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The Top Prospects of 1998

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David Ortiz
David Ortiz
Bob DeChiara-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.

We looked at 1997 this morning. Players who first appeared on the list in '97 have their stats there.

1998 Hitters

1) Adrian Beltre, 3B, Dodgers, Grade A:
Grade verified.

2) Ben Grieve, OF, Athletics, Grade A:
Not fully verified but had some good years.

3) Paul Konerko, 3B, Dodgers, Grade A:
Grade verified.

4) Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies, Grade A:
Grade verified.

5) Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Pirates, Grade A:
Hit .283/.341/.492 in 8986 PA, wRC+115, fWAR 38.4 Grade verified.

6) Travis Lee, 1B, Diamondbacks, Grade A:
Hit .256/.337/.408 in 4233 PA, wRC+94, fWAR 7.1. Had a couple of decent seasons but never thrived, eventually quit due to lack of interest in baseball. I wonder if that was the problem all along. Not a total bust but quite disappointing.

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

8) Mark Kotsay, OF, Marlins, Grade A-:
Hit .276/.332/.404 in 7110 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 19.9. Not a star but had skills and played for 17 years. Grade verified.

9) Chad Hermansen, 2B, Pirates, Grade A-:
Did not verify.

10) Sean Casey, 1B, Indians, Grade A-:
Hit .302/.367/.447 in 5644 PA, wRC+109, fWAR 16.0. Solid hitter for several years. Grade verified.

11) Enrique Wilson, 2B, Indians, Grade A-:
Did not verify.

12) Fernando Tatis, 3B, Rangers, Grade A-:
Hit .265/.344/.442 in 3468 PA, wRC+103, fWAR 7.4. Not a big success but had three good seasons. Grade partially verified.

13) Eric Chavez, 3B, Athletics, Grade A-:
Hit .268/.342/.475 in 6228 PA, wRC+113, fWAR 35.4. Grade verified.

14) A.J. Hinch, C, Athletics, Grade B+:
Hit .219/.280/.356 in 1075 PA, wRC+63, fWAR -0.4. Backup catcher due to defense but never hit. Did not verify.

15) Ramon Hernandez, C, Athletics, Grade B+:
Hit .263/.327/.417 in 5701 PA, wRC+96, fWAR 24.8. Grade verified.

16) Alex Gonzalez, SS, Marlins, Grade B+:
Hit .245/.290/.395 in 6248 PA, wRC+76, fWAR 8.9. Very long career due to his defense. Grade verified.

17) Ron Wright, 1B, Pirates, Grade B+:
Did not verify.

18) Brad Fullmer, 1B, Expos Grade B+:
Hit .279/.336/.486 in 3065 PA, wRC+108, fWAR 4.9. Hit very well at times but career ended early due to injuries. Grade verified.

19) Brent Butler, SS, Cardinals, Grade B+:
Hit .248/.285/.380 in 597 PA, wRC+52, fWAR -2.1. Stopped hitting at age 26 and out of baseball by age 30. Did not verify.

20) Juan Encarnacion, OF,Tigers, Grade B+:
Hit .270/.317/.441 in 5095 PA, hit 156 homers, wRC+96, fWAR 6.9. Never lived up to full potential due to contact problems but played too long to be rated a bust.

21) D’Angelo Jimenez, SS, Yankees, Grade B+:
Hit .261/.351/.377 in 2480 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 7.8. Decent years in ’03 and ’04 but couldn’t hold a job. Not a complete bust but not a full verification. More WAR value than Encarnacion in far less playing time.

22) Russ Branyan, 3B, Indians, Grade B+:
Hit .232/.329/.485 with 194 homers in 3398 PA, wRC+111, fWAR 10.8. Had flaws but can’t ignore the power. Grade verified.

23) Ruben Rivera, OF, Padres, Grade B+:
Did not verify.

24) Mike Darr, OF, Padres, Grade B+:
Hit .273/.353/.371 in 612 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 3.2. Killed in car accident at age 25.

25) Ben Petrick, C, Rockies, Grade B+:
Hit .257/.336/.448 in 764 PA, wRC+85, fWAR 0.4. Looked like he was going to be a star but career stagnated beginning at age 24. It turned out he was trying to play through Parkinson’s Disease and it was amazing he did as well as he did.

26) Cesar King, C, Rangers, Grade B+:
Never reached the majors, was out of baseball by age 25 due to inability to hit Double-A pitching and injuries. Huge bust.

27) Mike Lowell, 3B, Yankees, Grade B+:
Hit .279/.342/.464 in 6499 PA, wRC+108, fWAR 26.8. Good solid player. Grade verified.

28) Michael Coleman, OF, Red Sox, Grade B+:
Hit .194/.203/.254 in 70 PA, wRC+11, fWAR -0.7. Power/speed tools player did OK in Triple-A but never emerged in majors due to injuries and problems making contact. Bust.

29) Derrek Lee, 1B,Marlins, Grade B+:
Grade verified.

30) Donzell McDonald, OF, Yankees, Grade B+:
Hit .200/.300/.280 in 31 PA, wRC+53, fWAR -0.2. Good Triple-A player and Mexican League star, stole 503 bases in his career and drew a bunch of walks but never turned this into a big league career. Did not verify.

31) Ruben Mateo, OF, Rangers, Grade B+:
Hit .250/.303/.386 in 951 PA, wRC+73, fWAR -1.6. Never looked quite the same after horrific leg injury in 2000. Good Triple-A player and another Mexican League star. Did not verify.

32) Magglio Ordonez, OF, White Sox, Grade B+:
Hit .309/.369/.502 in 7744 PA, wRC+126, fWAR 37.8. Grade verified.

33) Daryle Ward, 1B, Astros, Grade B+:
Hit .263/.320/.447 in 2462 PA, wRC+92, fWAR -1.6. Hit 90 homers in the majors, workable role player but didn’t hold a regular job.

34) Mike Caruso, SS, White Sox, Grade B+:
Hit .274/.302/.339 in 1140 PA, wRC+65, fWAR -1.4. Jumped from A-ball to the majors and played regularly for two years, but then vanished, undone by defensive problems and lack of power. Did not verify.

35) Ricky Ledee, OF, Yankees, Grade B+:
Useable role player, did not fully verify.

36) David Ortiz, 1B, Twins, Grade B+:
Hit .286/.380/.552 with 541 homers in 10091 PA, wRC+140, fWAR 50.5. Outstanding hitter, verified.

37) Gabe Kapler, OF, Tigers
, Grade B+: Hit .268/.329/.420 in 3315 PA, wRC+91, fWAR 5.1. Useable role player who had a couple of good years with the bat.

COMMENTARY: Another strong-at-the-top group that had more misses the further down the list you went, which is what you’d expect. I wish I had rated David Ortiz higher. The biggest busts were failed tools players once again, Chad Hermansen being the best example.


1998 Pitchers

1) Carl Pavano, RHP, Expos, Grade A-:
Grade verified.

2) Kerry Wood, RHP, Cubs, Grade A-:
Grade verified.

3) Matt Clement, RHP, Padres, Grade A-
: Career 4.47 ERA in 1413 innings, 4.24 FIP, fWAR 18.3. Although he didn’t fulfill all expectations and had arm trouble, he was a good starter for several years. Grade verified.

4) Scott Elarton, RHP, Astros, Grade A-:
Career 5.29 ERA in 1065 innings, 5.41 FIP, fWAR 4.7. Had two good years with the Astros, was traded to the Rockies and his shoulder exploded. Fought his way back but was never the same. Didn’t fully verify but was good before he got hurt.

5) Kris Benson, RHP, Pirates, Grade B+:
Career 4.42 ERA in 1244 innings, 4.54 FIP, fWAR 14.4. Had three good seasons before burning out due to rotator cuff injury. Grade verified.

6) Nerio Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles, Grade B+:
Career 6.32 ERA in 73 innings, 5.08 FIP, fWAR 0.2. Got hurt in ’98 and topped out in Triple-A. Had success in Mexico. Did not verify.

7) Eric Milton, LHP, Yankees, Grade B+:
Career 4.99 ERA in 1583 innings, 4.78 FIP, fWAR 18.9. Good run of success with the Twins but burned out. Grade verified.

8) Ramon Ortiz, RHP, Angels, Grade B+:
Career 4.95 ERA in 1448 innings, 5.12 FIP, fWAR 6.7. Had three years of success with the Angels then faded, although lasted as a pro pitcher until 2013. Grade partially verified due to longevity alone.

9) Brian Rose, RHP, Red Sox, Grade B+:
Career 5.86 ERA in 284 innings, 5.85 FIP, fWAR 0.9. Stalled out in Triple-A then got hurt. Did not verify.

10) Ken Cloude, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+:
Career 6.56 ERA in 279 innings, 5.68 FIP, fWAR 0.1. Stalled out due to command problems and injuries. Did not verify.

11) Javier Vazquez, RHP, Expos, Grade B+:
Career 4.22 ERA in 2840 innings, 3.91 FIP, fWAR 53.7. Excellent career. Grade verified.

12) Bruce Chen, LHP, Braves, Grade B+:
Career 4.62 ERA in 1532 innings, 4.92 FIP, fWAR 8.2. Up and down career but still pitching in 2015. Partially verified due to longevity.

13) Cliff Politte, RHP, Cardinals, Grade B+:
Career 4.40 ERA in 411 innings, 4.49 FIP, fWAR 2.9. Had some success as a relief pitcher.

COMMENTARY: Main busts here were generally injury-related.