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.
Will the Phillies establish a mini-dynasty, or will the Yankees add to their crowded trophy case with another title?
A year ago, the Phillies broke a 28-year-old title drought by winning the World Series, defeating the upstart Rays in five games. After winning 93 games in the regular season and tidily dispatching both the Rockies and the Dodgers in the first two rounds, they're back to defend their crown with a cast that's largely the same, save for summer acquisition Cliff Lee. They're the first NL team to repeat as pennant winners since the 1995-1996 Braves, and if they win the World Series, they'll be they first senior circuit club to do so since the 1975-1976 Reds.
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Time for the Bill James-style test now that the Joe Torre era is over in New York.
In 1984, looking to find a way to characterize managers beyond the then-meager statistical record, Bill James introduced the "manager in a box" questionnaire. Assuming one answers the questions accurately, James's list of questions remains a good way of making visible those aspects of a manager's background and habits that he may not carry on his sleeve, but nonetheless influence the way games in his charge play out.
Jonah Keri debuts his new Prospectus Game of the Week column with a trip to Arizona for an A's-Angels spring training tilt.
Now, I'm trying something new. This marks the debut of Prospectus Game of the Week. Starting the first week of the regular season and running through to season's end, I'll be highlighting one game a week. Big pitching match-ups, hot-button topics and random asides will come together to reveal the game behind the game, the bigger stakes beyond a single win or loss.
As the trading deadline approaches and the hype surrounding a potential Randy Johnson deal reaches a deafening crescendo, I decided to take a look at how well the Yankees have done in dealing young players. I'm not concerned with who they get in return except as a footnote, nor do I care whether they "won" a particular trade according to a value measure. Those scales can wait to be balanced for another day. The question is whether the Yanks have let another Buhner, another unproven product of the Yankee system, slip out the door. How well did the players they traded turn out?
Last summer's trade of pitcher Brandon Claussen to the Cincinnati Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone was a rare exception, for Claussen had recently tantalized Yankee fans with a stellar nationally-televised debut. The confident young lefty looked like the ideal antidote to the struggling, enigmatic Jeff Weaver, but the Yankees sent Claussen to the Reds in favor of upgrading their offense. The outcry among Yankee fans was vociferous, if more symbolic than anything else. Since the deluge of homegrown talent which fueled their championship run--Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Ramiro Mendoza--the Yankee farm system has produced very little, so the idea that a product of the Columbus Clippers might be worthy of joining that esteemed bunch was an attractive one.
Was the Claussen trade a good one for the Yankees? Boone cemented his spot in pinstriped lore with one October swing, though he spent the rest of his time confounding the Yanks and their fans. But the real answer to that question will take several years to unearth, as Claussen does or does not develop into a major-league caliber pitcher. After much delay, he's finally off and running, winning his first start as a Red on July 20.
Dear Aaron Boone: It was a home run, not diplomatic immunity. Love, Joe Boone, whose Game Seven home run won the ALCS and sent the Yankees to the World Series, has been swinging at pitches he has no hope of hitting ever since then. I looked it up, expecting to see that Boone has taken about four pitches in the World Series. It turns out that he'd actually let 25 baseballs go by in the first three games, just shy of half of the 51 pitches he'd seen. He's pushed counts to 3-2 in a number of at-bats, so it's hard to make the argument that he's not being patient enough. That said, he was horrific last night. The Yankees' three biggest chances to win the game landed in his lap, and he approached his at-bats as if it were fifth-grade gym class or a co-ed softball league with some goofy rules like "swing or you're out." Against Carl Pavano in the second inning, with the bases loaded, one out and the Yankees down 3-0, Boone swung at the only two pitches he saw and flied to center field on the second one. Sacrifice flies down three runs with the pitcher coming up arenít team baseball, they're a lifeline for the opposition. Boone got another chance in the ninth, after Ruben Sierra's triple tied the game. Boone again went up hacking, fouling off the first and third pitches he saw to fall behind 1-2, then grounding out weakly to shortstop after two more foul balls. Finally, in the 11th inning, Boone again batted with the bases loaded and one out. And just as he had against Pavano and Ugueth Urbina, he made Braden Looper's job easy by hacking at fastballs up and in, pitches he doesn't have the bat speed to hit. Boone swung at six of the seven pitches he saw, looked completely overmatched, and struck out. Three at-bats, two pitches taken out of 15 seen, three times falling behind in the count, three outs. Boone needed to have a solid approach last night, and his mental effort was completely lacking, leading to wild swings that gave the pitchers all the leverage they needed to get out of jail.
I tried to get inside Roger Clemens' head before his last final start, which turned out to be a mistake. I won't do that this time; I have no idea how this being his current final start will affect him. None. I do know that, this being Game Four, it is his final final start. There can't be a next final start unless.you know, I don't even want to imagine what kind of scenarios Bud Selig and Jeffrey Loria might concoct to bring us a Game Eight.
I do know that he was up in the zone in his Division Series outing against the Red Sox, which was his seventh or eighth "final start" after his final regular-season start, his final start at Fenway Park (which was only his next to final start at Fenway Park), his final start in the All-Star Game, his final start at Yankee Stadium (also just his next-to-final), his final start in a foreign country, his final start in front of a record-low crowd and his final start with nasty heartburn.
This matchup isn't as bad for the Marlins as Mike Mussina was. Clemens works up and down with the splitter and fastball, and has shown a fairly persistent reverse platoon split since joining the Yankees. With a bunch of right-handed hitters who can drive a good fastball but who will chase once they fall behind in the count, Clemens' success will again come down to getting ahead in the count and avoiding leaving his fastball up in the zone. There's not a lot of middle ground here; look for a 3.2-7-6-6-4-2 line, or a 7-4-1-1-2-10 one.
Mention his name in some quarters, however, and be prepared for a torrent of abuse. Mussina has seen his reputation sullied by the vagaries of the support he's received, particularly in the postseason. After last night, his career postseason ERA is 3.06 in 15 starts and one relief appearance, but he has just five postseason wins. In some circles, that's enough to diminish what has been a great career.
I predict that the Marlins will be a great value bet. They can't be that big an underdog to win four out of seven games from this Yankee team. They've been outplaying the Yankees for four months, and other than the bullpen situation, they match up well with the Bombers. Whatever the odds end up being, they'll be way out of line.
I also predict that whichever teams gets to three wins, with a three-run lead and one out in the eighth inning, is just asking for trouble.
This is a much closer series than the reputations of the two teams would have you believe. It's tempting to pick the Marlins just on the basis of the edge they have hitting the ball into the Yankee defense's holes. That's worth a lot of runs, and more to a team that goes first-to-third and second-to-home a lot.
However, the Yankees, unlike the Giants and Cubs, are almost certain to not lose a game they lead in the seventh inning. Nelson and Rivera are going to shorten these games to six-inning affairs. The Marlins' great postseason has been built on overcoming bad starts and beating opposition bullpens. That's not going to work this time.
The Yanks took far more balls per plate appearance than any other playoff team, but relatively few strikes. That's a sign of a mature, disciplined team. Taking bad pitches could be especially beneficial against the Red Sox: Boston's two best starters, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, are not known for their stamina, and the bullpen is in tatters between Byung-Hyun Kim's breakdown and their heavy use in the Oakland series. Knocking Pedro out an inning earlier because of higher pitch counts could well be a game-winning strategy. Despite their refined approach at the plate, the Yankees don't have a better offense than the Red Sox, who outscored them by nearly 100 runs during the regular season. The Sox remain the best offense in baseball, with a lineup that has absolutely no weaknesses in it. Both of these teams have the capability to knock a starter out early and put up crooked numbers in multiple innings. Even if you don't want to get into the numbers, think only about the two main criticisms of these offenses over the course of the year: Yankees: "Alfonso Soriano isn't suited to hit leadoff." Red Sox: "Walker, Ortiz, and Nixon can't hit lefties." Think about that. The problem for the Yankees is that the leadoff guy has too many extra-base hits, and too few walks. The Red Sox somehow have to work around the issue that their three worst hitters, who average about a .950 OPS against righties, don't hit lefties particularly well. Think the Tiger front office would like those problems?