Top 100 Prospects: Year By Year

An old joke among journalists is that we became writers so that we wouldn’t have to do any math.

And so it was that we didn’t figure out until recently that this was Baseball America’s 25th Top 100 Prospects list. Perhaps it’s the fact that Canada’s Allan Simpson founded the magazine in the Great White North that we have this metric system-like affinity for multiples of 10, but we’ve been doing Top 10 Prospects lists since 1983 and a Top 100 Prospects list since 1990.

In an era of self-promotion, you’d think we would get better at recognizing that sort of thing. We probably need to, but we do think we’re getting better at ranking prospects.

Taking a look back at the Top 100 Prospects indicates that we’re getting better at it, in fits and starts, and that every Top 100 has rankings that make us look smart in retrospect and others that aren’t so hot. Many of the “other notables” were players listed in their first full pro season, just as they were emerging as prospects.

As you peruse our All-Time Top 100 Prospects lists in advance of Wednesday night’s announcement of this year’s Top 100 on MLB Network and at BaseballAmerica.com, here’s a speedy look back at the 24 lists that set the stage for this one.

 

Frank Thomas
1990
Final Tally: 87 out of 100 reached major leagues
Best Ranking: Top-ranked Steve Avery was our first No. 1 and was off to a tremendous start before the 1994 strike; he was never the same after that, possibly due to throwing 829 innings (counting the playoffs) before he turned 24. Future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas checked in at No. 29 just 72 games into his career. It was his only Top 100 ranking, as he reached the South Side of Chicago in 1990.
Most Regrettable Ranking: It’s tough for us to figure out how righthander Kiki Jones ranked No. 6 overall. He was just 5-foot-11, 175 pounds and was the 15th overall pick of the 1989 draft—eight spots behind Thomas, and about half Big Frank’s size. Jones went 8-0, 1.58 with 63 strikeouts in 63 innings in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, but we can’t figure that one out even in hindsight.
Other Notables: Larry Walker, No. 42; Bernie Williams, No. 77; Eric Karros, No. 84; and Kevin Appier, No. 86.

 


1991
Final Tally: 93 out of 100 reached MLB
Best Ranking: Ivan Rodriguez, ranked No. 7, sticks out in an otherwise modest top 10, with Bernie Williams just missing at No. 11, behind the likes of the late Andujar Cedeno and No. 1 prospect Todd Van Poppel.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Chipper Jones went No. 1 overall in the 1990 draft but was No. 49 on the list, while Van Poppel—considered the top prospect in that draft, and having signed a then-record $1.2 million major league contract with the Athletics—shot to the top of the list. The same Kiki Jones was still No. 43 on the list in ’91 and is the highest-ranked player from the ’91 list who didn’t reach the majors. Five of the seven “failures” were pitchers.
Other Notables: Mike Mussina, No. 19; Jeff Bagwell, No. 32; Jim Thome, No. 93; and Bret Boone, No. 99.

 

1992
Final Tally: 92 out of 100
Best Ranking: Chipper Jones at No. 4 looks good, but Pedro Martinez at No. 10—after an 18-8, 2.28 season between three levels—looks strong. Guess the Kiki Jones failure hadn’t stopped us from ranking 5-foot-11 righthanders.
Most Regrettable Ranking: A year after Van Poppel got $1.2 million, lefty Brien Taylor had great timing. He was one of the hardest-throwing lefties in draft history, the Yankees had the No. 1 overall pick, and he had Van Poppel’s agent, Scott Boras. The combination added up to a record $1.55 million straight signing bonus, nearly three times the bonus record of $575,000. He shot straight to No. 1, pushing Van Poppel to No. 2, ahead of Mariners righthander Roger Salkeld at No. 3.
Other Notables: Kenny Lofton, No. 28; Manny Ramirez, No. 37; Carlos Delgado No. 67; and Tim Salmon, No. 72

 


1993
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: Righthander Derek Lowe was an eighth-round pick in 1991 and was still in short-season ball in ’92, but our reports on his sinker and athleticism were strong enough to put him at No. 70. He went on to win 176 games as one of the game’s more durable starters in a 17-season career.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Yucaipa (Calif.) High has gone on to quite a history of big league players—most recently Matt Davidson and Taijuan Walker, both members of this year’s Top 100, plus Mark Teahen, Matt Carson and Corky Miller. But lefty Tyrone Hill started the string of prospects from the school, jumping up the list to No. 20 in 1992 and No. 10 in ’93 after going 9-5, 3.25 at low Class A Beloit with 133 strikeouts in 114 innings. He also walked 74, a 5.9 BB/9 rate that should have been a bigger red flag. He topped out in 1998 with three starts in Double-A.
Other Notables: Johnny Damon, No. 22; Derek Jeter, No. 44; Mike Lieberthal, No. 67; and Bobby Abreu, No. 95.

 


1994
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: In 1993, Phil Nevin jumped into the Top 100 at No. 30, after having been the No. 1 overall pick in the previous draft. Alex Rodriguez, the top overall pick in 1993, was instantly seen as a bigger deal and jumped into the Top 100 at No. 6.
Most Regrettable Ranking: We’ll admit it, we were always suckers for a big signing bonus. Shortstop Glenn Williams got $825,000 in 1993 from the Braves to sign out of Australia, and we ran him up to No. 64 as a 16-year-old. He never earned that ranking in terms of his minor league performance, but he did reach the majors in 2005 with the Twins for 13 games and went 17-for-40.
Other Notables: Chan Ho Park, No. 14; Shawn Green, No. 28; Edgardo Alfonzo, No. 74; and Billy Wagner, No. 78

 


1995
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: It was a good top 10: A-Rod at No. 1 leading a group that included Chipper Jones at No. 3, Jeter at No. 4 and Shawn Green at No. 6. But ranking Vladimir Guerrero at No. 85 after just 37 games outside the Dominican Summer League made us look smart in anticipation of his breakthrough 1995 season at low Class A Albany.
Most Regrettable Ranking: The curse of Ruben Rivera actually started in 1994, when he checked in at No. 76. He jumped to No. 2 in ’95 after posting a 30-30 season between two Class A levels in ’94.
Other Notables: Paul Konerko, No. 38; Derek Lee, No. 81; Scott Rolen, No. 91; and Chris Carpenter, No. 100.

 


1996
Final Tally: 92 out of 100
Best Ranking: Bartolo Colon had walked 44 in 66 innings in 1994 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, but he had a huge ’95 at high Class A Kinston (13-3, 1.96, 152 SO/129 IP), and we rank him up the list to No. 15. He edged up one spot in ’97 before reaching Cleveland.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Was 6-foot-8 Matt Drews, ranked 12th in ’96, just another product of Yankees hype? The 13th overall pick out of Sarasota (Fla.) High in 1994, Drews went 15-7, 2.27 in his first full pro season at high Class A Tampa, tossing 182 innings, the kind of workload that never happens in the minors anymore. The Yankees used him in ’96 as a key piece, along with Ruben Sierra, in acquiring Cecil Fielder from the Tigers. Drews endured a brutal 1-14, 5.56 campaign in ’96 and was just 38-71, 5.14 overall for his career, which topped out in Triple-A.
Other Notables: Todd Helton, No. 32; Jaret Wright, No. 34; Carlos Guillen, No. 74; and Miguel Tejada, No. 88.

 


1997
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: A second-round pick in 1995, Carlos Beltran struck out 65 times in just 215 at-bats with short-season Spokane, with a .270/.359/.433 batting line. It was good enough for him to debut on the Top 100 at No. 93.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Remember what we said about those big signing bonuses? Matt White received a $10.2 million bonus as one of four loophole free agents from the ’96 draft, and that helped him check in at No. 4 in his first year of eligibility for the list.
Other Notables: Roy Halladay, No. 23; Adrian Beltre, No. 30; Eric Chavez, No. 53; and Torii Hunter, No. 79.

 


1998
Final Tally: 92 out of 100
Best Ranking: In his first year as a Twins farmhand (and using his father’s last name of Arias), David Ortiz hit 31 home runs over three levels while posting a .317/.372/.568 slash line. He checked in one spot behind Javier Vazquez at No. 84. Vazquez had made just six starts above Class A but jumped to the majors the next year with the Expos.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Rangers farmhand Cesar King was thought to be an athletic, offensive catcher coming off a .304/.373/.429 season between high Class A Port Charlotte and Double-A Tulsa, in which he also threw out 50 percent of basestealers. He hit .222 as an encore in 1998, and ’97 was the only year he played more than 100 games.
Other Notables: Troy Glaus, No. 36; Vernon Wells, No. 52; Lance Berkman, No. 64; and Orlando Cabrera, No. 92.

 


1999
Final Tally: 95 out of 100
Best Ranking: Rafael Furcal was more than two years older than his then-listed age of 18, but it was his tools and .328/.412/.414 slash line, with 60 stolen bases in 75 attempts (in just 66 games), that prompted us to debut him at No. 60 on the Top 100.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Some age issues really affected the rankings. Shortstop Pablo Ozuna, traded from the Cardinals to the Marlins, ranked No. 8 but was four years older than thought to be when he dominated the low Class A Midwest League in ’98. He still carved out a career as a solid utility player.
Other Notables: A.J. Burnett No. 21; Mark Mulder No. 27; Freddy Garcia No. 61; and Drew Henson No. 100.

 


2000
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: Lefthander C.C. Sabathia was a 1998 first-rounder and made 16 starts in ’99, seven of them at high Class A Kinston with a 5.34 ERA. Nonetheless, he ranked No. 57 on the Top 100 and spent only one more year in the minors.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Rangers outfielder Ruben Mateo was kind of a poor man’s Ruben Rivera: same first name, same five-tool profile, similar lofty Top 100 rankings. At No. 6, this was Mateo’s highest ranking; he did get 295 big league games but never made much of an impact. He remains active in the Mexican League.
Other Notables: Josh Hamilton, No. 13; Josh Beckett, No. 19; Barry Zito, No. 41; Jayson Werth, No. 48; and Adam Dunn, No. 56.

 

2001
Final Tally: 87 out of 100
Best Ranking: The major leagues had virtually no history with Japanese position players, and Ichiro Suzuki was known to be a unique player in terms of playing style after winning seven batting titles in Japan. Ranking him No. 9 seems bold in retrospect, considering he was the origin of the species.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Ichiro wasn’t the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect because of our tall-pitcher fetish, best typified by our Ryan Anderson love affair. The Michigan prep product was a 6-foot-10 lefthander thought to be the next Randy Johnson, and he might have been had he stayed healthy. His shoulder trouble started in July 2000, and he was never the same, requiring three surgeries—matching the number of times he was in BA’s overall top 10.
Other Notables: Josh Hamilton, No. 1; Francisco Rodriguez, No. 71; Carl Crawford, No. 72; Adrian Gonzalez, No. 89; and Miguel Cabrera, No. 91.

 


2002
Final Tally: 88 out of 100
Best Ranking: Joe Mauer wasn’t the No. 1 prospect for the draft; we ranked him behind Mark Prior. But the Twins knew they could sign the hometown product Mauer, which they did for $5.15 million, and he debuted at No. 7 on the Top 100—five spots behind Prior. The Cubs righty found success first, but Mauer has sustained star-level production.
Most Regrettable Ranking: The four highest-ranked players who failed to reach the majors were all hard-throwing lefthanders: Ryan Anderson (No. 14), Ty Howington (25), Corwin Malone (32) and Mark Phillips (54). Malone was the lowest-drafted member of the group and had the shortest track record.
Other Notables: Justin Morneau, No. 21; Jake Peavy, No. 28; Jose Reyes, No. 34; Miguel Cabrera, No. 38; and Victor Martinez, No. 97.

 


2003
Final Tally: 87 out of 100.
Best Ranking: Maybe the gutsiest ranking was putting Francisco Liriano at No. 83, after 16 starts in low Class A as an 18-year-old. Even though he was hurt most of 2003 and pitched just nine innings, Liriano became a key piece in the Nov. 14, 2003, deal that was one of the great trades of the last decade. The Twins acquired him, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser from the Giants for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Most Regrettable Ranking: If there’s one profile we’ve shied away from more than others in recent years, it’s the righthanded-hitting first baseman. But at the turn of the decade, power plants such as Jason Stokes tempted us too much. He signed for $2.027 million as a second-round pick in 2000 and jumped to No. 15 on the Top 100 after a monster .341/.421/.645 season at low Class A Kane County. Missing on players such as Stokes and Brian Dopirak (coming up later) helps explain some reticence with future, more successful versions such as Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo.
Other Notables: Adam Wainwright, No. 18; Hanley Ramirez, No. 19; Cliff Lee, No. 30; Shin-Soo Choo, No. 61; and Prince Fielder, No. 78.

 

felix-hernandez-2013-bm
2004
Final Tally: 85 out of 100
Best Ranking: You see, there is such a thing as a pitching prospect. After his pro debut that included 91 strikeouts in 69 innings as a 17-year-old, we were all-in on Felix Hernandez, who ranked No. 30 on the list. He jumped to No. 2 the next year, behind Joe Mauer, and then reached Seattle for good in ’05.
Most Regrettable Ranking: About that pitching prospect thing . . . This list ranks as the low point in terms of volume of future big leaguers, and with the exception of college righty Kyle Sleeth (No. 36), the big misses were prep pitchers such as Greg Miller (No. 8), who many scouts preferred to 2003 Florida State League peers Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir. Miller finished 2003 having reached Double-A as an 18-year-old, but shoulder woes sidelined him for all of 2004 and stymied his command and career thereafter.
Other Notables: Grady Sizemore, No. 9; Zach Greinke, No. 14; Jason Bay, No. 74; Matt Cain, No. 91; and Aaron Hill, No. 96.

 


2005
Final Tally: 91 out of 100
Best Ranking: Kendrys Morales (No. 76) was considered the best player in Cuba when he defected in 2004 and signed with the Angels in December for a six-year major league contract that included a $3 million bonus. At that time, the track record of Cuban hitters in the majors had waned, thanks to busts such as Andy Morales (not related), Jorge Toca and Juan Diaz. Morales took a while to adjust, but his success kick-started the current wave of Cuban big leaguers.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Righthanded power is soooo tempting . . . Dopirak popped in at No. 21, but we were even more taken with Joel Guzman (No. 4), whom the Dodgers signed for $2.255 million in 2001. Guzman remains listed at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds in the BA database yet had infield actions and easy arm strength, spending most of his minor league time at shortstop and third base. His easy power has produced 167 career minor league homers (he played in the Mexican League in 2013), but a low motor and lack of plate discipline limited his ceiling, and he has logged just 24 games in the majors.
Other Notables: Cole Hamels, No. 71; Billy Butler, No. 75; Neil Walker, No. 81; Ubaldo Jimenez, No. 82; and Russell Martin, No. 89.

 

2006
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: The Braves were all-in on their 16-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus, and so were we, ranking him No. 61 on the Top 100 after 52 games in Rookie ball. Andrus has his detractors—consider his career .348 slugging percentage—but he’s already played 757 big league games entering his age-25 season and has been the everyday shortstop during the most successful stretch in Rangers history.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Makeup matters. Delmon Young (No. 1) was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft and has made some noise in the playoffs, but the Albert Belle comparisons proved more prescient with his temper than with his power. In May 2006, Young’s fall began when, while playing for Triple-A Durham, he threw a bat at an umpire after a third-strike call.
Other Notables: Stephen Drew, No. 5; Justin Verlander, No. 7; Adam Jones, No. 64; Dustin Pedroia, No. 77; and Matt Kemp, No. 96.

 

Evan Longoria
2007
Final Tally: 95 out of 100
Best Ranking: The No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Evan Longoria was the highest-ranked player (No. 7) on the following Top 100, eddying Andrew Miller (No. 10) and Tim Lincecum (No. 11). The 18 home runs he hit in his pro debut (in just 248 at-bats) had something to do with hit.
Most Regrettable Ranking: We could not kick our Brandon Wood habit. The Angels farmhand ranked No. 83 entering 2005, his breakout season, when he topped 100 extra-base hits in the California League. He jumped to No. 3 in 2006 and was No. 8 entering ’07, then No. 16 entering ’08. His swing-and-miss tendencies kept him from getting to his prodigious power and prevented Wood from ever being a productive big leaguer.
Other Notables: Troy Tulowitzki, No. 15; Carlos Gonzalez, No. 18; Clayton Kershaw, No. 24; Carlos Gomez, No. 60; and Jeff Samardzija, No. 80.

 

ckershaw08267300tf1
2008
Final Tally: 94 out of 100
Best Ranking: Despite the Greg Miller experience, we were still bullish on Clayton Kershaw (No. 7), who finished the 2007 season at Double-A Jacksonville as a 19-year-old. We never got a chance to rank Kershaw again—he was too good for the minors and jumped to Los Angeles as a 20-year-old in 2008.
Most Regrettable Ranking: His 2007 playoff showing with the Rockies, plus his premium lefthanded velocity, ran Franklin Morales (No. 8) to Kershaw-ian heights. He’s carved out a career as a reliever, but Morales never has proved he has the strike-throwing ability to start. Oft-injured Adam Miller (No. 29), who could never overcome repeated finger injuries, was making his fourth of five fruitless Top 100 appearances.
Other Notables: Andrew McCutchen, No. 14; Austin Jackson, No. 41; Joey Votto, No. 44; Justin Masterson, No. 64; and Chris Davis, No. 65.

 

2009
The Tally: 94 out of 100 (Still Pending: Michael Ynoa, No. 54)
Best Ranking: Scouts were split on Domonic Brown (No. 48) after his low Class A campaign at Lakewood, with many believing in the bat, while others thought him too raw for the early hype. Both were legitimate views, and it has taken Brown some time to come around, but he proved the believers right in 2013 with a breakout .272/.324/.494 season in 2013 that included 27 home runs.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Many fine stories have been written about intelligent, quotable Lars Anderson (No. 17). Suffice it to say the former Red Sox prospect, who reached the majors and keeps getting chances—the Cubs signed him Jan. 20—just has not hit enough, with a career .266/.364/.418 line in the minors.
Other Notables: Madison Bumgarner, No. 9; Buster Posey, No. 14; Giancarlo Stanton, No. 16; Wilson Ramos, No. 71; and Freddie Freeman, No. 87.

 


2010
The Tally: 89 of 100 (Most Realistic Still Pending: Tyler Matzek, No. 23; Mike Montgomery, No. 39; Jared Mitchell, No. 55; and Miguel Sano, No. 94)
Best Ranking: Matt Moore scratches us where we itch—we are just suckers for power lefthanders. Frankly it’s a demographic we’ve missed on a lot, but we ran Moore up to No. 35 after a 2009 season that included 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings as well as 5.1 BB/9. He’s not an ace yet, but he did post a 17-4, 3.29 season as a 24-year-old last year in Tampa, and there’s room for him to get much better.
Most Regrettable Ranking: One demo we’re going to rank highly almost every year is the high draft pick who gets a huge contract. So it’s not surprising that Donavan Tate (No. 53), the No. 3 overall pick and recipient of a $6.25 million bonus, ranked 32 spots ahead of No. 25 overall pick Mike Trout. It’s regrettable, but it’s not surprising.
Other Notables: Stephen Strasburg, No. 2; Martin Perez, No. 17; Shelby Miller, No. 50; Julio Teheran, No. 51; Brett Lawrie, No. 59; and Jhoulys Chacin, No. 71.

 


2011
The Tally: 81 out of 100 so far . . .
Best Ranking: Maybe we have gotten better with lefties who throw hard . . . Chris Sale popped onto the list at No. 20 after having zoomed to the majors in 2010 just months after being the 13th overall pick in the draft. He’s since established himself as one of the majors’ best starting pitchers. Must of this list’s history is still being written, but Sale already has exceeded expectations almost as much as No. 2 prospect Mike Trout, who was a spot behind Bryce Harper.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Several high draft picks from 2010 who have struggled as pros were on the Top 100, but Cubs righty Trey McNutt (No. 48) stands out the most. It’s unusual we would be so aggressive on a 32nd-round pick in 2009 who signed for $115,000 and had one breakout year between two Class A levels. McNutt has struggled mightily at Double-A and has moved to a relief role.
Other Notables: Chris Archer, No. 27; Mike Minor, No. 37; Jason Kipnis, No. 54; Jean Segura, No. 57; and Craig Kimbrel, No. 86.

 

Yu Darvish
2012
The Tally: 68 out of 100 so far . . .
Best Ranking: Our World Baseball Classic rankings from the ’09 event are a source of pride at BA. Yu Darvish topped that list, and we were aggressive with him when he finally came to the U.S., ranking No. 4 behind Bryce Harper, Matt Moore and Mike Trout. He’s lived up to the billing thus far.
Most Regrettable Ranking: Trout at No. 3. Sigh.
Other Notables: Trevor Bauer, No. 8; Manny Machado, No. 11; Gerrit Cole, No. 12; Yoenis Cespedes, No. 14; and Anthony Rendon, No. 19.

 

2013
The Tally: 51 out of 100 so far
Best Ranking: It looks good in retrospect to have been so bullish on Jose Fernandez (No. 5). Again, so much of this is TBD—such as just how good Yasiel Puig (No. 47) can be, or if Tony Cingrani (No. 82) can repeat his rookie success. But Fernandez has pushed to the front of this class by having jumped from Class A to the majors.
Most Regrettable Ranking: It’s early, but shoulder injuries are making a big league career for Danny Hultzen (No. 29) look dicey.
Other Notables: Byron Buxton No. 10; Zack Wheeler, No. 11; Mike Zunino, No. 17; Trevor Rosenthal, No. 39; and Hyun-Jin Ryu, No. 42.

 

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