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.
1) J.D. Drew, OF, Cardinals, Grade A: Hit .278/.384/.489 in 6153 PA, wRC+128, fWAR 44.9. Outstanding in his prime. Grade verified.
2) Eric Chavez,3B, Athletics, Grade A: Grade verified.
3) Troy Glaus, 3B, Angels, Grade A: Hit .254/.358/.489 in 6355 PA, wRC+120, fWAR 35.1. Also excellent in his prime. Grade verified.
4) Michael Barrett, 3B, Expos, Grade A-: Hit .263/.320/.422 in 3873 PA, wRC+87, fWAR 5.8. Did not live up to expectations but did hold a regular job for four seasons and played for more than a decade. Not fully verified but not a true bust.
5) Nick Johnson, 1B, Yankees, Grade A-: Hit .268/.399/.441 in 3316 PA, wRC+126, fWAR 15.1. Limited by constant injuries, but when healthy in 2005 and 2006 he lived up to expectations. The rating of his talent level was correct, he just couldn’t avoid the doctors.
6) Ruben Mateo, OF, Rangers, Grade A-: Did not verify.
7) Calvin Pickering, 1B, Orioles, Grade A-: Hit .223/.329/.428 in 310 PA, wRC+95, fWAR -0.1. Excellent Triple-A slugger but injuries and lack of defensive value kept him confined to the minors. Did not verify.
8) Carlos Beltran, OF, Royals, Grade A-: Hit .281/.354/.492 in 10522 PA, wRC+120, fWAR 68.4. Outstanding player. Grade verified.
9) Gabe Kapler, OF, Tigers, Grade A-: Decent role player but grade too high.
10) Lance Berkman, OF, Astros, Grade A-: Hit .293/.406/.537 in 7814 PA, wRC+144, fWAR 55.5. Outstanding player. Grade verified.
11) Pablo Ozuna, SS, Marlins, Grade A-: Hit .282/.318/.359 in 728 PA, wRC+75, fWAR -1.3. He was lying about his age: he was supposedly 19 years old but was really 23. Grade did not verify due to false age.
12) Juan Encarnacion, OF, Tigers, Grade A-: Decent role player but grade too high.
13) Jeremy Giambi, OF, Royals, Grade A-: Hit .263/.377/.430 in 1705 PA, wRC+114, fWAR 2.5. Two good seasons with the bat but fell apart. Steroids and off-field problems. Did not verify.
14) Alex Escobar, OF, Mets, Grade B+: Hit .258/.328/.415 in 439 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 1.2. Strong defender but never solved the strike zone and had injuries. Did not verify.
15) Joe Lawrence, SS, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Hit .180/.262/.247 in 174 PA, wRC+34, fWAR -1.0. Played 55 games for the Jays in 2002 then was out of baseball within a year. Not sure what happened here. Did not verify.
16) Russ Branyan, 3B, Indians, Grade B+: Grade verified.
17) Carlos Febles, 2B, Royals, Grade B+: Hit .250/.328/.354 in 1892 PA, wRC+75, fWAR 1.0. Had a few moments but never got the bat going. Did not verify.
18) Alex Gonzalez, SS, Marlins, Grade B+: Grade verified.
19) Dernell Stenson, OF, Red Sox, Grade B+: Hit .247/.333/.420 in 93 PA, wRC+96, fWAR 0.5. Murdered while playing in the Arizona Fall League.
20) Pat Burrell, OF, Phillies, Grade B+: Hit .253/.361/.472 in 6520 PA, wRC+117, fWAR 18.3. Hit 292 homers. Grade verified.
21) George Lombard, OF, Braves, Grade B+: Hit .220/.281/.340 in 388 PA, wRC+66, fWAR -0.8. Good tools with power and speed but had contact problems, topped out in Triple-A. Did not verify.
22) Pete Bergeron, OF, Expos, Grade B+: Hit .226/.303/.308 in 1256 PA, wRC+58, fWAR -4.1. Speed and defense guy couldn’t hit above Triple-A. Did not verify.
23) Richie Sexson, 1B, Indians, Grade B+: Hit .261/.344/.507 in 5604 PA, wRC+118, fWAR 17.1. Grade verified.
24) Enrique Wilson, 2B, Indians, Grade B+: Did not verify.
25) Angel Pena, C, Dodgers, Grade B+: Hit .209/.256/.326 in 206 PA, wRC+51, fWAR 0.1. Good Triple-A hitter, wore down quickly with injuries, out of organized ball at 27. Did not verify.
26) Ramon Hernandez, C, Athletics, Grade B+: Grade verified.
27) Carlos Lee, 3B, White Sox, Grade B+: Hit .285/.339/.483 in 8786 PA, wRC+112, fWAR 28.0. Grade verified.
28) Milton Bradley, OF, Expos, Grade B+: Hit .271/.364/.440 in 4180 PA, wRC+114, fWAR 19.2. Outstanding at times but, well, you know. Grade verified.
29) Mitch Melusky, C, Astros, Grade B+: Hit .283/.386/.449 in 493 PA, wRC+109, fWAR 2.3. Excellent rookie season for Astros in 2000, then vanished with two years of injuries and never recovered. Did not verify, although the talent was obvious.
30) Mike Cuddyer, 3B, Twins, Grade B+: Hit .277/.344/.461 in 6102 PA, wRC+112, fWAR 15.9. Solid player. Grade verified.
31) Chad Hermansen, OF, Pirates, Grade B+: Did not verify.
32) Daryle Ward, 1B, Astros, Grade B+: Role player, grade too high.
33) Trot Nixon, OF, Red Sox, Grade B+: Hit .274/.364/.464 in 4224 PA, wRC+115, fWAR 21.9. Faded after injuries but grade verified.
34) Ricky Ledee, OF, Yankees, Grade B+: Role player, grade too high.
COMMENTARY: At this point in the process, I was gradually incorporating more scouting material, in person observations when possible but also from word-of-mouth or other sources. Alex Escobar, George Lombard, and Pete Bergeron were all players I had good scouting reports on who failed dismally. I played some sabermetric hunches here as well, which did not work out in the case of Calvin Pickering and Jeremy Giambi.
1) Rick Ankiel, LHP, Cardinals, Grade A: Career 3.90 ERA in 242 innings, 4.38 FIP, fWAR 3.4. Command collapsed in spectacular fashion, leading to outfield conversion. Hit .241/.302/.422 in 2115 PA, wRC+91, fWAR 3.8 as a hitter. Obviously did not verify as a pitcher but he didn’t give up.
2) Brad Penny, RHP, Diamondbacks., Grade A: Career 4.29 ERA in 1925 innings, 4.12 FIP, fWAR 26.8. Grade verified.
3) Bruce Chen, LHP, Braves, Grade A-: Role pitcher, grade too high here.
4) Matt Clement, RHP, Padres, Grade A-: Grade verified.
5) Ryan Anderson, LHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Did not reach the majors. Arm fell off. Did not verify.
6) Matt Riley, LHP, Orioles, Grade B+: Career 5.99 ERA in 98 innings, 6.12 FIP, fWAR -0.4. Ruined by control problems and injuries, had Tommy John surgery three times. Did not verify.
7) Octavio Dotel, RHP, Mets, Grade B+: Career 3.78 ERA in 951 innings, 3.70 FIP, 109 saves, fWAR 14.9. Grade verified.
8) John Patterson, RHP, Diamondbacks, Grade B+: Career 4.32 ERA, 4.25 FIP in 454 innings, fWAR 5.9. Very successful 2005 season showed his talent but got hurt.
9) Braden Looper, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 4.15 ERA in 1176 innings, 4.48 FIP, fWAR 5.1. Not exactly a great pitcher but saved 103 games and had a second run as a starter. Grade verified.
10) Roy Halladay, RHP, Blue Jays, Grade B+: Grade verified.
11) Freddy Garcia, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 4.15 ERA in 2264 innings, 4.30 FIP, fWAR 32.7. Grade verified.
12) Jason Grilli, RHP, Giants, Grade B+: Career 4.09 ERA in 645 innings, 3.83 FIP, fWAR 6.6. 78 saves, has rebounded with a second career as a closer. Grade verified, eventually.
13) A.J. Burnett, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 3.99 ERA in 2731 innings, 3.86 FIP, fWAR 42.9. Grade verified.
14) Ryan Bradley, RHP, Yankees, Grade B+: Career 5.68 ERA in 13 innings, 5.51 FIP, fWAR 0.0. Command collapsed after reaching high minors. Did not verify.
15) Gil Meche, RHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Career 4.49 ERA in 1432 innings, 4.48 FIP, fWAR 17.0. Overcame injuries to have two solid years with the Royals until his arm fell off again. Grade verified.
16) Odalis Perez, LHP, Braves. Grade B+: Career 4.46 ERA in 1335 innings, 4.21 FIP, fWAR 15.6. Had one excellent year then held on for a few more years. Grade verified.
COMMENTARY: At this stage, I was growing more confident in my ability to grade pitching and the list was becoming more balanced between hitters and pitchers. As with many pitcher lists, the main busts were injury-related.