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Reviewing the Top Prospects of 1997

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Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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.


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 yesterday. Players who first appeared on the list in 1996 have their stats in that article.

1997 Hitters

1) Andruw Jones, OF, Braves, Grade A:
Grade verified.

2) Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Expos, Grade A:
Grade verified.

3) Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Red Sox, Grade A:
Grade verified.

4) Scott Rolen, 3B, Phillies, Grade A:
Grade verified.

5) Paul Konerko, 1B, Dodgers, Grade A:
Career .279/.354/.486 in 9505 PA, 439 homers, wRC+118, fWAR 23.2 Grade verified.

6) Ruben Rivera, OF, Yankees, Grade A-:
Did not verify.

7) Edgard Velazquez, OF, Rockies
, Grade A-: Hit .249/.276/.412 in 270 PA, wRC+54, fWAR -1.4. A decent Triple-A player but couldn’t bring it to the majors. Did not verify.

8) Todd Walker, 3B, Twins, Grade A
-: Grade verified.

9) Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies, Grade A-:
Hit .316/.414/.539 in 9451 PA, wRC+132, fWAR 55.3. Grade verified.

10) Mike Sweeney, C, Royals, Grade A-:
Grade verified.

11) Miguel Tejeda, SS, Athletics, Grade A-:
Hit .285/.336/.456 in 9205 PA, wRC+106, fWAR 42.0. Grade verified.

12) Adrian Beltre, 3B, Dodgers, Grade A-:
Hit .286/.338/.480 in 11260 PA, wRC+115, fWAR 81.4. Grade verified.

13) Dmitri Young, 1B, Cardinals, Grade A-:
Hit .292/.351/.475 in 5253 PA, wRC+112, fWAR 13.0. Although he didn’t quite meet expectations he was hardly a failure. Grade verified.

14) Karim Garcia, OF, Dodgers, Grade A-:
Did not verify.

15) Jose Cruz, Jr, OF, Mariners, Grade A-:
Hit .247/.337/.445 in 5448 PA, wRC+101, fWAR 18.8. Good solid player. Grade verified.

16) Ben Grieve, OF, Athletics, Grade A-:
Hit .269/.367/.442 in 3743 PA, wRC+113, fWAR 6.6. What do you say here? A serious disappointment and faded very quickly, but he was an above-average hitter for five seasons. A failure in terms of what was expected but not a true bust.

17) Ron Wright, 1B, Pirates, Grade A-:
Went 0-for-3 in the majors. Productive minor league slugger with 145 career homers and solid Triple-A numbers but ruined by injuries, out of baseball at 28. Health bust.

18) Hiram Bocachica, SS, Expos, Grade B+
: Hit .215/.272/.355 in 584 PA, wRC+67, fWAR -1.5. Effective Triple-A player but never made the final push to the majors, ended up playing in Japan and Mexico with some success. Did not verify.

19) Chad Hermansen, SS, Pirates, Grade B+:
Hit .195/.225/.329 in 541 PA, wRC+49, fWAR -2.6. Good tools but couldn’t make consistent contact against major league pitching. Bust.

20) Bobby Abreu, OF, Astros, Grade B+:
Grade verified.

21) Mike Cameron, OF, White Sox, Grade B+:
Hit .249/.338/.444 in 7884 PA, wRC+107, fWAR 49.5. Lots of value due to excellent defense. Grade verified.

22) Enrique Wilson, SS, Indians, Grade B+:
Hit .244/.288/.350 in 1537 PA, wRC+64, fWAR -4.2. Spent some time on benches but wasn’t very good. Much of his prospect status was based on a birthday that turned out to be false so I don’t regard this as an analytic failure. He would not have ranked this highly if his true birthday was public knowledge.

23) Tom Evans, 3B, Blue Jays, Grade B+:
Hit .255/.347/.343 in 119 PA, wRC+82, fWAR 0.0. Drew tons of walks and a decent Triple-A hitter, had injuries at the wrong time, ended up in Japan and Mexico. Did not verify.

24) Shannon Stewart, OF, Blue Jays, Grade B+:
Grade verified.

25) Neifi Perez, SS, Rockies, Grade B+:
Hit .267/.297/.375 in 5510 PA, wRC+58, fWAR -2.8. Became a punchline. Had defensive value but dismal bat was ultimately impossible to overlook. Career lasted too long to be considered a true bust but Ruth help your fantasy team if you drafted Neifi.

26) Wes Helms, 3B, Braves, Grade B+:
Hit .256/.318/.405 in 3027 PA, wRC+87, fWAR 0.3. Not very good but in the majors for more than a decade, too long to count as a genuine bust.

27) Jose Guillen, OF, Pirates, Grade B+:
Hit .270/.321/.440, 214 homers in 6418 PA, wRC+98, fWAR 4.4. You can’t call a guy with 214 homers a bust but he had a lot of flaws.

28) Javier Valentin, C, Twins, Grade B+:
Role player.

29) Donnie Sadler, 2B, Red Sox, Grade B+:
Did not verify.

30) Pat Cline, C, Cubs, Grade B+:
Never reached the majors. Had a good year in Triple-A in 1998 but got hurt, was out of baseball by 2001. Did not verify.

31) Todd Dunwoody, OF, Marlins, Grade B+:
Hit .233/.277/.348 in 986 PA, wRC+61, fWAR -1.6. Good tools, undone by poor strike zone judgment. Bust.

32) Wilson Guerrero, 2B, Dodgers, Grade B+:
Had a career but did not verify as a good regular.

33) Ricky Ledee, OF, Yankees, Grade B+:
Hit .243/.325/.412 in 2307 PA, wRC+89, fWAR 1.1. Role player for parts of 10 seasons. Did not verify as a regular but too long a career to be considered a true bust.

34) Derrek Lee, 1B, Padres, Grade B+.
Grade verified.

35) Richard Hidalgo, OF, Astros, Grade B+:
Grade verified.

36) T.J. Staton, OF, Pirates
, Grade B+: Never played in the majors. Always hit well in Double-A (.301/.380/.483 over three seasons) but not in Triple-A (.236/.324/.349 in four seasons). Weird case, did not have strike zone issues but just never made the jump. Bust.

37) Billy McMillon, OF, Marlins, Grade B+:
Hit .248/.322/.396 in 683 PA, wRC+88, fWAR 0.4. Excellent Triple-A hitter (.313/.399/.515 almost all in the International League) and hit .301/.388/.472 in 46 games with the Tigers in 2000 and a 115 wRC+ in 66 games for the Athletics in ’03, but couldn’t ultimately force his way into a consistent job.

COMMENTARY: Outstanding at the top, one of the top conglomerations of prospect talent in recent history. More tools failures and holdovers from the ’96 list. Ben Grieve was a strange case but he played too well initially to be regarded as a genuine bust.


1997 Pitchers

1) Jaret Wright, RHP, Indians, Grade A-:
Career 5.09 ERA, 4.58 FIP in 973 innings, fWAR 12.1. Injury problems, was very good at times but his shoulder couldn’t hold up.

2) Kerry Wood, RHP, Cubs, Grade A-:
Career 3.67 ERA, 3.83 FIP in 1380 innings, fWAR 22.0. Dominant when healthy.

3) Jeff Suppan, RHP, Red Sox, Grade B+
Grade verified.

4) Carl Pavano, RHP, Red Sox, Grade B+:
Career 4.39 ERA, 4.15 FIP in 1789 innings, fWAR 23.7. Grade verified.

5) Sidney Ponson, RHP, Orioles, Grade B+:
Career 5.03 ERA, 4.67 FIP in 1760 innings, fWAR 17.7. Not exactly a great success but had a couple of very good seasons. Grade verified.

6) Roy Halladay, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+:
Career 3.38 ERA, 3.39 FIP in 2749 innings, fWAR 67.5. Grade certainly verified.

7) Matt Morris, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+:
Career 3.98 ERA, 3.97 FIP in 1806 innings, fWAR 26.8. Grade verified.

8) Kelvim Escobar, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+:
Career 4.15 ERA,3.86 FIP in 1507 innings, fWAR 30.3. Grade verified.

9) Livan Hernandez, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+:
Career 4.44 ERA, 4.40 FIP in 3189 innings, fWAR 32.0. Grade verified.

10) Bret Tomko, RHP, Reds, Grade B+:
Career 4.65 ERA, 4.60 FIP in 1816 innings, fWAR 14.9. Grade verified.

11) Jimmy Anderson, LHP, Pirates, Grade B+:
Career 5.42 ERA, 4.91 FIP in 575 innings, fWAR 3.4. Started regularly for three seasons then fell apart, out of baseball at 30. Did not verify.

12) Bartolo Colon, RHP, Indians, Grade B+:
Grade verified.

13) Eric Ludwick, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+:
Did not verify.

COMMENTARY: Best one in this group was Halladay, the biggest bust Ludwick with everyone else somewhere in between.