I'm busy working on our position rankings and initial first-round projections for our Draft Preview, not to mention gathering information for our Midwest state lists and working on a draft-related column. All that puts the squeeze on Ask BA this week, as I only have time for one question—but it's a fun one!
My first full year at Baseball America was 1989, so that's a good place to start. I quickly came up with 30 candidates, so a Top 10 won't suffice. Here's my Top 20:
1. Stephen Strasburg, rhp, San Diego State (Nationals, No. 1, 2009)
The latest to wear the mantle of best college pitching prospect ever.
2. Mark Prior, rhp, Southern California (Cubs, No. 2, 2001)
Had slightly less stuff than Strasburg, but proved himself against better competition.
3. Ben McDonald, rhp, Louisiana State (Orioles, No. 1, 1989)
The Strasburg of the pre-Internet era; $824,000 contract was shocking at the time.
4. Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va. (Diamondbacks, No. 1, 2005)
Tabbed as 2005's top prospect three years earlier, he lived up to the hype.
5. Todd Van Poppel, rhp, Martin HS, Arlington, Texas (Athletics, No. 14, 1990)
Braves passed on Van Poppel because of signability and took Chipper Jones at No. 1.
6. Brien Taylor, lhp, Beaufort (N.C.) HS (Yankees, No. 1, 1991)
Never reached the bigs, but scouts still say he and David Clyde were top prep lefties ever.
7. Alex Rodriguez, ss, Westminster Christian HS, Miami (Mariners, No. 1, 1993)
Had the highest ceiling scouts had seen in years—and still surpassed expectations.
8. J.D. Drew, of, Florida State (Phillies, No. 4, 1997/unsigned)
First 30-30 player in college history sought a $10 million deal and didn't get it.
9. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt (Devil Rays, No. 1, 2007)
Delivered almost instant payback with ALCS, World Series heroics a year later.
10. Matt Wieters, c, Georgia Tech (Orioles, No. 5, 2007)
A more well-rounded prospect than Bryce Harper is this year, and a switch-hitter to boot.
11. Paul Wilson, rhp, Florida State (Mets, No. 1, 1994)
Like many of the pitchers on this list, he fell victim to injuries.
12. Kris Benson, rhp, Clemson (Pirates, No. 1, 1996)
Lauded as big league-ready, he didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until 1999.
13. Mark Teixeira, 3b, Georgia Tech (Rangers, No. 5, 2001)
Before the 2001 season began, he was considered a better prospect than Prior.
14. Pedro Alvarez, 3b, Vanderbilt (Pirates, No. 2, 2008)
Think the Rays might wish they had taken Alvarez over Tim Beckham at No. 1?
15. Bryce Harper, c, CC of Southern Nevada (2010)
Most hyped draft prospect ever, starting with a Sports Illustrated cover story at age 16.
16. Josh Hamilton, of, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C. (Devil Rays, No. 1, 1999)
Showed all five tools as an outfielder, plus a mid-90s fastball on the mound.
17. Jameson Taillon, rhp, The Woodlands (Texas) HS (2010)
Area scouts say Taillon is the best high school pitcher they've ever seen, better than . . .
18. Josh Beckett, rhp, Spring (Texas) HS (Marlins, No. 2, 1999)
So dominant that he might have been the No. 1 pick in 1998 as a high school junior.
19. B.J. Upton, ss, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va. (Devil Rays, No. 2, 2002)
Drew a lot of comparisons to a more physically and offensively developed Derek Jeter.
20. Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul (Twins, No. 1, 2001)
Overshadowed by Prior and Teixeira at the time, he has surpassed them both.