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.
We looked at 1996 here. Players who first appeared on the list in 1996 have their stats in that article.
We looked at 1997 here. Players who first appeared on the list in '97 have their stats there.
Here's 1998. Players who first appeared on the list in '98 have their stats there.
HAL wants you to check out 2001.
Don't miss 2002.
Here are the Top 50 hitters from 2003.
And the Top 50 Pitchers from 2003.
Want some more hitters? Here are the Top 50 from 2004.
1) Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals, Grade A: Grade verified.
2) Ryan Wagner , RHP, Reds, Grade A: Career 4.79 ERA in 165 innings, 4.50 FIP, fWAR -0.2. Hard-throwing relief prospect fizzled out with command troubles. I would be very unlikely to rate a closer prospect this highly nowadays.
3) Edwin Jackson, RHP, Dodgers, Grade A: Career 4.65 ERA in 1724 innings, 4.27 FIP, fWAR 17.1. Although he didn’t become an ace he’s been a regular starter for ten years. Grade verified.
4) Joe Blanton, RHP, Athletics, Grade A-: Career 4.35 ERA in 1723 innings, 4.13 FIP, fWAR 21.0. Very similar value to Jackson. Grade verified.
5) Scott Kazmir , LHP, Mets, Grade A-: Grade verified.
6) Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies, Grade A-: Career 3.31 ERA in 2214 innings, 3.53 FIP, fWAR 44.0. Excellent starting pitcher. Grade verified.
7) Dustin McGowan, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade A-: Decent role pitcher when healthy.
8) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals, Grade A-: Grade verified.
9) Gavin Floyd , RHP, Phillies, Grade A-: Solid starter. Grade verified.
10) Kris Honel , RHP, White Sox, Grade A-: Arm fell off. Injury bust, failed Tommy John.
11) Greg Miller, LHP, Dodgers, Grade A-: Career ruined by bad shoulder. Injury bust.
12) Jimmy Gobble, LHP, Royals, Grade B+: Very disappointing.
13) Ervin Santana, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Grade verified.
14) Joel Hanrahan, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Good closer. Grade verified.
15) Merkin Valdez, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Career 5.57 ERA in 73 innings, 4.90 FIP, fWAR -0.3. Failed due to command problems and injuries. Did not verify.
16) Blake Hawksworth , RHP, Cardinals. Grade B+: Career 4.07 ERA in 183 innings, 4.49 FIP, fWAR -0.5. Lost parts of three seasons to injuries and never quite overcame it. Did not verify.
17) Jesse Crain, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 3.05 ERA in 532 innings, 3.77 FIP, fWAR 6.5. Solid middle relief type but didn’t become the closer I’d hoped. Effective on per-inning basis so grade verified.
18) John Maine, RHP, Orioles, Grade B+: Career 4.45 ERA in 593 innings, 4.70 FIP, fWAR 4.5. Had one good year and two mediocre ones with the Mets, generally effective when healthy but his shoulder was usually not healthy.
19) Angel Guzman, RHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Did not verify.
20) Chadd Blasko, RHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Shoulder blew out in 2004 and he never recovered. Injury bust.
21) Macay McBride, LHP, Braves, Grade B+: Did not verify.
22) Taylor Buchholz, RHP, Astros, Grade B+: Role pitcher.
23) Manny Parra, LHP, Brewers, Grade B+: Career 4.90 ERA in 628 innings, 4.17 FIP, fWAR 5.3. Some success at first but moved to bullpen, useful role pitcher.
24) David Bush, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career 4.73 ERA in 1144 innings, 4.69 FIP, fWAR 9.9. Pitched reasonably well for four seasons before fading.
25) Chad Gaudin, RHP, Devil Rays, Grade B+: Career 4.44 ERA in 836 innings, 4.54 FIP, fWAR 4.6. Another fairly useful role pitcher.
26) Brian Bruney, RHP, Dbacks, Grade B+: Career 4.68 ERA in 260 innings, 4.82 FIP, fWAR 0.2. A basic generic middle relief pitcher who did not meet expectations. Did not verify.
27) Bobby Jenks, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Career 3.53 ERA in 357 innings, 3.21 FIP, fWAR 8.1, 173 saves. Faded quickly but good for several years. Grade verified.
28) Andy Sisco, LHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Did not verify.
29) Francisco Cruceta, RHP, Indians, Grade B+: Career 7.96 ERA in 26 innings, 6.34 FIP, fWAR -0.4 Undone by control troubles and injuries. Did not verify.
30) Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 3.16 ERA in 2415 innings, 3.29 FIP, fWAR 51.1 Outstanding in all respects. Grade verified.
31) Joel Zumaya, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Career 3.05 ERA in 210 innings, 3.94 FIP, fWAR 2.9. He was really good when his arm let him pitch. I consider this verified in terms of talent; the analysis that he would be a good pitcher was correct.
32) Dan Meyer, LHP, Braves, Grade B+: Career 5.46 ERA in 114 innings, 5.18 FIP, fWAR 0.0. Had one good year in the bullpen, but shoulder trouble robbed him of the ability to start. Did not verify but health was a key problem.
33) Denny Bautista, RHP, Orioles, Grade B+: Career 5.88 ERA in 223 innings, 4.68 FIP, fWAR 0.8. Ultimate tease, had great stuff but could never make the command work. Did not verify.
34) Jason Young , RHP, Rockies, Grade B+: Did not verify. Injury.
35) Sean Burnett , LHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Role pitcher.
36) Chin-hui Tsao, RHP, Rockies, Grade B+: Did not verify. Injury.
37) Travis Blackley, LHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 5.23 ERA in 193 innings, 5.28 FIP, fWAR -0.7. Missed all of 2005 with shoulder injury and was never the same. Did not verify, injury bust.
38) Jeff Francis, LHP, Rockies, Grade B+: Career 4.97 ERA in 1291 innings, 4.39 FIP, fWAR 16.0. Effective when healthy early in his career. Grade verified.
39) Clint Nageotte, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Did not verify.
40) Josh Banks, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career 5.66 ERA in 119 innings, 5.54 FIP, fWAR -1.0. Effective Triple-A pitcher due to sharp control but stuff was short for the majors. Did not verify.
41) John VanBenschoten, RHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Injury bust.
42) Boof Bonser , RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Role pitcher.
43) Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Career 4.52 ERA in 1707 innings, 3.85 FIP, fWAR 23.9. Good solid starter. Grade verified.
44) Ian Oquendo , RHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Changed name to Ian Snell. Career 4.80 ERA in 804 innings, 4.62 FIP, fWAR 6.0. Started regularly for four seasons so not exactly a failure, even if he didn’t reach expectations.
45) Chad Cordero, RHP, Expos, Grade B: Career 2.89 ERA in 330 innings, 4.05 FIP, fWAR 2.0, 128 saves. Effective closer until his arm gave out. Grade verified on a per-inning basis but not durable.
46) Kevin Correia, RHP, Giants, Grade B: Career 4.62 ERA in 1429 innings, 4.53 FIP, fWAR 7.1. Not a great pitcher but ate innings. Grade verified.
47) Ryan Madson, RHP, Phillies, Grade B: Career 3.47 ERA in 758 innings, 3.67 FIP, fWAR 10.0, 85 saves. Effective relief pitcher for ten seasons. Grade verified.
48) Dustin Nippert, RHP, Dbacks , Grade B: Career 5.31 ERA in 268 innings, 4.87 FIP, fWAR 1.2. Good Triple-A pitcher, had a decent season in the majors with Texas in 2009 but never got established, had injuries.
49) Dustin Moseley, RHP, Reds, Grade B: Career 4.67 ERA in 358 innings, 4.62 FIP, fWAR 1.5. Occasional success with Angels and Padres but never got fully established, had injuries, etc.
50) Grant Balfour, RHP, Twins, Grade B: Career 3.49 ERA in 540 innings, 3.55 FIP, fWAR 6.5, 84 saves. Very effective when healthy. Grade verified.
COMMENTARY: Big win at the top with Greinke and there was good depth behind him, but also a big bust with Wagner. Nowadays I would not rank a relief prospect that highly. And yet again the huge busts were usually guys who got hurt.