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 here. Players who first appeared on the list in 1996 have their stats in that article.
We looked at 1997 here. Players who first appeared on the list in '97 have their stats there.
Here's 1998. Players who first appeared on the list in '98 have their stats there.
1) Corey Patterson, OF, Cubs, Grade A: Hit .252/.290/.400 in 4499 PA, wRC+77, 218 steals, fWAR 9.6. One of the great "what ifs," he had some value due to his speed and defense but never reached his full offensive potential due to problems with the strike zone. Good seasons in 2003, 2005, and 2006 but otherwise very disappointing.
2) Pat Burrell, 1B-OF, Phillies, Grade A: Grade verified.
3) Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays, Grade A: Hit .270/.319/.459 in 7212 PA, wRC+102, fWAR 24.6. Overpaid at the end
but a productive player who had a very good career. Grade verified.
4) Nick Johnson, 1B, Yankees, Grade A: Verified when he was healthy.
5) Dee Brown, OF, Royals, Grade A: Hit .233/.280/.333 in 874 PA, wRC+52, fWAR -4.4. A giant bust, made Patterson look like Willie Mays.
6) Ben Petrick, C, Rockies, Grade A-: Did not verify due to Parkinson’s Disease.
7) Sean Burroughs, 3B, Padres, Grade A-: Hit .278/.335/.355 in 1823 PA, wRC+88, fWAR 5.2. The theory was that he would develop power, or turn into a .300+ hitter. Neither happened. Did not verify.
8) Mike Cuddyer, 3B, Twins, Grade A-: Grade verified.
9) D’Angelo Jimenez, SS, Yankees, Grade A-: Good role player but this grade was too high.
10) Ruben Mateo, OF, Rangers, Grade A-: Did not verify.
11) Chin-Feng Chen, OF, Dodgers, Grade A-: Went 2-for-22 in the majors. Played well in Triple-A for four years but never got over the hump. Bust all-around.
12) Rafael Furcal, SS, Braves, Grade A-: Hit .281/.346/.402 in 7237 PA, wRC+99, 314 steals. fWAR 33.1. Grade verified.
13) Hee Seop Choi, 1B, Cubs, Grade A-: Career .240/.347/.437, 108 wRC+, fWAR 2.6. Choi hit pretty well at times in his 1086 plate appearances but still couldn’t hold a job. Eventually returned to Korea and became a star there. One of the great what-if stories among recent prospect busts.
14) Alfonso Soriano, SS, Yankees, Grade B+: Hit .270/.319/.500 in 8395 PA, wRC+111, fWAR 39.8, 289 steals. Tremendous power/speed player. Grade verified.
15) Milton Bradley, OF, Expos, Grade B+: Grade verified.
16) Ramon Hernandez, C, Athletics, Grade B+: Grade verified.
17) Peter Bergeron, OF, Expos, Grade B+: Did not verify.
18) Abraham Nunez, OF, Marlins, Grade B+: Hit .209/.288/.308 in 339 PA, wRC+54, fWAR -0.9. Toolsy outfielder with power and speed and would take a walk, good Triple-A player but just couldn’t hit in the majors.
19) Matt LeCroy, C, Twins, Grade B+: Hit .260/.326/.440 in 1539 PA, wRC+99, fWAR 0.5. Not a great player but he hit well in 2003 (wRC+118) and 2005 (wRC+115). I’ll say partially verified.
20) Mike Lamb, 3B, Rangers, Grade B+: Hit .276/.332/.415 in 2989 PA, wRC+90, fWAR 2.3. Another one who was not great but hit well in 2004 (wRC+119), 2006 (112), and 2007 (112).
21) Josh Hamilton, OF, Devil Rays, Grade B+: Hit .290/.349/.516 in 4350 PA, wRC+127, fWAR 27.9. Amazing player when he’s not injured or beating himself.
22) Jack Cust, OF, Diamondbacks, Grade B+: Hit .242/.374/.439 in 2581 PA, wRC+123, fWAR 6.5. Had serious limits as a player but the power and patience were valuable. Grade verified.
23) Drew Henson, 3B, Yankees, Grade B+: Went 1-for-9 in the majors. Couldn’t make enough contact to turn his football strength into baseball power. Did not verify.
24) Chad Hermansen, OF, Pirates, Grade B+: Did not verify.
25) Mike Restovich, OF, Twins, Grade B+: Career .239/.313/.377 in 297 PA, wRC+82, fWAR -0.5. Very effective Triple-A hitter but never received a real chance in the majors, with 297 PA spread over six different seasons. A bust in the sense that he didn’t get a job, but I think he deserved a lot more of a chance than he received. Hit .285/.362/.497 in eight years of Triple-A, mostly in the IL.
26) Lance Berkman, OF, Astros, Grade B+: Grade verified.
27) Adam Dunn, OF, Reds, Grade B+ : Hit .237/.364/.490 in 8328 PA, wRC+123, 459 homers, fWAR 25.4. Grade verified.
28) Ben Broussard, OF, Reds, Grade B+: Hit .263/.324/.450 in 2357 PA, wRC+102, fWAR 2.2. Not great but played regularly for four seasons, so not a bust either.
29) Chip Ambres, OF, Marlins, Grade B+: Hit .233/.321/.344 in 218 PA, wRC+79, fWAR -0.4. Very effective Triple-A player but didn’t get over the hump in the majors. Did not verify.
30) Adam Piatt, 3B, Athletics, Grade B+: Hit .248/.323/.422 in 588 PA, wRC+95, fWAR 0.6. Career foundered after bout with viral meningitis.
31) Travis Dawkins, SS, Reds, Grade B+: Hit .163/.241/.20 in 110 PA, wRC+12, fWAR -0.9. Glove not good enough to compensate for horrible bat. Did not verify.
COMMENTARY: In 2000 I became much more aggressive with using traditional scouting reports, not ignoring the sabermetrics of course but focusing more on athleticism and tools. This failed dismally in the cases of Corey Patterson, Dee Brown, Drew Henson, and Abraham Nunez. On the other hand, Alfonso Soriano turned out great and I wish I had slotted him higher. Age-relative-to-league was a key factor with some choices, as research showed it was a good predictor of future success, but that didn’t pan out in the case of Sean Burroughs. Choi was a sabermetric pick that failed.
1) Rick Ankiel, LHP, Cardinals, Grade A: Did not verify.
2) Kip Wells, RHP, White Sox, Grade A-: Career 4.71 ERA in 1338 innings, 4.68 FIP, fWAR 9.6. Started off pretty well, decent run from 2001 through 2004 but fell apart after that.
3) Brad Penny, RHP, Marlins , Grade A-: Grade verified.
4) Eric Gagne, RHP, Dodgers, Grade A-: Career 3.47 ERA in 644 innings, 3.59 FIP, fWAR 11.9, 187 saves. Grade verified.
5) Matt Riley, LHP, Orioles, Grade A-: Did not verify.
6) Wilfredo Rodriguez, LHP, Astros, Grade A-: Just three major league innings. Injury bust, was finished as a prospect by 2002.
7) Ed Yarnall, LHP, Yankees, Grade A-: Career 5.40 ERA in 20 innings, 5.13 FIP, fWAR 0.0. Went to Japan and pitched decently for two years with Orix, then wandered around Triple-A until 2007. Did not verify.
8) Ramon Ortiz, RHP, Angels, Grade B+: Partially verified.
9) Ryan Anderson, LHP, Mariners, Grade B+: Did not verify
10) John Patterson, RHP, Diamondbacks, Grade B+: Partially verified
11) Jesus Colome. RHP, Athletics, Grade B+: Career 4.69 ERA in 426 innings, 4.72 FIP, fWAR -0.3. Occasional bullpen success but disappointing overall.
12) Tony Armas, Jr, RHP, Expos, Grade B+: Career 4.65 ERA in 926 innings, 4.88 FIP, fWAR 6.2. Had two good years then hurt his shoulder. Partially verified.
13) Aaron Myette, RHP, White Sox, Grade B+: Career 8.16 ERA in 154 innings, 5.97 FIP, fWAR 0.0. Undone by control problems. Did not verify.
14) Francisco Cordero, RHP, Rangers, Grade B+: Career 3.38 ERA in 825 innings, 3.63 FIP, fWAR 13.4, 329 saves. Grade verified.
15) A.J. Burnett, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Grade verified.
16) Luis Rivera, RHP, Braves, Grade B+: Eight big league innings. Got hurt, was out of baseball for three years then re-emerged in Mexican League.
17) Junior Guerrero, RHP, Royals, Grade B+: Secondary pitches disappeared and he failed to adapt to Double-A. Ended up in the independent Can Am League for four years. Never reached majors.
18) Wes Anderson, RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Hurt his arm in 2001 and never recovered. Injury bust.
19) Josh Beckett. RHP, Marlins, Grade B+: Career 3.88 ERA in 2051 innings, 3.78 FIP, fWAR 35.6. Grade verified.
COMMENTARY: Mixed results, again injuries were a big factor in most of the failures.