10 MLB Prospects Who'll Be Stamped with the Bust Label in the Second Half
For every prospect enjoying a breakout season and improving their position on their respective organization's depth chart, there are countless others turning in disappointing seasons once again.
For young players, there will be several more years to turn things around before falling out of their organization’s long-term plans. However, there are numerous highly touted prospects who have continued to struggle, and their window of opportunity is slowly closing—for some, it’s even slamming shut.
If they don’t quickly turn things around this season, these 10 prospects may be considered busts in the near future.
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
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Triple-A: .261/.339/.494, 40 XBH (12 HR), 20 SB, 122 K/34 BB (82 G)
After batting .318/.418/.488 with 17 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases across three levels in his first professional season, Jackson followed it up with an impressive full-season debut in 2010 (.297/.395/.493, 58 XBH, 30 SB) between High- and Double-A. However, Jackson’s strikeout totals also skyrocketed that season—126 in 128 games—and have only gotten worse over the last two seasons.
Although he posted an .869 OPS between Double- and Triple-A in 2011, the left-handed hitter fanned 138 times. This season, his first full season at Triple-A, Jackson’s already registered 122 strikeouts in only 82 games. The power and speed are both still there; however, it’s hard to ever see him succeeding at the big-league level with so many swing-and-misses.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
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Triple-A: 3-6, 91.2 IP, 5.69 ERA, .298 BAA, 67 K/43 BB (17 GS)
After going 7-5 with a 2.61 ERA and 88 K/31 BB between High- and Double-A in 2010, it seemed as though Montgomery was on the fast track to the big leagues. However, the Royals’ 2008 first-rounder struggled in his first season at Triple-A in 2011, going 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA and 129 K/69 BB in 150.2 innings.
This season, it’s unfortunately more of the same for Montgomery, as he’s 3-6 with a 5.69 ERA and 67 K/43 BB over 17 starts. The left-hander has failed to regain the command and aggressiveness that he demonstrated early in his minor-league career and, if he can’t show improvement down the stretch of the season, may face a demotion to begin the 2013 season.
Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
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Triple-A: 3-5, 74.2 IP, 6.39 ERA, .250 BAA, 71 K/69 BB (16 GS)
Double-A: 0-1, 12 IP, 0.75 ERA, .227 BAA, 14 K/6 BB (2 GS)
At 6’8”, Betances has always experienced problems repeating his mechanics and, in turn, consistently throwing strikes. After seemingly turning the corner in 2010 when he was 8-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 108 K/22 BB in 85.1 innings, his walk totals increased again last season against more advanced hitters at Double- and Triple-A.
This season his control has reached an all-time worst, as he’s registered a 5.61 ERA and 75 walks in 86.2 innings. In June, the tall right-hander was demoted to Double-A with the hope of reestablishing his command, and he’s done so to an extent—0.75 ERA, 14 K/6 BB in 12 innings. Betances is still dangerously close to being relegated to a permanent bullpen role.
Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres
Courtesy of MLB.com
Low-A: .207/.294/.254, 7 XBH, 10 SB, 62 K/22 BB (52 G)
High-A: .243/.404/.270, 16 K/9 BB (11 G)
After signing with the Padres as the third overall selection in the 2009 draft, Tate sustained a series of injuries that limited his playing time in 2010. Tate’s 2011 season wasn’t any better, as he once again missed time due to an injury and received a 25-game suspension for failing a drug test for the second time. Even though he appeared in only 39 games, the toolsy outfielder flashed his upside, batting .288/.410/.411 with 14 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases.
In his first full professional season in 2012, Tate has struggled to find a groove, batting .213/.313/.257 with eight extra-base hits, 11 stolen bases and 78 strikeouts in 63 games between Low- and High-A.
Joe Benson, OF, Minnesota Twins
Triple-A: .179/.269/.316, 7 XBH, 4 SB, 27 K/11 BB (28 G)
Double-A: .156/.250/.250, 8 K/3 BB (8 G)
Rookie: .375/.444/.500 (3 G)
High-A: .091/.286/.182 (3 G)
An exceptional athlete with plus raw power and speed, Benson is in the midst of an extremely concerning season after reaching the major leagues last September. A player who’s always been strikeout prone but still flashed 20/20 potential at every minor-league stop, the right-handed hitter had an atrocious start to the season, batting .179/.269/.316 with seven extra-base hits and 27 strikeouts in 28 games while making excessive weak contact.
His struggles prompted a demotion to Double-A where he batted .156/.250/.250 with eight strikeouts in eight games. Once again, Benson received a demotion, this time to the organization’s Gulf Coast League affiliate. He showed signs of turning it around in his first three games (.375/.444/.500) and was bumped up to High-A, where, unfortunately, Benson’s struggles have persisted: .091/.286/.182 in three games.
If Benson is unable to show improvements over the remainder of the season, there’s a strong chance that he slides out of the Twins’ long-term plans.
Kyle Skipworth, C, Miami Marlins
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Double-A: .199/.261/.332, 18 XBH, 87 K/19 BB (72 G)
The sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft out of a California high school, Skipworth is a 6’4”, 225-pound left-handed hitting catcher with plus raw power. However, the skill-set that the Marlins saw in him as a prep hasn’t translated at the professional level.
The slugger’s issues primarily stem from his lack of pitch recognition and swing-and-miss tendencies. At Low-A in 2010, Skipworth enjoyed his best season to date, batting .249/.312/.426 with 17 home runs and 132 strikeouts in 107 games. After a promotion to Double-A prior to the 2011 season, he massively regressed, batting .207/.273/.331 with 11 home runs and a whopping 143 strikeouts in 106 games.
Getting a second crack at the Southern League in 2012, Skipworth continues to struggle, currently batting .199/.261/.332 with seven home runs and 87 strikeouts in 72 games.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
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High-A: .239/.299/.366, 14 XBH, 10 SB, 39 K/4 BB (38 G)
Puello flashed his high upside in 2010 in his first full season at Low-A Savannah when he batted .292/.373/.423 with 22 doubles, 45 stolen bases and 82 K/32 BB in 109 games as a 19-year-old.
The toolsy outfielder improved his power numbers (36 XBH, 10 HR) at High-A St. Lucie in 2011, but saw his plate discipline tank, fanning 103 times while drawing only 18 walks in 117 games.
Repeating the level this season, Puello missed nearly 50 games with an injury, as things have continued to go downhill for the now 21-year-old. Batting .239/.299/.366 with 14 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and 39 K/4 BB in 38 games, his extreme lack of plate discipline is incredibly worrisome.
Matt Dominguez, 3B, Houston Astros
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Triple-A (Marlins): .234/.291/.357, 21 XBH (7 HR), 46 RBI, 31 K/23 BB (78 G)
MLB (Astros): 2-for-8, 2 K (4 G)
The 12th overall selection in the 2007 draft, Dominguez has always been regarded as a defense-oriented prospect, which is never an ideal attribute for a third baseman. The right-handed hitter exhibited some offensive potential in his first full professional season in 2008 when he batted .296/.354/.499 with 18 home runs, 70 RBI and 68 K/28 BB in 88 games.
The following season, Dominguez was unable to repeat such success, batting .252/.333/.411 across three levels in 2011. However, there was enough there to warrant a September call-up with the Marlins where he batting .244/.292/.333 in 17 big-league games.
With Hanley Ramirez now occupying third base in Miami, Dominguez was returned to Triple-A to begin the 2012 season where he struggled to drive the ball with consistency. Prior to being traded to Houston last week in the Carlos Lee deal, he was batting .234/.291/.357 with 21 extra-base hits in 78 games.
He should have a better opportunity to blossom in Houston, though, as he logged eight at-bats in the major leagues before a recent demotion to Triple-A.
Jaff Decker, OF, San Diego Padres
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Double-A: .184/.365/.293, 8 XBH, 6 SB, 37 K/40 BB (47 G)
Continually knocked for being undersized at 5’10”, 190 pounds, Decker has done his best to quiet scouts by posting a high OPS at various levels. In his first full professional season at Low-A, the left-handed hitter batted .299/.442/.514 with 16 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 92 K/85 BB in 104 games.
Since that breakout season, his numbers have steadily declined as he’s moved through the Padres’ immensely talented system. In 2010 at Double-A, Decker batted .236/.373/.417 with 19 home runs and 15 stolen bases, but fanned 145 times in 133 games.
Repeating Double-A in 2012, Decker was unable to turn things around after batting .153 in April and .205 in May before landing on the disabled list—he’s yet to return. Overall, he was batting .184/.365/.293 in 47 games before the injury.
Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
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Triple-A: .243/.333/.351, 7 XBH, 15 RBI, 27 K/15 BB (27 G)
The No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 draft, Beckham has consistently failed to live up to high expectations. His offense has been lackluster at every minor-league level, and therefore he hasn’t progressed through the Rays’ system as expected.
His best season came in 2011 when he batted .271/.328/.408 with 142 hits, 44 extra-base hits (12 HR), 70 RBI, 17 stolen bases and 120 K/42 BB in 131 games between Double- and Triple-A. Still, the right-handed hitters is yet to have a full season where he hasn’t struck out less than 116 times.
This April, Beckham was handed a 50-game suspension for his second violation of Major League Baseball’s drug treatment and prevention program—another setback in a disappointing minor-league career.
Playing in only 27 games this season, he’s batting .243/.333/351 with seven extra-base hits and 27 K/15 BB at Triple-A Durham.