Every player's first hit is special, but some players' first hits are dumb and stupid.
There are certain things in baseball that are just always the same. Player gets his first big-league hit. Somebody tosses the ball to the first- or third-base coach, who rolls it into the dugout. If a teammate picks it up before the bat boy does, he’ll pretend to flip the ball into the crowd. The teammates will scuff up a ball and pretend that it is the one going on the player’s mantle. Predictable stuff that makes you realize how much of your life you’ve spent watching baseball, and perhaps how much you hate it.
There are details that vary, though. Like when Irving Falu got his first hit, as he was running to third base, there was a shot of his family. There was a shot of his mother, joyful, sitting near a man who is, I have concluded, not at all:
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Tim Raines has his case re-examined, and the remainder of the Hall ballot gets a look.
We all have our pet projects. With the graduations of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, mine is now Tim Raines. During his 23-year major-league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon. Yet in four years on the ballot, he's reached just 37.5 percent of the vote, exactly half of what he needs to reach Cooperstown.
Revisiting historical HBP rates in the wake of Alex Avila's plunking by Jered Weaver's hand.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
As Jered Weaver prepares to serve his six-game suspension, take in some trends in HBP rates over time, which originally ran as a "Schrodinger's Bat" column on May 4, 2006.
You have to mash a ton to break into the first-base ranks, but right now, there's only a mish-mash of prospects.
Not so long ago, the minor leagues were stacked with Michelin star level first basemen, prospects with first-division ceilings and middle-of-the-order offensive prowess. The current crop of talent is more pedestrian, looking more like buffet fare than fine dining, but for several involved, the developmental process could still produce a fantastic dish. That’s four food references in the first paragraph, for those scoring at home.
Similar to the process of projecting relief pitchers, projecting first basemen often has a foundation in deficiency; it’s a position that openly welcomes the athletically inferior. However, to enter the position’s warm embrace, the athletically inferior must qualify for the love by showing the requisite offensive mastery. Let’s face it: If you can’t hit, you won’t be manning first at the highest level.
Five more bodies heaped on the bonfire of failure, but which one might not belong?
As we continue the rundown of the 50 most disappointing prospects of all time with the next five, two things have become clear: first, between my own research and reader suggestions—everyone has a favorite let-down, it seems—I could easily sail past 50 and perhaps 100. Second, of the current players on the list, no one kicked about Alex Gordon, but Matt Wieters still has many believers.
For this third installment, I’ve added five more players to the pool, and as with previous installments, I will conclude with one active player. Again, the order isn’t important—we’ll attempt a ranking at the end of the series. Finally, a restatement of definitions: we are not looking for over-drafted players, but rather prospects who gave legitimate indications that they had major-league star potential.
Todd Walker, 2B, Twins Drafted 1994, first round, eighth overall The LSU star, MVP of the College World Series, was selected in what would prove to be a weak, almost perverse first round, perhaps best symbolized by the great Josh Booty, who went fifth overall, well ahead of Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Konerko, and Jason Varitek, who went off the board in that order with the 12th through 14th picks of the round. Walker preceded them as well, and based on minor-league performance, you can’t argue with the Twins’ choice. The Twins took their time with the college player, partly because they didn’t know if Walker would be developed as a bad second baseman or a bad third baseman, partly because they’re the Twins and that’s what they do. As such, Walker moved one level at a time when he might have been ready to hit in the majors from the get-go. His apprenticeship should have culminated with a .339/.400/.599 season at Triple-A Salt Lake City, but for various reasons, including being blocked by Chuck Knoblauch, his lack of a position, conflicts with Tom Kelly, and extended bouts of hitting well below his apparent capabilities, his major-league career got off to a slow start. When he stumbled out of the gate in 2000, the Twins demoted him, then traded him to the Rockies. He spent the rest of his career wandering from organization to organization. Frequently platooned, he had only two offensive seasons in 12 that were of the quality suggested by his minor-league numbers.
Inspired by our Top 101 Prospects, another look at some of the most notorious future stars who fizzled.
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.
In honor of our Top 101 Prospects list, players who were predicted to be great, but dashed great expectations.
In honor of our Top 101 Prospects list going up today, I had intended to present you with a list of the Top 50 Busted Prospects, players of whom much was expected but from whom little was received. These would not be players who were overdrafted, but rather those who seemed on their way to justifying high picks and large bonuses when apparent destiny was denied. I say “intended,” because whereas I had planned to write one line per player, I got my annual-writing cap on and wrote full capsules for each one. Thus I had filled up a whole column before I had worked my way through more than 10. As such, we’ll begin here and I’ll return to the topic from time to time.
Because of the episodic nature of this project, the order of the players' appearance here is not important. At first, I’ll present you the case files in the order that I write them, and then as we wrap up we can place them in some kind of ranking—I have an idea of who the most disappointing prospect of all time should be, but I won’t be ready to anoint him (or in Joe Maddon’s words, disanoint him) until we’ve worked through all of the stories.
Mo Sanford RHP
Drafted 1988 32ndround Sanford was a third-round pick of the Yankees in 1984, but did not sign. Instead, he went to the University of Alabama and pitched poorly enough that he dropped all the way to the 32nd round of the 1988 draft. Still, he was a strikeout machine in the minors thanks to good stuff and a dominant curveball. At the conclusion of the 1991 season he had made it up to Triple-A with an ERA of 2.74 in 493 1/3 innings, striking out 566. He also walked 221, or four per nine innings. This lack of command proved his undoing, as it only grew worse through three major-league trials and return trips to the minors. His 27 major-league games featured 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings, but also 6.3 walks.
A look at the first basemen on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.
Having kicked off this year's JAWS series with the starting pitchers, today we turn our attention to the first basemen, a slate which includes the ballot's best newcomer as well as its most controversial first-timer, and a few holdovers who aren't going anywhere for entirely different reasons.