Last week, we began our look at some of minor league baseball’s top prospects of the 2000s that simply didn’t pan out. To be perfectly clear, this is not a list of busts.
Baseball is a sport like no other. It has a pipeline and a minor league system that allows you to watch a player’s development, and over time, expectations and rankings on those prospects occur. Some of the players on this list, like Gavin Floyd for example, had very nice careers and are by no means busts. However, Floyd’s stat line clearly did not meet the expectations of a prospect ranked in the top 30 three years in a row.
Now, not everyone is going to be a Mike Trout, but there are certain expectations attached to a top 100, and more so a top 50 prospect. You seldom run into these issues in other leagues like the NFL or NBA because there aren’t years of development to watch (though this has changed somewhat with the G-League in the NBA). You get drafted, you play, and by the time your rookie contract is up you are either a value pick or a bust.
Let’s take a look back at the 2000s and some of the top prospects that didn’t pan out. And this isn’t picking on anyone or any source; these were consensus top prospects by EVERY outlet that could type a report. This isn’t simply a look at busts, but players who reached high prospect rankings and never performed that way, even if that was due to extenuating circumstances, like injury. There won’t be, for example, a Tim Beckham on this list, who was somewhat a question mark being drafted first overall and not really ranked after his first season in the pros.
Today, we look at the second 10 (in no particular order, even though it may appear that way) that didn’t reach their prospect hype:
Ackley was a beast at North Carolina, hitting over .400 in each of his three seasons, and blasted 22 home runs his final season. The Seattle Mariners took him No. 2 in the 2009 MLB Draft and by 2011 he was a big leaguer, after two straight seasons of being a consensus top 25 prospect (our own John Sickels had him the 10th best hitting prospect in 2010). Unfortunately, that was arguably his best season. He went from a second baseman to outfielder to first baseman to utility player. He hasn’t had a big league at bat since 2016, posting a .241/.304/.367 slash line and .671 OPS in 635 MLB games. He’s currently hitting pretty well in the PCL with the Angels Salt Lake Bees.
Just how poorly did Wood’s career pan out? When John did his 2007 top prospect retrospect, he gave Wood, who was ranked the third-best hitting prospect in the 2007 class, a grade of ugh ugh ugh which surpasses the ugh both Jeremy Hermida and Delmon Young received. The two-time top 40 prospect was a consensus top 10 before his debut. His big league career fizzled out in just five seasons with .186/.225/.289 splits and .513 OPS.
Montero signed out of Venezuela with the New York Yankees at the age of 17 out of Venezuela. He was in an era of overhyped Yankees prospects, and some incredible minor league seasons of being an absolute offensive menace saw Montero a top 10 prospect for three-straight seasons. The Yankees used a stellar 2011 cup of coffee in the Bronx to dump him on the Mariners for another young, rising star in Michael Pineda, which would go on to become one of the most uninspiring trades of Cashman’s decade. He couldn’t stick behind the plate, or at first, or at DH, and really had a strong disgust for ice cream sandwiches.
I promise I’m not trying to pick on the Seattle Mariners fans out there. Maybe it’s not fair to have Zunino on this list because he is still slugging away at the big league level. But the former Golden Spikes winner and No. 3 overall pick has serious contact issues. Just how bad are they? He’s doing worse than last season, when he struck out 36 percent of the time, whiffing in 39.5 percent of his plate appearances. Sure, Zunino has shown the power is for real, but the rest of his game is really lagging. Quite a few people felt the 2013 top 25 prospect may have been rushed to the bigs, and this may be a direct result of that.
Anyone remember the next Darryl Strawberry? He was big (6-foot-5) and lefty, but aside from a decent 2013, he never came close to the Straw Man’s career. Brown was a top 25 prospect across the board in both 2010 and 2011, but spent parts of just six seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, playing just two of those seasons as an everyday player. Last seen he was in the Mexican League.
The Korean superstar’s game simply never translated to the MLB. The big lefty struggled in finding a full-time role with the Cubs, Marlins and Dodgers, and returned to Korea after just four MLB seasons. He was a four-time top 100 prospect that John had as high as the No. 2 hitter in 2001. He returned to Korea and had some really nice years back home.
This one was all due to injury, but he was one of baseball’s brightest, young, pitching prospects in the game with lofty Randy Johnson comparisons seemingly from the day the Mariners took him 19th overall in the 1997 MLB Draft. He was a strikeout machine, reaching Triple-A by 2000, but was out of baseball in all of 2001 through 2004 with injury. He was a top-10 prospect twice in the 2000s, with John ranking him the best prior to 2001.
File Kotchman in the Gavin Floyd category. Kotchman had a serviceable 10-year career for seven teams, slashing .260/.326/.385 with a .711 OPS. But this was a four-time top 25 prospect, and a guy that never hit over 14 home runs as a big, left-handed hitting first baseman hardly reached the hype.
Guzman reached as high as a top five prospect in the game, but never could make it in the bigs. He floated around the minors putting up nice power numbers, but played just 24 combined MLB games with the Dodgers and Rays never hitting a big league home run and struggling mightily in the field.
By no means was Barton a bust, but again, this isn’t a list of busts. He was a top 100 prospect four times across the different ranking sources, and John had him listed as the fifth-best bat in 2005. Barton started as a catcher, but moved to first where his power, or lack thereof, didn’t play. He had such great command of the zone, leading the league in walks with 110 in 2010 that you just expected more at the plate out of him.