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) Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners, Grade A: Grade verified.
2) Adam Miller, RHP, Indians, Grade A: Never reached majors. Looked great until hampered by persistent health problems. Injury bust.
3) Jeff Francis, LHP, Rockies, Grade A: Grade verified.
4) Chad Billingsley, RHP, Dodgers, Grade A-: Career 3.72 ERA in 1212 innings, 3.70 FIP, fWAR 19.6. Very good until his elbow gave out. Grade verified.
5) Scott Kazmir, LHP, Rays, Grade A-: Grade verified.
6) Jesse Crain, RHP, Twins, Grade A-: Performed well on a per-inning basis.
7) Dan Meyer, LHP, Athletics, Grade A-: Injury bust.
8) Huston Street, RHP, Athletics, Grade A-: Career 2.97 ERA in 676 innings, 3.33 FIP, fWAR 10.5, 324 saves. Grade verified.
9) Gavin Floyd, RHP, Phillies, Grade A-: Grade verified more or less.
10) Matt Cain, RHP, Giants, Grade A-: Career 3.57 ERA in 1961 innings, 3.84 FIP, fWAR 24.4. Very effective and consistent until getting hurt. Grade verified.
11) Mike Hinckley, LHP, Nationals, Grade A-: Career 1.93 ERA in 23 innings, 4.70 FIP, fWAR -0.2. Huge slippage in both stuff and command beginning in ’05, rebounded after moving to bullpen and got brief trial in majors, out of baseball by 29. Did not verify.
12) Brandon McCarthy, RHP, White Sox, Grade A-: Career 4.17 ERA in 1052 innings, 4.04 FIP, fWAR 13.9. Durability issues but effective when healthy. Grade verified.
13) Brandon League, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career 3.65 ERA in 532 innings, 3.88 FIP, fWAR 2.5, 74 saves. WAR doesn’t like him but he had a good career in relief when healthy.
14) Merkin Valdez, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Did not verify.
15) Ian Snell, RHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Grade verified.
16) Anthony Reyes, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+: Career 5.12 ERA in 293 innings, 5.13 FIP, fWAR 1.0. Looked good at times but could not stay healthy. Did not verify.
17) Jose Capellan, RHP, Brewers, Grade B+: Career 4.89 ERA in 123 innings, 5.08 FIP, fWR -0.4. Command troubles kept him on the cusp until his arm died, out of baseball at 29. Did not verify.
18) J.D. Durbin, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 6.19 ERA in 73 innings, 4.89 FIP, fWAR 0.3. Great stuff but he couldn’t command it. Did not verify.
19) Scott Baker, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 4.26 ERA in 1065 innings, 4.07 FIP, fWAR 15.7. Very good starter until he got hurt. Grade verified.
20) Joe Blanton, RHP, Athletics, Grade B+: Grade verified.
21) Yusmeiro Petit, RHP, Mets, Grade B+: Career 4.58 ERA in 537 innings, 4.37 FIP, fWAR 2.9. Eventually found a niche with the Giants. I’ll say partially verified.
22) Jairo Garcia, RHP, Athletics, Grade B+: Now known as Santiago Casilla. Career 3.19 ERA in 555 innings, 3.89 FIP, fWAR 1.9, 127 saves. Useful major league reliever. Grade verified.
23) Richie Gardner , RHP, Reds, Grade B+: Torn labrum in 2005, never recovered. Injury bust.
24) Denny Bautista, RHP, Royals, Grade B+: Did not verify.
25) Kyle Davies, RHP, Braves, Grade B+: Career 5.59 ERA in 768 innings, 4.89 FIP, fWAR 5.3. I didn’t know he had a positive WAR value. Sort of the Jeff Francoeur of pitchers. I wonder what they have in common.
26) Jacob Stevens, LHP, Braves, Grade B+: Never reached majors. Command fell apart, stuff declined. Did not verify.
27) Jon Papelbon, RHP, Red Sox, Grade B+: Career 2.44 ERA in 726 innings, 2.81 FIP, fWAR 19.0, 368 saves. Outstanding closer. Grade verified.
28) Chad Orvella, RHP, Rays, Grade B+: Career 5.79 ERA in 82 innings, 5.64 FIP, fWAR -0.7. Good Triple-A pitcher but command failed him in the majors. Did not verify.
29) Scott Olsen, LHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 4.85 ERA in 723 innings, 4.89 FIP, fWAR 3.9. Showed flashes, but derailed by a torn labrum/shoulder problems. Not a total bust but not great by any means.
30) Jered Weaver, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Career 3.55 ERA in 2025 innings, 3.99 FIP, fWAR 31.4. Excellent starting pitcher for many years. Grade verified.
31) Gio Gonzalez, LHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Career 3.73 ERA in 1442 innings, 3.53 FIP, fWAR 24.4. It took some time but he figured out what he was doing. Grade verified.
32) Jonathan Broxton, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Career 3.33 ERA in 660 innings, 3.10 FIP, fWAR 11.1, 118 saves. Excellent when healthy. Grade verified.
33) Zach Duke, LHP, Pirates, Grade B+: Career 4.31 ERA in 1266 innings, 4.14 FIP, fWAR 13.8. Not a great pitcher but had four decent seasons.
34) Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Career 3.47 ERA in 2339 innings, 3.44 FIP, fWAR 52.6. Outstanding ace, genuine number one starter. Grade verified.
35) Glen Perkins, LHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 3.83 ERA in 619 innings, 3.87 FIP, fWAR 7.4, 120 saves. Fizzled as starter then emerged as solid closer. Grade verified.
36) Thomas Diamond, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 6.83 ERA in 29 innings, 4.91 FIP, fWAR 0.0. He blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 2007 but was never the same. Injury bust.
37) Jeff Niemann, RHP, Rays, Grade B+: Career 4.08 ERA in 544 innings, 4.23 FIP, fWAR 6.2. Effective when healthy but could not stay that way. Grade verified in talent terms.
38) J.P. Howell, LHP, Royals, Grade B+: Career 3.79 ERA in 609 innings, 3.94 FIP, fWAR 4.4, 22 saves. Good solid relief pitcher, grade verified on a per-inning basis.
39) John Danks, LHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 4.38 ERA in 1503 innings, 4.41 FIP, fWAR 18.0. Successful starting pitcher. Grade verified.
40) Thomas Pauly, RHP, Reds, Grade B+: Torn labrum in 2005 and never recovered. Injury bust.
41) David Purcey , LHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Career 4.98 ERA in 206 innings, 4.61 FIP, fWAR 1.1. Good stuff but command problems made him a Triple-A pitcher. Did not verify.
42) Edwin Jackson, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B: Grade verified.
43) Juan Dominguez, RHP, Rangers, Grade B: Career 4.60 ERA in 110 innings, 5.11 FIP, fWAR 1.0. Pitched well in majors in 2005, career then ruined by ankle injury. Health bust.
44) David Aardsma, RHP, Giants, Grade B: Career 4.27 ERA in 337 innings, 4.45 FIP, fWAR 0.6, 69 saves. Had some good moments but undone by injuries and command troubles. Disappointing but not a total bust.
45) Josh Banks, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B: Did not verify.
46) Fernando Cabrera, RHP, Indians, Grade B: Career 5.24 ERA in 175 innings, 5.02 FIP, fWAR -0.6. Didn’t show the necessary command. Did not verify.
47) Fernando Nieve, RHP, Astros, Grade B: Career 4.61 ERA in 186 innings, 5.40 FIP, fWAR -1.0. Another command bust. Did not verify.
48) Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies, Grade B: Grade verified.
49) Adam Harben, RHP, Twins, Grade B: Blew out elbow, had Tommy John surgery and did not recover. Injury bust.
50) Yhency Brazoban, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B: Career 4.76 ERA in 121 innings, 4.37 FIP, fWAR -0.1. Saved 21 games in 2005 but slipped from there, ended up in Mexican League.
COMMENTARY: Yet again most of the failures were related to injuries.