Stacking Up 2022 Top Three Prospects Against Former Prospect Triads
In 2012, John Manuel wrote about notable Top 100 triads. In a year where Bryce Harper, Matt Moore and Mike Trout all looked to be excellent prospects, he wrote about previous groups of top three prospects who all were in consideration for the No. 1 spot.
With this year being one where we had three very viable No. 1 candidates, we felt it was worth updating our 2012 story. As John noted in 2012, if you look back at past history, what is clear is that when you have three "can't miss" prospects, there's a decent chance that one of them will miss. Our two most recent prospect triads are escaping that trend, however.
This one stretches the trio definition as there were few making the case for Eloy Jimenez to rank No. 1. He was considered an excellent prospect, but the real debate was between Guerrero and Tatis. And much like 2018, the answer even a few years later is that both are excellent choices.
We agonized over who to rank at No. 1 in 2018. We had debates that stretched far into the night. At the end of the day, this was a year where there was no wrong answer. All three are among the best players in the game. Ohtani won the 2021 American League MVP award. Guerrero finished second. Even four years later, you could still debate how you want to line these three up.
Yes, we'd like to have a do-over on this one. The debate on Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper was a fascinating one at the time. Clearly Trout has ended up being better—he's one of the best players of all time. But putting Matt Moore at No. 2 is the part that we would most want to re-do. Moore seemed like the near-perfect pitching prospect at the time, but he illustrates how injuries can derail a top pitching prospect's career. We learned our lesson. Since 2015, only one pitcher has ranked as a top-three prospect, and that one (Shohei Ohtani) also happened to be an excellent hitting prospect.
Concussions slowed Mauer's career and forced him from behind the plate, but he won an MVP award, made six all-star appearances and won three Gold Gloves. Hernandez matched him step for step with six all-star appearances and a Cy Young award. Both were excellent at their peaks. Young is clearly third on this list. He finished with over 1,100 hits, but his MLB career was over as a 29-year-old and he never made an all-star team.
OK, so he didn't stick at third base for the long term, but otherwise Teixeira was what you hope for in a No. 1 prospect—multiple Gold Gloves, all-star appearances, plenty of MVP votes and over 400 home runs. Reyes had a 16-year MLB career. He led the league in steals three times, topped 500 career steals and made three all-star appearances. Baldelli is a reminder that position players aren't immune to health problems. A metabolic disorder forced him to retire while still in his 20s.
For six years, it looked like Josh Hamilton would be considered the biggest bust in Baseball America No. 1 prospect history. After being a Rule 5 pick, he made four all-star appearances in five years, won an MVP award and led the Rangers to two World Series appearances. Beckett saved his best work for October with a pair of dominating World Series performances that led his teams to titles. In the regular season, Beckett wasn't a picture of consistency, but his highs were quite high. The same can't be said for Patterson. He peaked as a 23-year-old, but he never became a consistent regular despite good defense. His career .252/.290/.400 line explains why.
A couple of years after this ranking was published, Grieve looked to be the pick of the trio. But the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year was finished as a big league regular by age 27. While Grieve flamed out quickly, Konerko and Beltre more than made up for his quick departure. Beltre finished with 3,166 hits in a 21-year MLB career that also featured exceptional defense at third. Konerko was a six-time all-star who played 18 seasons in the majors. He finished with 439 career home runs.
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The 10 Gold Gloves, four all-star appearances and 434 career home runs is a pretty good reminder that at his peak, Jones was exceptional. Guerrero was never Jones' equal in the outfield, but he was better at the plate. One of the best bad-ball hitters of all time, Guerrero finished with a career .318 batting average. With Wood we have to play "what could have been?" His 20-strikeout game in his fifth career start is one of the most dominant outings in big league history. But he soon blew out his elbow. He returned to have a long career, but one that never reached the potential he showed as a dominating rookie in 1998.
If you work at Baseball America, this one stings a little bit. Just one tweak to the rankings and this would be the best 1-2-3 of all time. Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones are among the best players of the past 25 years. No. 4 on the list, Derek Jeter, is another Hall of Famer. If the Hall of Fame ever does an exhibit on the biggest prospect busts in baseball history, Rivera could get his name mentioned. Otherwise, he's not getting anywhere close to Cooperstown.
It's not the 1995 1-2-3 with Derek Jeter sitting just off stage at No. 4, but Carlos Delgado is quite an impressive No. 4 prospect in his own right. Taylor ranks as the biggest bust of the Top 100 Prospects era. He also ranked No. 1 in 1992 and is the only No. 1 overall draft pick to not make it to the big leagues.