Here we are. The final installment of our look back at some of the 2000s disappointing prospects (that were not necessarily busts). In case you missed Parts I and II, be sure to take a look back:
So, what were the ground rules? Who made up this list?
I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a list of busts. As mentioned in the previous two parts:
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.
This was a list specifically looking at Top 100 prospects, nearly all of them spending time inside the Top 50 for multiple years. Several went on to nice careers, but simply never matched their lofty expectations or minor league numbers. This is not necessarily a list of busts, despite some of the names likely going down as some of the biggest busts of all-time.
Today’s finale will be a bit different than the previous two offerings. The first five players will round out our 25 highly-rated prospects that didn’t meet the hype. The final five will be players that are active now and heading down a slippery slope. While they are still too young to deem uninspiring careers, they have gotten off to not-so-promising starts. Again, this was in no particular order.
Ankiel is an odd one. He was in the Top 25 in both 1998 and 1999, and after the 1999 Minor League Player of the Year campaign, he reached the No. 1 ranking in Baseball America and top pitcher ranking for John Sickels in 2000. Ankiel actually had a nice rookie season before seemingly losing the ability to find the strike zone. In a bizarre career move, Ankiel returned as a hitter and outfielder sticking around for seven more seasons, one of which was decent. Ankiel certainly didn’t meet the pitching hype and was not much of a match with the bat either.
The third overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft never came close to panning out as a big leaguer for the Mariners. He was a consensus Top 100 hitter for three years, and fell drastically in John Sickels offensive top 50, dropping 29 spots from 19 to 48 from 2006 to 2007. The Quad-A slugger just couldn’t cut it in the bigs, slashing .218/.277/.371 in just 421 career plate appearances with an uninspiring and well-below average wRC+ of 73.
Milledge seemed to have all the tools to become the next great Mets outfielder. But an inability to stay healthy and rubbing the Mets brass the wrong way just never let his career get off the ground. Milledge, a two-time top 20 prospect who John had as high as 17 in 2006, had his best season in 2012 when he hit .300 with 21 home runs... for the Yakult Swallows.
McPherson was also a two-time top-50 prospect, earning an A- from John as the eighth-best hitting prospect in 2005. After two ho-hum big league appearances in a combined 111 game for the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels, McPherson headed east to the Marlins. He slugged PCL 42 home runs in 2008 for Albuquerque, but couldn’t hit in a small sample in the MLB the same year. Injuries and contact issues seemed to halt McPherson’s big league chances.
Brazelton was twice in the top 100 himself, reaching as high as 57 with Baseball America and the 11th-best pitcher for John in 2002. The big righty post a FIP under six just once in his 63 game career, and that was an uninspiring 4.87 in a season where he posted his career-best 4.77 ERA.
Honorable mention: Joba Chamberlain
I need help on this one. This is a classic example of Chuck Johnson’s extenuating circumstances, depending on what you believe. If you’re like me, you feel that the Joba Rules ruined one of the more promising arms in the Yankees system, one that was a top-5 prospect in baseball. He had a couple nice seasons out of the bullpen, but was could never get back in the rotation. Should he be on the list? It’s a tough one, but probably yes.
Others who earned consideration: Joe Borchard; Jeremy Reed; Dennis Tankersly; Andrew Brackman
The next wave:
This group is by no means a bunch of failures, but after watching them climb to such lofty prospect ranking heights, it’s time to put them on notice.
Giolito was a consensus top five prospect twice. He was rough in his Washington debut, decent in his White Sox debut, and has been all over the place this year. Literally. He’s leading the league in walks (51) and hit batsmen (10) while allowing the most earned runs (62) in baseball.
That 2013 Minor League Player of the Year campaign seems so long ago. The tools are still sexy, but he has suffered injury after injury. It would be great to see him play a fully healthy season sometime.
The power is for real, and that is going to keep him around for awhile so we can see if he figures it out. But the former No. 1 prospect has serious strikeout issues, striking out 35.6 percent of the time. He seems to have too much talent not to find out how to use it, but when compared to the other top Red Sox prospects (Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers) he was once rated with, he’s underperformed.
He got injured to by himself some time, but let’s face reality. His numbers got worse at each level he’s reached since High-A. He is just 23 and has just 163 big league at bats to his name. But he’s already moving around the infield a bit after being one of the more promising defensive shortstops, and a guy that usually makes sound contact with a solid control of the strike zone wasn’t even hitting .200.
He may have lost his chance in the rotation, and the command issues seem to be for real in the bullpen as well. Plenty of time to turn it around, but his wildness and inability to keep runners from scoring has been discouraging in three different MLB stints.
The question mark: Blake Swihart
Remember the next great Red Sox catcher? Does he get a chance to say he was worthy of his rankings? Or is officially a member of the graduated 25 unimpressive prospects list? I think if he gets traded, which he may, he gets a shot to prove the prospect rankings were right. Of course, I leave this up to you to decide.