The Baseball America Prospects Holiday Quiz

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At Baseball America we love to as best we can attempt to tell the future. Since 1981, we’ve been ranking and writing up reports on prospects. As we send our latest Prospect Handbook to the printer, the 23rd edition of the book, I’ve spent some time going back through older editions.

That got me thinking that Baseball America readers may enjoy a quiz as you relax and hopefully are enjoying the holidays.

The following are all reports pulled from Prospect Handbooks, as well as a few from our magazine’s Top 10 Prospect rankings from years before the Prospect Handbook began in 2021. We’ll start with some easy ones, and then work our way up to more difficult ones. At the bottom of the story, we’ll link to the answer key, but no peeking until you’ve settled on your answers.

Just To Get Warmed Up

These are easier than easy ones that a casual baseball fan should be able to figure out. The players are quite prominent, but also the clues that we have left in the reports should give these players’ identities away without a whole lot of thought.

Player A’s adjustment to the United States wasn’t always easy. He had to get used to a new culture and deal with the daily grind of pro ball. He was surprised to learn that MLB organizations practiced every day, and he never had done any video work. After spending his first two months at Triple-A Louisville as a starter, he took off after moving to the bullpen in mid-June. Cincinnati called him up in August, and he made history by throwing the fastest recorded fastball in big league history at 105.1 mph. He took the loss in Game Two of the Division Series when the Phillies roughed him up for three unearned runs. Any discussion about Player A begins with his fastball. It’s a freak of nature, arguably the hottest heater ever seen. The 20-80 scouting scale fails to fully encapsulate the pitch, because at its best it’s 7-8 mph harder than an 80 fastball. He sits at 99-100 mph and touches 103-105 as a reliever. Even as a starter, he can work at 95-96 mph and get to 101. Hitters can’t try to sit on his fastball because Player A has a plus-plus slider, a mid-80s dart with sharp break. He also throws a below-average changeup with too much velocity, though that pitch became less important when he moved out of the rotation. His fastball and slider are good enough to get both lefthanders and righthanders out.

Player B has been one of the best players everywhere he’s ever played. A USA Baseball veteran since early in his high school days, he was the BA Freshman of the Year in 2013, a two-time first-team All-American for Louisiana State and, ultimately, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. His $5.9 million signing bonus ranks second in Astros’ history. Blessed with excellent hand-eye coordination and a simple, level swing, Player B has plenty of bat speed and is equally comfortable yanking the ball down the left-field line or staying back and stinging a ball to the right-field wall. He should be at least a plus hitter who racks up walks as well. Defensively, Player B is the kind of player who grows on evaluators the longer they see him. His range is average at best and his arm is only average as well, but he anticipates exceptionally well and plays with a smooth unruffled grace. Nothing surprises him and the ball never seems to eat him up. He’s an above-average runner who runs the bases well. Player B has the power to hit 10-15 home runs a year at the expense of his average, but he’s at his best when he’s spraying line drives. He is one of the safer college picks in recent years with a long track record of success and a Carlos Correa-like drive to succeed.

Baseball America Reader Level

We know Baseball America readers are smarter than the average fan. These are probably not going to be a challenge for most of you, but they may be an enjoyable tick up in intensity.

Player C is a physical presence at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with the strength and athleticism to take over games. He destroys baseballs with 80-grade raw power, and has been known to hit balls out of stadiums. He is a career .331 hitter in the minors who identifies pitches well, and stays short to the ball with a simple approach and direct bat path that allows him to make frequent contact to all parts of the strike zone. Player C’s talent and personality have him set to be not only the face of the Mariners franchise but one of the faces of baseball. As long as he stays healthy, he projects as a perennial all-star and MVP contender who competes for home run titles.

Player D has as electric an arm as anyone in the 2004 draft, though he went only 21-18 in three seasons. The Tigers drafted him second overall, then broke off negotiations with him and his agent in October. Player D’s father jump started the talks the following week, and Player H signed a five-year big league contract with a $3.12 million bonus and $4.5 million guaranteed. Equipped with a lightning quick arm, Player D regularly pitches in the mid-90s and touched 99 mph several times during the spring of his junior year.

Player E represents one extreme of the tools vs. performance debate. He’s not physically gifted, but he wins. A two-time All-American at Arizona State, he had no problem adjusting to Class A in his pro debut. He batted a combined .357 and didn’t commit an error in 42 games. Player E has tremendous ability to handle the bat and control the strike zone, making him a candidate to bat second in a big league lineup. His hands and fundamentals are excellent at shortstop, and the Red Sox believe he’ll be able to stay at that position. He enhances his average speed with uncanny instincts.

Signed by the Mariners when he went by the last name Arias, Player F was acquired by the Twins in September 1996 to complete the deal for Dave Hollins. He was Minnesota’s minor league player of the year after starting the year in Class A and finishing it in the big leagues. Player F is a lefthanded power hitter who should flourish in the Metrodome. He has driven in 223 runs in the last two minor league seasons. Player C will catch what he gets to, but to avoid being typecast as a DH, he needs to work on his movement around the first base bag. At the plate, he could also be more selective. The Twins’ signing of veteran Orlando Merced should remove the temptation to push Player F too fast. He can now be allowed to open the 1998 season at Triple-A Salt Lake.

The Cardinals offered Player G $10,000 to sign in 1999, so he went to the summer amateur Jayhawk League instead and hit .343-5-17, good enough to earn a bonus close to $60,000. Then he proved to be a bargain, with a monster pro debut in which he was the MVP of the Class A Midwest League and the Pacific Coast League playoffs. He followed up by hitting .323 in the Arizona Fall League. Player G started hitting in instructional league just after he signed and hasn’t stopped. He uses the whole field and has great strike-zone discipline. He goes the other way well and should add power as he moves up. He’s still young, but he has the approach of a veteran. He has a strong arm at third base.Player G wasn’t a more notable amateur prospect because he was much heavier and didn’t move well. He’s in good shape now, but the Cardinals aren’t sure about his defense. He’s passable at third, but he already has played a few games in the outfield and could wind up there. Player G must have been sad to see 2000 end. The Cardinals are trying to temper expectations after just one pro season, but he could be in the big leagues by 2002, especially with the void at third base created by the Fernando Tatis trade.

Hardcore BA reader level

We’re ramping up the pressure a little bit with these. The clues are a little more difficult or the players are a little more obscure, although they are still players well known to baseball fans.

Player H proved he could hit in 2002. He finished second in the NCAA Division I batting race with a .483 average, trailing only Rickie Weeks (.495). After signing as a third-round pick, Player H again finished runner-up for a hitting crown, this time with a .344 average in the short-season New York-Penn League. Player H is a classic line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter. He has a quick and compact batting stroke, a good grasp of the strike zone and identifies pitches early. His gap-hitting approach seems tailor-made for Detroit’s spacious Comerica Park. Player H’s makeup and work habits are outstanding. If the Tigers had decided to nontender Alex Sanchez, Player H would have been a frontrunner to take over in center field. But Detroit re-signed Sanchez for one year, allowing Player H to begin 2005 at Triple-A Toledo. He still could push for Sanchez’s job by midseason.

Two months into last season, Player I was hitting just .277-4-31 in 264 at-bats for high Class A Durham. So what prompted the Braves to promote him to Double-A Greenville? The answer is he simply has talent bursting out of his doubleknits. His ability feeds on challenge, his confidence on success. So how did the experiment go? All Player I did for the rest of the season was set the Southern League afire, establishing a Greenville record for triples in his limited stay. The phenomenal performance, especially for a player so young, solidified his status as the top position prospect in baseball. Player I has the bat to become an offensive shortstop with a reputation between a Travis Fryman and a Cal Ripken. He could hit a consistent .300 with up to 25-30 home runs and can run enough to steal 20-25 bases. The fact that he’s a switch-hitter with command of both swings only adds to the intrigue.

Player J enjoyed a standout sophomore season at Southwest Missouri State and looked poised to be a 2001 first-round pick. But he slumped with a wood bat while with Team USA, and the struggles continued into his junior year. On the verge of setting several school records, he wound up breaking only the record for strikeouts in a season with 74. Teams backed off until the Phillies took a chance on him in the fifth round. They were rewarded when he regained his power stroke. Player J fell seven RBIs shy of winning the high Class A Florida State League triple crown in 2003, then crushed 46 homers to lead the minors last season. He went on a couple of homer binges, launching 10 in a nine game span at Double-A Reading and eight over 11 days in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was leading the minors with 131 RBIs when he left to make his big league debut and finished second in that category, as well as fourth in total bases (309) and fifth in slugging (.637).

Few players made more progress in 2002 than Player K, the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft and the recipient of a $2.25 million bonus. A career .237 hitter in his first two pro seasons, he opened at high Class A Bakersfield and closed by helping Triple-A Durham win the International League championship. Player K was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and the top prospect in the California League. He was one of the youngest players in the Southern League during his three weeks at Double-A Orlando, where he batted .371 and hit safely in 14 of his 17 games. After jumping to Durham, Player K served as the Bulls’ center fielder and leadoff hitter during their run to the title. Player K is the total package and getting better. Considered the top athlete in the 2000 draft, he was a standout volleyball and basketball player in high school in addition to starring in baseball. Player K has excellent bat speed and uses his hands well to produce line drives. He can hit and hit for power, and he wasn’t overmatched against veteran pitchers. A natural center fielder, he has plus speed and is an effortless runner who glides to the ball with a long stride. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup and desire to become the best Player K he can be..

Player L became the first minor leaguer in a decade to top 100 steals, when he stole 103 bases in 2011. The former Mississippi State wide receiver recruit recovered from hitting .195 through late May to bat .316 afterward, and he moved to shortstop after playing second base in 2010. Player L’s speed is one of the easiest 80 grades a scout will ever hand out. He regularly outruns pitchouts, slide steps and pickoff throws. He still has plenty of work to do on the rest of his game, however. He’s a raw hitter with little power, and he needs to improve his bunting and plate discipline. At the Reds’ insistence, he has stuck with switch-hitting and ended up hitting better as a lefty (.721 OPS) than from his natural right side (.648 OPS) in 2011.

More than any baseball draft, the 2000 edition was dictated more by signability than ability. Nine of the top 10 picks agreed to predraft deals, including Player M, who received $3 million as the No. 1 pick from the Marlins. While he was regarded as the best pure high school hitter in the draft, he was projected as more of a mid-first-rounder. Player M has outplayed most of 2000’s first-rounders (save for Rocco Baldelli) and is a safer bet than the players who fell out of the first round because of signability (Xavier Nady, Dane Sardinha, Jason Young). He had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right wrist following the 2002 season, a problem that seemed to hinder his ability to drive the ball throughout last season. The Marlins decided Player M was expendable as Jason Stokes, their second-round pick in 2000, packs more power potential at first base. So Florida made him the centerpiece of a three-prospect package to acquire closer Ugueth Urbina from the Rangers last July. Player M comes from good baseball lineage. His father David was a star first baseman for the Mexican national team, while his older brother Edgar is a third baseman whom Texas plucked from Tampa Bay in the minor league Rule 5 draft in December. Player M’s pure hitting approach and sweet lefthanded stroke draw comparisons to Rafael Palmeiro. Player M has great balance with a short, quick swing. He sprays line drives all over the field, hitting fastballs and offspeed pitches alike. Though he’s geared to smoke balls into the gaps now, he projects to develop above-average longball power in time, much like Palmeiro did

As a 1998 draft-and-follow pick, Player N improved enough to not only sign for a low six-figure bonus, but also get sent straight to low Class A Burlington, where he acquitted himself while pitching the Bees to a Midwest League title. Player N has a complete assortment of pitches that he can throw for strikes, including an 88-90 mph fastball, two types of sliders, a curveball and changeup. The command of his breaking pitches is advanced for his age, and he consistently overmatched lefthanded hitters in the Midwest League. The White Sox are hard-pressed to identify a weakness in Player N. His fringe-average fastball may be his weakest pitch in a scout’s grade book. Player N could become the fastest moving pitcher in the White Sox system. The organization has few lefthanded relievers, and though his five-pitch arsenal profiles him as a starter, short-term needs may put him in the bullpen almost immediately.

Player O has won back-to-back batting titles and MVP awards in the high Class A Carolina and Double-A Eastern leagues–as a switch-hitting catcher. In 2002, he also led the EL in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs. Player O is a natural hitter with tremendous strike-zone discipline and an uncanny ability to produce from either side of the plate. He rarely swings and misses. His power numbers jumped in 2002 as he got stronger. He has shown an ability to pick the pitch and count that allow him to drive the ball. Player O’s skills at calling a game and blocking and receiving pitches are also major league ready. Player O’s throwing needs work. It’s a matter of getting his footwork and arm action aligned. He struggles to stay mechanically consistent, which led to him throwing out just two of 13 big leaguers who tried to steal on him in September. Player O could battle Josh Bard for a big league job, but he’ll more likely begin the year in Triple-A. He’s Cleveland’s long-term catcher and a future all-star.

Several teams were interested in trading up to get Player P in the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2006 Winter Meetings, but the Royals held onto the No. 2 overall pick and claimed him for themselves. Having pitched just 16 2/3 innings in the United States since the Dodgers signed him as a 17-year-old in 2001, he was tough to evaluate. He missed all of 2003 recovering from Tommy John surgery, got released in 2004 and spent most of the last two seasons pitching in the Mexican League. The Padres bought his contract from the Mexico City Red Devils in December 2005, then loaned him back to the club in 2006. Player P generated buzz by going 8- 0, 2.02 in the winter Mexican Pacific League before the Rule 5 draft. He works off an 89-93 mph fastball with late movement, and he can locate it to both sides of the plate. He also flashes a plus changeup and keeps both pitches down in the strike zone. His curveball is average, though he’ll sometimes fly open in his mechanics and leaves it up. Player P, who threw a perfect game in his first outing after Kansas City selected him, has to stay on the major league roster throughout 2007, or else clear waivers and be offered back to San Diego for half his $50,000 draft price.

You should work at BA level

If you get these correct, you are an ultimate prospect nut. Your bookshelf is filled with Prospect Handbooks. Either the player is more obscure, or the hints we give are less illuminating.

The story never changes with Player Q. In 2005, he hit .370 to raise his career average to .323. He also tore the meniscus in his left knee in spring training, costing him the first two weeks of the year, and sprained the same knee shortly after a big league callup in August, ending his season. Former Seattle manager Lou Piniella wanted Player Q on his Opening Day roster in 2001–when he was 19–and he has been ready to hit in the majors for years. His quick hands, discerning eye and tremendous instincts have allowed him to rake everywhere he ever has played. He has solid gap power and average arm strength. Player Q hasn’t had a healthy season since his 1999 pro debut, and he has played in more than 72 games in a season just once. His litany of injuries includes a broken left hand and ligament damage in his left wrist (2000), a stress fracture in his right ankle (2001), a broken right thumb and blown-out left knee (2002), more problems with his left knee (2003) and a deep bone bruise in his right wrist (2004). Knee surgeries have left him with slightly below-average speed, relegating him to an outfield corner, where his 15-20 homer power is fringy. If Player Q. can stay healthy, he’d be an asset in the Seattle lineup. But that’s such a big “if” that the Mariners can’t count on him.

Player R ranked as the White Sox’ top prospect after leading the minors with a .373 average and .453 on-base percentage in 2003. He batted .397 in his big league debut. A natural line-drive hitter, Player R controls the strike zone and makes consistent sweet-spot contact. He runs well; his instincts make him a stolen-base threat.

Player S made the move from second base to shortstop with aplomb this season. Equally productive from both sides of the plate, Player S hits for a high average and has the tools necessary to be an outstanding major league leadoff hitter. His instincts are his most impressive trait. No minor leaguer reads a pitcher better on the basepaths, enabling Player S to get massive jumps and lead the minors in stolen bases this year. He also always seems to be at the right spot on defense. His glove is consistent, while his range and arm strength are well above-average. A four-tool player who lacks only power, Player S needs to refine his skills. Already a good bunter, he will be a nightmare at the plate if he can learn to place bunts.

Player T had a storied amateur career. As a three-sport star at University of San Diego High–also Mark Prior’s alma mater–he set school records for homers and RBIs; was his league’s defensive player of the year in football; and was a member of a state champion basketball team. He hit a three-run homer in his first career at-bat at Stanford, where he was the Pacific-10 Conference freshman of the year in 2001 and an all-league selection in each of his three seasons. He led the Cardinal to a final four appearance at the College World Series each year. Though they knew impending Tommy John surgery would delay his pro debut until the following season, the Diamondbacks grabbed Player T with the second of their two first-round picks in 2003 and signed him for $1.1 million. He was initially rusty when he returned to the diamond, hitting just .150 in his first 10 games at high Class A Lancaster. He hit .350 the rest of the year, which included a midseason promotion to Double-A El Paso. Player T finished fifth in the minors with a .435 on-base percentage and set what is believed to be a minor league record by getting hit by 43 pitches. Everything about Player T’s game screams prototypical right fielder, as his tools grade out average or above across the board. He’s a strong yet graceful athlete with good bat speed and a smooth swing. He makes excellent contact with power to all fields, and projects as a .280-.300 hitter with 25-plus home run power. He has a mature approach at the plate and recognizes which pitches he can drive. An excellent defender, Player T gets good jumps and has above-average range. His accurate arm already bounced back to a tick above average just 18 months removed from surgery. He displays tremendous baseball instincts, and Arizona loves his leadership and his bulldog mentality, which was made clear at Stanford when he played his entire junior season with the injured elbow. Player T’s biggest strength is his lack of any glaring weakness. He sets up on top of the plate and his swing brings much of his torso over the plate, which is why he gets plunked so often.

So how did you do? Here is our answer key: Click once you’ve settled on your answers.

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