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) Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers, Grade A: Grade verified.
2) Francisco Liriano, LHP, Twins, Grade A: Career 4.05 ERA in 1513 innings, 3.70 FIP, fWAR 23.3. Erratic with health troubles but outstanding at times. Grade verified.
3) Matt Cain, RHP, Giants, Grade A-: Grade verified.
4) Chad Billingsley, RHP, Dodgers, Grade A-: Grade verified.
5) Craig Hansen, RHP, Red Sox, Grade A-: Career 6.34 ERA in 94 innings, 5.27 FIP, fWAR -0.2. Closer prospect failed due to command problems. Did not verify. Part of the reason I seldom grade relief prospects as highly these days.
6) Jason Hirsh, RHP, Astros, Grade A-: Career 5.32 ERA in 166 innings, 5.82 FIP, fWAR 0.5. Showed flashes but lost his stuff after rotator cuff injury. Did not verify.
7) Cesar Carrillo, RHP, Padres, Grade A-: 10 major league innings with a 13.06 ERA. Never the same after Tommy John surgery. Injury bust.
8) Jon Lester, LHP, Red Sox, Grade B+: Career 3.44 ERA in 2004 innings, 3.50 ERA, fWAR 38.9. Consistently successful long-term starter. Grade verified.
9) Jon Papelbon, RHP, Red Sox, Grade B+: Grade verified.
10) Fernando Cabrera, RHP, Indians, Grade B+: Did not verify.
11) Scott Baker, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Grade verified.
12) Joel Zumaya, RHP, Tigers, Grade B+: Grade verified when healthy.
13) Jonathan Broxton, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Grade verified.
14) Luke Hochevar, RHP, Unsigned, Grade B+: Career 4.98 ERA in 929 innings, 4.31 FIP, fWAR 8.0. Highly disappointing as a starter, moved to relief and was better then got hurt.
15) Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Mets, Grade B+: Career 4.57 ERA in 1356 innings, 4.29 FIP, fWAR 13.4. Had a few decent years, workhorse type but no ace.
16) Scott Elbert, LHP, Dodgers, Grade B+: Career 3.61 ERA in 92 innings, 3.92 FIP, fWAR 0.2. Not a bad pitcher when healthy but couldn’t avoid doctors. Did not verify.
17) Jeremy Sowers, LHP, Indians, Grade B+: Career 5.18 ERA in 400 innings, 4.95 FIP, fWAR 3.0. Finesse lefty had some moments but his shoulder gave out. Did not verify.
18) Scott Olsen, LHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Meh pitcher.
19) Troy Patton, LHP, Astros, Grade B+: Career 3.25 ERA in 169 innings, 3.91 FIP, fWAR 1.3. Solid pitcher when healthy, good on a per-inning basis but durability troubles confined him to pen.
20) Anthony Reyes, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+: Did not verify.
21) Jered Weaver, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Grade verified.
22) Yusmeiro Petit, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Partially verified.
23) Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 3.93 ERA in 1487 innings, 3.76 FIP, fWAR 24.7. Quite successful until 2015. Grade verified.
24) Jose Capellan, RHP, Brewers, Grade B+: Did not verify.
25) Merkin Valdez, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Did not verify.
26) Phil Hughes, RHP, Yankees, Grade B+: Career 4.41 ERA in 1204 innings, 4.11 FIP, fWAR 17.9. Found his niche in Minnesota then got hurt but I think Grade verified overall.
27) Eric Hurley, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 5.47 ERA in 25 innings, 5.93 FIP, fWAR 0.0. Career ruined by torn rotator cuff. Injury bust.
28) Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds, Grade B+: Career 4.24 ERA in 1033 innings, 4.01 FIP, fWAR 13.7. A good pitcher until injuries struck. Grade verified.
29) Edinson Volquez, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 4.44 ERA in 1432 innings, 4.29 FIP, fWAR 12.4. Erratic, very good at times but you never quite know what you’re going to get. Grade verified.
30) Jimmy Barthmaier, RHP, Astros, Grade B+: 10 big league innings with 10.45 ERA. Had Tommy John and didn’t fully recover. Did not verify.
31) Matt Garza, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 4.03 ERA in 1596 innings, 4.05 FIP, fWAR 22.2. Solid starter much of the time but with durability issues. Grade verified.
32) Anthony Swarzak, RHP, Twins, Grade B+: Career 4.52 ERA in 484 innings, 4.30 FIP, fWAR 1.2. Adequate utility pitcher, didn’t really verify but not a total bust.
33) Jairo Garcia, RHP, Athletics, Grade B+: Grade verified.
34) Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Phillies, Grade B+: Grade verified.
35) Ray Liotta, LHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Never recovered from 2007 shoulder injury. Health bust.
36) Mark Pawelek, LHP, Cubs, Grade B+: Health bust.
37) Bobby Jenks, RHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Grade verified.
38) John Danks, LHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Grade verified.
39) Thomas Diamond, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Did not verify.
40) David Purcey, LHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Did not verify.
41) Chris Ray, RHP, Orioles, Grade B+: Career 4.10 ERA in 281 innings, 4.46 FIP, fWAR 1.0, 51 saves. Got off to a good start then his arm fell off.
42) Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies, Grade B+: Grade verified.
43) Ricky Romero, LHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+ Career 4.16 ERA in 801 innings, 4.34 FIP, fWAR 9.0. Good three-year run, effective when healthy. Grade verified.
44) Chuck James, LHP, Braves, Grade B+: Career 4.53 ERA in 326 innings, 5.52 FIP, fWAR 0.1. Had a few good
moments with the Braves but couldn’t sustain it.
45) Travis Bowyer, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: 10 big league innings with 5.59 ERA. Career ruined by shoulder injury. Health bust.
46) Dustin McGowan, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Role pitcher.
47) Matt Torra, RHP, Diamondbacks, Grade B+: Never reached majors. Labrum tear cost him his fastball and he evolved into a Triple-A inning-eater. Did not verify.
48) Donald Veal, LHP, Chicago Cubs, Grade B: Career 4.87 ERA in 65 innings, 4.24 FIP, fWAR 0.3. Injuries, mechanical troubles, and command problems. Did not verify.
49) Wade Davis, RHP, Rays, Grade B: Career 3.53 ERA in 777 innings, 3.69 FIP, fWAR 12.0. Erratic as a starter but has found niche in bullpen. Grade verified.
50) Dustin Nippert, RHP, Diamondbacks, Grade B: Did not verify.
COMMENTARY: Pattern persists: most pitching failures are related to injury.