15 MLB Prospects Who Will Never Be Able to Live Up to the Hype
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In the United States, the word prospect was associated with the famous Gold Rush of the 1840s, when people from all over the world went into the hillsides of California looking to strike it rich. Prospecting for gold was the way to fortune and fame.
In Major League Baseball, a good prospect can not only find fortune and fame for themselves, they can deliver a little bit of both for their teams as well.
Essentially, anyone that's drafted or signed to a minor league contract could be termed as a prospect. But for those who are drafted in the first round of the annual MLB draft, they're generally thought of as much more than prospects.
Teams spend millions of dollars on those selected in the higher rounds of the draft with the clear expectation that they will realize their potential and develop into future stars.
However, not everyone drafted in the higher rounds turn out to be gold nuggets. Oftentimes they may look shiny on the outside, but after further examination, they are revealed to be duds.
Bleacher Report will examine some of the shiny new nuggets that were recently drafted and determine whether or not they are actually fool's gold.
Albert Almora: Chicago Cubs
Albert Almora, the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs, got off to a quick start after signing for $3.9 million.
In his first taste of professional action, Almora hit .321 in 33 games between Rookie League and lower Single-A ball.
However, Almora is not blessed with a strong arm, nor is he considered a speed-burner on the basepaths. While he is considered aggressive and blessed with great overall skills, can those skills continue to develop as he ascends into the upper levels of the minors and faces a faster-paced game with much better pitching?
Only time will tell, but the Cubs haven't had a great history with previous top draft choices (Mark Prior, anyone?). Sometimes, too good to be true can be just that.
Deven Marrero: Boston Red Sox
When Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 24th overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft, everyone touted Marrero's defensive abilities.
The bat, however, is a question mark.
Marrero sizzled in his freshman year in 2010, hitting a robust .397. He dropped off in his sophomore season, hitting just .313, and even more so in his junior year, hitting just .284.
Many of Marrero's hitting woes this spring can be attributed to a bad ankle that hampered him, but at short-season Lowell this summer, Marrero hit just .268 in 64 games.
Marrero can pick it at short, and he's got some speed. The problem is that the Red Sox already have a shortstop like that—his name is Jose Iglesias.
Unless Marrero can show he can rake with the bat, I'm always going to think the Red Sox paid $2 million for a Brendan Ryan lookalike.
Mike Montgomery: Kansas City Royals
For the past three seasons now, Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Mike Montgomery has been listed by Baseball America as one of the top 40 prospects in all of baseball.
The trouble is that Montgomery hasn't even come close to living up to that billing.
Montgomery rose to the Double-A level in 2010 and looked like he was on the fast track. But after being assigned to Triple-A Omaha in 2011, Montgomery struggled, posting a 5.32 ERA in 27 starts, walking 4.1 batters every nine innings.
The 2012 season brought even more struggles for Montgomery, who still ranked as the No. 23 prospect in all of baseball despite a discouraging 2011 campaign.
Montgomery struggled mightily once again, posting a 6.07 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A ball. He wasn't even considered by the Royals for a September call-up.
The Royals have done well in drafting and developing pitchers in recent years. But they may have struck out with Montgomery.
Dellin Betances: New York Yankees
Two years ago, the talk in New York was centered around the Yankees trio of pitchers dubbed the "Killer Bees"—Andrew Brackman, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
Brackman was granted free agency last year and signed by the Cincinnati Reds. Banuelos was shut down after making only six starts with an elbow injury, and the Yankees are hoping he can pitch in winter ball.
Betances has been just plain awful.
Entering the year as the No. 63 ranked prospect according to Baseball America, Betances walked just about anyone and everyone all season long. In 133.1 innings, Betances issued 99 walks, posting an ugly 6.44 ERA and 1.850 WHIP.
Betances was placed on the disabled list with shoulder soreness in late August.
Heck, if I walked that many batters, my shoulder would probably be a bit stiff as well.
Courtney Hawkins: Chicago White Sox
By all accounts, Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Courtney Hawkins seemed to get off to a pretty good start in his first professional season.
Hawkins, selected by the White Sox with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, hit a combined .284 at three different levels of the minors with eight homers and 33 RBI in 59 games.
But in looking at Hawkins' swing, I see big problems as he reaches higher levels. The power is certainly there, but the swing is long and loopy with a lot of swing-and-miss potential.
While White Sox development will no doubt work on those issues, what effect it will have on Hawkins going forward is a question mark.
Jaff Decker: San Diego Padres
Drafted in the supplemental round (42nd) by the San Diego Padres in the 2008 MLB Draft, Jaff Decker was considered undersized as an outfield prospect.
At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Decker originally set out to prove his detractors wrong, hitting for a 1.034 OPS in his first professional season.
However, the numbers have dropped dramatically ever since. In 2011, Decker hit just .236 in 133 games at the Double-A level with a .790 OPS and 145 strikeouts. The eye is there, as Decker drew 103 walks for a .373 OBP, but the struggles continued this season as well.
Decker hit just .201 this season with four homers in 56 games and was limited for much of the season with a foot injury, dropping off of the top-20 list in the ranking of Padres prospects.
Cesar Puello: New York Mets
I keep hearing about the potential of New York Mets outfield prospect Cesar Puello, but what I'm seeing is a guy who has absolutely zero plate discipline.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mets in 2008, Puello was slowed this season by injury. However, in 227 at-bats, Puello struck out 58 times against just seven walks.
Walking once every 32.4 at-bats isn't going to win you a quick ticket to the majors.
Lucas Giolito: Washington Nationals
This honestly had to be one of the more curious selections in the entire 2012 MLB Draft.
The Washington Nationals took a chance on young right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito out of Harvard-Westlake HS (CA). Giolito was shut down in March, missing his entire senior season after being diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Giolito opted for rehab instead of surgery, and the Nats selected him regardless of his condition, signing him for $2.925 million.
The Nationals were aware that Giolito might still need Tommy John surgery, and sure enough, Giolito went under the knife in late August.
I'm guessing the Nats figure the third time will be the charm, considering that two other prized prospects—Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg—also went through Tommy John surgery.
Still, almost $3 million on the premise that Giolito will follow the same path?
Not sure I'd take that gamble.
Kyle Skipworth: Miami Marlins
Four years ago, the Miami Marlins selected high school catching prospect Kyle Skipworth with the sixth overall selection in the MLB draft. At the time, the Marlins were enamored with Skipworth's pure power from behind the plate.
At 6'4" and 225 pounds, the Marlins thought they found a long-term answer as their catcher. The problem is that Skipworth has essentially been a long-term bust thus far.
In 444 games at the minor league level, Skipworth has hit just .219, including hitting .217 with 143 strikeouts in 116 games for Double-A Jacksonville this season. Notice in the video the number of swing-and-misses and foul pop-ups.
Skipworth's power certainly hasn't developed, and the plate discipline leads one to believe that the Marlins are looking at another John Buck. Certainly not a viable long-term backstop option at this point.
Marcus Stroman: Toronto Blue Jays
It's never a good sign when your first professional season in baseball is derailed by a 50-game ban for PED use.
That's exactly what happened to Marcus Stroman, taken by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Stroman had posted a 3.26 ERA in 15 games between lower Single-A and Double-A ball before the suspension, and he will now have to wait until at least May of next year to get back on the mound again.
Stroman could show some usefulness as a middle reliever, but it's clear that common sense and intelligence are not his strengths.
I'm sorry, but how do you not double-check an over-the-counter substance for any banned substances before ingesting it?
Donovan Tate: San Diego Padres
Generally, when you're selected with the third overall pick in the MLB Draft, you're expected to at least show some progression year after year.
For Donovan Tate, he appears to have not gotten that particular memo.
Selected by the San Diego Padres with the No. 3 pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, about the most that Tate has shown is an ability to strike out a lot while hitting for no power at all.
Tate also tested positive for a banned substance in 2011, earning a 25-game ban.
I don't know how much longer the Padres will continue sticking with Tate, but a .226 average, 116 strikeouts and just one home run in 371 at-bats isn't going to win him a lot of support in the Padres organization.
Carson Kelly: St. Louis Cardinals
There were some in the industry who thought that high school third base prospect Carson Kelly could possibly be a late first-round draft selection.
However, Kelly slipped all the way to the way to the second round at the 2012 MLB Draft, where he was snatched up by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kelly, considered a guy who could hit for average with the potential to develop some power, signed for $1.6 million, keeping him from committing to the University of Oregon.
I'm a big proponent of some athletes developing their skills at the college level rather than taking the money and going for broke. Kelly might just be one of those guys.
Kelly struggled with Johnson City in the rookie Appalachian League, hitting just .225 with only 10 walks in 213 at-bats. While the nine homers was a nice sign, struggling at the rookie-league level with plate discipline is not a good start to a professional career—nor is it a good sign.
Clint Coulter: Milwaukee Brewers
One has to like the bat of Milwaukee Brewers catching prospect Clint Coulter, selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
But no one can love the defense at this point.
In just 26 games behind the plate for the Brewers entry in the Arizona Rookie League, Coulter committed eight errors with 21 passed balls, throwing out only eight of 41 runners attempting to steal (16 percent).
At any level, that would be alarming, but in the lower levels against a competition with a lower skill set, it's particularly alarming.
A whole lot of work will need to be done for Coulter to even look the part of a catcher, considering those numbers.
Zack Eflin: San Diego Padres
With the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, the San Diego Padres selected Hagerty HS (Oviedo, FL) pitcher Zach Eflin. At this point, Eflin could best be described as a project.
Eflin posted a 7.71 ERA in four appearances, three of them starts, for the Padres entry in the Arizona Rookie League. Eflin's mechanics are described at best as shaky, and his summer was also interrupted by a bout with mononucleosis.
Eflin will be included on the Padres roster for the Fall Instructional League, so he'll have an opportunity to show some improvement over what has been seen thus far.
Nolan Fontana: Houston Astros
At 5'11" and 192 pounds, former University of Florida standout shortstop Nolan Fontana was thought to be a guy who could his use his speed, defense and contact-hitting abilities to excel at the major league level.
The defense was there for Fontana in his first taste of professional action, committing just six errors in 48 games. The bat, however, is a work in progress.
Fontana, taken in the second round by the Houston Astros, hit just .225 for the Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League. Fontana's terrific eye was evident, drawing 64 walks for a fabulous .464 on-base percentage. The Astros saw a bit of the speed as well, with 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
But a .225 average, regardless of how many walks you take, won't merit much consideration, and Fontana will have to show more than a keen eye and speed if he wants to ascend the ladder quickly.