Looking back at top prospects lists from years ago can be an instructive exercise. It's always fun to see how guys who were highly regarded as Minor Leaguers panned out. Sometimes, it's great for the ego, when the top guys go on to be who we thought they would be.
Looking back at top prospects lists from years ago can be an instructive exercise. It's always fun to see how guys who were highly regarded as Minor Leaguers panned out. Sometimes, it's great for the ego, when the top guys go on to be who we thought they would be. In other instances, it can be humbling, when guys don't end up being the stars we projected them to be, or we missed on lower or unranked players who turn out to be better than the guys at the top of the list.
Top Prospects lists - year-by-year
MLB Pipeline's new Top 100 prospects list, which will be unveiled on Saturday in a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET, is all about projection and who we think will be the future stars of the game. But it will take some time to know for certain just how prescient we are.
When a decade has passed, however, it's easier to take a closer look at how a list predicted the future. Back in 2009, we were still doing a Top 50 list. Many on that list have gone on to win awards, as hoped, but it's safe to assume we weren't 100 percent accurate with our prognostications. This is what the Top 10 looked like before the 2009 season began:
1. David Price, LHP, Rays
- Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
- Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
- Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers
- Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins
- Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
- Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays
- Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers
- Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers
- Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals
Complete list »
That's a pretty solid list, even if not everyone belongs on a Top 10. All have accrued a positive bWAR (WAR as measured by Baseball-Reference) and eight of the 10 are in double-digits as the 2019 season approaches. Three -- Price, Heyward and Bumgarner -- are among the top 50 active leaders.
Five of the first six come from the first round of the 2007 Draft, starting with Price, who was the No. 1 overall pick that June. Wieters was No. 5 overall, Bumgarner was the 10th overall selection, Heyward went 14th and Porcello slid to the end of the first round (mostly because of signability concerns) at No. 27.
:: Complete 2019 Top Prospects coverage ::
Using WAR as a guide, there obviously would be changes to this Top 10. Ranking the Top 50 by WAR, here is what a new Top 10 would look like with what ranking the player had in 2009 and their career WAR total in parentheses.
1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (No. 12, 42.0)
- Buster Posey, C, Giants (No. 19, 41.3)
- Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton, OF, Marlins (No. 26, 39.2)
- David Price (No. 1, 37.9)
- Jason Heyward (No. 3, 34.9)
- Madison Bumgarner (No. 6, 34.2)
- Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (No. 38, 33.1)
- Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers (No. 21, 30.0)
- Jacob Arrieta, RHP, Orioles (No. 36, 24.5)
- Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees (No. 27, 22.1)
McCutchen was one of the many talented high school bats taken in the first round of the 2005 Draft, along with Maybin and Rasmus (in the top 10 above) and Jay Bruce, who was our No. 1 prospect in 2008. Stanton was a second-round pick in the 2007 Draft who has outperformed many taken before him in that Draft class.
He's not the only one to outperform his prospect ranking. Taking the difference between their 2008 ranking and their career WAR ranking, here's a Top 10 overachievers list, with 2008 rank minus their rank on the active WAR list, followed by their career WAR, in parentheses:
1. Freddie Freeman (38-7=31, 33.1)
- Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Cubs (50-21=29, 12.0)
- Jake Arrieta (36-9=27, 24.5)
- Giancarlo Stanton (26-3=23, 39.2)
- Derek Holland, LHP, Rangers (46-24=22, 10.1)
- Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays (39-20=19, 12.2)
- Buster Posey (19-2=17, 41.3)
- Austin Jackson (27-10=17, 22.1)
- Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Phillies (28-11=17, 20.5)
- Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Brewers (44-27=17, 7.8)
Freeman gave the Braves an outstanding 1-2 punch from the 2007 Draft as they got Heyward in the first round and Freeman in the second. A pitcher like Arrieta took a while to find his footing in the Minors and didn't really hit his groove until he got to the Cubs, though he started showing signs right before the Orioles traded him.
On the flip side of this coin are the prospects who haven't lived up to expectations. We'll use the same measurement here and list 10 players from the Top 50 who didn't quite pan out.
1. Matt LaPorta, 1B, Indians (14-48=-34, -1)
- Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays (7-33=-26, 4.3)
- Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers (23-43=-20, -0.2)
- Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers (9-28=-19, 7.6)
- Lars Anderson, 1B, Red Sox (25-44=-19, -.3)
- Carlos Triunfel, 3B, Mariners (30-49=-19, -1)
- Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets (32-50=-18, -1.2)
- Brett Anderson, LHP, A's (13-29=-16, 7.5)
- Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles (20-36=-16, 2.3)
- Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers (8-23=-15, 10.1)
LaPorta was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 Draft after a strong senior year at Florida. The Brewers traded him a year later to the Indians and he looked like the kind of sure-thing college bat who would hit in the big leagues, but it never quite clicked for him. Feliz and Anderson have had somewhat productive big league careers, but haven't been quite as dominant as predicted, with injuries and different roles playing a key.
When you start looking at prospects who didn't make that Top 50 list 10 years ago, you find some really good gems. There are 16 players on the career active WAR Top 100 list who missed the Top 50.
1. Josh Donaldson, C, Cubs (38.5)
- Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees (37.5)
- Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (35.1)
- Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers (34.0)
- Corey Kluber, RHP, Padres (33.6)
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Red Sox (28.8)
- Giovany Gonzalez, LHP, White Sox (27.5)
- Starling Marte, OF, Pirates (26.2)
- Carlos Santana, C, Dodgers (26.0)
- Justin Turner, 2B, Reds (24.1)
- Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox (24.0)
- Todd Frazier, 3B, Reds (23.8)
- Jose Quintana, LHP, Yankees (23.8)
- Brandon Crawford SS, Giants (23.3)
- Michael Brantley, OF, Brewers (22.7)
- Salvador Perez, C, Royals (22.2)
Now it's time to combine this data into a new 2009 Top 10 prospects list. Again, using WAR as the guide, here's what that new ranking looks like:
1. Andrew McCutchen (42.0)
- Buster Posey (41.3)
- Giancarlo Stanton (39.2)
- Josh Donaldson (38.5)
- David Price (37.9)
- Brett Gardner (37.5)
- Jose Altuve (35.1)
- Jason Heyward (34.9)
- Madison Bumgarner (34.2)
- Lorenzo Cain (34.0)
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.