All offseason, fans (and us BA writers) have wondered if the Royals would set the record for most prospects on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list. With nine among the Top 100 they have, but that may not fully explain how stacked this Royals list is.
Not every Top 100 Prospect is the same. A prospect in the top 10 is obviously much more likely to become a star than one sitting at No. 99. So to get a better sense of the best Top 100 classes of all-time, we derived a pretty simple formula–The No. 1 prospect received 100 points, the No. 2 prospect received 99 points and so on all the way down to the No. 100 prospect who received one point. At that point, we tabulated the highest point totals by team.
What we found is the 2011 Royals are the highest-ranked team of the Top 100 era, and it's not particularly close. The gap between the Royals and the third-place organization on our list is 102 points, which is more than the points awarded for having the No. 1 prospect on the list.
You could argue that the formula is a little too simplistic–prospects at the top of the list are significantly more valuable than prospects at the bottom of the list. No team would trade top prospect Bryce Harper for the No. 50 and 51 prospects on the list, but it is a nice and simple measure of the top prospect classes of all time, and tweaking the formula to add more weight to the top of the list would only add to the Royals point total, as they are the first team in Top 100 history with five prospects in the Top 20.
Here's a look at the Top 10 Top 100 classes of the past 22 years, with a look at which players panned out, playoff success and a summary of each team's class.
1. 2011 Royals (574 points). Significant names: Eric Hosmer (8), Mike Moustakas (9), Wil Myers (10), John Lamb (18), Mike Montgomery (19). Playoff Success: To be determined.
We obviously won't know for a while how this group fares.
2. 2006 Diamondbacks (541 points). Significant names: Justin Upton (2), Stephen Drew (5), Conor Jackson (17), Carlos Quentin (20), Chris Young (23), Carlos Gonzalez (32). Playoff Success: Lost in NLCS in 2007.
The Diamondbacks are one of the cautionary tales of this list. It's hard to say that any of the top six of the team's seven Top 100 prospects have been a bust, but the decision to trade away Quentin a season before he became an MVP candidate and Gonzalez (along with Brett Anderson) before he broke out in Colorado are two moves the Diamondbacks would like to have back.
But even with all that, Upton, Drew, Jackson, Quentin and Young did play roles in Arizona's National League West championship run in 2007.
3. 2000 Florida Marlins (472 points). Significant names: Josh Beckett (19), A.J. Burnett (20), Brad Penny (22). Playoff Success: Won World Series in 2003.
The Marlins placed eight players on the Top 100 Prospects list in 2000. At the time, that tied the record for most Top 100 Prospects. Several of those prospects ended up disappointing. Abraham Nunez (30), Wes Anderson (43), Julio Ramirez (60), Pablo Ozuna (62) and Chip Ambres (80) all failed to live up to the hype. In this case, age discrepancies played a large role—Nunez was three years older and Ozuna was four years older than they claimed to be at the time. If their actual ages had been known, neither would have ranked in the Top 100. Take those two players away and the Marlins would not have ranked in the top 20.
It's hard to argue with the Marlins' top three prospects that year. Beckett was the team's best pitcher during the World Series run in 2003 while Penny was 14-10, 4.13 that year. Burnett missed most of that season with Tommy John surgery, but he was 49-50, 3.73 in seven seasons with the Marlins.
4. 2008 Rays (466 points). Significant names: Evan Longoria (2), David Price (10), Jake McGee (15), Wade Davis (17), Reid Brignac (39), Desmond Jennings (59), Jeff Niemann (99). Playoff Success: Lost World Series, 2008. Lost ALDS, 2010.
It's hard to say that any of the seven Rays who made the 2008 Top 100 ended up being a bust, although McGee and Jennings are still prospects waiting for a first full season in Tampa. Longoria was one of the key players on the 2008 World Series team, while Price (a notable '08 playoff hero), Davis, Brignac and Niemann all joined him as regulars on the 2010 playoff team. If Tampa is going to get back to the playoffs anytime soon, the seven names on this list will have to play significant roles.
5. 1999 Marlins (441 points). Significant names: Alex Gonzalez (17), A.J. Burnett (21), Braden Looper (23), Mike Lowell (58). Playoff Success: Won World Series, 2003.
The Marlins' fifth spot here is somewhat misleading. Pablo Ozuna was ranked No. 8 overall after a .357/.400/.494 season as a 19-year-old middle infielder in the Midwest League. Those numbers look a lot less convincing once it became known later that he was actually 23 at the time. Take Ozuna away and the Marlins would not have cracked the top 35. For the Marlins' 2003 championship team, Lowell was arguably the best position player, Looper was the closer and Gonzalez was the everyday shortstop, so this group did play a significant role on a championship team.
6. 1992 Braves (440 points). Significant names: Chipper Jones (4), Ryan Klesko (8), Mark Wohlers (13), Javy Lopez (78). Playoff Success: Lost World Series 1992, Lost NLCS 1993, Won World Series 1995, Lost World Series 1996, Lost NLCS 1997, Lost NLCS 1998, Lost World Series 1999.
The Braves had some notable flops among their seven Top 100 Prospects in 1992—David Nied, Keith Mitchell and Mike Kelly never lived up to expectations, but any group that produces a Hall of Fame candidate like Jones as well as three other long-time regulars is a class for the ages. This class allowed the Braves to rebuild on the fly when Terry Pendelton, Sid Bream, Alejandro Pena and Greg Olson all started to age.
7. 1991 Dodgers (439 points). Significant names: Jose Offerman (4), Raul Mondesi (14), Henry Rodriguez (29), Eric Karros (94). Playoff Success: Lost NLDS 1995, Lost NLDS 1996. Was leading division when strike hit in 1994.
The Top 100 Prospects list goes back to 1990. In 1991, the Dodgers became the only team of the first decade of the list to place eight players in the Top 100. [They also placed pitchers Jamie McAndrew (40) and Kiki Jones (43) on the list.]
Eric Karros was the National League rookie of the year in 1992, then earned MVP votes in 1995 and 1996. Offerman's time in Los Angeles is most remembered for his error-prone ways, but he was an all-star in 1995. Mondesi was rookie of the year in 1994 and was a key bat in the middle of the lineup for the team's playoff runs in 1995 and 1996.
8. 2006 Dodgers (430 points). Significant names: Chad Billingsley (7), Russell Martin (42), Jonathan Broxton (63), Andre Ethier (89), Matt Kemp (96). Playoff Success: Lost NLCS 2008. Lost NLCS 2009.
Until this year's list, the 2006 Dodgers' eight players on the list shared the record for most Top 100 Prospects with the 1991 Dodgers and 2000 Marlins. Several of the players have not panned out—Andy LaRoche (19) has had shots at big league jobs and failed, Blake DeWitt (82) has been average at best, injuries have caused Scott Elbert (55) to remain prospect eligible, and then there's flat-out bust Joel Guzman (26). But the core of the playoff teams in 2008 and 2009 were built through this prospect class. Kemp and Ethier were the team's best two hitters in 2008 while Billingsley was its best pitcher and Broxton was arguably its best reliever. All five played significant roles again in 2009, with LaRoche helping out by being one of the prospects traded to acquire Manny Ramirez.
9. 1995 Astros (426 points). Significant names: Billy Wagner (17), Richard Hildago (34), Bob Abreu (52), Phil Nevin (59), Scott Elarton (63). Playoff Success: Lost NLDS 1997, Lost NLDS 1998, Lost NLDS 1999.
Losing Bobby Abreu in an expansion draft is the kind of move that can never be excused, and the Astros gave up too soon on Nevin. But the 1995 prospect class did give Houston its closer for nine years. Hidalgo ended up being a solid regular in the outfield and Elarton was a useful reliever. Brian Hunter (5) never did live up to the expectations that followed his .372 season in Triple-A in 1994, but he did play in the big leagues for 10 years. Shortstop Orlando Miller (51) never panned out.
10. 2010 Rays (425 points). Significant names: Desmond Jennings (6), Jeremy Hellickson (18), Wade Davis (34), Matt Moore (35), Reid Brignac (54). Playoff Success: Lost ALDS 2010.
Much like the 2011 Royals, the success of this group is still to be determined.
And to add one more team worth mentioning:
11. 1997 Pirates (423 points). Significant names: Kris Benson (8), Jose Guillen (24), Aramis Ramirez (26). Playoff Success: None.
Royals fans, this is your nightmare. The Pirates had plenty of busts from their 1997 prospect class, like Jimmy Anderson (88), Abraham Nunez (69), Ron Wright (48) and Chad Hermensen (21). But just as importantly, even the success stories largely were disappointments. Benson was generally mediocre, Ramirez was given away to the Cubs for next to nothing, and it took Guillen seven seasons and four teams to figure out how to hit in the big leagues. Of course in Guillen's case the Pirates decision to promote him straight from the high Class A Carolina League as a 21-year-old played a part in his stunted development.
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