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) Andy Marte, 3B, Braves, Grade A: Bust. Did not verify.
2) Joel Guzman, SS, Dodgers, Grade A: Hit .232/.306/.321 in 62 PA, wRC+68, fWAR -0.1. Developed into an effective minor league power hitter, but poor strike zone judgment and questionable defense kept him from a big league job. Like Marte, tools and age-relative-to-league were Guzman’s key assets and they did not pan out. Bust.
3) Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies, Grade A: Did not verify.
4) Delmon Young, OF, Rays, Grade A-: Kinda verified sort-of.
5) Daric Barton, C, Athletics, Grade A-: Hit .247/.356/.365 in 2085 PA, wRC+102, fWAR 7.7. He was a catcher at the time but couldn’t stick there. Good on-base skills but lack of power for a first baseman made him disappointing. Not a total bust but much less than expected.
6) Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers, Grade A-: Grade verified.
7) Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels , Grade A-: Role player.
8) Dallas McPherson, 3B, Angels, Grade A-: Did not verify.
9) Carlos Quentin, OF, Dbacks, Grade A-: Hit .252/.347/.484 in 3247 PA, wRC+121, fWAR 10.1. A solid (at times outstanding) performer when healthy but had trouble staying that way. Grade verified.
10) Jeremy Reed, OF, Mariners, Grade A-: Did not verify.
11) Hanley Ramirez, SS, Red Sox, Grade A-: .295/.366/.495 in 6322 PA, wRC+129, fWAR 41.1, 276 steals. Excellent player. Grade verified.
12) Chris Nelson, SS, Rockies, Grade A-: Career .265/.311/.388 in 901 PA, wRC+ 79, fWAR -2.7. Toolsy infielder had trouble with bat in high minors, plus injuries. He did have a workable year for the Rockies in 2012 (wRC+103) but it didn’t stick. Highly disappointing. Did not verify.
13) Erick Aybar, SS, Angels, Grade A-: Solid player.
14) Rickie Weeks , 2B, Brewers, Grade A-: Solid when healthy.
15) Jason Kubel, OF, Twins, Grade A-: Hit .262/.330/.448 in 3883 PA, wRC+105, fWAR 1.0. Horrible defense limits WAR value but he hit well when healthy, 140 homers and seven years of good production. Grade verified as a hitter.
16) Kendrys Morales, 1B, Angels, Grade B+: Hit .273/.331/.465 in 4077 PA, wRC+114, fWAR 8.3. Like Kubel, a productive power hitter with defensive limitations. Grade verified.
17) Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians, Grade B+: Grade verified.
18) Nick Swisher, OF, Athletics, Grade B+: Hit .249/.351/.447 in 6308 PA, wRC+114, fWAR 25.4. Productive long-term regular. Grade verified.
19) Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies, Grade B+: Hit .258/.343/.515 in 6531 PA, wRC+121, fWAR 19.4, 382 homers. Aged badly but outstanding at his peak. Grade verified.
20) Stephen Drew, SS, DBacks, Grade B+: Hit .252/.318/.424 in 4811 PA, wRC+92, fWAR 14.0. Problems with durability but very good at his peak. Grade verified.
21) Conor Jackson, OF, Dbacks, Grade B+: Hit .271/.351/.407 in 2485 PA, wRC+98, fWAR 3.2. Above-average hitter for three seasons until struck down by injuries. Grade mostly verified, didn’t pan out due to health.
22) Michael Aubrey, 1B, Indians, Grade B+: Injury bust.
23) Omar Quintanilla, INF, Athletics, Grade B+: Hit .220/.287/.295 in 1162 PA, wRC+52, fWAR -1.9. Decent glove but couldn’t hit major league pitching, had trouble holding a bench job. Did not verify.
24) Eric Duncan, 3B, Yankees, Grade B+: Never made the majors, bat topped out in Triple-A. Did not verify.
25) Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Mariners, Grade B+: Grade verified.
27) Wes Bankston, OF, Rays, Grade B+: Hit .203/.238/.305 in 63 PA, wRC+42, fWAR -0.4. Solid Triple-A hitter but didn’t take advantage of his brief big league trial. Hit well in Mexican League. Did not verify.
28) Brian Dopirak, 1B, Cubs, Grade B+: Never made the majors. Effective minor league slugger, 162 homers and did well in Triple-A but the chance never came. Did not verify.
29) Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds, Grade B+: Hit .266/.352/.498 in 6211 PA, wRC+126, fWAR 27.6. Highly productive regular. Grade verified.
30) Jon Zeringue, OF, DBacks, Grade B+: Didn’t make the majors. Had one good year in Double-A at age 25 then vanished. Did not verify.
31) Jeremy Hermida , OF, Marlins, Grade B+: Call Scooby Doo. This one’s a mystery.
32) Chris Burke, 2B, Astros, Grade B+: Did not verify.
33) Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Indians, Grade B+: Hit .257/.311/.409 in 3227 PA, wRC+96, fWAR 16.4. Not a good bat but outstanding defense gave him a career. Grade verified.
34) Brad Snyder, OF, Indians, Grade B+: Hit .167/.225/.288 in 71 PA, wRC+36, fWAR -0.4. Excellent Triple-A player with power and speed, didn’t hit well in brief major league chance and never got another one. I suspect he could have had a major league career under different circumstances. Did not verify.
35) Joey Votto, 1B, Reds, Grade B+: Hit .313/.425/.536 in 5434 PA, wRC+157, fWAR 46.8. Outstanding hitter in all respects. Grade verified.
36) Richie Robnett, OF, Athletics, Grade B+: Did not reach majors. Toolsy outfielder had trouble with strike zone in Triple-A and kept getting injured, out of baseball at 27. Did not verify.
37) Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels, Grade B+: Hit .289/.332/.417 in 5457 PA, wRC+106, fWAR 26.9. Solid long-term regular at a tough position. Grade verified.
38) Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles, Grade B+: Hit .289/.358/.426 in 7336 PA, wRC+110, fWAR 24.3. Solid long-term regular. Grade verified.
39) Val Majewski , OF, Orioles, Grade B+: Went 2-for-13 in nine major league games. Hit great in Double-A in ’04, then missed all of ’05 with torn labrum and was never the same. Injury bust.
40) Ian Kinsler, SS, Rangers, Grade B+: Hit .277/.344/.451 in 6871 PA, wRC+112, fWAR 44.2. Hurrah for the 17th round draft picks. Grade verified.
41) Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians, Grade B+: Hit .275/.347/.434 in 1752 PA, wRC+108, fWAR 0.6. Played regularly for three years with some success but didn’t hold it long-term. Partially verified.
42) Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves, Grade B+: He got to play.
43) Brian McCann, C, Braves, Grade B+: Hit .266/.340/.459 in 5919 PA, wRC+113, fWAR 34.9. Excellent player. Grade verified.
44) Billy Butler, 3B, Royals, Grade B+: Hit .290/.354/.441 in 5686 PA, wRC+115, fWAR 5.9. Very limited defensively but he can hit. Grade verified as hitter.
45) Brandon Moss, OF, Red Sox, Grade B+: Hit .241/.319/.455 in 3120 PA, wRC+110, fWAR 9.2. It took some time but he got the bat going eventualy, 138 homers. Verified.
46) Mitch Einertson, OF, Astros, Grade B+: Did not reach the majors. Destroyed rookie ball pitching in ’04 and had one good year in High-A but otherwise a total bust.
47) Hernan Iribarren, 2B, Brewers, Grade B: Hit .185/.241/.296 in 29 at-bats, wRC+40, fWAR 0.0. Hit well in Triple-A but never made the leap. Did not verify.
48) Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers, Grade B: Hit .255/.340/.474 in 7013 PA, wRC+118, fWAR 43.8. Excellent at his peak. Grade verified.
49) Justin Huber, C, Royals, Grade B: Did not verify.
50) Russ Adams, SS, Blue Jays, Grade B: Did not verify.
COMMENTARY: The early spots on this list were a disaster. The tools/youth picks (Marte, Guzman, Young) didn’t work. The stat-based picks (Barton, Reed) didn’t work. Whether this is bad luck or bad analysis is an open question but in retrospect the flaws in each player should have been more obvious to me. The list actually got better in the teens.
I had spent a lot of time refining analysis of pitchers, assuming that the hitters were actually easier to analyze. In 2005 at least, that proved not to be the case.
You learn most from your mistakes and this one taught me a lot.