Remember Me? A look at Former Top Prospects

The success rate of a prospect isn’t as high as people might think. Wouldn’t we all love it if real baseball was like the video games many people play, where if you have a prospect with a high level of potential they will eventually reach it?

Unfortunately, that isn’t how real baseball works and not ever prospect succeeds. Some get injured, some struggle, some take to long to adapt and some just aren’t what we though they were originally.

What many people tend to forget is that just because a prospect struggles or isn’t on the cusp of the major leagues in two seasons doesn’t mean he wont be a great player.

We now live in a world where we expect the prospects to be up and performing for our teams in a few seasons and can’t wait if is going to take longer. This week I am going to take a look at some players that were not highly ranked in prospect lists this season and were left off of many top 100 lists, but were highly touted in previous seasons.

The table below each player represents where they ranked on each of the listed prospect lists prior to the season.

C – Gary Sanchez
  2011 2012 2013 2014
Baseball America 30 81 57 35 NR 53 36 47
Baseball Prospectus 29 40 47 85
Fantasy Assembly –   –  – 50

In his first three seasons in the minors Sanchez held his own hitting .274 before his 20th birthday. However, 2013 was his worst season in the minors. He hit only .254/.313/.420 with 15 homers. Taking a deeper look into his stats that season showed a sign for optimism.Sanchez originally broke into the minors in 2010 as a 17-year-old and came out with a .329/.393/.543 slash line. That season, along with his prospect status, made him a mainstay on prospect lists until this season.

Entering 2013 Sanchez struck out in roughly 24 percent of his plate appearances and had an eight percent walk rate. In 2013 Sanchez saw a sharp decline in his strikeout rate to the lowest point at anytime in his minor league career. His strikeout rate dropped all the way down to 17 percent in 2013, a seven percent drop from 2012 and five percent lower than his lowest in 2010. Many times when a player sees a sharp drop in his strikeout rate it is due a more aggressive approach or lack of patience – however one likes to word it, but Sanchez didn’t see a drop in his walk rate. In fact his walk rate actually went up slightly from the season before.

In 2014, his last season on many prospect lists, Sanchez showed the same approach at the plate with a 19 percent strikeout rate and a nine percent walk rate, but unlike 2013 his average was up 30 points to .284.

This season Sanchez has shown why people had him on those top prospect lists all those years, and why people shouldn’t have given up on him. Sanchez is still only 22 years old, and since being promoted to AAA this season he has hit .357/.430/.614 in 20 games.

This season might be his most impressive in the minors to date. He has the highest walk rate at any point in his career, (13%) while still holding his strikeout rate under 20 percent.

As I have said before, I am typically not one to invest in catching prospects, however Sanchez is being passed up by the new names on many prospect lists and people may be forgetting about the guy who at one point ranked inside the top 30 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. I would slot him in as one of my top 3 catchers in prospect rankings.

P – Taylor Guerrieri
Taylor Guerrieri 2012 2013 2014
Baseball America 90 62 NR 99 44 94
Baseball Prospectus NR 48 NR
Fantasy Assembly 66

He came out hot in 2012 at the age of 19 with a 1.04 ERA in 52 innings while walking only five batters. Guerrieri is the classic case of top prospect that falls off the radar because of surgery.

In 2013 he was on the radar in most leagues, but unfortunately had to go under the knife after 67 innings. Surgery kept him out almost all of 2014 except for a few short appearances in rookie ball where he didn’t allow a run over 9 1/3 innings.

Guerrieri recently made the jump to AA this season after 42 innings in high A where he had a 2.14 ERA. So far this season, he has shown better strikeout ability than he has before striking out nearly a batter an inning, but that has also come with an increased walk rate.

I like Guerrieri’s potential and remember he hasn’t fallen off the radar because of his performance. There was a reason he was a first round pick coming out of high school. He has above average pitches and has shown good control prior to injury. Pitchers are always risky to invest in, and Guerrieri himself has shown why, but I am never against investing in a player who comes with a good pedigree that has yet to struggle in the minors.

OF – Bubba Starling
Bubba Starling 2012 2013 2014
Baseball America 24 35 NR 17 26 NR
Baseball Prospectus 27 49 NR
Fantasy Assembly  –  – 94

Starling showed the ability to hit for some pop while being able to steal bases at a good success rate, but nothing near what the Royals hoped for when they drafted him. Starling, a five-tool player, was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft out of high school. However, he did not live up to expectations through his first few seasons in the minors.

In 2014 everything fell apart for the former top prospect. He hit only .218/.304/.338 in high A and was even worse in the Arizona Fall League hitting .177/.226/.241.

The biggest issue for Starling early in his minor league career was his strikeout rate. He posted strikeout rates of 30, 25 and 27 over his first three years in the minors. Starling will never be a 30-home run type of player, so those numbers will have to drop in order for him to have a successful major league career.

This season, with Starling far off the prospect radar, he came flying out of the gate in high A. He hit .386/.471/.614 and quickly earned a promotion to AA after only 20 games.

The promotion to AA can be hard on prospects. Starling has handled it fairly well, however he hasn’t had much success on the base paths with only three steals in eight AA attempts. The good news is that his strikeout rate didn’t take a big jump with the promotion. It actually dropped slightly from the season before, he has a 23 percent rate this season.

Starling still has the elite five-tool potential that he showed in high school, but he still has to grow more as a hitter and cut down on the strikeouts to live up to the hype.


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Andy Germani

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I am a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan and a graduate from Penn State. Baseball was my first love and I still play to this day in an adult baseball league. I always love helping people with their questions on Twitter so feel free to follow me and ask questions.