How The 2024 MLB Hall Of Fame Class Ranked As Prospects


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We are deeply entrenched in the Top 100 Prospects era of the Hall of Fame balloting. Only a decade ago, Frank Thomas became the first player eligible for a Baseball America Top 100 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Top 100 began in 1990. This year was Gary Sheffield’s final year on the ballot. He was the final player to graduate to the big leagues before that first Top 100 was unveiled.

The three inductees this year all were Top 100 Prospects. In fact, we’re unlikely to see a non-Top 100 Prospect voted into the Hall of Fame anytime soon, as the top new additions next year (Ichiro Suzuki and CC Sabathia) were also slam-dunk Top 100 Prospects.

So what did we say about the new Hall of Famers when they were still on their way up?

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Dodgers

Beltre sped through the minors at a rate that seems fast even by today’s standards. He made his pro debut in the South Atlantic League as a 17-year-old in 1996. After a 1997 season spent entirely in the High-A Florida State League, Beltre leapt from Double-A San Antonio to the major leagues in 1998 and never looked back.

Along the way, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Texas League in 1998, topping a list so loaded that it needs to be seen to be believed.

1Adrian Beltre3BSan AntonioDodgers12,13084.1
2Troy Glaus3BMidlandAngels6,35534.3
3J.D. DrewOFArkansasCardinals6,15346
4Freddy GarciaRHPJacksonAstros2,26438.1
5Carlos BeltranOFWichitaRoyals11,03167.9
6Ruben MateoOFTulsaRangers951-1.6
7Angel PenaCSan AntonioDodgers2060.1
8Carlos Febles2BWichitaRoyals1,8920.8
9Peter BergeronOFSan AntonioDodgers1,256-4
10Lance BerkmanOFJacksonAstros7,81455.9

Beltre ranked No. 3 on the 1998 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list. That didn’t put him No. 1 on the Dodgers’ Top 10 however, as Paul Konerko just edged him. Here’s what we wrote about Beltre that year.

Beltre was the Florida State League’s top prospect after contending for a triple crown. The Dodgers, who have often rushed their position prospects, have shown unusual patience with Beltre, letting him spend two full years in Class A. Beltre may be the most gifted player in the minors. All his tools are at least above-average. His hitting and power are on par with Paul Konerko’s. He has above-average speed and the strongest arm in the organization outside of Raul Mondesi. Any weakness in Beltre’s package would be a matter of comparison with his own tools. He hasn’t shown any weaknesses in two years of minor league ball. Beltre would be considered the top prospect in just about any organization. The most likely scenario is for Beltre to take over third base in 1999 with Konerko at first.

Dodgers 1998 Top 10 Prospects

Beltre rated as the American League’s Best Defensive Third Baseman on five occasions and he was voted as having the best infield arm seven times.

At the tail end of Beltre’s career, we wrote about how he had established himself as one of the all-time greats at the position.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Joe Mauer is one of the most lauded prospects in Baseball America history. Before he became Baseball America’s 2009 Major League Player of the Year, he was also BA’s 2003 Minor League Player of the Year, standing out among an excellent class. When BA founder Allan Simpson helped us rank the 50 best prospects of the BA era (1981-present), Mauer ranked 12th.

Mauer was the Twins’ No. 1 prospect in four consecutive seasons. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Appalachian League (2001), Midwest League (2002), Florida State League (2003) and Eastern League (2003). He ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Top 100 in 2002 coming out of his draft year. Mauer ranked fourth in 2003, No. 1 in 2004 and No. 1 in 2005. He is one of only four players to be a two-time No. 1 prospect on the Top 100.

MLB managers voted him the American League’s Best Defensive Catcher five times and the AL’s Best Hitter for Average on three occasions in Baseball America’s Best Tools voting.

Here’s his final scouting report as the No. 1 prospect in the Twins system coming into the 2005 season:

Seemingly out of central casting, Mauer grew up about 10 minutes from the Metrodome. He developed into one of the country’s top quarterback recruits, signing with Florida State, where he would follow in the footsteps of fellow Cretin-Derham Hall product Chris Weinke. Like Weinke, Mauer signed to play baseball first. Unlike Weinke, Mauer never had to use football as a fallback. Twins scouts saw Mauer more than 100 times as an amateur and had no reservations in picking him No. 1 overall in 2001, even though they passed on Mark Prior in the process. After signing for a club-record $5.15 million, Mauer roared through the minor leagues and was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2003. Two of his older brothers also play in the Twins system: Jake, a second baseman, was at Double-A New Britain in 2004; Bill, a righthander, pitched at low Class A Quad Cities. With the trade of A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco after the 2003 season, Minnesota handed its catching job to Mauer. He had a strong spring but tore the meniscus in his left knee in the second game of the year. After surgery, he faced a four- to five-month rehabilitation. Mauer tried to rush back into a pennant race, suffering a setback that led to a second operation. He didn’t play after July 15. There’s nothing not to like about Mauer. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke that promises a high career average, if not a batting title or two. He shows strong strike-zone judgment and sprays line drives up the middle and to left-center. Though he hit just nine homers in three minor league seasons, he showed much more power in Minnesota, building the Twins’ confidence that he could hit as many as 35-40 homers on an annual basis. He’s excellent defensively and worked hard last spring to learn the major league staff and call games to their liking. He blocks balls well, has soft hands and plus arm strength. Only veteran Sandy Alomar is taller among contemporary major league catchers, but Mauer is smooth and sound behind the plate. He has a quick release and is accurate with his throws, shown by the 52 percent of basestealers he nailed in 2003. He shows quiet leadership, simmering confidence and maintains a low profile that makes him popular with teammates. Prior to surgery he ran better and was more athletic than most of his catching counterparts. There is some concern about that at this point. Inexperience is a factor, as Mauer skipped Triple-A and went straight to the majors before rehab sent him back to the minors. Rumors have cropped up about a possible position change for Mauer. With Corey Koskie leaving as a free agent, there has been talk about Mauer moving to the hot corner to take pressure off his knees. The Twins insist he’ll remain behind the plate and should have no further setbacks. They expect him to become an all-star in short order.

Baseball America 2005 Prospect Handbook

The year before, our scouting report gave Mauer three 80s: arm, defense and hitting.

Growing up in St. Paul as a Twins fan just 10 minutes from the Metrodome, Mauer seemed destined to play for the hometown team. He had options coming out of high school in 2001, however. Mauer was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation and nearly followed fellow Cretin-Derham Hall grad Chris Weinke to Florida State. Twins scouts saw Mauer play more than 100 times as an amateur, and ultimately chose him over Mark Prior with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. While Prior already has become a star in the majors, Mauer isn’t too far behind. He won BA’s Minor League Player of the Year award in 2003 and is set to make his big league debut at 20 when he opens this season as Minnesota’s regular catcher. His .338 average led all minor league catchers last season. Mauer was a member of the U.S. team that fell short of the Olympic qualifying tournament, though he was inexplicably left out of the starting lineup in the deciding game against Mexico. His older brothers Jake, a second baseman, and Bill, a righthander, also are Minnesota farmhands. Mauer combines a picture-perfect lefthanded stroke with impeccable strike-zone judgment to generate high batting averages and on-base percentages. His natural approach and swing path lend themselves more to a batting title than a home run crown. He’s geared to hit line drives back up the middle and toward left-center. Defensively, Mauer had no equals at the minor league level. Some scouts say he’ll be the best receiver in the American League when he debuts in April. Despite his size–only Sandy Alomar Jr. is bigger among major league catchers–Mauer is an expert at blocking pitches with his soft hands and moves quickly on balls in front of the plate. Outstanding arm strength gives him a third present 80 tool on the 20-80 scouting scale to go with his bat and his defensive ability. Mauer has a quick release and consistently puts his throws on the bag with uncanny accuracy, which led to him nabbing 52 percent of basestealers last year. He’s a quiet leader who exudes confidence but maintains a low profile. The Twins wanted Mauer to become more comfortable at running a pitching staff, and he did just that. He runs better and has more athleticism than most catchers. Mauer really doesn’t have any weaknesses. He has just nine homers in 277 pro games, though Twins scouts insist he has the power to one day hit 35-40 in a season if he wants to. He may add more loft to his swing as he develops, and showed signs of doing that in Double-A. Most scouts give Mauer the nod over Devil Rays shortstop B.J. Upton as the best prospect in the game. The Twins cleared Mauer’s path to the majors by dealing all-star A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants in November. Mauer, who will bat seventh or eighth to start 2004, is an early favorite for American League rookie of the year. There’s no reason he shouldn’t develop into a perennial all-star.

Baseball America 2004 Prospect Handbook

Mauer had ranked No. 1 on the Twins list from his first year on the list in 2002. That writeup noted how highly Terry Ryan regarded him coming out of high school:

General manager Terry Ryan graded Mauer higher than any high school prospect he had ever seen, with three exceptions: Alex Rodriguez, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, Mauer capped his amateur career by leading Cretin-Derham Hall to the Minnesota state title and winning Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award. He was a three-sport star in high school, winning national football player of the year awards and tying a state record with 41 touchdown passes as a senior. He also averaged nearly 20 points a game on the basketball court. Mauer signed a letter of intent to follow Cretin-Derham alum Chris Weinke to play quarterback at Florida State, but the Twins put any doubts about Mauer’s athletic future to rest by signing the local product to a $5.15 million bonus, the second-highest ever for a player signing with the team that drafted him. Mauer hit .400 in his first pro summer and was an easy choice as the Rookie-level Appalachian League’s No. 1 prospect. Mauer played at Elizabethton with his brother Jake, an infielder drafted in the 23rd round last year. Though he didn’t homer in his pro debut, Mauer has excellent bat speed and gets good extension. The ball carries off his bat to all fields. He tied a national mark by homering in seven consecutive games in high school. He struck out only once in four years at Cretin-Derham Hall, a testament to his natural hitting ability. Mauer is so athletically gifted that one scout said he could be a top-of-the-line defender at first base or third base, if not catcher. Behind the plate, he has a rocket arm and unusual quickness for someone his size. He has a quick release and the ball comes out of his hand with ease. Mauer’s makeup matches his talent. He is remarkably polished for a high school player and needs experience more than anything. If he fine-tunes his mechanics, he’ll become a top-notch catcher. Mauer was the first high school backstop drafted No. 1 overall since Danny Goodwin in 1971 and the track record of prep catchers taken in the top five picks isn’t promising. Of the 14, only Darrell Porter and Mike Lieberthal have stayed at the position and fulfilled their potential (reserving judgment on Ben Davis). The Twins are confident he’ll buck those odds. Mauer will make his full-season debut at low Class A Quad City in 2002 and could reach Minnesota by 2004.

Baseball America 2002 Prospect Handbook

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Helton was a two-way star at Tennessee after also being a two-sport star for the Volunteers. He was a quarterback for the Volunteers who started against UCLA. But the Vols soon handed the job to future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

Given the prodding by that decision to focus on baseball, Helton was equal parts devastating hitter and dominating closer at Tennessee. He had a breakout season in his draft year, winning Baseball America’s College Player of the Year award in 1995. That same year, the Rockies picked him eighth overall.

For two years, Helton routinely drove balls to the opposite field and demonstrated his power potential only in batting practice. But the former quarterback finally has gotten football out of his system, matured as a hitter and enjoyed the kind of season scouts have predicted for him all along. He has turned on balls consistently, making him one of the most coveted hitters in the draft. Helton has double appeal because he also rates highly as a pitcher, but he’s a hitter first and foremost.

Baseball America’s 1995 MLB Draft Report

Helton ranked in the Top 100 in three different seasons. He peaked as the No. 11 prospect in the game in 1998, just before he took over the Rockies’ first base job for good. His batting average didn’t dip below .300 in any season for another decade.

Helton’s induction means that two of the Top 100 Prospects in the 1998 rankings have made the Hall of Fame in the same year.

Helton won best hitter in the National League in three straight years (2000-2002) in Baseball America’s Best Tools voting.

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