Ferguson: Taking a look back at former top prospects

Scott Ferguson
12/30/2013 11:29:57 AM
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I always enjoy going back in time and looking at top prospects at the time and seeing if they lived up to their past billing.

Let's go back 10 years for example, to Baseball America's "Top 100" list of prospects that came out in March of 2003. Nine of the Top 10 are with different organizations now than they were then, or in the case of Hideki Matsui, have retired. The one who has remained was the fourth-ranked man on the list, Joe Mauer of the Twins; a catcher then who will likely be playing 1st base in 2014.

No. 1 on the list was Mark Teixeira, then of the Texas Rangers, who ultimately wound up with the New York Yankees. No. 3 was Jose Reyes, then of the Mets, who jumped to the Marlins as a free agent before coming over to the Blue Jays a year ago in that mammoth trade with Miami.

All in all I counted 10 players on the Top 100 list that one way or the other spent time with the Blue Jays, but most were acquired, not drafted or developed.

The List of 10 included catchers John Buck and Jeff Mathis, outfielders Jayson Werth and Juan Rivera, 1B Lyle Overbay, reliever Jon Rauch, right-hander Jason Arnold and another veteran right-hander who was owned by the Jays, but never really pitched for them, in Edwin Jackson who was part of the three-way deal with the White Sox and St. Louis that brought Colby Rasmus to Toronto.

The other two are the only two still with the club in Reyes and right-hander Dustin McGowan, who was No. 36 on that list of 100 in 2003.

There was some on the Baseball America list who were clearly overrated and turned out to be busts, while others were clearly underrated and exploded into superstars.

Taking the later first, Miguel Cabrera, the best all-round hitter in baseball was only rated 12th then. Dodgers star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was only pegged at No. 19; Phillies ace lefty Cliff Lee checked in at No. 30 and Dodgers 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez at 31.

You can dig even deeper to find greatness. Zack Greinke, just 19 at the time, was only ranked 54th. Shin-soo Choo, who just signed a seven-year deal with Texas, was owned by Seattle at the time and only ranked 61st. Going deep still, you have Mets captain David Wright at No. 75 and Prince Fielder now with Texas at No. 78

Jayson Werth, who's had a fairly impactful career, was listed at No. 94 and the aforementioned Edwin Jackson was No. 99.

Some of those who didn't pan out as expected, No. 2 Rocco Baldelli, though illness factored into that. Right-hander Jesse Foppert of the Giants, No. 5 on the list, never really  blossomed either.
Some of the others who never really made it include 1B Jason Stokes of the Marlins (No. 15), 1B Brad Nelson of the Brewers (No. 23) and right-hander John VanBenschoten of the Pirates (No. 24).

The top Canadian on the list was the Twins Justin Morneau at No. 14, who's now with Colorado.

Two other names of note: Cardinals ace right-hander Adam Wainright, then of Atlanta was No. 18 and  Josh Hamilton, who began his career with the Devil Rays as they were then known, was No. 33. He then proceeded to Cincinnati, Texas, and finally to the Angels, where he's trying to recapture his past glory.

Oddly enough of the 100 prospects on this list I counted only five that were still with organization that drafted them: McGowan, Wright, Chase Utley, Colby Lewis, and Mauer. That's a 95% turnover in 10 years.

Consider: the World Series as we know it has been around since 1903, I was surprised to find out the first pinch-hit homer in the Fall Classic didn't come until 1947 with Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra doing the honours at old Ebbett's Field in Brooklyn against the Dodgers.

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