Is there any particular reason to care about minor leaguers from 1994? Sadly, no. The end.
But the general question - how many good major leaguers are in the minors at one time? – is an interesting one that comes up from time to time and I had never seen anyone really try to answer it. It’s easy to look up old BA lists and find out which prospects (and what percentage of those prospects) made it, but that’s just part of the picture. Since those players were well known at the time, it’s arguably the least interesting part.
In order to find every future good MLB player you have to go through the roster of every team in the minors. Even if you have access to those rosters, that’s a pain in the ass. I know because I’ve done it twice, which is hopefully enough to not have missed many players.
The BA Almanac contains stat lines for every player in the minors. If you’re willing to go through each roster, you can answer the answer question – how many good major leaguers were in the minors in a particular year. You can also use that answer to ask and answer other (hopefully) interesting questions.
I chose the 1994 season (with all players found in the 1995 Almanac) because I intended to use career production through 2004 and 10 full seasons seemed like a reasonable time for most players to make it through the minors and at least start to make whatever mark they could in the majors. In a ranking of productivity a player who was in short season ball is at a serious disadvantage to a player who was in AAA, but it’s easy to just look at the players and make the appropriate mental adjustment.
Every player is listed with the organization they were in in 1994, the level they had most of their AB or IP, their total WARP3 through 2004, their total WARP3 through their age 29 season and their ranking in the BA League Top 10.
Those categories should be self-explanatory except what I called “29WARP3”. A player’s age 29 season is a decent quick estimate of how long they were under control by their original organization. I was going to do some rankings using rough pre-FA vs post-FA service time productivity, but I ended up dropping that. Nevertheless, I calculated it and it is semi-useful so I left it in.
There are six parts, but it seemed more than a little indulgent to spread it over six days. (Oh, and all six parts probably aren’t stand alone good anyway. Don’t tell anyone I said that.)
The first volume contains a simple ranking of the players (with some background on the interesting ones) and separation of the players by their 1994 level.
Next volume will be how the top 75 players were acquired and a quick look at team rankings.
Last volume will focus on pitchers and a closer look at the way BA ranked these players.
Part 1: Players Ranked by Career WARP3
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 1 Sea Alex Rodriguez Lo-A-MWL 104.2 104.2 1
It’s not a surprise that the best player in the minors in 1994 was Rodriguez the top overall pick in the 1993 draft and a player considered a great prospect long before he signed his first contract.
Rodriguez is one of six 1994 minor leaguers who are on a HoF track. The others, in my opinion, are Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Vlad Guerrero, Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen (the injury this year didn’t help, obviously). Earlier this year Rany Jazayerli of BP wrote an article pushing for Bobby Abreu, but I don’t think he’ll make it. ESPN.com did a series on current major leaguers who might make the HoF and listed the ones I mentioned and Johnny Damon, which seems a little far fetched too.
You can take those eight players as the pool of potential HoFers. Each player started his professional career as a toolsy teenager. Half were HS draftees from the first two rounds (Rodriguez, Jeter, Damon and Rolen) and the other half were signed as international free agents.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 2 PHL Scott Rolen Lo-A-SAL 75.0 75.0 9 3 Oak Jason Giambi AA-SL 70.8 39.1
This is a pretty good pair. Giambi was a 2nd rd pick out of college in 1992 and Rolen was a second rd pick out of HS in 1993. There’s a natural assumption that college players provide a quicker return on investment. That’s definitely true of most mid-range players, but amongst elite players like Rolen and Giambi that difference can be minimized because the elite HS prospects tend to explode through the minors. Giambi spent most of three full years in the minors and had his first solid season at age 25 and his breakout year at age 28. Rolen also spent most of three full years in the minors and he was basically a good to great player at age 22/23. Giambi’s slow transition in the majors is somewhat atypical for a very good college player, but both spent just three years in the minors.
Since Rolen was so good so quickly he generated much more value in his 20s and that difference is also reflected in the ratio of 29WARP3 to WARP3.
It looks like the SL managers and BA missed Giambi as a prospect, but that’s an artifact of an odd season. Giambi had 193 ABs with a 686 OPS in AA and 176 ABs with a 906 OPS in AAA. He probably didn’t play enough to qualify in AAA and he didn’t play well enough to qualify at AA. The 686 OPS is a fluke and not a pre-steroids baseline or anything like that. In his other significant minor league stops his OPSs were 897, 906 and 981. After the 1994 season BA ranked Giambi as the 4th best prospect in the A’s system. He was recognized as a quality prospect at this point in his career.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 4 Minn Brad Radke AA-SL 68.1 55.6 5 Tor Shawn Green AAA-IL 66.8 56.1 1 6 NYY Mariano Rivera AA-EL 66.6 30.0 7 Tor Carlos Delgado AAA-IL 66.2 41.7 3 8 NYY Derek Jeter Hi-A-FSL 66.0 57.1 1 9 Cle Brian Giles AAA-IL 65.8 31.3 10 Atl Andruw Jones R-APP 65.8 65.8 2 11 ChiAL Ray Durham AAA-AA 62.8 46.0 4 12 Pitt Jason Kendall Hi-A-CAR 61.7 53.1 13 NYY Andy Pettitte AAA-IL 61.2 47.8 14 Bos N Garciaparra Hi-A-FSL 61.0 58.0
The five players who made BA league Top 10s all went on to make at least two All Star appearances and I expect Jeter and Jones to make the HoF. These are nice examples of premium prospects who panned out perfectly. Jeter and Green were 1st rd picks from HS. Durham was something of sleeper as a 5th rd pick out of HS. Delgado and Jones were both signed as international free agents. A few years after Delgado signed the Jays players from Puerto Rico became draft eligible.
That Radke is the first pitcher on the list was a surprise to me. He’s had a very solid career, but despite once winning 20 games he’s never been considered and ace or a true #1 whatever that means to you.
He was an 8th rd, HS pick in 1991. I mentioned this in my draft studies last year, but it’s such an outlandish fluke it bears repeating. That 8th rd produced three very good HS pitchers in Radke, Derek Lowe and Jason Schmidt. It would be a neat little side project to see how many 1st rounds produced three better HS pitchers.
Radke had an unremarkable pedigree, but he was very successful and consistent throughout his trip through the minors from the GCL at 18 in 91, to the MWL at 19 in 92, to a split 93 season at age 20 in the FSL and EL. Aside from that half season in the EL, he basically put up similar lines – very good ERAs, low walk rates and modest K rates.
Radke did not make the Twins Top 10 list. I assume his average stuff and low K rate (5.9/9 IP) weren’t suggestive of much more than a back of the rotation starter. The keys to Radke’s success were that he was able to turn his good command into great command and that he’s been remarkably durable with nine 200 inning seasons in the first 10 years of his MLB career. As we’ll see (much) later his good health was despite a heavy workload in his early 20s.
There are some players that BA missed that probably would have been picked up by good performance analysis, but Radke with his modest K rates and high workload probably would not have been one of them.
Rivera was an international free agent from Panama. He was a starter for most of his minor league career. He had a very impressive season in the SAL in 1991, but he only pitched one hundred innings in 1992/93 and had Tommy John surgery at some point in that time frame. Today a TJ surgery isn’t considered too much of a negative for a pitcher, but I assume 10+ years ago it marked Rivera as damaged goods. He was pretty effective in 1994 in three levels, but his K rate was markedly decreased from his pre-surgery days. He made the Yankees Top 10 at #9 so he was at least somewhat on the prospect radar. The Yankees converted him to a reliever prior to the 1996 season and he’s done ok since then.
Giles is another late rd HS pick (17th) that BA and the league managers completely missed. Like Radke he didn’t even make his team Top 10. During the season John Sickels has done a lot of retrospective prospect reports over at his site. He did one for Giles back on April 21 (you can find the full report if you scroll way, way back through the archives and yes the fact that I’m including this is a sign that I’ve been working on this off and on since April).
Since Giles is a prototypical “BA miss/performance analysis get”, I thought it would be interesting to use Sickel’s retrospective look at Giles’ stats and grades.
1989 age 18 APPY 310/368/364 C 1990 age 19 NYPL 289/408/378 C+ 1991 age 20 CAR 310/414/376 C+ 1992 age 21 CAR 264/397/379 C/C+ EL 216/314/270 1993 age 22 EL 327/410/438 C+ 1994 age 23 IL 313/394/479 BGiles is a good example of a slow developing prospect. He spent his first five minor league seasons as a C/C+ prospect exhibiting good BAs and walk rates (with low K rates), but struggling to hit for the power necessary to make it as corner OF. He didn’t escape dime a dozen C prospect status until he reached AAA in his sixth professional season.
Also note that in 1992 he had an injury plagued season with a terrible late season promotion to AA. Looking back at some of these player’s minor league stats (thanks Baseball Cube!) you see that that’s not uncommon. I think a lot of people have the idea that good prospects have steady progressions from minor league stop to minor league stop to MLB. In reality, it’s probably only the superstar players who have that kind of straight, ascending line from minor league point A to major league point B. There are a lot of good to very good players like Giles who have a “stall year” somewhere in their minor league track record.
Jason Kendall was a HS 1st rd pick in 1992. He was awful that summer in the GCL hitting 261/316/279 at 18. He moved up the SAL at 19 and wasn’t much better hitting 276/322/352. After that 1993 season there were probably a few people ready to call him another HS catching bust, but he had a real breakout year in the CAR League in 1994. He hit 318/398/437 at age 20 and for the first time demonstrated the great plate discipline that has become his trademark. Despite mediocre walk rates in his first two years he jumped to 47 BB against just 21 strikeouts in 371 Abs. He also demonstrated his athleticism with 14 SBs. That wasn’t enough to get him on the league CAR Top 10, but BA did have him in their Pitt Top 10.
Andy Pettitte is the second most productive starting pitcher from 1994 and in a lot of ways he’s a big market (count the rings!) version of Radke. He was a late pick from HS (22nd rd, 1990) though he didn’t sign until after a year of JC ball as a draft and follow. Like Radke his minor league career was characterized by modest K rates but good to very good BB rates. In AA he had a K rate of 6.2 and a BB rate of 2.2. In AAA he had a K rate of 5.7 and a BB rate of 2.0. He also moved through the minors relatively quickly with just three full seasons in the minors. After an early peak with a 20 win season at age 24, he settled in as a very good, durable #2 starter.
Pettitte missed the league top 10 in 1994, but that may have been because he split the year almost in half between AA (73 IP) and AAA (97 IP). Sometimes players like that can fall through the cracks on the league lists. He did make the BA team Top 10.
One thing that statheads and traditional scouting types generally agree on is the importance of high K rates for pitchers. You rarely see anybody call a pitcher with a mediocre 6 K rate a top prospect and yet the top two minor league starting pitchers from 1994 were both 6 K rate pitchers.
Nomar was a 1994 draft pick. He signed quickly and got 105 Abs in the FSL, but he didn’t have the playing time to make the league top 10. BA ranked him the Sox top prospect in the winter of 1994/95. Nomar is the first college player on the list.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 15 Hou Bob Abreu AA-TL 59.2 49.0 6 16 NYY Jorge Posada AAA-IL 58.0 30.7 17 Mon Vlad Guerrero Comp-GCL 56.8 56.8 4 18 Cal G Anderson AAA-PCL 56.3 36.4 4 19 Mil Jeff Cirillo AAA-AA 56.9 40.4 20 KC Johnny Damon Hi-A-CAR 54.9 46.5 1 21 NYM Edgardo Alfonzo AA-EL 54.8 50.6 22 Cle Bartolo Colon R-APPY 52.6 40.8 23 ChiAL Mike Cameron Hi-A-CAR 51.4 37.6 24 Det Bob Higginson AAA-IL 51.4 34.7 25 Fla Charles Johnson AA-EL 50.1 41.1 2
This group of players that made the BA league Top 10 lists are a little less impressive though I believe all have made at least one All Star team. Guerrero and Abreu are both stars. Both were international free agents. Damon and Anderson were both HS draft picks – Damon as a supplemental pick and Anderson in the 4th rd. Charles Johnson was a 1st rd pick out of both HS and college. Johnson’s career cratered the last couple of years and appears to be over, but he was a very solid player.
And that’s perhaps a good time to point out that this ranking combines players at very different points in their careers both in 1994 and today. Some of these players were then in the high minors and are now coming to the ends of their careers and some were then in the very low minors and are perhaps not even half way done with their careers. Five or ten years from now Johnson will rank much lower on this list.
Jorge Posada was a late rd (22nd, 1990) draft and follow out of PR. In 1994 he was 22 in AAA and he hit just 240/315/406. This was the first of three seasons in AAA for Posada, but what I hadn’t realized is that he skipped AA. He hit 259/366/459 in the CAR in 1993 and then for some reason the Yankees skipped him past AA. Considering he had also recently switched to catcher and was probably quite rough defensively, it’s no wonder he didn’t make much of an impression on IL managers. However, BA did have him in their Yankees Top 10.
Jeff Cirillo and Bobby Higginson are quite similar. Both were late rd picks (11th for Cirillo and 12th for Higginson) out of college. Both were very good players for their Midwestern small revenue teams in their pre-FA service time years, but both were rewarded with contracts that quickly became albatrosses as they hit the wall in their early 30s.
Cirillo had a strong minor league career that culminated in a very good 309/386/530 line in 1994 although the power was a bit out of character. BA didn’t have him in the Mil Top 10.
Higginson had a more modest minor league career. He hit 275/343/492 at age 23 in AAA with a BB/K rate of 0.5. Just two years later he went on to hit 320/404/577 at age 25 in MLB with a BB/K rate of 1.0. It’s hard to see the statistical or scouting indicators that might have predicted that jump. It’s not much of a surprise that the AAA managers missed him. BA had him in their Det Top 10.
Edgardo Alfonzo was signed in 1991 out of Ven at age 17. The Mets promoted him very aggressively. He played at 18 in the NYPL and hit 356/396/443. He jumped over low A and played in the FSL at age 19 in 1993. He didn’t show much power, but his overall line of 294/370/409 with a BB/K ratio of 57/51 was excellent considering his age and experience. He played 1994 at age 20 in AA and hit 293/377/460 with a 64/55 BB/K ratio. He was listed playing 2B and 3B so perhaps there were some questions about his defense, but BA left him out the league Top 10. He did make the Mets Top 10.
Bartolo Colon is the third most productive starting pitcher from the minors. He’s basically the opposite of the high minors polish of Radke and Pettitte. He had the high K rate you would expect in a top prospect – 11.5/9 IP – but he also had a lousy BB rate of 6.0/9 IP. At age “19” he was young for the Appy League, but he was seemingly a long way away. Colon was subsequently caught lying about his age and was actually 21 which would have made his wildness a bigger concern.
Colon didn’t make the league Top 10 or the Indians Top 10. I assume that was mostly due to his command problems, but perhaps the scouts didn’t think his slight frame –he was listed in the BA Almanac at 6 ft, 185 lbs – would hold up as a starter.
Mike Cameron is the quintessential tools guys who made it. He was an 18th rd pick out of La Grange HS in GA, which I mention only because I recognized that was Dernell Stenson’s HS too. Why I remember stuff like that…
In 1991 he played in the GCL at age 18 and “hit” 221/312/243. He started 1992 in the NYPL and hit very well at 276/361/448, but it was just 87 Abs. He was promoted to the MWL and played down to his GCL line at 228/296/342. In 1993 he returned to the MWL at age 20 and was even worse at 238/291/297. His BB/K ratio was an awful 27/100 in 411 ABs. Nobody bothers to call 18th rd picks busts, but he surely looked like a tools goof who would never amount to anything.
Despite his awful 1993 season he was promoted to the CAR in 1994 at age 21 and he showed a nice spike in his walk rate. His overall line still wasn’t very good at 248/338/391 with 60/101 BB/K ratio in 468 ABs. Not surprisingly, he didn’t make either the league Top 10 or the White Sox Top 10.
Cameron followed up his BB rate improvement in 1994 by improving his power numbers in 1995. He nearly doubled his career HR high to 11 and hit 249/353/429 in AA at age 22. That’s pretty much been the type of hitter he’s been in MLB. His career line through 2004 is 248/340/440. Combined with superlative defense, Cameron has grown from a barely 600 OPS player in the low minors to a very good, underrated player.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 26 Cal Troy Percival AAA-PCL 48.2 25.8 27 ChiAL Magglio Ordonez Lo-A-SAL 47.0 45.0 28 Mon Rondell White AAA-IL 46.6 36.0 29 Bal Armando Benitez AA-EL 46.2 34.3 1 30 Fla Edgar Renteria Hi-A-FSL 45.6 45.6 31 Sea Derek Lowe AA-SL 45.6 37.7 32 Hou Billy Wagner Lo-A-MWL 45.1 27.4 2 33 PHL Mike Lieberthal AAA-IL 44.0 25.2 34 LA Ismael Valdes AA-TL 42.0 40.2 35 Oak Tony Batista Hi-A-CAL 42.0 37.4 36 Mil Mark Loretta AA-TL 41.3 19.5 37 Tex Rich Aurilia AA-TL 40.5 30.6 38 Tor Alex Gonzalez AAA-IL 40.3 34.0 2 39 Mon Uggie Urbina AA-EL 40.1 36.9
Only three players made their BA league Top 10. Benitez has been a good, but much maligned, closer. Wagner has been a great closer. Gonzalez has bounced around a bit and is a nice example of a premium prospect that makes it and provides decent value, but is probably considered a disappointment nonetheless.
Percival was drafted as a collegiate catcher in the 6th rd of the 1990 draft. I’m not sure how much he caught in the minors, but he was already pitching in 1991. Percival was groomed as exclusively as a reliever. His entire minor league career is ~130 games and ~150 innings. He was pretty good in 1994, but it’s not really a surprise he didn’t make the league Top 10. He did make the Angels Top 10.
Magglio Ordonez was signed out of Venezuala at age 17. He’s another player that Sickels wrote up as a retrospective prospect profile (it was posted 4/22).
1991 age 17 DSL 298/344/351 no grade for DSL 1992 age 18 GCL 180/272/333 C 1993 age 19 SAL 216/290/330 C- 1994 age 20 SAL 294/357/431 C/C+ 1995 age 21 CAR 238/303/370 C 1996 age 22 SL 263/323/461 C+ 1997 age 23 AAA 329/371/476 B+In Ordonez first 5 professional seasons he posted an OPS in the 600s four times and “peaked” at 788. Although not really considered a tools player in his incarnation as a major league slugger, he spent most of his time in the minors as a generic tools guy trying to figure out how to hit. He didn’t escape the C prospect range until after his breakout year in AAA.
Rondell White was a toolsy HS 1st rd pick in 1990. He was injured in 1994 and only had ~270 Abs combined between AAA and Montreal. It looks like he didn’t make any top 10s because he had too many Abs in 1993 and 1994 combined. If I had realized that sooner I wouldn’t have included him, but he’s already in all of the other iterations of this so he stays. His minor league career is a pretty smooth progression – he basically hit 300 with solid walks and power right from the start.
Edgar Renteria signed illegally at age 15 out of Colombia (if you check The Cube you have to subtract a year from his listed ages). Even without that age correction he was extraordinarily young for every league he played in and not surprisingly his production wasn’t very good. In 1994 he played at age 17 in the FSL and hit 253/313/292. Of course, he didn’t make the league Top 10, but BA did have him in the Marlins’ Top 10. Renteria’s career minor league line is 258/314/321, but with massive age corrections that’s not so bad. His last full minor league season was in AA Portland and he hit 289/336/388 at 18.
Derek Lowe is the second 8th rd HS pick from 1991 to make the list. His minor league track record is very ordinary. He pitched 1994 in AA at age 21. He had a 4.94 ERA and 75/50 K/BB ratio in 151 IP. That works out to a terrible 4.5 K rate. Obviously he didn’t make either the league or team Top 10. Lowe became a very good pitcher only after learning how to throw and control his power sinker. I’m not sure at what point he actually did that, but that kind of sudden development of a new pitch can radically alter a pitcher’s potential. That teams or scouts missed Lowe as a good pitching prospect before he had hitters smashing balls into the dirt every other pitch shouldn’t be much of a surprise. If people thought he was a generic pitcher at that point, it’s largely because he was.
The K rates of the top 4 starters from the minors – all of whom would win 20 games in the majors at one point - were 5.9, 5.9, 11.5 and 4.5. Thank god for Colon to validate the importance of minor league K rates.
Mike Lieberthal was a 1st rd HS catcher in 1990. He was considered a huge overdraft as the #3 pick and his minor league track record screams bust. His minor league OPS for each stop of at least 100 Abs – 620, 742, 693, 672, 586. That 586 is for 1994 in his repeat season in AAA at age 22. In his 3rd year in AAA he somehow jumped to 281/382/432. He struggled for a few years in the majors before breaking out in 1999 at age 27. He did actually make the Phillies Top 10 after 1994, but that was probably a combination of his 1st rd pedigree and an awful, awful Phillies farm outside of Rolen.
Ismael Valdes signed with LA out of Mexico in 1991. His minor league path is very odd with some jumps back and forth between the US and Mexico. He split 1994 between AA, AAA and LA without pitching very much in any location. He pitched pretty well, but didn’t make either league or team Top 10.
Tony Batista was signed out of the DR in 1991 at 17. He has a very strong minor league record. In 1994 he hit 281/360/459 at age 20 in the CAL. CAL inflates offense, but at his age and position – he was still a SS at the time – that’s a pretty impressive line. For some reason his adequate minor league BB rate – 46 per 500 AB – completely cratered in MLB to 30 per 500 Abs. He also changed positions to 3B, which made his MLB career 298 OBP even worse. Batista didn’t make the league or team Top 10.
Mark Loretta was a 7th rd pick out of college in 1993. He played most of 1994 in AA at age 22 and had a solid year at 315/375/397. He wasn’t quite that good his next season in AAA, but he was in MLB to stay at age 24. He almost matched that 1994 line as a solid 2B for Mil from 1997-2000 and then it looked like he began a normal decline. He bounced back with great years at age 31/32. Loretta made the Mil Top 10 after 1994.
Rich Aurilia is similar to Loretta. He was a late rd college SS pick – in this case 24th rd. He also made it to AA at age 22, but he had by far his worse minor league season at 234/318/378. He was in MLB to stay at age 25. He’s had a string of decent 750-ish OPS seasons with one fluke year at 941. Also like Loretta his outlier great year was not with the organization that drafted him. He didn’t make the league or team Top 10.
Uggie Urbina was signed out of Ven in 1990 at age 17. He was exclusively used as a starter throughout the minors. In 1994 he was a 20 yr old repeating AA. He had a solid year – 3.28 ERA, but only a 6.4 K rate (as if that matters). Somewhat surprisingly he was ranked as the Expos top prospect.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 40 Minn Matt Lawton Hi-A-FSL 39.7 29.3 41 Pitt Esteban Loaiza AA-SL 39.5 23.5 42 KC Mike Sweeney Lo-A-MWL 39.0 35.9 43 Fla Carl Everett AAA-PCL 38.7 27.2 44 SF Bill Mueller Hi-A-CAL 38.5 19.0 45 Hou Richard Hidalgo Lo-A-MWL 38.4 38.4 4 46 Tor Shannon Stewart Lo-A-SAL 38.2 35.5 6 47 Minn Cory Koskie R-APPY 37.7 26.5 48 SD Derrek Lee Hi-A-CAL 37.6 37.6 4 49 Hou Phil Nevin AAA-PCL 37.0 16.4 50 Tex Rick Helling AAA-AA 36.9 26.8 51 Atl Jason Schmidt AA-SL 36.8 19.7 52 Minn Eddie Guardado AAA-PCL 36.2 17.6 53 Tor Kelvim Escobar Comp-GCL 35.6 35.6 54 Cle Richie Sexson Lo-A-SAL 34.9 34.9 55 LA Chan Ho Park AA-TL 34.8 32.9 10 56 Bal Arthur Rhodes AAA-IL 34.0 18.4 57 Mil Troy O’Leary AAA-AA 34 58 Bos Matt Stairs AA-EL 33.3 7.2 59 Mon M Grudzielanek AA-EL 33.2 16.2 60 Atl Jermaine Dye Lo-A-SAL 33.1 28.8 4 61 Bos Jeff Suppan Hi-A-FSL 32.9 32.9 10 62 Mon Jose Vidro Hi-A-FSL 32.2 32.2 63 NYM Quilvio Veras AAA-IL 32.1 29.6 64 Atl Kevin Millwood R-APPY 32.1 32.1 65 Minn Damien Miller AA-SL 30.5 24.5 66 StL Placido Polanco Comp-AZL 30.5 30.5 67 Det Tony Clark AA-EL 30.5 28.4 68 Minn Marty Cordova AAA-PCL 30.0 22.8
We’re starting to get down to some very average players so I’m only going to do quick mentions of select players.
You also start to see players who’ve had solid careers, but in some respect are still considered disappointments. You can see that clearly in the players who made the BA league top 10. With the exception of Lee who may have just has a break out year, each of the others have questions about consistency or injury or just not quite meeting the buzz they carried into the majors.
Mike Sweeney is a good example of the kind of good major leaguer who probably should have flown under the radar. He started his career as a 10th rd pick out of HS. Right from his first days in the minors he was an all bat no glove catcher. Anyone trying to project his future would have had to consider both whether his defense would ever be good enough to stick at catcher (apparently not) and whether or not his bat could handle a move to 1B (it sure did). In lo-A those question were big enough hurdles to keep Sweeney off the Royals Top 10.
Carl Everett didn’t make the league or team Top 10 despite a 1st rd pedigree and a good year in 1994 (336/377/505). He was already in his second organization and I think had had a few off-field issues already. Everett is a player that was missed for purely non-performance character issues.
Bill Mueller is a similar type to the previously mentioned Loretta and Aurilia. He was a 15th rd pick out of C though it looks like he was a senior pick so he started out a little old for his leagues. In 1994 he hit 302/438/425 (including 103 walks in 120 games), but he was 23 in the hitter happy CAL. Low draft pedigree, lots of walks and modest power at a position that traditionally has some power – Mueller is a classic under the radar prospect.
Jason Schmidt is the last of the great 8th rd HS pitchers from the 1991 draft. He had a strong year in 1994. He was in AA at age 21 and put up a 3.65 ERA and a good 8.4 K rate. Given his eventual MLB stuff, I was surprised he didn’t make the league Top 10 with that line, but he was #3 on the Braves list. It looked like he was having a smooth progression up the minor league ladder, but after a trade to Pitt he floundered for several year before emerging as an ace with SF at age 28.
Eddie Guardado was a 21st rd pick out of JC. In 1994 he was a very mediocre starter – 4.83 ERA and a 5.2 K rate. He’s a nice example of a completely random starter who became a good reliever.
Sexson was a 24th rd pick out of HS. He’s not the stereotypical tools player, but certainly his development was primarily about harnessing the raw power in his 6’8” frame. His minor league performances fluctuated quite a bit from year to year. In his four full seasons in the minors his OBP bounced between .307 and .368 and his SLG bounced between .418 and .530.
Troy O’Leary and the number 34. Occasionally I run across retired players whose BP DT cards don’t pop up in searches for whatever reason. In order to rank him I took his career WS total, divided it by 3 and used that. You may (or may not) be surprised that that kind of conversion usually works pretty well. Strangely, enough metrics built on the same data inputs tend to spit out the same output no matter how they are manipulated. And yet it’s all proprietary. Go figure.
Vidro was a 6th rd pick out of HS in Puerto Rico. He started his pro career at age 17 in the GCL. He struggled throughout most of his minor league career though he generally played each level at a very young age. He didn’t have a real breakout year until his 6th pro season when he hit 323/376/523 in AAA at age 22.
Millwood is a good example of the Braves developing and polishing one of the many toolsy teenagers they sign every year. Millwood played four seasons in A ball had an overall walk rate of 4.9/9 IP. In the high minors he knocked that down to 2.9/9 IP. And he just led the AL in ERA.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 69 NYM J Isringhausen Hi-A-FSL 29.8 21.7 4 70 Bos Trot Nixon Hi-A-CAR 29.6 28.0 6 71 StL Dmitri Young AA-TL 29.4 26.5 72 Col Curt Leskanic AAA-PCL 29.3 9.9 73 ChiNL Frank Castillo AAA-AA 29.1 15.8 74 Minn LaTroy Hawkins AA-SL 28.2 17.5 2 75 Cle David Bell AAA-IL 28.1 21.0 9 76 LA Paul LoDuca Hi-A-CAL 27.8 10.1 77 Hou Melvin Mora Hi-A-FSL 27.7 6.6 78 KC Mike Tucker AAA-AA 27.6 16.4 7 79 Sea Shawn Estes R-NWL 27.6 23.2 80 Minn Torii Hunter Lo-A-MWL 27.5 27.5 81 LA Omar Daal AAA-PCL 27.3 21.9 82 Minn Todd Walker Hi-A-FSL 27.2 20.9 7 83 Cinn Aaron Boone R-PIO 27.2 19.5 1 84 Fla Kevin Millar Lo-A-MWL 27.2 11.2 85 NYM Mike Remlinger AAA-IL 26.6 1.0 86 ChiAL James Baldwin AAA-AA 26.4 24.9 1 87 Oak Ben Grieve R-NWL 26.3 26.3 1 88 NYY Ramiro Mendoza Hi-A-FSL 25.8 20.2 89 PHL R Bottalico AA-EL 25.8 16.9 90 SD D Hermanson AA-TL 25.4 20.6 3 91 ChiNL Terry Adams Hi-A-FSL 25.3 20.1 92 ChiNL Doug Glanville AA-SL 25.3 17.9 93 Col John Thomson Lo-A-SAL 25.1 20.2 94 Oak Scott Spiezio Hi-A-CAL 25.1 18.9 5 95 NYM Preston Wilson Lo-A-SAL 24.7 24.7 96 PHL Mike Williams AAA-IL 24.5 8.2 97 Tor Chris Carpenter R-Pio 24.5 24.5 3 98 Det Brian Moehler Hi-A-FSL 24.4 23.4 99 Det Jose Lima AAA-IL 24.3 18.5 100 Col Neifi Perez Hi-A-CAL 24.2 19.2 101 Cle Paul Shuey AAA-IL 23.8 15.5 102 Minn AJ Pierzynski Comp-GCL 23.8 23.8 103 LA Paul Konerko R-NWL 23.6 23.6 2 104 SD Matt Clement Comp-AZL 23.6 23.6 105 Col Craig Counsell AA-EL 23.1 8.5 106 NYY S Hitchcock AAA-IL 23.1 20.3 107 Pitt Tony Womack AAA-AA 22.7 13.9 108 Cle Steve Kline Lo-A-SAL 22.5 17.1 109 Cinn Pokey Reese AA-SL 21.9 20.0 3 110 Cle Paul Byrd AA-EL 21.8 8.3 111 Mil Scott Karl AAA-AA 21.7 21.7 112 NYM Jay Payton R-NYPL 21.6 10.5 113 Pitt Kevin Young AAA-AA 21.5 10.9 114 Mil Cory Lidle Lo-A-MWL 21.3 9.8 115 Det J Encarnacion R-APPY 21.0 21.0 116 NYM Rico Brogna AAA-IL 20.9 21.0 117 Mil Ron Belliard Comp-AZL 20.7 20.7 118 KC Glendon Rusch Lo-A-MWL 20.3 20.3 119 Cinn Scott Sullivan AA-SL 20.2 12.2 120 LA Roger Cedeno AAA-PCL 20.2 20.2 5
The first time I went flipping through the 1995 BA Almanac was after I tossed out a guess that there were probably only 50-75 “good” (depending on your definition) players in the minors in any given year. What answer you’re comfortable with is largely dependent on how high you set the bar for “good player”, but looking at this list I’d say that seventy-five is about right. Some of the players in the 50-75 range are probably more “solid” than “good”, but there are probably 5-10 “good” players who are outside the top 75 only because they were very young in 1994.
I have no idea how representative 1994 really is, but if it is somewhat representative, then it suggests that on average the 30 organizations have 2-3 “good” players in their farm systems at any one time. There are probably another 50 “useful” players, so in addition to those 2-3 “good” players there may be another 1-2 “useful” players. An average team might have 4-5 “useful” to “good” players in its farm system at any given time. That’s the baseline every team is trying to beat.
Isringhausen and Nixon top this grouping and are a good pair. Both were elite prospects in the minors who struggled due to injury (Izzy) and a slow, almost stalled development path (Trot), but eventually overcame those obstacles to become good players albeit in slightly different ways than projected. Izzy became a good closer instead of a front of the rotation starter and Nixon became a good platoon player instead of a complete 5 tool star.
Torii Hunter and Kevin Millar make a tremendous odd couple. Both played in the Midwest League in 1994. Hunter was a tools laden former 1st rd pick who held his own at age 19, but generally struggled to hit in the minors. His tools nevertheless made him a prospect. Millar was an undrafted free agent who bashed his way through lo-A to the tune of a ~900 OPS at age 22. Despite generally hitting very well in the minors he was never considered much of a prospect. Ten years after they played in the MWL they had produced essentially the same MLB value, approx 27 WARP. I doubt many MWL observers would have guessed that was possible. Of course, five years from now Hunter will still be in the majors and Millar will be just another loud mouth in Texas, but at one point in time these two very different types of prospects had produced the same overall value. It’s a funny game like that.
There are a lot of fungible reliever types in this group – Remlinger, Mendoza, Bottalico, Adams just to name ones with Boston connections – but also some highly rated players just starting their careers in the short season leagues. That group includes Ben Grieve, Chris Carpenter and Paul Konerko.
Rk Team Player Level WARP3 29WARP3 BA 121 Cal Benjy Molina Lo-A-MWL 19.9 19.9 122 ChiAL Mike Sirotka Lo-A-MWL 19.7 19.7 123 Bos Scott Hatteberg AAA-IL 19.7 10.2 124 Bal Jimmy Haynes AA-EL 19.4 19.2 125 Sea Jim Mecir AA-SL 19.4 6.5 126 Pitt Jose Guillen Comp-GCL 19.4 19.4 127 Hou Brian Hunter AAA-PCL 19.3 16.1 1 128 NYM Rey Ordonez Hi-A-FSL 19.2 17.5 2 129 Cle Einar Diaz Lo-A-SAL 18.9 16.2 7 130 Minn Rich Becker AAA-PCL 18.9 18.9 131 LA Darren Dreifort AA-TL 18.4 15.4 1 132 Sea Darren Bragg AAA-PCL 18.3 15.9 133 Hou John Halama Lo-A-MWL 18.0 10.7 134 Det F Catalanotto Lo-A-SAL 17.8 16.5 135 Mon Gabe White AAA-IL 17.7 13.2 136 NYM Terrence Long R-APPY 17.6 17.6 4 137 Atl Tony Graffanino AA-SL 17.6 9.6 138 Atl Esteban Yan Lo-A-SAL 17.5 17.5 139 Sea Raul Ibanez Lo-A-MWL 17.2 3.5 140 SF Bobby Howry Lo-A-MWL 16.9 14.3 141 Col Juan Acevedo AA-EL 16.6 7.5 142 Sea Matt Mantei Lo-A-MWL 16.2 15.3 143 Sea Ron Villone AA-SL 16.1 6.7 144 CLE Jaret Wright R-APPY 15.7 15.7 3 145 NYM Brian Daubach Hi-A-FSL 15.4 10.6 146 Tor Chris Stynes AA-SL 15.4 12.9 147 StL John Mabry AAA-AA 15.3 9.6 148 StL Eli Marrero Lo-A-SAL 15.0 11.6 149 Bal Alex Ochoa AA-EL 14.9 12.1 8 150 Cle Alan Embree AA-EL 14.9 6.1 151 Fla Mike Redmond Lo-A-MWL 14.8 6.7 152 Oak John Wasdin AA-SL 14.7 14.8 4 153 Bal Jay Powell Hi-A-CAR 14.6 13.0 154 Cal Bill Simas Hi-A-CAL 14.4 14.4 155 Bal G Stephenson Hi-A-CAR 14.1 10.0 156 Sea Desi Relaford Hi-A-CAL 13.9 12.7 2 157 Cinn Willie Greene AAA-AA 13.8 13.8 2 158 Mon FP Santangelo AAA-IL 13.8 9.2 159 Bal Gregg Zaun AAA-IL 13.7 8.6 160 Col Q McCracken AA-EL 13.6 11.1 161 Oak Tanyon Sturtze AA-SL 13.3 1.8 162 Minn Rich Garces AA-SL 13.2 10.9 163 NYY B Boehringer AA-EL 13.2 7.4 164 Bos Frank Rodriguez AAA-IL 12.6 12.6 165 Cal O Palmerio AAA-PCL 12.4 2.4 166 NYM Butch Huskey AAA-IL 12.3 12.3 167 StL Jay Witasick Lo-A-MWL 12.3 9.5 168 Hou Scott Elarton Comp-GCL 12.0 12.0 2 169 NYY Shane Spencer Hi-A-FSL 11.6 6.9 170 SF Doug Mirabelli AA-TL 11.6 3.4 171 Bal Damon Buford AAA-IL 11.5 9.1 172 Cal Jorge Fabregas AAA-PCL 11.5 9.6 173 Atl Eddie Perez AAA-IL 11.3 2.2 174 SD Homer Bush Hi-A-CAL 10.8 10.9 175 TEX Scott Podsednik Comp-GCL 10.5 10.5 176 NYY Rickey Ledee Lo-A-SAL 10.3 9.2
This is not an exhaustive list of every player in the 10-20 WARP range. I eventually got tired of pulling some of these generic relievers and utility players. Nevertheless, this group gives a good flavor of what kinds of players end up with this kind of career.
There are eleven prospects who made their BA League Top 10. Jaret Wright came the closest to meeting his potential. The other two notable players are Jose Guillen who has finally translated his athletic tools into MLB production and Scott “Picking Machine” Hatteberg.
Most of the players had complementary roles for a few years. Many were low tools grinders like Brian Daubach that made it for a few years.