It was a very good year; it was a very bad year. That's how any farm system follower can feel when reviewing a prospect’s status. Here are 10 players who might like to forget what happened in 2011, and hope that a change of the calendar can help them turn it around in 2012.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
The last time we saw the good version of Brown was mid-2010. Since then, he hasn’t received consistent playing time at the big-league level, had a horrible spring training while trying to adjust his swing, and didn't play especially well at any level in 2011. “I think it will happen for him, but I don't think it will happen in Philly,” said a rival National League executive. “I bet he's gone by midseason in their next big trade.”
Kyle Drabek, RHP, Blue Jays
Drabek entered the 2011 season as the Blue Jays’ best prospect and a Rookie of the Year candidate, but he struggled with his command and, if anything, went backward following a demotion to Triple-A. Still, his stuff, including a plus fastball and plus-plus curveball, is still there. “I still like him a lot,” said one scouting executive, adding that a move to the bullpen might suit Drabek’s pitch inefficiency and fiery makeup better.
Wilmer Flores, SS, Mets
Flores has long been seen as one of the Mets’ top prospects, but that's mostly been because of his age and level. In 2011, he proved to still be more potential than reality. Nobody thinks he can stay at shortstop long-term, which puts even more pressure on his bat. “Sure, he was good in the Sally League at 17, but he hasn't done much since,” said one evaluator. “The tools don't even profile for a corner, which is where people will think he'll end up.”
Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins
Few prospects in baseball draw more diverse opinions than Hicks, who provides top-of-the-line tools and precious little to show for them on the stat sheet. With more than 1,500 minor-league plate appearances, the 2008 first-round pick has hit .266/.377/.407 without reaching the upper levels, and while some are ready to give up on him, others have yet to waiver in their belief. “I'd take him in a second,” said one executive. “There are three things that never slump: patience, power, and defense, and he has all three.”
Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox
When the Red Sox gave big money to this Cuban defector in 2009, there was universal praise Iglesias’ glove. However, there plenty of questions about his bat. The shortstop shocked the industry by hitting .295 in 2010, but after a miserable .235/.285/.269 line at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011, all of the concerns are back, even with the best defensive skills in the minors. “Sure he's a great defender, but he just can't hit a lick,” said one scouting official. “For me, he's just Rey Ordonez, Part II.”
Trey McNutt, RHP, Cubs
McNutt came out of nowhere in 2010, leaving scouts wondering how a big-framed power right-hander who can touch the upper 90s and back it up with a plus slider could last into the 32nd round. McNutt spent the entire year in Double-A, struggled with a variety of maladies, and didn't pitch well when healthy; he finished with a 4.55 ERA while allowing 120 hits in 95 innings. “I like him as a bounce-back candidate because he has really good stuff,” said a scouting executive. “But our people had concerns about why he suddenly stopped missing bats.”
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals
The Royals entered 2011 with a quartet of impressive left-handers in the upper levels, but while Danny Duffy has his moments in the big leagues, the other three went backward: John Lamb had Tommy John surgery, while Chris Dwyer and Mike Montgomery scuffled with their mechanics, and therefore their command and control. Still, the stuff is still there for Montgomery, and that's what scouts look for. “I still like him a lot, and think he could be in the Royals’ rotation at some point in 2012,” said one scout, who added that his upside is more mid-rotation than that of a future star. “More John Danks than Cole Hamels,” he said.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Red Sox
Ranaudo entered the spring of 2010 as arguably best college pitcher in the country, but elbow problems hurt his draft status, leading to him pitching his way to a $2.55 million bonus with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He impressed last year in the South Atlantic League, but scouting reports matched his sub-standard showing following a promotion to High-A. “He's overrated because of the bonus, the Cape showing, the size, the Red Sox—just everything,” said one executive. “He maybe has a chance as a bottom rotation guy, but he isn't anything special.”
Another scout was even lower on him, pegging him as a future middle reliever. “His fastball is just good, no other pitch is plus, and if you had no idea of his background, he'd be just another guy.”
Tony Sanchez, C, Pirates
No prospect in the Pirates system took a bigger hit in 2011 than Sanchez, who entered the year with a shot at making the big leagues in short order, but never got out of Double-A and limped to the finish with a batting line of .241/.340/.318. “He's a good defender, a great makeup guy, but the fact remains that he's just a fringy bat,” said one scout. “I could see him one day playing every day for Pittsburgh, but he's not going to be a difference-maker.”
Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Rangers
The point where Scheppers went south is obvious. He started the 2010 season by dominating out of the bullpen, and was on the verge of the big leagues when the Rangers decided to see if he could work as a starter. He's never been the same since, and a return to the bullpen has not brought his stuff all the way back to 2010 levels. “I think he's still a potential seventh- or eighth-inning guy, but I'd be wary of him in a deal,” said one-front office member. “There are a lot of red flags, from the control, the delivery, and most of all, the injury history.”
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .