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. 2003 was the first year with Top 50 Hitters and Top 50 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) Jesse Foppert , RHP, Giants, Grade A-: Career 5.00 ERA, 5.27 FIP in 122 innings, fWAR 0.1. Blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and never fully recovered. Injury bust.
2) Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Angels, Grade A-: Career 2.73 ERA, 3.20 FIP in 951 innings, fWAR 17.2, 430 saves. Grade verified.
3) Rich Harden , RHP, Athletics, Grade A-: Career 3.76 ERA, 3.95 FIP in 928 innings, fWAR 16.9. Had problems staying healthy but was an effective pitcher when not injured. I count this as grade verified.
4) Jerome Williams , RHP, Giants, Grade A-: Career 4.59 ERA, 4.64 FIP in 1030 innings, fWAR 4.3. Obviously a disappointment but lasted a long time as a journeyman.
5) Kurt Ainsworth, RHP, Giants, Grade A-: Injury bust.
6) Rafael Soriano, RHP, Mariners, Grade A-: Career 2.89 ERA, 3.35 FIP in 636 innings, fWAR 10.6, 207 saves. Grade verified.
7) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Braves, Grade A-: Career 3.17 ERA, 3.21 FIP in 1768 innings, fWAR 38,.2, 134 wins. Grade verified.
8) Gavin Floyd , RHP, Phillies, Grade A-: Career 4.37 ERA, 4.34 FIP in 1250 innings, fWAR 16.2, 74 wins. Not a great pitcher, somewhat disappointing but has value as an inning-eater, hardly a failure.
9) Jeremy Bonderman, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Career 4.91 ERA, 4.31 FIP in 1231 innings, fWAR 16.7, 69 wins. Very similar to Floyd: didn’t become an ace, but hardly a failure.
10) Scott Kazmir, LHP, Mets, Grade B+: Career 4.01 ERA, 4.01 FIP in 1690 innings, fWAR 25.1. Injury problems but very effective when healthy. Grade verified.
11) Ricardo Rodriguez, RHP, Indians, Grade B+: Career 5.18 ERA, 5.35 FIP in 207 innings, fWAR 0.9. Undone by command problems and injuries. Bust.
12) Aaron Heilman, RHP, Mets, Grade B+: Decent reliever for a couple of years.
13) Macay McBride, LHP, Grade B+: Career 4.35 ERA, 3.96 FIP in 103 innings, fWAR 0.9. Some early bullpen success but fizzled out quickly due to injuries and command problems. Bust.
14) Brian Tallet, LHP, Indians, Grade B+: Career 4.79 ERA, 4.84 FIP in 460 innings, fWAR 1.5. Classic journeyman, a few moments of success but couldn’t sustain it. Not a bust-bust but not a triumph either.
15) Billy Traber, LHP, Indians, Grade B+: Career 5.65 ERA, 4.73 FIP in 215 innings, fWAR 1.0. Basic replacement level pitcher.
16) Colby Lewis, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 4.70 ERA, 4.47 FIP in 1215 innings, fWAR 12.8 Looked like a bust but rebuilt his career in Japan and has kept going despite injury issues. Verified.
17) Jason Arnold , RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Never reached the majors. Injury bust.
18) Clint Nageotte, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 7.78 ERA, 5.57 FIP in 42 innings, fWAR -0.1. Bust due to control problems and injuries.
19) Ryan Hannaman, LHP, Giants, Grade B+: Never reached the majors. Injury bust. Out of baseball in ’05.
20) John VanBenschoten, RHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Career 9.20 ERA, 6.33 FIP in 90 innings, fWAR -1.0. Unable to rebound from torn rotator cuff in 2006. Injury bust.
21) Kris Honel , RHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Did not pitch well after Tommy John surgery, never reached majors. Injury bust.
22) Ben Kozlowski, LHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 6.30 ERA, 9.26 FIP in 10 innings, fWAR -0.3. Never the same after Tommy John surgery. Injury bust.
23) Jason Young , RHP, Rockies, Grade B+: Career 9.71 ERA, 7.69 FIP in 30 innings, fWAR-0.3. Was out of baseball by 2006. Bust. I think there was an injury here but I don’t know what it was.
24) Sean Burnett, LHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Career 3.52 ERA, 4.16 FIP in 378 innings, fWAR 1.2. Devolved into a reliever after 2005 injury. Good bullpen run from ’08 through ’12, reppeared this year.
25) Jonathan Figueroa, LHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Never reached the majors. Failed at higher levels due to control problems and injuries. Bust.
26) Joel Hanrahan, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Career 3.85 ERA, 3.75 FIP in 405 innings, fWAR 3.0. 100 saves. Successful closer, grade verified, can’t call someone with 100 saves a bust even if WAR doesn’t like them.
27) Boof Bonser , RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Good for a little bit then got hurt.
28) Ervin Santana, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Career 4.09 ERA, 4.22 FIP in 2172 innings, fWAR 25.3, 133 wins. Grade verified.
29) Andy Sisco, LHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Career 5.18 ERA, 4.56 FIP in 148 innings, fWAR 0.5. Had a good rookie year in the Royals bullpen but command collapsed after that.
30) Bobby Basham, RHP, Reds, Grade B+: Never made the majors. Career ruined by shoulder problems. Injury bust.
31) Angel Guzman, RHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Career 4.82 ERA, 4.56 FIP in 157 innings, fWAR 0.9. Had a good year in the Cubs pen in ’09, but command troubles and injuries undermined him.
32) Joe Valentine, RHP, Athletics, Grade B+: Career 6.70 ERA, 6.59 FIP in 46 innings, fWAR –0.8. Control problems. Bust.
33) Seung Song, RHP, Expos, Grade B+: Injury bust.
34) Franklyn German, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Career 4.25 ERA, 5.46 FIP in 159 innings, fWAR -1.1. Undone by command problems. Bust.
35) Dontrelle Willis, LHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 4.17 ERA, 4.22 FIP in 1222 innings, fWAR 15.1. Eventually worn down by injuries but he was very successful for a while. Grade verified.
36) Don Levinski, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Never made the majors. Arm fell off in 2005. Injury bust.
37) Dewon Brazelton, RHP, Devil Rays, Grade B+: Did not verify.
38) Dustin McGowan, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career 4.46 ERA, 4.41 FIP in 573 innings, fWAR 4.5. Fought his way back from injuries and command troubles, OK bullpen arm.
39) Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals, Grade B+: Career 3.42 ERA, 3.37 FIP in 2253 innings, fWAR 48.1, 155 wins. Grade verified.
40) John Patterson, RHP, DBacks, Grade B: Grade verified.
41) Bubba Nelson, RHP, Braves, Grade B: Never reached the majors, command troubles couldn’t get over Triple-A hump. Bust.
42) Cliff Lee, LHP, Indians, Grade B: Career 3.52 ERA, 3.45 FIP in 2157 innings, fWAR 47.3, 143 career wins. Obviously a grade that verified and if anything should have been higher.
43) Jimmy Gobble, LHP, Royals, Grade B: Career 5.29 ERA, 5.06 FIP in 436 innings, fWAR 3.1. Had a few moments of success but obviously a serious disappointment.
44) Andrew Brown, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B: Career 3.84 ERA, 3.75 FIP in 87 innings, fWAR 0.8. Pitched decently in brief trial but faded quickly with injuries and command issues.
45) Mike Nicolas, RHP, Padres, Grade B: Didn’t reach the majors. Got hurt, out of baseball by ’05. Injury bust.
46) Luke Hagerty , LHP, Cubs, Grade B: Blew out elbow in ’03, had Tommy John surgery and did not recover. Didn’t make majors. Injury bust.
47) John Rheinecker, LHP, Athletics, Grade B: Career 5.65 ERA, 4.96 FIP in 121 innings, fWAR 1.1. Got hurt in 2005 and was never the same, out of baseball by ’09.
48) Taylor Buchholz, RHP, Phillies, Grade B: Career 4.28 ERA, 4.30 FIP in 311 innings, fWAR 3.1. Moment of success in Rockies bullpen in 2008 and with Mets in ‘11. Fought battles with depression.
49) Travis Foley, RHP, Indians, Grade B: Never reached majors. Hurt his arm in ’04 and was never the same. Out of baseball by ’08.
50) Mike Gosling, LHP, DBacks, Grade B: Career 4.85 ERA, 5.79 FIP in 117 innings, fWAR -0.6. Control problems were the big issue here. Bust.
COMMENTARY: The correlation between injuries and pitching prospect failures continues.