So the term “Can’t Miss Prospect” gets thrown around a lot in baseball and its kind of a silly phrase. There really isn’t such thing as a “can’t miss prospect”, because a lot of them end up missing. Right now Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout are considering locks to be perennial All-Stars and while it’d be surprising if they don’t at least end up being solid players, it wouldn’t be all that shocking? Why? Because of this list that’s why. Its why for the most part if you have a chance to win a championship, you part with prospects to get the missing piece. Its why it was a good move by the Giants to trade Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran or the Phillies trading Chris Singleton and Jared Cosart for Hunter Pence. I’m a prospect nerd, but they don’t always pan out. Here are ten examples: (All rankings are from Baseball America)
10. Hee Seop Choi
Pre-2000: Rated #77 Prospect
Pre-2001: Rated #22 Prospect
Pre-2002: Rated #40 Prospect
Pre-2003: Rated #22 Prospect
Choi was considered the next big power hitting first baseman when he was coming up with the Cubs in the early 2000’s after posting OPS’s over .900 in 4 out his 5 years in the minors and twice hitting 25+ home runs. His power never translated to the majors and he owns a career slash line of .240/.349/.437/.786 and a career high in home runs of 15 (twice) in his 4 year career that last saw him play in the majors in 2005. He currently plays for the Kia Tigers in his native South Korea.
9. Drew Henson
Pre-1999: Rated #100 Prospect
Pre-2000: Rated #24 Prospect
Pre-2001: Rated #14 Prospect
Pre-2002: Rated #9 Prospect
Henson owns the rare feat of being an epic bust for 2 of the most high profile teams in all of sports, first with the Yankees in baseball, then with the Dallas Cowboys in football, but we’ll stick with baseball here. Henson was considered the real deal and the next great Yankees third baseman and by looking at his numbers I really have no idea why to be honest. He weirdly continued to rise up the prospect rankings considering his numbers never really improved after the 2000 season. The Yankees traded him to the Reds for the great Denny Neagle, and then the Reds traded him back to the Yankees for….wait for it….wait for it….Wily Mo Pena! He finally made his much hyped debut for the Yankees in 2002 and over the course of 2 seasons he played in a whopping 8 games and made 9 appearances in his career before retiring and making Bill Parcells hate him on the Cowboys.
8. Joel Guzman
Pre-2005: Rated #5 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #26 Prospect
“I had scouted Chipper Jones and A-Rod before and to me, Guzman’s bat was better. At 16 years old, the kid was as good as or better than anyone I’d ever seen.”
Spoiler Alert: Joel Guzman did not end up being better than Chipper Jones or Alex Rodriguez. Guzman was part of the much hyped Matt Kemp/Chad Billingsley/Jonathan Broxton Prospect Class on the Dodgers and he’s the one from that group that hasn’t seen major league success. Guzman peaked in 2004 as a 19 year old SS in AA who posted a .881 OPS, but soon proved he wasn’t capable of playing SS and was moved to 3B and the outfield where his numbers didn’t look so good. He made the bigs in 2006 and had no success and was traded to the Rays for Edwin Jackson where he had even less success. He can now be found in AA in the Orioles system, still only 25, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he was a bust.
7. Jeremy Hermida
Pre-2004: Rated #28 Prospect
Pre-2005: Rated #18 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #4 Prospect
Everything he does is so easy. He has a 70 arm and he has one of the sweetest swings from the left side I’ve ever seen.”
You may remember Jeremy Hermida as the Red Sox 4th outfielder for the first few months of last year before they released him, but years before he was considered one of the game’s elite prospects, thanks to his .975 OPS as a 21 year old in AA and saw his most success in the bigs in 2006 when he posted a .870 OPS at age 23 with a .369 OBP. He also is the only person in major league history to hit a pinch hit grand slam in his first big league at bat. Unfortunately, he got nothing but worse from there until the Marlins let him go after 2009. He is currently in the Reds minor league system after playing 10 games for them earlier in the year.
6. Dallas McPherson
Pre-2004: Rated #33 Prospect
Pre-2005: Rated #12 Prospect
“Every mistake we made, he made us pay for. He has an easy swing and natural power.”
-San Antonio manager Dave Brundage
McPherson was hyped as the replacement for Troy Glaus as the Angels’ 3B after posting back to back absurd seasons in the minors. He OPS’d 1.006 in 2003 and then in 2004 he OPS’s 1.057 with 40 home runs as a 23 year old in AA/AAA. When the Angels let Glaus go in 2005 and handed the 3B job to McPherson. He struggled in ’05 before having season ending hip surgery and then lost the 3B job to Chone Figgins in ’06 before being called up, struggling again and having season ending surgery again (this time on his back) and missed the 2007 season as well. He is currently on the White Sox AAA, but at age 31, chances are slim to none that he sees success in the majors.
5. Lastings Milledge
Pre-2004: Rated #86 Prospect
Pre-2005: Rated #11 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #9 Prospect
“He’s going to be an all-star caliber player. You hit home runs with a quick bat, which he’s got, and down the road he could steal 35 to 40 bases.”
“He’s a double threat because of his power and his ability to lead off and make things happen on the bases.”
–Greensboro manager Steve Phillips
The only knock on Milledge ever seemed to be maturity issues as he was hyped as the power/speed centerfielder that every team wants. At age 20 in A/AA he put up at OPS of .837 with 8 home runs and 29 steals then at age 21 in half a season of AAA in 2006 he slashed .277/.388/.440/.828 before being called up to the bigs. Milledge was compared to Darryl Strawberry and weirdly made his debut at the EXACT same age, right down to the day, that Strawberry did. The maturity questions arose again when he high fived Mets fans as he ran back to the outfield after hitting his first career home run (which I think is pretty funny but apparently its a no-no). He put up decent numbers on the Mets in 2006 and 2007, but they had enough of him and traded him to the Nationals and he hasn’t done much since. He is currently in AAA for the White Sox. If you happen to live in the greater Charlotte area, you can see 2 members of this list in Dallas McPherson AND Lastings Milledge!
4. Adam Miller
Pre-2005: Rated #16 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #47 Prospect
Pre-2007: Rated #23 Prospect
Pre-2008: Rated #29 Prospect
Pre-2009: Rated #82 Prospect
“He was dirty. His fastball and slider were more than plus.”
–Lakewood manager P.J. Forbes
“He went through a process to getting back to where he was, both in terms of velocity and command, but he wasn’t holding anything back late in the year. He’s a rare combination of power, intelligence and an advanced feel for pitching for a 21-year-old.”
–Indians farm director John Farrell
Miller was long considered the Indians “Ace of the Future” after his 2004 debut when at age 19 in A he put up a 2.95 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 152 Ks in 132.1 innings. Injuries ruined 2005 for him before he bounced back in 2006 in AA with a 2.84 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 161 K’s in 158.1 innings as a 21 year old. Arm injuries saw to it that that was his peak year though as he only pitched 94 innings over the next 2 years and then missed 2009 altogether with reconstructive finger surgery. As of 2009, he has had 4 surgeries on his pitching arm and has still yet to make his major league debut. He is currently pitching out of the bullpen for the Indians’ AAA team.
3. Sean Burroughs
Pre-2000: Rated #7 Prospect
Pre-2001: Rated #6 Prospect
Pre-2002: Rated #4 Prospect
Burroughs was all the rage after hitting .291 with a .383 in AA at only age 19 in 2000 and then hit .322 with a .386 OBP at age 20 in AAA in 2001 which are both pretty damn impressive. The concern while he was in the minors was his lack of power (only 11 HRs in those 2 years combined), but it was assumed that the power would develop as he filled out. Unfortunately it never really did. He slugged .402 and .365 in his 2 full years as the Padres 3B which is only acceptable if your OBP is ABSURD (and his wasn’t). He was eventually traded to the Rays and has bounced around since then, currently a back up third baseman for the Diamondbacks.
2. Andy Marte
Pre-2003: Rated #40 Prospect
Pre-2004: Rated #11 Prospect
Pre-2005: Rated #9 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #14 Prospect
“Andy profiles as a guy who has the ability to hit in the middle of the lineup of a championship major league team. He has all the ingredients to be a special hitter.”
-Braves farm director Dayton Moore
“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s an outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively.”
-Birmingham manager Razor Shines
Marte’s best season probably came in 2005 when he was a 21 year old in AAA and put up a slash of .275/.372/.506/.878 with 20 HRs. After that season, he was traded to the Red Sox for Edgar Renteria, which seemed awesome at the time. The Sox got rid of Renteria AND got a top 10 prospect?? Sox fans didn’t have much time to get to know Marte though, and 2 months later he was traded to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp trade. At that point it seemed pretty weird that a top prospect would get traded TWICE in a two month span (and its not like Renteria and Crisp were superstars either). Turned out the Braves and Sox may have been onto something because he never hit higher than .232 and never had an OBP over .300 in parts of 5 seasons with the Indians. He is currently 27 and in AAA for the Pirates.
1. Brandon Wood
Pre-2005: Rated #83 Prospect
Pre-2006: Rated #3 Prospect
Pre-2007: Rated #8 Prospect
Pre-2008: Rated #16 Prospect
“He’s still going to get better. He looks like the next Cal Ripken to me.”
-San Jose manager Lenn Sakata
That is my favorite quote that I found about any of these guys. Brandon Wood = Cal Ripken. Wood stormed onto the scene in 2005 when he hit 40 home runs (!!!) with a 1.047 in A ball at age 20. He never hit 40 HRs in the minors again but over the next 4 years he hit 25, 23, 32 and 22 with solid OBPs each year as well which is pretty damn good for a shortstop. Unfortunately, he both A. Didnt stick at SS and had to be moved to 3B and B. Couldn’t hit major league pitching. His current career numbers are .183/.223/.287/.510 with just 18 home runs. Not quite Cal Ripken. He is only 26 and is getting playing time as the Pirates 3B, but he hasn’t shown any signs that he’s going to be close to the player people thought.
So there you have it! Keep these guys in mind next time you hear someone is a “can’t miss prospect”. Sometimes they miss.