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March 12, 2007

Looking Back At Pitching Prospects

Just for the fun of it, I decided to go back to the "STATS Inc. Minor League Scouting Notebooks" for 1995 through 2000 - to see who were the top five pitching prospects in all of baseball, according to them, for each season. Here are the results:

Scott Ruffcorn - White Sox
Alan Benes - Cardinals
Jimmy Haynes - Orioles
Jim Pittsley - Royals
LaTroy Hawkins - Twins

Paul Wilson - Mets
Billy Wagner - Astros
Jason Schmidt - Braves
Jimmy Haynes - Orioles
Jeff Suppan - Red Sox

Jaret Wright - Indians
Kerry Wood - Cubs
Jeff Suppan - Red Sox
Carl Pavano - Red Sox
Sidney Ponson - Orioles

Carl Pavano - Expos
Kerry Wood - Cubs
Matt Clement - Padres
Scott Elarton - Astros
Kris Benson - Pirates

Rick Ankiel - Cardinals
Brad Penny - Diamondbacks
Bruce Chen - Braves
Matt Clement - Padres
Ryan Anderson - Mariners

Rick Ankiel - Cardinals
Kip Wells - White Sox
Brad Penny - Marlins
Eric Gagne - Dodgers
Matt Riley - Orioles

Look at that list from 1997. Wright, Pavano and Ponson. My stars, it's the 2006 Yankees starting rotation!

How about Yankees pitching prospects? Who was number one in each of these years- according to the STATS Notebooks? Here's that list:

1995 - James Musselwhite
1996 - Matt Drews
1997 - Dan Rios
1998 - Eric Milton
1999 - Ryan Bradley
2000 - Ed Yarnall

Boy, those five "top" pitching prospects worked out well, huh? At least Milton was used to get Knoblauch.

Just some food for thought when thinking about Joba Chamberlain, Humberto Sanchez, Dellin Betances, Ian Kennedy, J. Brent Cox, and some other current Yankees pitching prospects. You never can tell with young pitchers. Even the best prospects in the game often fail - and it's worse when you're just looking at those in your chain.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at March 12, 2007 08:27 PM


Milton had three decent seasons with Minnesota. Making the major leagues beyond a cup of coffee is a rare achievement and playing well is even rarer.

That's why the Yankees are doing the smart thing now. They are accumulating a lot of pitching prospects in the hope that at least a couple of these pitchers will have a few average to above average years. 6-8 years total of average to above average pitching out of the group of minor leaguers they have now (including Hughes) would certainly be a success. Since Pettitte came up in 1995, the Yankees haven't produced 5 years of "average" pitching from the entire system.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2007 09:47 PM

I'd move that line to Rivera and Mendoza.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at March 12, 2007 11:38 PM

Yikes. Those lists reaaaaaaally put things into perspective. It amazes me how many "experts" consider Hughes a "can't miss." God, I hope they're right, but how will we really know until he shows his stuff out on the mound at The Stadium?

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 01:10 AM

FWIW, Hughes' stats in the minors are better across the board than anyone who tops the list in those years except Ankiel (pre-meltdown), who I think we can all agree is an unusual case. And he has been younger at each level than any of them except Ankiel and Pavano (who, in a strange coincidence, also pitched in AA Trenton as a 20 year old. For the Red Sox).

MiLB Totals:
Pitcher: ERA, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, WHIP

Ruffcorn: 3.26, 8.16, 3.40, ---, 1.23 (hurt some by bad stretches later in his career)
Wilson: 3.37, 7.89, 2.37, 0.54, 1.18 (1995 comparable to Hughes, but 2/3 of it spent in AA at age 22)
Wright: 2.97, 8.74, 4.44, 0.52, 1.24
Pavano: 3.03, 7.83, 2.19, 0.68, 1.11
Ankiel: 2.81, 12.78, 3.81, 0.44, 1.07

Hughes: 2.13, 10.21, 2.05, 0.23, 0.86

I don't have the lists for 2001-present in front of me, but off the top of my head Josh Beckett is the only guy I can think of who was similarly dominant (more so, going by K/9) at a young age. And Felix Hernandez, who put up great numbers while younger than anyone. I'm sure I'm missing some guys.

Obviously, we can't take anything for granted until Hughes makes it the majors and succeeds, but the guy is pretty special. Barring injury (always a concern) or an Ankiel-like blowup (not likely) there is no reason he shouldn't be a very good MLB pitcher. I think that's why most people consider him a "can't miss."

Another thing to consider about having prospects is that while they may not pan out in the long run, you get the early part of their careers. We may laugh at Jaret Wright's uselessness now, but his 1997 performance (regular and post-season) is precisely the kind of thing the Yankees are hoping for from their prospects.

Posted by: NewAmsterdamYanks [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 05:30 AM


Posted by: The Sporting Brews [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 09:32 AM

Certainly there is. Andy Pettitte was a prospect, Mariano Rivera was a prospect, Roger Clemens, Felix Hernandez, Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, so on and so forth

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 10:01 AM

Anyway, maybe Hughes is ready for prime time, maybe he isn't. Maybe he'll win 20 this year, maybe he'll win 20 for his career.

I'd rather the Yanks have him in their system than not, especially given some of the "prospects" that have come and gone over the years.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2007 10:16 AM