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Top Pitching Prospects Evaluated

Around these parts there has been a lot of talk about our pitching depth in the big league and in the minors. Should we trade some depth next off-season, convert someone to a reliever, etc? The same day I read a Keith Law chat where he hit the nail on the head.

John (St. Pete): With Hellickson, Davis, Niemann, McGee, etc., etc., at what point will the Rays make moves to get something for those guys or make room for them? The big-league rotation is pretty well set and locked in for the near future.

SportsNation Keith Law: That's downright cocky. Pitchers get hurt. They also can fail to develop, or just go backwards without any obvious explanation. And you don't think that a full-potential Davis is an upgrade over Sonnanstine?
John (St. Pete): Sure, a couple of those guys could replace Sonnanstine, but Shields, Kazmir and Price are signed and Garza isn't getting bumped out. Obviously McGee's already been hurt as well as Niemann, but there's going to come a breaking point even if a couple of guys don't pan out.

SportsNation Keith Law: Kazmir is only signed through 2011, and not cheaply. And like I said, guys get hurt. I predict that the Rays do not reach said breaking point.

This is the issue. Pitchers get hurt or flame out. The same can befall prospects. With this in mind I compiled a list of all the pitchers that appeared in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects from 1996-2005. We will start by looking at all those that cracked the top 10.

This table lists the players, their rank, their IP as a starter and reliever, their FIP and their career WAR (so far).


Year Rank Name Pos Team SIP RIP FIP WAR
2002 1 Josh Beckett rhp Marlins  1184.6 4 3.61 24.92
2000 1 Rick Ankiel lhp Cardinals  225 17 4.38 2.82
2002 2 Mark Prior rhp Cubs  657 3.41 15.26
2005 2 Felix Hernandez rhp Mariners  666.3 3.7 13.33
1996 2 Paul Wilson rhp Mets  912 29.6 4.73 7.73
1997 3 Kerry Wood rhp Cubs  1116.6 102.6 3.79 22.02
2004 4 Edwin Jackson rhp Dodgers  414.3 41.6 4.92 2.48
2001 4 Jon Rauch rhp White Sox 47.6 293.3 4.05 2.23
1999 4 Bruce Chen lhp Braves  628 179 5.2 0.70
1997 4 Matt White rhp Devil Rays 0 0 0.00
2001 5 Ben Sheets rhp Brewers  1428 3.56 30.78
1999 5 Brad Penny rhp Diamondbacks  1457.3 3 3.95 25.12
1996 5 Alan Benes rhp Cardinals  426 68 4.47 4.90
2003 5 Jesse Foppert rhp Giants  117 5.3 5.27 0.25
2003 6 Jose Contreras rhp Yankees  931.6 20.3 4.4 11.41
2002 6 Juan Cruz rhp Cubs  196.3 318.6 4.13 4.30
2001 7 C.C. Sabathia lhp Indians  1659.3 3.62 34.66
2005 7 Scott Kazmir lhp Devil Rays 730 3 3.74 14.30
1998 7 Kris Benson rhp Pirates  1207.3 4.48 13.68
1999 7 Ryan Anderson lhp Mariners  0 0 0.00
1996 8 Livan Hernandez rhp Marlins  2528 3 4.44 29.78
2004 8 Greg Miller lhp Dodgers  0 0 0.00
1998 9 Carl Pavano rhp Expos  1057 26.3 4.21 15.24
2003 9 Gavin Floyd rhp Phillies  360.6 24.3 4.77 2.85
1999 10 Matt Clement rhp Padres  1410.6 2 4.24 19.75
2003 10 Francisco Rodriguez rhp Angels  451.6 2.84 8.33
2000 10 John Patterson rhp Diamondbacks  438 16.3 4.25 6.13

A quick run-down of the pitchers:


C.C. Sabathia Arguably the best pitcher in baseball.
Ben Sheets Utterly dominant when healthy. When healthy is the key.
Livan Hernandez Kind of a joke these days, but once a very effective pitcher.
Brad Penny Largely healthy, largely effective. One time 4 win pitcher, three time 3 win pitcher, and 1 time 2 win pitcher in 7 seasons.
Josh Beckett In his 8 seasons, Beckett has proven to be one of the best starers in baseball. His great stuff, when on, is nearly unhittable; as evidenced by his frequent playoff heroics.
Kerry Wood Dominant at the beginning then oft-injured. After a succesful campaign as a closer we'll see where it leads him.
Matt Clement Solid starter with one great year, but a line-drive to the face seems to have done him in.
Mark Prior Utterly dominant to start his career. We all know the rest.
Carl Pavano Pitched 200 innings twice (effectively) before the yanks threw a ton of money at him to sit at home with Alissa Milano.
Scott Kazmir YAY! Hopefully avoids injury bug.
Kris Benson Hot wife. Decent starter.
Felix Hernandez One of the most highly tauted young pitchers in the game today. He uses his electric stuff effectively and has been worth 14.1 wins before his 23rd birthday.
Jose Contreras 32 YO prospect number 6 prospect. The ageless wonder.
Francisco Rodriguez One of the most dominant relievers in recent memory. Set the saves record last year and got paid.
Paul Wilson Journeyman starter who has had a couple of successful years (one as a Devil Ray), but he never fulfilled his draft or prospect status.
John Patterson Showed glimpses before injury derailed his career.
Alan Benes One good season followed by injuries. 70 career starts, 115 games, 4.47 FIP.
Juan Cruz Decent minor-league starter turned decent minor league reliever. Career FIP of 4.13 primarily as a reliever with a few spot-starts mixed in.
Gavin Floyd Traded with Gio Gonzalez to the Phillies for Freddy Garcia. Finally started to make some strides this year in an Edwin Jackson sort of way.
Rick Ankiel Ankiel is one of the stranger cases in recent memory. A pitcher with great stuff who had some success at the major league level, Ankiel could not find the strike-zone. In his career in the bigs he had 4.8 BB/9. He's now a big-league RF with some potential.
Edwin Jackson No need to rehash this…
Jon Rauch Never cut it as a starter. Has been a pretty good reliever, but he's only been worth more than a win once.
Bruce Chen Another journeyman, although Chen only made more than 30 starts once. Swing-starter who rarely posted a FIP under 5.
Jesse Foppert One bad year as a starter.
Matt White Never threw a pitch in the bigs. Ugh.
Ryan Anderson Check out the USS Mariner piece. He gets a few shout-outs. Never made a big-league pitch.
Greg Miller Last year in AAA, he posted a 7.71 ERA and 2.22 WHIP in 53.5 relief innings. Injuries.

 This chart shows the breakdown by WAR:


As you can see, even among the top 10 pitching prospects very few turn out to be what is expected. It is as likely that they have 0 career WAR as becoming a star. Of the 26 prospects that reached the top 10, more recorded less than 5 WAR than recorded more than 15 WAR.