Career .304/.370/.696 in 27 PA, wRC+ 168, fWAR 0.2. An effective Triple-A slugger who hit well in very limited major league action. A bust since he never established himself in the majors, but under different circumstances he may have been valuable.
31) Abraham Nunez, OF, Marlins, Grade B+: Did not verify.
COMMENTARY: For a few years this looked very good with Blalock at the top, but he faded too quickly. Berroa was an Age-Gate player who would not have been ranked that high if his true birthday had been known at the time.
1) Josh Beckett, RHP, Marlins, Grade A: Grade verified.
2) Dennis Tankersley, RHP, Padres, Grade A-: Career 7.61 ERA in 86 innings, 5.6 FIP, fWAR -0.7. Decent Triple-A pitcher but command wasn’t good enough in the majors. Did not verify.
3) Juan Cruz, RHP, Cubs, Grade A-: Decent reliever.
4) Mark Prior, RHP, Cubs, Grade A-: Career 3.51 ERA in 657 innings, 3.41 FIP, fWAR 15.4. Excellent until his arm fell off. Grade verified in talent terms.
5) Jake Peavy, RHP, Padres, Grade A-: Career 3.63 ERA in 2377 innings, 3.65 FIP, fWAR 44.5. Very effective pitcher. Grade verified.
6) Brandon Claussen, LHP, Yankees, Grade B+: Career 5.04 ERA in 316 innings, 4.88 FIP, fWAR 2.7. Decent year for the Reds in 2005, then his arm fell off.
7) Boof Bonser, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Career 5.18 ERA, 4.55 FIP in 417 innings, fWAR 4.0. Had some flashes of success with the Twins until his arm fell off.
8) Rafael Soriano, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 2.89 ERA, 3.35 FIP in 636 innings, fWAR 10.6, 207 saves. Grade verified.
9) Jeff Heaverlo, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Never reached majors, career ruined by shoulder injury.
10) Corwin Malone, LHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Never reached majors, command collapsed in Double-A.
11) Dewon Brazelton, RHP, Devil Rays, Grade B+: Career 6.38 ERA, 5.88 FIP in 271 innings, fWAR -0.6. Inability to develop secondary pitches made him a bust.
12) Kenny Baugh, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Never reached majors, lost his stuff after shoulder injury.
13) Jim Journell, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+: 13 innings in majors. Career ruined by shoulder injury.
14) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Braves, Grade B+: Career 3.17 ERA, 3.21 FIP in 1768 innings, fWAR 38.2. One of the best of his generation. Grade verified.
15) Carlos Hernandez, LHP, Astros, Grade B+: Career 4.54 ERA in 171 innings, 4.89 FIP, fWAR 1.2. Got off to a decent start in the majors but hurt his shoulder and was never the same.
16) Brad Thomas, LHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 5.80 ERA in 104 innings, 5.40 FIP, fWAR -0.6. Got hurt, went to Japan, back to US and emerged in Tigers bullpen in 2010 until getting hurt again.
17) Aaron Heilman, RHP, Mets, Grade B+: Career 4.40 ERA, 4.22 FIP in 630 innings, fWAR 3.3. Had a couple of decent bullpen seasons. Not a total bust but quite disappointing.
18) Seung Song, RHP, Expos, Grade B+: Did not make majors. Never the same after ‘04 shoulder injury.
19) Kurt Ainsworth, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Career 5.19 ERA, 4.88 FIP in 127 innings, fWAR 0.6. Injury bust due to broken bone in shoulder and torn rotator cuff.
COMMENTARY: More injury busts. Beckett looks great at the top, but Tankersley was an arm strength guy who didn’t pan out. Note conglomeration of shoulder injuries.