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March 1, 2011

The BP Broadside

The Most Disappointing Prospects of All Time, Part 2

by Steven Goldman

Continuing the rundown of the most disappointing prospects of all time, here, in no particular order, are the next 10 on my list. Once I’ve run through an infamous 50 I will attempt a ranking. As with the last installment, I’ve mixed in notorious cases with what I hope will be surprises. Again, this is a series that I may not complete in a week; the list of possibilities is large enough to keep us all year, and I’ll want to take a break to make fun of the Mets sooner than later—and other stuff as well, but mostly to make fun of the Mets.

Once again, the goal is not to chronicle the failings of over-drafted players, but to list those players who had established themselves as real prospects, only to fail for one reason or another.

Al Chambers, LF/1B, Mariners
Drafted 1979, first round, first overall
An odd story, one where I suspect we don’t know all the details, the M’s made Chambers, more highly scouted as a football player, the top pick in a strong first round, thinking he had 70 power. Instead, he proved to be a very pedestrian hitter (his PCL record of .303/.352/.499 isn’t great for a corner guy given the league hitting environment). The M’s buried him, giving him only 141 major-league PAs over three seasons.

Clint Hartung, P-OF, Giants
Minor-league purchase, 1945
An early example of prospect hype, Hartung was supposed to be able to both hit and pitch. In short, he was Babe Ruth come again, except skinny, right-handed, and from Texas. The problem was that he had gained this reputation as a 19-year-old in the low minors, but World War II and a stubborn refusal to return to the minors had kept him off of pro diamonds for four years by the time he made his major-league debut. A 24-year-old who hasn’t had significant playing time above the Northern League is far less projectable, no matter how versatile, and the “Hondo Hurricane” was bound to disappoint. He had his moments, particularly in a rookie year in which he went 9-7, pitched a shutout, and batted .309/.330/.543 in 97 PAs, but he never came close to being a star. For more, see my 2009 profile.

Rick Manning, OF, Indians
Drafted 1972, first round, second overall
The Indians completely misjudged Manning, thinking the high school selection had the makings of a power-hitting shortstop. He definitely had a hit tool—he had batted over .600 in his senior year, literally never striking out. The power never came, and he couldn’t play short, though he did become a very good defensive center fielder. Manning spent two seasons in the California League and one and change in the American Association, skipping Double-A. He was called to the bigs after hitting .316/.380/.393 in the first 30 games of the 1975 season. He rewarded the decision, batting .285/.347/.358 as a 20-year-old rookie (.260 True Average), and improved in year two, batting .292/.337/.393 (.274). A severe back injury curtailed his age-22 season, and though Manning would play another 10 years, he hit only .249/.311/.333 from then until the end of his career—and also caused the Indians to trade Dennis Eckersley to the Red Sox, but that’s a story for another time.

Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels
Drafted 2001, first round, 13th overall
Kotchman was supposed to be superbly prepared to compete in the majors due to his father being a longtime minor-league manager. Nothing impresses scouts and horse breeders like bloodlines. The first baseman had trouble staying healthy from the outset, but when he played, he hit quite well; his minor-league rates stand at .324/.406/.494. Power was slow to develop, but when you’re that good at reaching base and play good defense, it doesn’t matter—baseball will take a Keith Hernandez as eagerly as a Frank Thomas. When Kotchman arrived in the majors, the injuries followed him but the bat stayed behind; his 2007 (.296/.372/.467) was his sole memorable campaign. In 2010, he hit .217/.280/.336 in 457 PAs, good for a -1.5 WARP. This spring, Kotchman is competing for a bench role with the Rays, and .324/.406/.494 seems very far away.

Danny Goodwin, C, Angels
Drafted 1975, first round, first overall
The only player to be selected first overall in two different drafts, Goodwin was selected by the White Sox in 1971 but did not sign, choosing to go to college. Four years later, he joined the Angels, an organization not much interested in developing prospects at the time. Goodwin hit quite well, including .305/.403/.520 in 77 games at Triple-A Salt Lake City in 1977. This earned him a midseason promotion to the majors, but he played sparingly and didn’t hit. In 1978, the Angels simultaneously blocked Goodwin by acquiring Brian Downing from the White Sox and busted him back to the Texas League, where he simply rampaged, batting .360 and slugging .637. Called up in August, he hit well but played little. That December, the Angels traded Goodwin and Ron Jackson to the Twins for Disco Dan Ford. The Angels were done with their draftee though he never caught a game for them and had received just 175 PAs over three seasons. The Twins used Goodwin as a part-time first baseman-DH, and whatever promise he had was lost. Goodwin was handled as badly as any top prospect in the history of the game.

Scott Ruffcorn, RHP, White Sox
Drafted 1991, first round, 25th overall
One of the big fish on this list, and the story is very simple: he was crazy good in the minors but not at all good in the majors. There wasn’t a major arm injury or a good reason why; his command simply vanished every time he was invited to pitch in a big-league ballpark. Ruffcorn shot through the minors, getting called up to Chicago in August of 1993 after posting a 2.75 ERA in 180 innings split between Double- and Triple-A, striking out 185 while walking only 60. Back at Nashville in 1994, he more or less did it again, pitching to a 2.72 ERA tune over 165.2 innings. It didn’t matter. Ruffcorn was pasted in the majors, and after 1994 his command began slipping in the minors as well. Still, he finished the minors portion of his career at 68-30 with a 3.29 ERA. His major-league record was 0-8, 8.57 in 30 games, and one wonders what the now-41-year-old, out of baseball for going on 12 years, says to himself about the way he fumbled his chances.

Hensley Meulens, 3B, Yankees
Free Agent, 1985
Now the Giants hitting coach, “Bam-Bam” was once going to be a star in the Big Apple. the right-handed-hitting third baseman had tremendous power at a very young age, hitting approximately .300/.377/.558 with 28 home runs in the Carolina League at age 20, but he had problems making contact and couldn’t field. Despite these flaws, the Yankees pushed him hard and fast, not really noticing that he didn’t hit or field as they pushed him up the ladder. Finally, after a failed major-league audition in 1989, he got back on the prospect track at Triple-A, hitting .285/.376/.510 with 26 home runs as a 23-year-old while primarily playing left field. This was the first positive thing he had done in some time, and it earned him both a recall (successful) and a full season in the majors in 1991 (not). Back in Columbus in 1992, the now-25-year-old hit .275/.352/.481 with 26 home runs, but also struck out 168 times. The Yankees were largely done with him, and he had just 44 major-league plate appearances remaining. He finished his career at .220/.288/.353 in 182 games. For more, see my profile of Meulens from last fall.

Ruben Rivera, OF, Yankees
Free Agent, 1990
As I write these words, Rivera may be gearing up for another season in the Mexican League, where he has been exiled since leaving the White Sox organization, his seventh, back in 2006. Ruben was billed as a five-tool talent, or six-tool if you want to throw in selectivity. Signed out of Panama, he made his stateside debut at 18 and was at Triple-A at 21 after hitting .281/.357/.541 with 33 home runs and 48 steals in 1994 and .284/.390/.553 in 1995. He finished the season at Triple-A Columbus, hitting 15 home runs in 174 at-bats. Supposedly sulking at Triple-A, Rivera was called to a crowded outfield in early 1996 when Tim Raines was hurt. He alternated hot and cold streaks and was sent back down so that Gerald Williams and Ruben Sierra could play left field, one of those wonderful moves that they won’t put on Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame plaque. The following spring, in one of the worst moves in Yankees history, the Yankees sent Rivera, Rafael Medina, and $3 million to the Padres for Homer Bush, a confirmed minor-league outfielder, and the rights to Hideki Irabu. To say that Rivera failed miserably with the Padres would be an understatement; he batted .204/.301/.397 in nearly 400 games. The Reds, Rangers, and Giants gave him major-league tries, as did the Orioles and White Sox, and a return trip to the Yankees ended strangely when he was accused of stealing Derek Jeter’s glove.

Paul Strand, P-CF, Braves
Rule 5 Draft, 1912
Strand was a prospect bust on two separate occasions. A touted lefty pitcher, he joined the Braves in 1913 at age 19, then played a small role on the 1914 “miracle” championship team, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA (league average was 2.78), though he didn’t pitch in the World Series. The next season, Strand skragged his arm and was promptly sold off to Toledo of the American Association, his major-league career likely over. When the arm didn’t respond, Strand said, “No, problem! I’ve always been a pretty good hitter, so I’ll become an outfielder!” He turned out to be a good defensive outfielder when his arm felt good enough for him to throw and a very consistent hitter for average. Moving to the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pacific Coast League in the early 1920s, he was able to take advantage of the lengthy PCL schedule to set some huge records, including knocking 325 hits in 1923 (.394 average in 194 games) and making close to 600 putouts in the outfield, also a record. Connie Mack of the A’s figured he could use some of that, and sent three players and cash, possibly as much as $100,000, west in exchange for the now-30-year-old Strand’s services for 1924. Naturally, Strand held out. When he finally signed, Strand strained to justify the deal by hitting .228/.254/.329. In June he made another, final trip to Toledo. He hit .343 in nearly 1,200 games in the PCL and American Association bracketing that final call-up.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
Drafted 2007, first round, fifth overall
As we were among the first to hop on the Wieters bandwagon, let us be among the first off of it. The backstop is heading into his age-25 season. Whatever his .343/.438/.576 rates seemed to portend, that’s gone, along with the notion that he’s a switch-hitter (he has hit .230/.278/.344 from the right side) or a power hitter. His glove and the dream of what might have been will keep him around for years, but stardom now seems spectacularly unlikely.   

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

91 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Ira

When I saw the title of this article, I thought of Matt Wieters.

Mar 01, 2011 05:35 AM
rating: 1
 
austryn2

How about Brad Komminsk?
20 at High A: .322/.458/.606 in 132 games
21 at AA: .273/.377/.515 in 133 games
22 at AAA: .334/.443/.596 in 117 games before a September '83 callup to Atlanta

Career line in the majors? .218/.301/.336 in over 1,000 PAs.

(whaan whaan...)

Mar 01, 2011 06:11 AM
rating: 4
 
Gotribe31

But a wildly entertaining minor league manager.

Mar 01, 2011 07:19 AM
rating: 0
 
npb7768

Yes yes yes...When these guys are eventually ranked, Goodwin stands alone, but Komminsk is no worse than third...Who can forget John Sterling's nightly cocksure: "Let me tell you something...And you can take this to the bank...It might not be this year, or next year, but someday, this Brad Komminsk is going to be one heck of a hitter."

Mar 01, 2011 07:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

Are you questioning John Sterling's ability to evaluate talent?

Mar 01, 2011 11:07 AM
rating: 1
 
Joe D.

You can't predict baseball. You just can't. I'd like to meet the man who can. Because you just can't predict it. If you can, then Mister, you're a better man than I.

...

Just can't predict it, Suzyn.

Mar 01, 2011 20:43 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Pitch-perfect.

Mar 01, 2011 21:49 PM
 
antilm

I logged one for one reason; to ask "How is Brad Komminsk not at or near the top of any list of the most disappointing prospects of all time?" His absence taints the credibility of everyone else on the list -- especially since guys like Cameron Drew and Chris Snelling never projected as difference-makers; just freaky-high BA guys with gap power. Komminsk, on the other hand, was the second coming of Mickey Mantle; a kid with light-tower power who could go home to first with the best of them. Sorry, that's a glaring omission.

Mar 01, 2011 08:13 AM
rating: -3
 
Joe D.

"Sorry, that's a glaring omission."

---

From Mr. Goldman, in the intro to this article: "Continuing the rundown of the most disappointing prospects of all time, here, in no particular order, are the next 10 on my list. Once I’ve run through an infamous 50 I will attempt a ranking."

Mar 01, 2011 08:40 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Thanks, Joe D. Komminsk is definitely coming.

Mar 01, 2011 10:11 AM
 
ostrowj1

I know your game, you never had a list of 50. You just thought of 10 guys to write about in the first article and planned on stealing ideas from the comment section to fill out your 50! No particular order... brilliant!

Mar 01, 2011 14:11 PM
rating: 4
 
austryn2

Whoops! My mistake... That's what I get for BPing at work.

Mar 01, 2011 15:28 PM
rating: 0
 
mattcollins

Early-drafted catchers just don't make good prospects. They're just too risky. I don't know why everyone goes batty over them.

Mar 01, 2011 06:22 AM
rating: 0
 
dbimberg

Weiters had one thing going against him, in that Joe Mauer was just hitting his stride when Weiters was drafted, as was Brian McCann.

Thus, I think, a lot of undue comparisons were made and thus amped up the expectations unfairly on poor Max.

Mar 01, 2011 09:06 AM
rating: 2
 
Brian Cartwright

I'll still take Wieters over Danny Moskos

Mar 01, 2011 16:56 PM
rating: 4
 
gregorybfoley

Buster Posey

Mar 01, 2011 17:55 PM
rating: 4
 
lmarighi

I'd like more than one partial season before we declare him great, but he certainly is looking like a steal at the moment (and he did at the time, if I remember correctly. There was surprise that the Rays passed on him).

Mar 02, 2011 03:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Austin (Raleigh)

Seems a bit early to call out Wieters, but i'm sure that's meant to instigate discussion.
He OPS'd .730 in the second half, compared to .674 in the first in 2010, not exactly All Star numbers (nor even as good as his 2009 numbers), but there was some improvement there, and it was still his first full season in the bigs.

Mar 01, 2011 06:56 AM
rating: 8
 
dwinning

Concur, but I'd say waaaay too early, the guy's not even 25 yet for god's sake, how can he be a bust already? The fact that it's "disappointing" that he didn't explode onto the scene as a fully formed hall of famer like a pujols or piazza says more about people's absurd expectations than it does about his development as a player. Is there really any reason that he can't become a guy who hits 270/340/470 while playing solid D? That's pretty much what johnny bench was, no?

Mar 01, 2011 07:06 AM
rating: 6
 
gilgamesh

Well, that's what Johnny Bench was if you average him out, but that's a little reductive. Right now it seems the best to hope for from Wieters is Johnny Bench 1971; with the prayer of Johnny Bench 1977, and the anticipated hope of Johnny Bench 1970 long gone.

Mar 01, 2011 07:21 AM
rating: 1
 
Dave Holgado

Catchers are different. The amount of defensive responsibility Wieters has to assume at that position could alone explain the lag thus far in his offensive performance. He may never live up to the lofty expectations, but writing him off now strikes me as an over-correction. Steve, you should work for Moody's!

Mar 01, 2011 07:56 AM
rating: 1
 
Lou Doench

To quote the late Sparky, “I don’t want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench.”

I agree, if Bench is reduced to that average it's a fair comparison, but the thought of Weiters ever peaking the way Bench did, that's crazy talk now.

Mar 01, 2011 10:28 AM
rating: 3
 
HeavyHitter

I never forgave Sparky for that comment. It was said of Thurman Munson just before before or during the 1976 World Series. Munson hit .529 during the 1976 WS and was the only Yankee who hit aabove .250 in the Rds' 4 game sweep. As fate would have it, Bench hit .533 with 2 HR's and was the WS MVP.

Mar 01, 2011 18:08 PM
rating: 0
 
comish4lif

Ruben Rivera also is reported to have stolen Derek Jeter's glove and sold it to a collector. Rivera eventually returned the glove. And was subsequently shipped to the Padres.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A01E0D71439F931A25750C0A9649C8B63

Mar 01, 2011 07:15 AM
rating: 0
 
npb7768

Say what you will about Ruben Rivera, but he saved the Yankees in 1996 --- they owe everything to him...All you Yankee fans know it --- the 87 things that happened in October for the Yankees to pull off their championship wouldn’t have if not for Rivera. On 9-August the Yankees were up 9 games on Baltimore and a month later on 9-September they’d gone 11-18 over the previous month and were in complete free-fall, 3 up on Baltimore (and Chicago was even closer for the WC)….In the last of the ninth, up a run with one out, Wetteland walked 2 guys and then Higginson came up and drilled what was going to be the game-winning hit, putting the Yankees just 2 up on Baltimore (and Chicago)…Rivera made an unbelievable catch, saving the game, and the Yankees went on a streak after that…He doesn’t make that catch and the panic in NY would have continued…

Mar 01, 2011 07:58 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say Rivera saved the Yankees. It is true, though, that that season of his, more than anyone other than perhaps Kevin Maas, sums up the concept of "lightning in a bottle." He was fun, then he was gone, then he was back, then he was engaged in the oddest clubhouse caper this side of Jason Grimsley. Certainly he's had one the more memorable Yankee careers considering how little time he spent in pinstripes.

Mar 01, 2011 16:18 PM
rating: 0
 
texpope

Hard to say trading Rivera, Medina, and cash to the Padres for a bag of magic beans was one of the Yankees worst moves in history. In recent years, tossing $3 million out the window on a lottery ticket is the kind of decision that the Yanks seem to make on a slow day just to stir things up.

Mar 01, 2011 08:01 AM
rating: 2
 
georgeevans111

I agree. Irabu was actually a semi-serviceable pitcher in his time in New York, and his trade to Montreal brought back Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook. I don't think the author put much thought into this when he called it one of the worst trades in Yankee history.

Mar 01, 2011 13:51 PM
rating: 2
 
bbienk01

Plus he was involved in my favorite baserunning play ever when he pinch ran for Andres Galarraga while playing for the Giants in 2003.

Jon Miller's call on the radio:

"Swing and there's a shot, deep into right-center, racing back Dellucci, still going back into death valley, it goes right over his glove! He missed it! But Ruben Rivera missed second base! Now he's heading for third and they're gonna throw him out by plenty, but the throw to third is botched! Now he's heading home! The loose ball in the infield! And he's out by five feet at the plate! And that was the worst baserunning in the history of the game!"

Mar 01, 2011 21:54 PM
rating: 2
 
bbienk01

Link to the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ94rkwdTvQ

Mar 01, 2011 21:58 PM
rating: 1
 
VDracul

Dumping on Wieters much too early. How about Ruben Mateo, I am not sure if he was hyped enough but he did fail spectacularly.

Mar 01, 2011 07:22 AM
rating: 0
 
cjslawyer

Ah, I remember the Hensley Meulens days with the Yankees. I was a kid growing up in CT, and it was around the same time when the Red Sox had a AA affiliate in New Britain. I grew up in the greater Hartford area, so my dad and I used to go see the games when the Yankees AA team (with Meulens) played against New Britain.

I was hoping he would move up the ladder and be part of the lineup with Mattingly, but obviously that never happened.

Mar 01, 2011 07:30 AM
rating: 0
 
Eddie

Anybody remember Melvin Nieves?

Regarding Rivera's career .204/.301/.397 line.. Nowadays, they'd simply be talking about how 'unluky' he was on BABIP.

Mar 01, 2011 07:44 AM
rating: -2
 
rrydelek

No Sean Burroughs? Nobody was hyped in the minors and flopped utterly in majors to the degree he was.

Mar 01, 2011 08:00 AM
rating: 2
 
mattcollins

There's still 30 to go. I'd be shocked if Burroughs (who's an NRI for Arizona?!?!?) doesn't make the list, seeing as he was a top 10 prospect three years running by BA.

Mar 01, 2011 08:11 AM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

I see your Melvin Nieves and raise you Roberto Petagine and BP Cover Boy Josh Phelps.

Mar 01, 2011 08:09 AM
rating: 1
 
baserip4

Wieters has been a better-than league average catcher at ages 23 (1.5 fWAR in 96 games) and 24 (2.3 fWAR in 130 games) and he fits into the 50 most disappointing prospects ever? I know people were expecting an MVP-candidate, but it seems bat$hi+ insane to include a 25-year old on a list with guys who had lines of .220/.288/.353 in 182 games and were largely done before age 30.

Mar 01, 2011 08:40 AM
rating: 8
 
Hoff

I agree. Mark Prior isn't on this list, and It seems like a pretty good bet that weiters will best his total production by the time he's done. He still could hit over 120 home runs in his career. That wouldn't be too shabby.

Mar 01, 2011 09:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

The list isn't finished yet so we don't know if Prior is on it or not.

Mar 01, 2011 11:11 AM
rating: 0
 
axis95

There is no conceivable way that you can put prior on this list. He SHOULD have won the Cy Young the year they gave it to Gagne. Pitchers get hurt and that is totally unpredictable. In a stats sense, what he managed to do in his short minor league career and his hype totally carried translated over to the next level. I think the point of this article is to show the really rare prospects that actually flamed out on the negative end of confidence intervals.

Mar 01, 2011 19:26 PM
rating: 2
 
sldeck

The Space Needle deserves a mention and Joe Borchard has at least earned a spot on the bench.

Mar 01, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 1
 
HeavyHitter

Yeah, Ryan Anderson was a big tease. But nobody thought Borchard was worth what the CWS paid him as a signing bonus and his performance in the minors never generated any excitement.

Mar 01, 2011 18:16 PM
rating: 0
 
jnewfry
(131)

Looking forward to the Sparky Anderson hype section of the list, Chris Pittaro, Chris Brown, Barbaro Garbey

Mar 01, 2011 09:55 AM
rating: 2
 
John Carter

Yes, Bam-Bam and Ruffcorn were early Scoresheet mistakes of mine.

The mistake I remember the most is Sam Militello. You've never seen a more glorious minor league record than his over his first three years of professional pitching: ERAs ranged from 1.22 to 2.35 as he moved up four levels to AAA. His strikeout totals always well exceeded his innings and his walk levels were consistently under 3.00. In his 9 start trial with the '92 Yankees he posted a 3.45 ERA. There was a red flag, however, as his walk/9 rate was 4.8. From there, I can't recall a seemingly healthy pitcher turn so abrubtly the wrong way. Nine innings of 6.75 ERA was the balance of his Major League career. Back in Syracuse, his ERA was 5.73 - then much worse in subsequent tries over the next three seasons.

(I suppose this means Militello won't be included in Steve's part III, which is fine as we can here about someone else.)

Mar 01, 2011 10:02 AM
rating: -1
 
lonechicken

That group of Yankee minor leaguers in the early 90s were tearing it up prior to reaching the majors. Adkins, Eiland, Habyan, the list went on and on.

Mar 01, 2011 13:45 PM
rating: 0
 
swhedges

That's because he *wasn't* "seemingly healthy". He got hurt early in '93 (shoulder iirc, though I can't find confirmation on that), missed almost the entire season and most of the next and was never the same.

Which, of course, is why his BBREF bio closes by saying, "However, his promising career was cut short by injuries."

Mar 02, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Dave Holgado

Can't wait 'til we get to Tim Pyznarski!

Mar 01, 2011 10:04 AM
rating: 0
 
bobgale

Sorry to be negative, but seeing Wieters on this list, for the reasons eloquently stated by dwinning et al, tells me that this article isn't even worth reading beyond this point. Absurd. How about a discussion of most disappointing BP articles?

Mar 01, 2011 10:06 AM
rating: 0
 
Lou Doench

Thank You Come Again...

Mar 01, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
jedjethro

+1 to the mostly reasonable comment made by bobgale, given the groupthink "minus click."

Mar 01, 2011 15:58 PM
rating: 5
 
John Carter

. . . or he included with an interesting detail. My recollection is that his downfall was mental not physical.

Mar 01, 2011 10:06 AM
rating: -1
 
vtadave

As a Dodgers fan, I have my fingers crossed that we'll see a Greg Brock write-up. If I'm extra lucky, Billy Ashley might even make an appearance on the list.

Mar 01, 2011 10:55 AM
rating: 0
 
HeavyHitter

Your age is showing. I hadn't thought about Brock in a long time. Mike Epstein and Ben McDonald were also supposed to be far better than they were.

Mar 01, 2011 18:20 PM
rating: 0
 
mikebuetow

Stephen, there have been precious few pre-expansion players listed so far. Are you saving up, or is that because the necessary accounts regarding pre-1960 era players are relatively slim?

Mar 01, 2011 11:05 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

In part because I am consciously slanting towards the modern era, where the line between hype and performance is easier to discern. Paul Strand in this piece is a good example. Accounts say he was an anticipated pitching prospect, but the detail in his minor-league record is non-existent and there was no BA top 100 or Kevin Goldstein, so I have to take the word of some sportswriter from 100 years ago.

Mar 01, 2011 16:11 PM
 
WilliamWright

It seems odd to me to see Rick Manning on this list. He wasn't a great player, but he did have a 13 year career. It would seem to me that if you ranked him against all players chosen with the second pick he wouldn't fare that badly.

Mar 01, 2011 11:19 AM
rating: 3
 
mikebuetow

At first blush, I would have agreed. Then I clicked on Manning's player card. Lifetime WARP of -6.4.

I won't pretend to know what the pre-MLB expectations were for Manning, but they must have been pretty high. To turn in a negative WARP for his career, well, either the majors were teeming with good centerfielders or that's some pretty serious suckitude.


.

Mar 01, 2011 18:44 PM
rating: 0
 
TGisriel

Wieters clearly doesn't belong on this list. He was an above average catcher in his 23 and 24 year old seasons. He is not yet 25.

Even if he never develops more, and is simply an above average catcher, he will be valuable.

And then there is the possibility (likelihood?)that he continues to develop.

We'll see what he does in the future, but he does not belong on this list. The worst we can truthfully say about Wieters thus far is that he was overhyped (by Baseball Prospectus among others), and he has not dominated the league, but in less than 2 full seasons he has established himself as an above average major league catcher.

Mar 01, 2011 11:40 AM
rating: 9
 
Pat Folz

I agree with everything you said, but it should be remembered that "disappointing" isn't the same thing as "bad." I had a first-class seat on the Wieters bandwagon, all giddy about a Gold Glove catcher who hit like Mark Teixeira. Instead we basically got Damian Miller, a good player but nothing like the HOFer I thought he'd be (granted he's less than 2 years into his career so there's some small glimmer of hope left).

Mar 01, 2011 12:08 PM
rating: 4
 
YaoPau

It's not a small glimmer of hope, Wieters still has enormous potential. When Damian Miller was 23 years old, he hit .212 in A ball.

Mar 01, 2011 12:52 PM
rating: 6
 
alangreene

So many Padres...sigh.

Mar 01, 2011 11:43 AM
rating: 0
 
tmutchell

Ron Williamson: Taken in the 2nd round of the 1971 draft, he'd been a 5-tool outfielder at a wildly successful Oklahoma high school, there were whispers (as with any great Oklahoman player) that he'd be the next Mickey Mantle. But he couldn't hit even at the low levels of the minors (never got above Single A), couldn't be trusted to stay out of trouble living on his own, and washed out by age 20.

He tried to remake himself as a pitcher at age 23 and got a shot with the Oneonta Yankees but got hurt and blew his chance. Then he ended up a wanderer who couldn't hold down a regular job, suffering from various mental illnesses, wrongly accused of rape and murder, spending 11 years on death row and was freed just in time to live the last five years of his life, bouncing from place to place, self medicating and eventually dying from liver disease at age 51.

There may not have been as much hype for him as for Weiters or Brien Taylor, but baseball's never seen a bigger bust. (*insert obligatory Morganna the Kissing Bandit Joke here*)

Mar 01, 2011 12:32 PM
rating: 1
 
96Starlings

I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not. But I have a list....
For your consideration: Rick Ankiel, Gregg Jefferies,
Wil Cordero, Willie Greene, Bobby Crosby, Todd Zeile
(yeah, I'm from St. Louis.), Brooks Kieschnick, Sam Horn,
Ben Petrick, Rocco Baldelli, Jeff Francouer, Paul Wilson,
Mark Prior and 70% of the entire top 100 prospect from
2002.

Thanks. That felt good.

Mar 01, 2011 13:46 PM
rating: 0
 
SC

Can I get a Ben Grieve?

In this analysis it seems that pitchers who failed due to injury (Prior and the Mets' trio spring to mind) are distinct from those who just never realize their potential.

Mar 01, 2011 14:08 PM
rating: 1
 
rudyrosen

Alex Gordon?!?!

I remember vividly the standing ovation that Gordo got on opening day when he came up to face Schilling with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the first inning. Ah...the future in KC was bright. The next coming of George Brett had arrived!

Mar 01, 2011 15:02 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

He was in part one of the series.

Mar 01, 2011 16:05 PM
rating: 2
 
qwik3457bb

Re: Matt Wieters.

I give you...Jason Varitek, who was an all-universe prospect coming out of Georgia Tech. Taken 14th overall by the Mariners in 1994.
I hadn't seen hype on a college catcher like Wieters since Varitek, also a switch-hitting power guy.

When Varitek was going into his age-25 year, he had floundered at AA for two seasons, and would flounder at AAA in his age-25 year. Played the whole year (except for 1 at bat) at AAA, then got traded to the Red Sox (along with Derek Lowe!) at mid-season for the immortal Heathcliff Slocumb.

(Hey...maybe the Marlins or somebody can trade for Wieters (and Jake Arriata, or something) for say, Jose Ceda.)

Anywho, it's way, way early to close the book on Wieters. Catchers tend to develop later than other position players, in any case.

Mar 01, 2011 15:10 PM
rating: 3
 
evo34

Exactly. Catcher development is highly unpredictable. It's embarrassing (for the entire BP staff) to read Wieters' name in this list.

In additon to the aforementioned Varitek, Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada were similar "busts" at age 25. Based on the "irredeemably perfect" editing of the 2011 BP annual...I find it spectacularly unlikely that Goldman will be running the show at BP three years from now.

Mar 01, 2011 21:50 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

You're wrong about all three. Posada was hardly a highly touted prospect, and Martinez hadn't piled up anything like the major-league sample Wieters has had. Once he got to play, he was remarkably consistent, with only the injury year of 2008 a disappointment. Only Varitek had a negative label based on how highly touted he was coming out of college and how weak his minor-league hitting was, but that's also the point--as a pro he hadn't given anyone reason to dream on him the way Wieters had. Varitek surprised in the majors after disappointing in the minors. Wieters has been the reverse of that.

Your evaluations of editors might be better; I guess we'll see. I'm well past my age-25 season, so anything BP gets out of me is a bonus. You can talk about your late bloomers, but this is ridiculous.

Mar 01, 2011 22:13 PM
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Parenthetically, I will be discussing this very issue on Baltimore's 105.7 the Fan in Baltimore at approximately 2:20 PM EST on Wednesday.

Mar 01, 2011 22:18 PM
 
evo34

Turns out I was pretty dead on. How's Bleacher Report treating you?

Oct 05, 2012 23:33 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

No Cubs fans who remember Bobby Hill? Or is it still too painful?

Mar 01, 2011 16:00 PM
rating: 0
 
slackerjake

Painful???

Try being a Pirates fan who ended up with Bobby Hill and 10 weeks of Jose Hernandez for...what's that guy's name again?

Oh, right, Aramis Ramirez.

Jun 07, 2011 17:34 PM
rating: 0
 
philtheez

I'd like to see many more of these articles on Wieters. As I continue to scoop him up on the cheap in as many leagues as I can. :)

Mar 01, 2011 18:33 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

Re: bobgale/Wieters:

I'm strongly in the Wieters-doesn't-belong-here camp, but I don't see point in letting his inclusion spoil the entire article. This isn't a scientifically provable absolute as if much of anything we discuss about baseball is. What this is - is one heck of a fun series.

Mar 01, 2011 18:45 PM
rating: 4
 
ostrowj1

This is an interesting idea for a list, but so many prospects fail. Every team has had "the next Mickey Mantle" end up flaking out by the age of 25. As a tribe fan, the "prospect" that really drives me nuts is not Marte or Joe Charboneau, but Brandon Phillips. Anyone can fail. It takes special talent to be so highly rated for so long, then be so crappy, only to get a an MVP vote a few years after he is traded for Jeff Stevens. I would like to see a list of "failed" prospects who, after all the hype and talent, generated value only after so many people gave up on them.

Mar 01, 2011 19:13 PM
rating: 3
 
axis95

Ben Johnson, Brandon Wood, Jesse Foppert, Hank Blalock, Rick Ankiel, Jose Ortiz, Joel Guzman, Angel Villalona, Andrew Miller, Any Rockies Catching Prospect, Ian Stewart, Chris Nelson, Jeff Francis (Haha more rockies), Lastings Milledge, Jeremy Hermida.

Aside from Ben Johnson who was from my childhood, the rest of the list burned holes in my fantasy minor league system!!!

Mar 01, 2011 19:37 PM
rating: 0
 
axis95

Meant Ben McDonald.

Mar 01, 2011 19:47 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

I remember going to Detroit in mid-summer '09 for a Tigers-Orioles game. My first chance to see the supposedly immortal Wieters in the flesh. He went 0-4, but it was the most impressive 0-4 I have ever seen. Each at-bat ended with a very hard hit line drive right at a corner outfielder. Justin Verlander was the starter that night. Verlander can pitch. In the 1st, he took a high 96mph pitch to Left. The second liner was off a 96-mph fastball on the inner half - opposite field. In the third at bat, Wieters battled off Verlander to a full count, then took a 98-mph fastball on the outer edge of the plate back to LF. In the 9th, facing Fernando Rodney, after taking a 98mph 4-seamer on wide, he smashed the next pitch, an 88-mph change to CF, Curtis Granderson. I will still hold faith in Wieters.
And I love Gameday!

Mar 01, 2011 19:43 PM
rating: 1
 
BrewersTT

I'm fine with Wieters being here. Look at the conversation it has generated, which is really the point of articles like this. Another high-pick C that comes to mind now when thinking of Wieters is B.J. Surhoff, who was expected to hit but put up TAvs in the mid-to-lowish .200s for almost all of his many years in Milwaukee, before blossoming somewhat in Baltimore. But he played til age 40, and generally added something to a team. There are worse legacies.

Mar 01, 2011 20:25 PM
rating: 0
 
rbrianc

Surprised we see Alex Gordon yet no Brandon Wood yet?

I've always been intrigued about a straight up trade of the two - perhaps a change of scenery would do them both good. I still have some hope for Wood, but I always thought the Royals would never make the trade, but the Angels would in a heart beat.

I'd like to hear others thoughts about who you'd take now - Gordon or Wood?

Mar 01, 2011 20:28 PM
rating: 0
 
metfanaaron2001

I think Matt Wieters is a great example of why it's silly to but players on this list who are active and not even in their prime years yet.

The only thing that's busted with regards to Matt Wieters is PECOTA's prediction that he'd go crazy on the league immediately. That, and other projections from other publications, unfairly make it seem like if Wieters doesn't hit .300/.400/.500 or better he hasn't lived up to expectations.

As other people here have said, Wieters even now is a worthy everyday Catcher, with room for growth, and that should be enough to avoid being labeled a bust. There are plenty of prospects out there who were equally touted and didn't even manage Wieters current level of respectability.

If Wieters is a bust, so are Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford and Jay Bruce, to name a few guys who struggled in their first season or two in a full season at the highest level of baseball.

Mar 01, 2011 21:09 PM
rating: 4
 
Mike White

"No matter what happens in Wieters' major league career—which should start very soon with Ramon Hernandez traded away—he can bask in the glory of what was arguably the best minor league performance of the last 40 years."

That was from the BP 2009 annual. I think having the type of minor league resume Wieters possessed plus his skills as a backstop when placed next to his current major league achievements would paint the portrait of a disappointing career thus far.

Mar 02, 2011 00:09 AM
rating: -1
 
leites

Well, that estimation of that minor league performance should be revised, now that BP admitted it was based on erroneous Davenport translations for both of the leagues that Wieters played in that year. My sense is that with accurate translations, the performance was something less than historic.

Mar 02, 2011 20:55 PM
rating: 2
 
metfanaaron2001

His "career" is less than two full seasons long.

Mar 02, 2011 00:54 AM
rating: 2
 
John Carter

Re: Militello -

For some reason I dimly recall a mental issue along the lines of Zach Greinke's. "Baseball injuries" is pretty vague and may have been an assumption based on his playing time. However, I apologize for relying on a dim memory. I certainly could be wrong.

Mar 02, 2011 09:51 AM
rating: -1
 
Schere

Ruben Rivera was called up when Bernie Williams went on the DL, with the public statement that he would return to the minors no matter what. He started 15 games and hit well, and was demoted anyway. He had a .317/.455/.488 line at the time and didn't have time to slump. I'm not sure what the left fielders have to do with anything.

Back in Columbus, he reportedly bitched about the demotion. He definitely didn't hit, and and one point Reggie Jackson was dispatched to talk some sense into him (this might have been before or after this point in his career, I forget.) Late in the season, he hurt his arm making two Bo Jacksonesque throws from the outfield in a 14-1 game. For whatever reason, he never again produced at the plate.

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/27/sports/ruben-rivera-s-injury-worse-surgery-likely.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm

In looking this up, I see that he's been DESTROYING the Mexican League, along with some other MLB washouts like Geronimo Gil and Roberto Petaigne...just a reminder of how skilled MLB players are.

Mar 02, 2011 10:57 AM
rating: 0
 
jnossal

Toe Nash, anyone?

Mar 07, 2011 06:25 AM
rating: 0
 
timber

Well, here it is 2014 and I think Steven's placement of Wieters on the list was spot-on after all. He's not a useless player, but he's nowhere near what he was expected to be.

And an expensive Boras client to boot.

Jan 29, 2014 14:37 PM
rating: -1
 
cdt719

OTOH, BP was driving a lot of the Weiters hype through what was apparently a flaw in PECOTA not adjusting his MLEs correctly. 13.1 brWAR, 9.7 bpWAR, and 14.4 fgWAR is pretty solid through 5 seasons. I believe he's had a better career so far than everyone else in that draft other than Price and Heyward.

Mar 04, 2014 04:55 AM
rating: 1
 
evo34

Yeah, +15 career WAR by age 27 is quite the all-time bust... PECOTA was the bust, not Wieters. As for Goldman, let's just say it was addition by subtraction to get him out of here.

Apr 25, 2014 22:16 PM
rating: 0
 
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