Baseball America is the leading magazine and now website covering young baseball players in high school, college, and the minor leagues. Since 1990 they have published an annual list of the Top 100 Prospects. Like any list predicting future success, there are hits and misses.
Considering the number one spot on this list should be the number one young player in professional baseball, we should assume these would end up being the greatest players. The best way to measure success in a sport is whether or not they are among the all-time greats, which in baseball is a trip to Cooperstown into the Hall of Fame.
So, how many of these Number One Prospects are Hall of Fame worthy? Let’s take a look at the players on this list.
1990 – Steve Avery
1991 – Todd Van Poppel
1992 – Brien Taylor
1993 – Chipper Jones
1994 – Cliff Floyd
1995 – Alex Rodriguez
1996 – Andruw Jones
1997 – Andruw Jones
1998 – Ben Grieve
1999 – J.D. Drew
2000 – Rick Ankiel
2001 – Josh Hamilton
2002 – Josh Beckett
2003 – Mark Teixeira
2004 – Joe Mauer
2005 – Joe Mauer
2006 – Delmon Young
2007 – Daisuke Matsuzaka
2008 – Jay Bruce
2009 – Matt Wieters
2010 – Jason Heyward
2011 – Bryce Harper
2012 – Bryce Harper
2013 – Jurickson Profar
According to Baseball America, these are the top prospects of all-time.
Any baseball fan can quickly knock out the first three names. Steve Avery, Todd Van Poppel, and Brien Taylor were all pitchers to never reach their potential. Avery was the least successful starter in an Atlanta Braves premiere pitching staff while Van Poppel never became very infamous. Taylor however does have the distinction of being one of the few first overall picks to never make the major leagues. He would probably trade Van Poppel’s career any day.
The first Hall of Famer we arrive at is in 1993 with Chipper Jones. A no argument career destined for Cooperstown, this was an instance where everyone got it right. His 468 career home runs, .303 batting average, and 2,726 hits are what made Jones one of the best players from his generation.
The following year the top prospect was Cliff Floyd. Floyd did have a pretty good and long career, however it was nowhere near worthy of the Hall of Fame. After that we get to the controversial Alex Rodriguez. The numbers say he deserves a trip to Cooperstown. It’s his alleged cheating and poor image that will most likely keep him out.
Back to back wins for Andruw Jones in 1996 and 1997 must surely mean he would be Hall of Fame bound, right? A career that started off hot eventually fizzled. His home run totals were high, but his poor career average made him nothing more than a guy with a long playing career and a few hollow statistics.
The next three nominees were Ben Grieve, J.D. Drew, and Rick Ankiel. Forever we were told Grieve would be a star, something that never even came close to happening. Drew had a quality career in his time as a major leaguer. Is he Hall of Fame bound? Considering he only made one All-Star team, he is far from being mentioned in the same sentence as anyone in Cooperstown. Ankiel had the most interesting career of any player named a top prospect. Having started out as a dominant pitcher only to lose his ability to throw straight early on, Ankiel converted to playing the outfield where he had moderate success. A career path parallel to Babe Ruth, Ankiel was anything but legendary.
The next three players listed all could be categorized similarly. Most important of all, none are Hall of Fame bound. Josh Hamilton had a resurgence after a bout with personal demons, too little too late to make a historic impact to enshrine himself in Cooperstown. Josh Beckett has had a lot of major league success, although none of it would warrant too many Hall of Fame votes. Finally Mark Teixeira, a well-known power hitter throughout his career, rounds out this group. Teixeira still has some time to pad his statistics, but clearly on the decline he is far from reaching legendary status.
Joe Mauer was given the honor back to back in 2004 and 2005. Mauer, a player who just now converted to playing positions outside of catcher, is on pace to become a Hall of Famer. The move from playing catcher will surely help him remain a consistent hitter, possibly able to reach 3,000 hits if he can remain healthy. The move will allow Mauer to play in more games. The more games he plays the more hits he can get.
Following Mauer are players who either have already solidified themselves as impossibilities or are still too inexperienced. Delmon Young, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jay Bruce, and Matt Wieters have played long enough and we have a pretty good idea what they can accomplish. None of these four men will be Hall of Famers. Jason Heyward is still very young and has the potential. His inconsistency in everything but injuries should be a warning sign not to bet on it.
In 2011 and 2012 the top prospect was Bryce Harper. A player too young for any of us to know what he will be Harper has a shot at being one of the greats.
Also too young is the 2013 top prospect, Jurickson Profar. Profar has yet to have a full major league season of experience and there is no telling where his career will take him.
The Conclusion: Chipper Jones is the only definite Hall of Famer. Alex Rodriguez has the numbers, but will controversy prevent him from getting in? Joe Mauer is the next closest, most likely earning the nod due to his great career batting average done as a catcher.