A question asked on Twitter a week or two ago got me thinking; “which top prospects ended up being complete flops?” This question is a bit loaded, and any fan of one team in particular will always have a long list of “should-have-been’s/could-have-been’s.” Instead of immediately fixating on the Twins’ draft busts, I thought immediately of the Rookie of the Year award winners that never lived up to their expectations. I will meander through the list of RoY winners and then cover the “future of the Twins” after my analysis of those prospects that ended up having their best years under a rookie contract.
Rookie of the Year Analysis:
Let’s make things straight from the beginning. My analysis is purely subjective and I also limited it to the period where I was alive when the award winners were chosen. I would have found it incredibly hard analyzing a player who won the award in the 1950s or ’60s that I never saw and who played in a completely different era; so let’s focus on 1984 to present day.
With award winners like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, and Albert Pujols, it is easy to see why the award for Rookie of the Year is coveted by the youth of the game. When I was a kid, behind the World Series trophy or Hall of Fame induction, the Rookie of the Year award was the biggest honor I could think of; I wanted to be that guy in a dozen years or so! I immediately associated the winner of that AL or NL trophy as a super-star, a potential Hall of Famer… that is until I started to realize that some winners didn’t duplicate those initial performances for the rest of their career. I was devastated when Marty Cordova did not equal a third World Series trophy for the Twins. And even though David McCarty was not a RoY, I was crushed when the hype surrounding him turned into nothing more than a short career full of disappointment.
Within the past few years we have had GREAT recipients of the awards – Justin Verlander, Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Buster Posey – is this a case where writers are smarter and the award is getting easier to give to the rookie with the brightest FUTURE and not a flash-in-the-pan? Or may one of these guys turn into a huge bust; a man crowned as a Hall of Famer at 22 only to be out of the game by the age of 30? Time will tell.
But here is my top ten – in chronological order – of the top “Rookie of the Year… Lack of Career” guys.
- 1989 – Jerome Walton (Chicago Cubs) – The 1989 rookie class in the NL was slim, looking back on it, only Andy Benes had a fully respectable career out of any of the guys that received a vote in the NL. Also worthy of note, Gregg Olson (Pitcher) was voted RoY over KEN GRIFFEY, JR!!
- 1992 – Pat Listach (Milwaukee Brewers – AL) – Great example of a guy that won the award and was out of the game before he was 30. Only once after winning the award did he play more than 100 games (101 in 1995). Maybe Kenny Lofton would have been a wiser choice.
- 1994 – Bob Hamelin (Kansas City Royals) – Who?! hits 24 home runs in 101 games, wins the RoY. Hits 43 the rest of his career and calls it quits at age 30. Surely Manny Ramirez would be the answer if we were to re-write history. Heck, I’d even take half a Rusty Greer over this race-car driver (wait, that’s Denny Hamlin, apologies).
- 1995 – Marty Cordova (Minnesota Twins) – Maybe I am too hard on him, since he was a Twins “bust,” but come on! His injuries – or sun-tanning mistakes – really cut down a potentially powerful bat. I’d like to call a re-count and see if Florida’s hanging chads prevented Garret Anderson from winning the election. Sorry Andy Pettitte, you lost to Marty Cordova… but not in World Series ring count.
- 1998 – Ben Grieve (Oakland A’s) – Let’s face it, the guy was basically done by the time he was 26, then out of baseball at 29. Ben had nearly 500 RBIs before exiting the game, but when you put up a goose-egg in your 30s, second guessing this award becomes quite easy.
- 1999 – Scott Williamson (Cincinnati Reds) – With a lifetime record of 28-28 and 55 saves, Scott only broke 100 innings once in his career. In fact, after the age of 27 he only averaged 24.1 innings per season before finishing his career at the age of 31 in 2007. At least the rest of list of RoY candidates was unimpressive.
- 2000 – Kazuhiro Sasaki (Seattle Mariners) – Sure, next year a fellow Japanese player named Ichiro would win the same award with the same team, but Kazuhiro’s career in the MLB was brief. Sasaki debuted at age 32 and went back to Japan at 35, it’s as if he brought the good fortune of the entire franchise back with him to Japan, because the Mariners have not looked good since. If not for being known as a calm guy, I would have guessed that Barry Zito would have been upset.
- 2002 – Jason Jennings (Colorado Rockies) – Going 16-8 for the Rockies is impressive, but having that be your last winning season must really be painful. Jason went 46-68 after winning the RoY and retired at 30 years old with an ERA just below 5.00 (4.95). Mark Prior has his name in this class, as does Austin Kearns; but don’t fool yourself, this RoY class is thin.
- 2003 – Angel Berroa (Kansas City Royals) – After 4 complete years in the league, Angel retired in 2009 after trying to catch on with both New York teams in his last season. Angel was 29 at the time of his retirement, though he is currently still playing baseball in New Jersey (part of the Jackals in the Can-Am league). Somewhere out there Hideki Matsui and Mark Teixeira are both trying to petition MLB to retroactively make them the RoY.
- 2004 – Bobby Crosby (Oakland A’s) – The most recent “bust” on the list, Bobby hit only 40 HRs after winning the AL RoY (22 during his award-winning campaign) and bated around .230. Bobby was healthy enough to play 2 full seasons while managing to play about 5 half seasons before calling it a day at 30 years old in 2010. He recently tried to catch a ride with the Milwaukee Brewers this year, but was already cut. Zack Greinke and Alex Rios were snubbed; but then again, Matt Holliday finished 5th in the NL, and he wasn’t even the highest rated on his Colorado Rockies team (Aaron Miles).
Minnesota Twins – 2020 World Series Champions!
Judging by the way that the minor league class has been rated, you would swear that the Twins are likely favorites to win a World Series trophy by the year 2020. Our prospect pool is deep and loaded; not just on offense, either. With a bit of help from the Aaron Gleeman blog, I wanted to quickly lay out the top reasons why we should be excited for baseball in Minnesota for the next decade or so.
***Note: As described above, some of these names could either be GREAT, or end up out of baseball before notching three decades of life. Surely one or two of these guys will be long-time Twins, though… right?!***
- Trevor May – Traded to the Twins for Ben Revere (we also got Vance Worley), May will hopefully turn into a decent middle rotation guy. We all know how much the Twins have struggled with pitching in the past couple of years.
- Kyle Gibson – Drafted by the Twins, many scouts had him already in the Twins rotation by now, but arm problems that led to Tommy John have delayed his trip to the Bigs, hopefully not derailing them. He still has top of the rotation expectations, though.
- Alex Meyer – Traded to the Twins in a move that sent Denard Span to the Washington Nationals, Alex is a hard throwing starter. Get the point by now? The Twins have a decent rotation in their farm system, let’s just hope they stay healthy and progress.
- Aaron Hicks – We have seen him since opening day here at Target Field. The potential 5-tool center-fielder is finally starting to show some comfort at the plate and in the field. He has the potential to erase Denard Span and Ben Revere from Minnesotan’s memories, just give him some time.
- Oswaldo Arcia – With Darin Mastroianni out, the Twins are able to keep Oswaldo on the roster. In his first month or so with the big club, Oswaldo has looked solid. This makes two of the long-term prospects a part of the Twins in 2013, hopefully getting them some repetitions for future greatness.
- Byron Buxton – I read when I woke up this morning that Byron hit a game-winning grand slam last night. Another outfielder (this makes a full line-up of 3) with 5-tools, this speedster has an arm and some pop. maybe this is the future Kirby Puckett of Target Field.
- Miguel Sano – Possibly the next Miguel Cabrera, the only thing missing from Miguel’s bag of talent is a glove. The Twins are not known to develop DH-only guys, so he will have to prove his value in the field before moving up. Let’s face it though, this dude can flat out CRUSH the ball. Bring your poncho for BP, because he’ll be making it rain!
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your feedback below. Did I miss any terrible RoYs? Any other talent that you remember as wasted? I’m listening…