Anybody remember Jose Castillo?
On Monday, FanGraphs released their list of the top 35 Pirates prospects. While these compilations are a terrific tool and fun to read, there is always one nagging question: “how do these lists turn out?” Baseball prospects writers and journalists: what do they know? Do they know things?
Let’s find out.
Today, we’ll be looking at Baseball America’s top 10 prospects lists from this millennium. I’ll be going by intervals of three years to ensure a good turnover of players to talk about. For the morbidly curious, every list from 1983 can be found here.
We’ll start this look back with easily the worst top 10 of the bunch. Bronson Arroyo is the only real winner here, enjoying a 16 year career where he took home a Gold Glove and a World Series ring. Besides him, the rest are all busts.
Chad Hermansen absolutely murdered minor league pitching, so he became a rising star in the Pirates’ farm system. Once he reached the majors, he basically became a bench player. Amazingly, not letting the kid bat at either the major or minor leagues stopped his growth as a player. He didn’t pan out, but this seems to be more on the Pirates’ player development and coaching than him.
J.J. Davis and Humberto Cota turned out to be nothing more than replacement level backups. J.R. House, Tony Alvarez and Rico Washington all reached the majors, but combined for only 143 career at-bats. The other three members of this year’s list never put on a big league uniform. There wasn’t a foundation to build on here....
...but there appeared to be a real foundation in 2003. Holy smokes, the top three pitchers in the farm system were ranked in the top 52 overall. In some bizarro universe, John Van Benschoten, Sean Burnett and Bryan Bullington all hit and the Pirates have a dominating big three for years to come. Instead, the trio only started a combined 42 games in their careers.
Fun fact: according to FanGraphs, the Pirates have used 1,090 non-pitchers in franchise history. Of those 1,090, Jose Castillo ranks 1,089th in WAR. (If you want to save yourself a click, Jose Guillen is dead last.) What a way to round out four top 100 prospects.
If you read Monday’s Bucco Breakfast, you’d know Bautista was the fifth player the Pirates lost in that year’s Rule V draft. He was brought back at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that teams were laughing at the Pirates when they lost Joey Bats. Duaner Sanchez hung around the majors for seven seasons as a replacement level, journeyman reliever.
On a positive note, Mike Gonzalez was a force out of the bullpen for a couple seasons, and Ian Snell had his moments over a seven year career. That’s good, but they were supposed to be auxiliary pieces to a core that never developed.
Honestly, this is a pretty solid list. This grouping has a future MVP in Andrew McCutchen, a three time Silver Slugger winner in Bautista and a couple of All-Stars in Nate McLouth and Matt Capps. Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm each pitched 10+ years in the majors, and the Pittsburgh Kid turned out alright.
Chris Duffy had the athleticism to be a real major leaguer, but not the head. The only flat out busts are VanBenschoten and Bullington, and they probably should have been bumped from the top 10 by this point anyway.
Walker’s stock took a dive before he reached the majors, falling off of BA’s top 100 this year. McCutchen was still a highly touted blue-chipper, and Robbie Grossman was one of the headliners for the 2012 acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez.
Besides those three, this is a list of missed potential. Jose Tabata was supposed to be a cornerstone of the outfield alongside Cutch, but his tools never played in the majors. Pedro Alvarez did win a Silver Slugger in 2013 (with a sub-.300 OBP...), but he never became a true middle of the order threat. Brad Lincoln and Bryan Morris turned out to be middling at best relievers, which is more than can be said about Daniel McCutchen. Jeff Sues and Shelby Ford never made the show.
We’ll wrap up this look back in 2012. The jury’s still out on too many from the class of 2015.
You already know how these guys turned out. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Starling Marte: good. Luis Heredia, Kyle McPherson, Stetson Allie and Tony Sanchez: bad. Jeff Locke: either a really good bad player or a really bad good player. Josh Bell: to be determined.
Now that you’ve got prospects on the mind, remember to vote for who you think the current top prospects are.
Doug Thornburg published his first story in over two years for Baseball Prospectus yesterday. In it, he looks at the evolution of starting pitching over the past five seasons.
More and more teams are opting to rebuild rather than double down and try to compete. Michael Baumann of The Ringer advocates for Baseball’s middle class to try to win.
All graphics in this post are courtesy of The Baseball Cube. List compilations by “Baseball America.”