Since Extra P and I started Bus Leagues last year, I have found myself constantly fascinated by the idea of prospects and the way they perform when they reach the major league level. As I’m sure our readers have noticed by now, Baseball America’s Preseason Top 100 serves as my go-to list in this area – that’s where most of the “Now Batting/Pitching For” posts come from. On its web site, BA has a section that contains every Top 100 list since 1990. For a few weeks now, I’ve been playing around with the info, trying to figure out fun ways to present it. The following is the first in what I hope will be a sort of running “Prospect Retrospective” feature.
A logical starting point is with the top dogs: the players who have earned Baseball America’s number one ranking as the top player in minor league baseball. The seventeen players afforded this honor are ranked below according to their career accomplishments, with an eye toward possible future production. Originally, I had everyone grouped onto one big list – after tinkering for a bit, however, it made more sense to break them into two sections, one for position players and one for pitchers (plus one name that pops up on both lists).
Alex Rodriguez, ss, Mariners (1995) – Rodriguez was a “can’t miss” prospect – first overall pick in the draft, top rated – who absolutely has not missed, yet everyone is constantly looking for reasons to tear him down. Funny how that works. Bottom line: his Hall of Fame candidacy is a no-brainer – all that’s left is to wait and see where he lands on the list of history’s greatest players.
33 years old, 15 years, 2000 games, 7706 at-bats, 1572 runs, 2361 hits, 418 doubles, 543 homeruns, 1571 RBI, 281 stolen bases, 958 walks, .306/.389/.579, 148 OPS+, 4460 total bases, 12 All-Star appearances, 3 American League MVP awards, 2 Gold Glove awards, 9 Silver Slugger awards
Chipper Jones, ss, Braves (1993) – The first position player to be given the number one ranking, Jones has carved out a nice career for himself in Atlanta, winning a bunch of individual awards and picking up a World Series ring as a rookie in 1995.
36 years old, 15 years, 1985 games, 7219 at-bats, 1357 runs, 2236 hits, 441 doubles, 405 homeruns, 1356 RBI, 136 stolen bases, 1212 walks, .310/.406/.549, 145 OPS+, 3962 total bases, 6 All-Star appearances, 1 National League MVP award, 2 Silver Slugger awards
Andruw Jones, of, Braves (1996-97) – Noted for his excellent defense in centerfield, Jones was the first player to lead the Baseball America list for more than one year. Like Rodriguez, he broke into the majors as a teenager; unlike A-Rod, however, his career appears to be running out of gas well before he hits his mid-thirties.
31 years old, 13 years, 1834 games, 6612 at-bats, 1066 runs, 1716 hits, 338 doubles, 371 homeruns, 1131 RBI, 138 stolen bases, 744 walks, .260/.339/.490, 111 OPS+, 3237 total bases, 5 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Glove awards, 1 Silver Slugger award
Joe Mauer c, Twins (2004-05) – Mauer could, maybe should, line up behind Teixeira, who tops him easily in every statistical category seen below. Right or wrong, though, I’m giving him some credit for being the best catcher in baseball.
25 years old, 5 years, 516 games, 1887 at-bats, 296 runs, 592 hits, 122 doubles, 42 homeruns, 270 RBI, 29 stolen bases, 268 walks, .314/.397/.457, 126 OPS+, 862 total bases, 2 All-Star appearances, 1 Silver Slugger award
Mark Teixeira, 3b, Rangers (2003) – It never fails to surprise me when a player as talented as Teixeira is forced to travel so much: three teams in the past two seasons alone. Fortunately for him, he’s a free agent after the season and should end up with a team that will hold onto him for the long haul.
28 years old, 6 years, 859 games, 3254 at-bats, 536 runs, 930 hits, 211 doubles, 191 homeruns, 640 RBI, 12 stolen bases, 418 walks, .286/.374/.535, 132 OPS+, 1740 total bases, 1 All-Star appearance, 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Slugger awards
Cliff Floyd, 1b, Expos (1994) – I wasn’t sure about placing Floyd so far down on this list until I actually looked at his stats and found that they weren’t quite as impressive as previously thought. Still, a very solid career from the guy who has recently assumed a part-time leadership role with the young Tampa Bay Rays.
35 years old, 16 years, 1582 games, 5210 at-bats, 811 runs, 1449 hits, 332 doubles, 230 homeruns, 847 RBI, 148 stolen bases, 590 walks, .278/.359/.483, 119 OPS+, 2517 total bases, 1 All-Star appearance
J.D. Drew, of, Cardinals (1999) – When Drew was the game’s number one prospect in 1999, future teammate Rick Ankiel was number two. Like Floyd, he has never quite lived up to his early promise, but will still have a decent career to look back on when all is said and done.
32 years old, 11 years, 1199 games, 3966 at-bats, 760 runs, 1127 hits, 212 doubles, 192 homeruns, 633 RBI, 81 stolen bases, 678 walks, .284/.392/.503, 129 OPS+, 1995 total bases, 1 All-Star appearance
Josh Hamilton, of, Devil Rays (2001) – So, who is this Hamilton guy? What’s his story? I haven’t heard a thing about him. Seriously, here’s an interesting project: predict Hamilton’s career numbers if he hadn’t thrown away all those years on drugs and alcohol. It might be the biggest “what-if?” in sports.
27 years old, 2 years, 203 games, 751 at-bats, 127 runs, 223 hits, 42 doubles, 46 homeruns, 155 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 79 walks, .297/.366/.550, 136 OPS+, 413 total bases
Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals (2000) – It’s probably cheating a little to put Ankiel on this list as a position player when he made the original list as a pitcher, but I’m doing it because his offensive production makes up a portion of his legacy as a player, too. I wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing the guy’s one-time status as a top prospect without looking at all available angles.
29 years old, 6 years, 199 games, 612 at-bats, 97 runs, 166 hits, 30 doubles, 35 homeruns, 108 RBI, 3 stolen bases, 53 walks, .271/.330/.505, 115 OPS+, 309 total bases
Ben Grieve, of, Athletics (1998 ) – Thanks to the resurgence of Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel’s ability to swing a bat, Grieve is the only top ranked position player who is no longer active.
32 years old, 9 years (retired), 976 games, 3215 at-bats, 471 runs, 864 hits, 192 doubles, 118 homeruns, 492 RBI, 24 stolen bases, 466 walks, .269/.367/.442, 113 OPS+, 1420 total bases, 1 All-Star appearance, 1 Rookie of the Year award
Jay Bruce, of, Reds (2008 ) – Bruce is down this far only because he has yet to accomplish a whole lot at the major league level (aside from a remarkable first week or so). Check back at this time next year and he should have moved past Grieve, at least.
21 years old, 1 year, 65 games, 252 at-bats, 38 runs, 69 hits, 12 doubles, 11 homeruns, 32 RBI, 2 stolen bases, 17 walks, .274/.322/.452, 99 OPS+, 114 total bases
Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays (2006) – I didn’t realize Young is only 22; it seems like he’s been around forever. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last season, but still has yet to live up to the hype.
22 years old, 3 years, 299 games, 1177 at-bats, 136 runs, 343 hits, 67 doubles, 20 homeruns, 147 RBI, 24 stolen bases, 53 walks, .291/.325/.408, 95 OPS+, 480 total bases
Josh Beckett, rhp, Marlins (2002) – The year after he topped the list, Beckett was the World Series MVP, shutting out the Yankees in Yankee Stadium to clinch the Fall Classic for the Marlins. He might be the best postseason pitcher of his generation.
28 years old, 8 years, 190 games, 187 starts, 87-60 won-lost, 1153.3 innings, 3.78 ERA, 1093 strikeouts, 115 ERA+, 1 All-Star appearance, 1 World Series MVP award, 1 ALCS MVP award
Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, Red Sox (2007) – The only Japanese import to make the top five, Matsuzaka is following up an okay 2007 with a very good 2008, although he struggles greatly with his control at times.
27 years old, 2 years, 51 games, 51 starts, 27-14 won-lost, 311.3 innings, 3.93 ERA, 295 strikeouts, 118 ERA+
Steve Avery, lhp, Braves (1990) – I’m just barely old enough to remember when Avery was one of the most promising young lefthanders in the game, a kid who won the NLCS MVP in 1991 and was part of the best starting foursome in recent memory in 1993. He won 47 games from 1991-93, but only 46 over his final seven seasons.
38 years old, 11 years (retired), 297 games, 261starts, 96-83 won-lost, 1554.7 innings, 4.19 ERA, 980 strikeouts, 100 ERA+, 1 NLCS MVP award
Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals (2000) – I was looking through my old Sports Illustrated magazines last night and found an article on Ankiel, written after his disastrous performance in the 2000 playoffs. Adam Kennedy had the best quote in the piece, saying that Ankiel was the most confident person he knew and if he had to choose a pitcher who would dominate the game for the next fifteen years, he would put all his money on Ankiel. In retrospect, this would not have been a good bet.
29 years old, 4 years (converted to outfield), 51 games, 41 starts, 13-10 won-lost, 242 innings, 3.90 ERA, 269 strikeouts, 118 ERA+
Todd Van Poppel, rhp, Athletics (1991) – Maybe the most over-hyped draft pick in baseball history. I always forget that Van Poppel was not the first overall pick in the draft, falling to Oakland in the middle of the first round.
36 years old, 11 years (retired), 359 games, 98 starts, 40-52 won-lost, 907 innings, 5.58 ERA, 711 strikeouts, 80 ERA+
Brien Taylor, lhp, Yankees (1992) – One of only three first overall draft choices not to make the majors (not counting David Price and Tim Beckham, the 2007 and 2008 top picks, respectively), Taylor had the talent to be Alex Rodriguez’s pitching counterpart on this list, a guaranteed Hall of Famer and all-time great. Then came a fight, a shoulder injury, and irrelevance. At least Taylor gets to be the answer to a trivia question.
No MLB stats (retired)