Top 100 Prospects: The First … And The Last

1995: A special-edition cover with a unique background framing No. 1 prospect Alex Rodriguez, who had made his major league debut in 1994 at age 18. The rest of the '95 top 10 included Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon among others.
1995: A special-edition cover with a unique background framing No. 1 prospect Alex Rodriguez, who had made his major league debut in 1994 at age 18. The rest of the '95 top 10 included Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon among others.

THE FIRST . . .

We've been ranking the Top 100 Prospects for 25 years, but because of three repeats (Bryce Harper, Andruw Jones and Joe Mauer) there have been just 21 previous No. 1 prospects. Editor-in-chief John Manuel ranked all the No. 1s in order of big league career impact (with some consideration given to expected future success for players who are still in the primes of their careers).

1. 1995: Alex Rodriguez: We seem to know how he did it, but we also know what he did, and it's nearly incomparable.

2. 1993: Chipper Jones: From No. 1 overall pick to No. 1 overall prospect to No. 3 hitter on a World Series champ in five years.

3. 2004/2005: Joe Mauer: Knee injury kept him atop our list an extra year; one of the greatest-hitting catchers ever.

4. 1996/1997: Andruw Jones: Won 10 straight Gold Gloves from 1998-2007; rough finish to career can't obscure 434 homers.

5. 2003: Mark Teixeira: Ranks sixth all time for home runs by a switch-hitter, and he's a two-time all-star and five-time Gold Glover.

6. 1999: J.D. Drew: Started his career viewed as overrated, but when healthy, was consistent above-average right fielder; durability a major knock.

7. 2001: Josh Hamilton: He wasn't a big leaguer until 2007 thanks to drug problems and remains mercurial, but his peak was something special.

8. 2002: Josh Beckett: Picked one spot after Hamilton in 1999 draft, he was never a consistent ace but fronted two World Series-winning staffs.

9. 1994: Cliff Floyd: We often focus on what might have been but forget a career .840 OPS and more than 230 home runs.

10. 2010: Jason Heyward: Room to grow as he comes into his power more consistently, but he's an on-base machine and plus defender already.

11. 1990: Steve Avery: He seemed to be on a Hall of Fame track from 1991-93 as one of the aces of the Braves staff, but '94 strike and loss of arm strength shortened his peak.

12. 2009: Matt Wieters: The expectations he set with his Double-A monster season were too high, but he's a solid hitter and premium defender.

13. 2008: Jay Bruce: The sooner he puts 2014 in his rear view, the better; he already has three 30-homer seasons by age 27.

14. 1998: Ben Grieve: His poor defensive ability muted some of his offensive value, but he was a durable, above-average hitter for five seasons.

15. 2011/2012: Bryce Harper: Will move up but not there yet. It's impossible to live up to his hype, but we still expect it to happen.

16. 2006: Delmon Young: An all-around, profile right fielder in the minors, Young got bigger, slower and impatient as a big leaguer; his biggest legacy is his nine playoff homers.

17. 2000: Rick Ankiel: Had one season as a championship-caliber starting pitcher, another as a center fielder, and hundreds of might-have-been questions.

18. 2007: Daisuke Matsuzaka: He won 33 games and a World Series title in his first two seasons but never made adjustments to become an ace.

19. 2013: Jurickson Profar: We're still waiting for his breakthrough, and he's younger than 2015 No. 1 prospect Kris Bryant. But on Thursday came news that Profar will have surgery on his right shoulder and his immediate future is uncertain.

20. 2014: Byron Buxton: Like Profar, he's been somewhat injury-prone to this point. Unlike Profar, he hasn't reached the majors yet, though he's nearly a full year younger.

21. 1991: Todd Van Poppel: The focal point of the 1990 draft had a vagabond career, with one good year as a big league reliever.

22. 1992: Brien Taylor: In retrospect, a 21-year-old with a walk rate of 5.6 per nine innings shouldn't have been No. 1—but the stuff was so good. The fight that ruined his shoulder relegates him to one of baseball's great “what-if" stories.

. . . AND THE LAST

Most years, two spots end up getting the most debate on the Top 100 Prospects list. Even if it's a slam dunk decision, everyone feels the need to discuss who ends up at No. 1. And then as the list is being wrapped up, we like to debate about who should land at No. 100.

Unlike the other spots at the back of the list, No. 100 has turned into something special, our own verson of Mr. Irrelevant. For the first few years of the list, it was just another ranking. But in 1993, the spot started to be given to a player for a reason. Sometimes it's a young player who is risky but has the tools to quickly climb the list. Sometimes the honor is given to an older player who has an unusual background, or a one-time top prospect who has fallen off because of injury or general ineffectiveness.

As you would expect, the picks for No. 100 have been hit or miss as far as future success. But one thing we've learned over the years: Don't put pitchers with shoulder injuries at No. 100 because that gambit never seems to turn out well.

Year Player Pos. Reason To Be No. 100
1993 Rene Arocha rhp Cuban defector who signed with Cardinals as a 26-year-old ended up having a briefer-than-expected major league career.
1994 Roger Salkeld rhp One-time No. 3 prospect in the game was coming back from shoulder surgery but he never fully made it back.
1995 Chris Carpenter rhp First-round pick had dominated the Pioneer League as a 19-year-old. Cy Young Award proves this one turned out.
1996 Josh Booty ss High school football star was a high-risk high-reward prospect who never hit enough to stick.
1997 Livan Hernandez rhp Ranked No. 8 the year before Hernandez got fat and struggled in 1996. But his talent won out and he compiled 178 victories in a lengthy career.
1998 Chris Enochs rhp Athletics 1997 first-round pick had a dominating debut before injuring his shoulder. His stuff never returned.
1999 Drew Henson 3b Another football star Henson's strikeouts eventually kept him from reaching his power so he went back to football.
2000 Kenny Kelly of Former University of Miami starting quarterback did eventually make the majors albeit briefly.
2001 Matt White rhp Loophole free agent signed with Rays for $10.2 million but saw career ruined by shoulder injuries.
2002 Jack Cust of The three-true-outcomes poster boy Cust walked homered and struck out at amazing rates with enough power to have a reasonable big league career.
2003 Nic Jackson of Doesn't fit the No. 100 profile. Corner outfielder who never produced enough power to reach the majors.
2004 Jason Lane of Two-way college star became big league regular as an outfielder then remade himself as a reliever to make it back to the majors . . . in 2014
2005 Greg Miller lhp Yet another cautionary tale for shoulder problems. Miller dominated Double-A at age 18 in 2003 but then blew out his shoulder.
2006 Anthony Swarzak rhp Wild hard-throwing righthander ended up turning himself into a useful low-leverage reliever.
2007 Dellin Betances rhp The perfect example of a good No. 100 pick. He made the list fresh out of the Gulf Coast League. Seven years later he turned into a dominant reliever for the Yankees.
2008 Drew Stubbs of Excellent center fielder with speed and power Stubbs' strikeouts always worried scouts and that has played out in big leagues.
2009 Jeremy Jeffress rhp One of the hardest throwers in baseball when picked to finish off the 2009 list. He seemed to finally establish himself this year.
2010 Noel Arguelles lhp Example No. 5 of the dangers of shoulder injuries. Big-money Cuban defector saw his velocity sapped by shoulder surgery.
2011 Joe Benson of Power/speed prospect saw his power evaporate not long after making this list. Has become a well-traveled minor leaguer.
2012 Christian Villanueva 3b Rare third baseman with speed (at the time) has seen his career move slower than expected since 2012.
2013 Roman Quinn ss Speedy center fielder blew out his knee in 2013 now trying to make it with speed and versatility.
2014 Arismendy Alcantara 2b/ss Exhausted prospect eligibility with the Cubs in 2014. Hit just 205/.254/.367 with 93 strikeouts in 278 at-bats in big league debut.

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