Before we start the winter season of identifying the top prospects that myworld likes, beginning with catcher, I thought it would be interesting to put together a roster of the current six year minor league free agents who at one time were top ten prospects for their respective teams according to Baseball America’s 2004 edition of top prospects. Some of the six year minor league free agents, such as Mark Prior, Andy Marte, Brandon Erbe and Adam Loewen were top prospects for their teams in other years, but myworld does not have enough years in my life to review all the Baseball America top prospect books at our disposal. So we settled with the 2004 book, otherwise the above players would have been a cinch to make this list.
If you are old enough you can traipse through the memories of these used to be top ten prospect and just remember who they were going to be, rather than what they became. Just because a player is rated in the top ten does not guarantee him an extended major league career.
Catcher - Guillermo Quiroz (#3, Toronto, Venezuela 1998), Adam Donachie (#13, Kansas City, 2nd round 2002)
For those who don’t remember Quiroz he mashed 20 homeruns and drove in 79 runs in 2003. He also had a 44 percent success rate throwing out baserunners. Guillermo was projected to be the starting catcher for the Blue Jays in 2005, but then a collapsed lung and surgery to correct it impacted his abilty to hit. He never batted over .250 or hit in double digits with homeruns after his break out 2003 season. Donachie never got beyond backup status.
1B - Brad Nelson (#5, Milwaukee, 4th round 2001), Michael Aubrey (#6, Cleveland, 11th overall pick in 2003)
Brad accumulated 116 RBIs in 2002, but a broken hammate bone robbed him of his power in 2003. With the selection of Prince Fielder he was relegated to try to make it as an outfielder and his bat suffered with his poor defensive play. Aubrey at one time was the Indians top prospect, but he could never stay healthy in the early years and could never hit for power. His defense could not overcome his marshmellow bat.
2B - Josh Barfield (#1, San Diego, 4th round 2001), Brendon Harris (#8, Chicago Cubs, 5th round 2001)
Josh was the son of Jessie, but played a different game, one that was more reliant on speed than power. He had a 2003 career season when he hit .337, 16, 128 at Lake Elsinore, but he could never come close to replicating those numbers when given major league opportunities. Brendon was more a shortstop that lacked range, so became a utility player briefly in the major leagues.
3B - Eric Duncan (#2, New York Yankees, 27th overall pick in 2003), Scott Moore (#7, Detroit, 8th overall pick in 2002).
If Eric had achieved his potential he would have made the acquistion of Alex Rodriguiz obsolete, but once Rodriguez was acquired the only position available for him was first base. He couldn’t put up the power numbers for the Yankees to justify playing him at the position. Moore was much less than the Tigers expected. He seemed to break out in 2005 (.281, 20, 82) when traded to the Cubs, but never could figure out major league pitching. Blocked by Aramis Ramirez, he couldn’t even make it with the Orioles when the Cubs traded him there.
SS - Joaquin Arias (#4, New York Yankees, Dominican 2001), Brandon Wood (#7, Anaheim Angels, 23rd overall pick in 2003).
Joaquin is just one of many shortstop prospects to be blocked by Derek Jeter. They are like dandelions blown by the wind. He was eventually traded to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. The Rangers were given a list of five prospects to select to go with Alfonso Soriano and the Rangers selected Joaquin over Robinson Cano. Michael Young blocked him at short and Alfonso Soriano had second base covered. Brandon just couldn’t make contact and was always swinging at the pitcher’s pitch. He had a season to remember (.321, 43, 115 with 52 doubles), but even with those numbers alarm bells should have been ringing with his 48/128 walk to K numbers.
OF - Jason Lane (#2, Houston, 6th round 1999), Brent Clevlen (#2, Detroit, 2nd round 2002), Chris Lubanski (#2, Kansas City, 5th overall pick in 2003), Michael Restovich (#10, Minnesota, 2nd round 1997) and Willy Taveras (#11, Houston, Dominican 1999)
Jason Lane was blocked by a talented outfield of Killer B’s (Berkman, Biggio, Hidalgo) and Jeff Bagwell at first. He waited patiently in the minors until he rusted, but he never put up incredible numbers to force the issue. Taveras took the centerfield position away from him as a rule V pick, and after a decent rookie season stumbled. Biggio was moved to centerfield instead of Lane. Clevlen slugged 18 homers and drove in 102 in 2005. The downside of his career began after that season. Lubanski and Restovich were fourth outfielders rated too highly, lacking in defense. Restovich at least got some decent major league time.
Pitchers - Merkin Valdez (#1, San Fran, Dominican 1999), Jeff Allison (#3, Florida, 16th overall pick in 2003), Clint Everts (#1, Montreal, 5th overall pick in 2002), John Maine (#2, Baltimore, 6th 2002), Angel Guzman (#1, Chicago Cubs, Venezuela 1999), James Houser (#4, Tampa Bay, 2nd 2003), Fernando Cabrera (#5, Cleveland, 10th round 1999 out of Puerto Rico), Dave Bush (#7, Toronto 2nd round 2002), Dan Meyer (#4, Atlanta, 34th overall pick in 2002), and Chad Gaudin (#6, Tampa Bay, 34th round 2001)
Injuries usually end pitcher’s careers and it impacted Merkin Valdez, Angel Guzman, Clint Everts who all had surgeries that they could never recover from. Dan Meyer and James Houser were constantly plagued by shoulder problems, but stayed away from the knife. Houser had a heart murmur that scared teams off from selecting him. Allison was plagued by drug issues that delayed his career and he hasn’t been able to make up for that lost time. Cabrera went from futures game in 2005 to waivers in 2007. A few teams have taken a bite of the apple, but none have liked the taste enough to keep him. Maine had a few good years but a shoulder issue appears to have ended his career, but at least he has had some success. Gaudin has done well for a 34th round pick, but not as a sixth rated prospect. Dave Bush had 8 seasons in the major leagues, the most from this list, but he did not match the success of Maine.