Every MLB Team's Most Memorable 1-Year Wonder of the Last 20 Years
While we wait on the start of the 2020 season, let's turn our attention backward to the last 20 years of MLB history.
For some players, a breakout season can serve as a jumping-off point to an impressive career filled with All-Star appearances and accolades.
For others, it proves to be a fluke in an otherwise unspectacular career.
Ahead we've highlighted the most memorable one-year wonder of the past 20 years for each MLB franchise.
So let's dive into some fun reminiscing.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 2B Junior Spivey, 2002
2002 WAR: 3.9
Career WAR: 8.2
Junior Spivey was a 36th-round pick in the 1996 draft, and he was never a highly regarded prospect during his time in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.
In fact, he hit just .232/.326/.356 with 12 extra-base hits in 221 plate appearances in Triple-A during the 2001 season.
However, when veteran infielders Jay Bell and Matt Williams both began the 2002 campaign on the disabled list, it opened the door for him to break camp with the starting second-base job.
He seized the opportunity, playing his way onto the National League All-Star team with a .301/.389/.476 line that included 56 extra-base hits and 103 runs scored. Unfortunately, his success was short-lived.
Spivey spent just one more season in Arizona before the D-backs traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Richie Sexson blockbuster, and 2005 would be his last season at the MLB level.
Atlanta Braves: SP/RP Jorge Sosa, 2005
2005 WAR: 3.5
Career WAR: 2.6
Stats: 44 G, 20 GS, 13-3, 2.55 ERA (166 ERA+), 1.39 WHIP, 85 K, 134 IP
During his first three seasons in the majors, Jorge Sosa posted a 5.17 ERA in 327.1 innings in a swingman role for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Prior to the start of the 2005 season, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. He finished 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 134 innings spanning 20 starts and 24 relief appearances.
Among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched that season, his 166 ERA+ ranked fifth behind only Roger Clemens (226), Roy Halladay (185), Andy Pettitte (177) and Rich Harden (173).
The following season his ERA sky-rocketed to 5.46 in 87.1 innings, and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the July 31 deadline in exchange for minor league reliever Rich Scalamandre.
Interestingly, Sosa had an identical 5.17 ERA in 311.1 innings in the five seasons following his breakout performance before his MLB career came to an end at the age of 32.
Baltimore Orioles: CF Luis Matos, 2003
2003 WAR: Stats: 4.0
Career WAR: 4.7
Luis Matos saw 120 games' worth of scattered action during his first three seasons in the majors before taking over as the Baltimore Orioles' starting center fielder during the first half of the 2003 season.
The then-24-year-old finished with a .303/.353/.458 line for a 113 OPS+ while tallying 39 extra-base hits and 15 steals in 109 games.
Aside from that strong offensive production, Matos was also a standout defender, tallying 10 DRS and a 6.0 UZR/150.
With that, he looked like the long-term answer in center field for the O's, but he crashed back to earth with a 59 OPS+ and minus-1.2 WAR the following season.
He rebounded a bit with a 1.7 WAR campaign in 2005, but that would be his final productive season in the majors.
Boston Red Sox: C Sandy Leon, 2016
2016 WAR: 2.9
Career WAR: 2.5
After three seasons with the Washington Nationals and a forgettable 41-game stint in his first year with the Boston Red Sox, catcher Sandy Leon was viewed as little more than organizational depth heading into the 2016 season.
He began the year in the minors, but when Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart both landed on the disabled list, he was thrust into action.
Leon ended up appearing in 78 games during his age-27 campaign, hitting .310/.369/.476 with 26 extra-base hits in 283 plate appearances while also throwing out 41 percent of base stealers.
In the three years since, he's hit just .199/.259/.312 for a 51 OPS+ and nabbed just 28 percent of stolen-base attempts en route to minus-0.4 WAR.
Chicago Cubs: 1B Bryan LaHair, 2012
2012 WAR: 0.1
Career WAR: -0.2
In the window following the departure of Derrek Lee and prior to the arrival of Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs had another All-Star first baseman.
His name: Bryan LaHair.
The 29-year-old spent the first half of the 2012 season keeping the position warm for Rizzo, and he hit .286/.364/.519 with 12 doubles and 14 home runs to earn a surprise NL All-Star nod alongside teammate Starlin Castro.
Did a 101-loss Cubs team deserve two All-Stars? Probably not.
Nevertheless, it was a solid first half for a minor league journeyman who began the season with 219 forgettable plate appearances at the MLB level under his belt.
LaHair ceded the job to Rizzo in the second half and went on to hit just .202 with two home runs after the All-Star break before he was released in November.
He spent the 2014 season in the Cleveland Indians minor league system in what was his final year of affiliated ball.
Chicago White Sox: SP Philip Humber, 2011
2011 WAR: 3.4
Career WAR: 1.0
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft by the New York Mets, Philip Humber was one of four prospects traded to the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2008 season in the Johan Santana blockbuster.
However, it was not until he joined the Chicago White Sox for his age-28 season that things finally clicked at the MLB level.
With a 5.26 ERA in 51.1 innings spanning five seasons, little was expected of him when he was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics, but he wound up being the second-best starter on a staff that also included Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson and Jake Peavy.
In 163 innings, Humber posted a 3.75 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with a strong 3.58 FIP backing his surface-level numbers.
Alas, his ERA spiked to 6.44 the following year, and he spent just two more seasons in the majors, though he did throw a perfect game in his second start of 2012.
Closer Shingo Takatsu also deserves a mention. He converted 19 of 20 saves with a 2.31 ERA as a 35-year-old rookie in 2004, spent one more forgettable season in the majors where he posted a 5.20 ERA in 40 appearances, and then returned to Japan.
Cincinnati Reds: C Devin Mesoraco, 2014
2014 WAR: 4.9
Career WAR: 4.6
The No. 15 pick in the 2007 draft, Devin Mesoraco was a top prospect throughout his time in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, peaking at No. 16 on the Baseball America Top 100 list prior to the 2012 season.
When the Reds traded fellow catching prospect Yasmani Grandal to the San Diego Padres, it became clear they viewed Mesoraco as the backstop of the future, and he rewarded their faith with a huge 2014 season.
The 26-year-old hit .273/.359/.534 for a 147 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 80 RBI to earn an NL All-Star nod and receive some down-ballot MVP attention.
That offseason, he signed a four-year, $28 million extension, but left hip surgery in 2015 and left shoulder surgery in 2016 limited him to 39 games, and he was never the same.
All told, he hit just .206 with a 77 OPS+ and 17 home runs in 545 plate appearances over the life of that four-year contract, and he is now retired.
Cleveland Indians: SP T.J. House, 2014
2014 WAR: 2.2
Career WAR: 1.4
Left-hander T.J. House debuted with a bang in 2014, six years after he was selected in the 16th round of the 2008 draft.
The 24-year-old went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA and a solid 80-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 102 innings, joining Trevor Bauer (23) and Danny Salazar (24) as Cleveland Indians starters on the rise.
Shoulder injuries limited him to just 37 innings the following season between the majors and the minors, and he was never able to regain his rookie form.
He allowed 30 hits and 21 earned runs in 17.2 innings in the three subsequent seasons, and he has not appeared in an MLB game since 2017. That said, he was still pitching in independent ball last year.
Colorado Rockies: SP Joe Kennedy, 2004
2004 WAR: 5.6
Career WAR: 7.4
After three forgettable seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, including a minus-1.6 WAR campaign in 2003, Joe Kennedy was traded to the Colorado Rockies in a three-team, four-player trade.
The left-hander posted a 3.66 ERA for a 135 ERA+ in 162.1 innings in his first season with the Rockies, and his 5.6 WAR ranked sixth among NL pitchers.
The following year he was traded again to the Oakland Athletics in a four-player traded that brought outfielder Eric Byrnes to Colorado.
Tragically, Kennedy died of hypertensive heart disease during the 2007-08 offseason. He was just 28 years old.
His enduring legacy on the baseball field will be an excellent 2004 season in which he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Detroit Tigers: RP Joel Zumaya, 2006
2006 WAR: 3.2
Career WAR: 4.2
Flame-thrower Joel Zumaya was a stud out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers on their way to a World Series appearance in 2006.
The 21-year-old racked up 97 strikeouts in 83.1 innings while tallying 30 holds and posting a 1.94 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 62 appearances.
He averaged 98.6 mph with his fastball and regularly dialed it up to triple digits, and all signs pointed to him being a standout closer in the years to come.
Instead, a series of injuries derailed his career, and he ended up making just 109 more appearances in the majors over the next four years, posting a far more pedestrian 3.78 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 1.0 WAR.
Houston Astros: SP Lucas Harrell, 2012
2012 WAR: 3.2
Career WAR: 1.3
Lucas Harrell was one of the few bright spots on a 107-loss Houston Astros team in 2012.
The 27-year-old had shown flashes the previous year after he was claimed off waivers from the White Sox, posting a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings of work.
Slotted in the starting rotation to start the 2012 season, he ended up going 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 193.2 innings. His 3.75 FIP seemed to point to a reasonable level of sustainability.
However, his ERA climbed to 5.86 the following year as he led the AL in losses (17) and walks (88) en route to an ugly minus-1.2 WAR.
He briefly returned to relevance with the Atlanta Braves in 2016, posting a 3.38 ERA in five starts before he was traded to the Texas Rangers, but that too proved fleeting.
Catcher Mitch Meluskey also received serious consideration. He hit .300/.401/.487 with 21 doubles and 14 home runs to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000, but he played just 20 more games in the majors before injuries cut his career short.
Kansas City Royals: SS Angel Berroa, 2003
2003 WAR: 3.4
Career WAR: 1.0
Here's what I wrote back in November while naming Angel Berroa the biggest Rookie of the Year bust in MLB history:
"The 2003 AL Rookie of the Year field included the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in baseball at the start of the season, per Baseball America, in Mark Teixeira and Rocco Baldelli as well as supremely hyped Japanese import Hideki Matsui.
To say it was a surprise that Angel Berroa won the honor would be putting it mildly, as he was not even on the preseason top 100 list.
The 25-year-old Berroa hit .287/.338/.451 for a 101 OPS+ while showing some nice pop with 28 doubles, seven triples and 17 home runs. He also added value with his speed, swiping 21 bases in 26 tries.
He remained the Royals' starting shortstop for the next three seasons, but his offensive production dipped considerably to a .257/.293/.366 line and 72 OPS+ average. He played three more seasons in MLB before his big league career wrapped at the age of 31."
The one-year wonder tag applies as well, and he was an easy choice for the Royals.
Los Angeles Angels: CF Peter Bourjos, 2011
2011 WAR: 4.9
Career WAR: 9.6
Before Mike Trout came along, it was Peter Bourjos who looked like the next big thing in the Los Angeles Angels outfield.
The 24-year-old hit .271/.327/.438 with 26 doubles, 11 triples, 12 home runs and 22 steals during the 2011 season, and he backed that with Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field (10 DRS, 7.6 UZR/150).
However, his offense fell off dramatically the following season, and he quickly moved into a defensive replacement role.
He finished the 2012 season with a 72 OPS+ while tallying just 195 plate appearances in 101 games, and after an injury-shortened 2013, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-player deal that also involved Randal Grichuk and David Freese.
Bourjos has managed to carve out a 10-year career thanks to his defensive prowess, but he's never come close to matching his 2011 numbers.
Los Angeles Dodgers: IF Luis Cruz, 2012
2012 WAR: 2.3
Career WAR: 1.4
Luis Cruz was a 28-year-old journeyman who had spent time with five other organizations before he made his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With Juan Uribe sidelined and Dee Gordon underperforming, Cruz eventually played his way into a semi-regular role in 2012.
He finished the season with a .297/.322/.431 line, good for a 106 OPS+, while tallying 20 doubles and six home runs in 296 plate appearances.
Those offensive numbers proved unsustainable, and he hit an awful .127/.169/.344 in 128 plate appearances the following season before he was released. He caught on with the New York Yankees, but the 2013 season was his last in the majors.
Miami Marlins: SP Henderson Alvarez, 2014
2014 WAR: 4.7
Career WAR: 7.9
Henderson Alvarez joined the Miami Marlins in the 12-player deal that sent Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays.
After reaching the majors at the age of 21 and flashing some potential over 31 starts with the Blue Jays in 2012, Alvarez posted a 3.59 ERA in 102.2 innings and tossed a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season in his first year with the Marlins.
That proved to be a springboard into a Cy Young-caliber season.
At the age of 24, he went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 187 innings, tying for the MLB lead with three shutouts.
That was enough to earn him an NL All-Star nod and a 12th-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.
Unfortunately, shoulder issues took a toll from there, and he was only able to make seven more starts in the majors.
Milwaukee Brewers: RP Jim Henderson, 2013
2013 WAR: 1.3
Career WAR: 1.2
The Milwaukee Brewers have had no shortage of bullpen stars who burned out quickly in recent years, including Derrick Turnbow, Dan Kolb and Tyler Thornburg.
However, there was no bigger one-year wonder than Jim Henderson.
A late bloomer who did not make his MLB debut until his age-29 season in 2012, Henderson took over as the team's closer the following year. He then converted 28 of 32 save chances with a 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 11.3 K/9 in 61 appearances.
Shoulder inflammation cut short his encore performance after just 14 appearances and an ugly 7.15 ERA, and he spent the following year recovering.
He spent one more season in the majors after that, posting a 4.11 ERA in 44 appearances with the New York Mets in 2016 before riding off into the sunset.
Minnesota Twins: SP Joe Mays, 2001
2001 WAR: 6.6
Career WAR: 9.2
Let's take a look at the 2001 WAR leaders among pitchers:
1. Randy Johnson (10.1)
2. Curt Schilling (8.8)
3. Mike Mussina (7.1)
4. Joe Mays (6.6)
5. Mark Buehrle (6.0)
One of these things is not like the others.
Joe Mays posted a 4.94 ERA while averaging 166 innings and recording a combined 5.4 WAR during his first two seasons in the majors, so his 2001 season did not exactly come out of nowhere.
Still, it stands as a clear outlier in an otherwise pedestrian career.
He finished the season 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 233.2 innings, tossing four complete games and two shutouts along the way while leading the AL in ERA+ (143).
How steep was the fall?
In 432 innings the remainder of his career, he had a 6.15 ERA and minus-2.8 WAR.
New York Mets: RP Jenrry Mejia, 2014
2014 WAR: 0.2
Career WAR: 1.1
Jenrry Mejia appears on this list as a result of his own poor decisions.
A top prospect in the New York Mets system, he finally broke through in 2014 when he won the No. 5 starter job out of spring training but quickly moved into the closer's role.
He wound up converting 28 of 31 saves with a 3.65 ERA and 9.4 K/9 in 63 appearances. At the age of 24, he appeared to have a bright future ahead of him.
Instead, a trio of positive PED tests in the years that followed led to his permanent suspension from MLB.
New York Yankees: SP/RP Aaron Small, 2005
2005 WAR: 2.7
Career WAR: 1.6
Aaron Small was 33 years old when he joined the New York Yankees as organizational depth prior to the 2005 season.
He had a 4.83 ERA in 54 innings between Double-A and Triple-A when he was called up to the MLB roster July 20 for a spot start. He allowed five hits and three earned runs in 5.1 innings to earn the victory in his Yankees debut, and he earned himself a permanent spot on the roster in the process.
Splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen, he went on to make nine starts and six relief appearances, and he never lost. He finished the season 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 76 innings.
Credit a combination of being in the right place at the right time and some genuinely good pitching, which included a five-hit shutout of the Oakland Athletics.
It was a brief moment in the sun for a pitcher who had a 5.49 ERA in 218 innings prior and an 8.46 ERA in 27.2 innings in the lone MLB campaign that followed.
Oakland Athletics: 1B Daric Barton, 2010
2010 WAR: 5.5
Career WAR: 8.9
Tempting as it was to go with 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby here, he actually had a higher WAR in his second season (2.6 to 2.8), so including him felt like cheating.
Instead, on-base machine Daric Barton gets the nod.
Despite hitting just 10 home runs during the 2010 season at a position where power production generally drives value, his 5.5 WAR trailed only Albert Pujols (7.5), Joey Votto (7.0), Miguel Cabrera (6.5) and Aubrey Huff (5.7) among all first basemen.
It was an AL-leading 110 walks and a stellar .393 on-base percentage that drove his value. He was also a standout defender (19 DRS, 14.0 UZR/140), which also tends to be undervalued in a first baseman.
He hit just .212/.325/.267 in 280 plate appearances the following season and spent some time in Triple-A, and he was never able to regain an everyday role.
Philadelphia Phillies: LF Domonic Brown, 2013
2013 WAR: 3.2
Career WAR: 0.7
Viewed as a future star during his time in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, Domonic Brown began the 2011 season in the No. 4 spot on the Baseball America Top 100 prospect list.
Injuries delayed his arrival in the majors, but he eventually broke through with an All-Star season in 2013.
The 25-year-old hit .272/.324/.494 with 27 home runs and 83 RBI, serving as one of the few bright spots on an 89-loss Phillies team.
However, while those numbers look good on the surface, his production dropped off drastically after the All-Star break:
- First half: 384 PA, .856 OPS, 23 HR, 67 RBI
- Second half: 156 PA, .723 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI
A concussion was partially to blame for the dip in his numbers, but he failed to return to form the following year when he hit .235/.285/.349 with 10 home runs in 512 plate appearances.
Another concussion in 2015 effectively ended his MLB career, though he was still playing in the Mexican League in 2019.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RP Evan Meek, 2010
2010 WAR: 2.4
Career WAR: 1.7
Evan Meek was the Pittsburgh Pirates' lone All-Star representative during the 2010 season.
The 27-year-old was in his third MLB season, and he was coming off a solid 2009 campaign where he posted a 3.45 ERA in 41 appearances. However, he took his game to another level with a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 70 strikeouts in 80 innings, recording four saves and 15 holds in 70 appearances.
He spent most of the next two years in the minors before resurfacing with the Orioles in 2014, where he posted a 5.79 ERA in 23 appearances in his final MLB season.
San Diego Padres: 2B Josh Barfield, 2006
2006 WAR: 3.1
Career WAR: 2.6
The son of former All-Star slugger Jesse Barfield, second baseman Josh Barfield made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres in 2006.
The 23-year-old hit .280/.318/.423 with 32 doubles, 13 home runs, 58 RBI and 72 runs scored while also stealing 21 bases in 26 chances for a Padres team that won the NL West.
After signing Marcus Giles in free agency, the Padres decided to sell high on Barfield, sending him to the Cleveland Indians for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and reliever Andrew Brown.
That proved to be the right decision, with Kouzmanoff emerging as the everyday third baseman while Barfield struggled to a minus-0.1 WAR as the Indians' everyday second baseman in 2007.
Barfield played just 29 more games in the majors over the next two years before his MLB career came to an end.
San Francisco Giants: CF Andres Torres, 2010
2010 WAR: 5.3
Career WAR: 7.8
With a strong spring, Andres Torres won a spot on the San Francisco Giants roster to begin the 2010 season.
Despite his age (32), he had played in just 164 games in the majors prior to that year, hitting .232/.290/.372 and tallying 0.2 WAR.
Suffice to say, expectations were low.
He ended up playing his way into being the team's primary center fielder and leadoff hitter, posting a .268/.343/.479 line for a 122 OPS+ with 43 doubles, 15 home runs and 26 steals. He was also an above-average defender in center field (2 DRS, 11.8 UZR/150) in one of the more cavernous outfields in baseball.
His 5.3 WAR was good for second on a Giants team that won 92 games and made an unlikely march through the postseason to a World Series title.
His production plummeted the following season, but he still proved useful to the Giants, as he was traded to the New York Mets for Angel Pagan prior to the 2012 season.
Seattle Mariners: RP Carson Smith, 2015
2015 WAR: 2.4
Career WAR: 3.3
Few young relievers in recent memory have looked more like a future All-Star closer than Carson Smith in 2015.
Pitching primarily in a setup role ahead of veteran Fernando Rodney, he posted a 2.31 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.8 K/9 with 13 saves and 22 holds in 70 appearances as a rookie.
The Mariners decided to sell high on the heels of that performance and flipped him (and Roenis Elias) to the Boston Red Sox for left-hander Wade Miley.
Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery limited him to 11 appearances in his first two seasons with the Red Sox, and shoulder issues kept him sidelined for the entire 2019 season.
Still just 30 years old, Smith has a chance to resurrect his career in the years to come, but for now he's a clear one-year wonder.
St. Louis Cardinals: LF Jeremy Hazelbaker, 2016
2016 WAR: 0.2
Career WAR: 1.1
In his first 19 games in the majors, Jeremy Hazelbaker took the baseball world by storm.
The 28-year-old rookie posted a 1.064 OPS with three doubles, two triples, five home runs and 13 RBI before crashing back to earth. Indeed, he was more of a one-month wonder than a one-year wonder, but he qualifies for this conversation nonetheless.
He went on to hit just .209/.282/.392 with seven home runs in 166 plate appearances the rest of the way, and he was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the offseason.
After 41 games with the D-backs, his MLB career effectively came to an end.
Tampa Bay Rays: SP Bryan Rekar, 2000
2000 WAR: 3.1
Career WAR: 1.9
Over his first five seasons in the majors with the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays, right-hander Bryan Rekar posted a 5.93 ERA and 85 ERA+ with 0.1 WAR.
Despite that middling production, he found his way into the Rays' starting rotation in 2000.
He finished second on the team in innings pitched (173.1) while posting a 4.41 ERA and 112 ERA+, serving as one of the few positives on a 92-loss team.
That ERA jumped back up to 5.89 over 140.2 innings the following season, and 2002 was his last year in the majors.
Texas Rangers: SP Ryan Drese, 2004
2004 WAR: 4.9
Career WAR: 3.5
Ryan Drese was traded to the Texas Rangers in the deal that brought slugger Travis Hafner to the Indians after posting a 6.55 ERA over 26 starts in 2002.
He posted a similarly unsightly 6.85 ERA in 46 innings in his first season in Texas before emerging as a key member of the starting rotation.
In 2004, he went 14-10 with a 4.20 ERA and 119 ERA+ while leading the team in WAR and finishing second in innings pitched (207.2).
However, when he struggled to a 6.46 ERA in 12 starts to kick off the 2005 season, he was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Washington Nationals.
He pitched just 68.1 innings with the Nationals and posted a 5.00 ERA before calling it a career.
Toronto Blue Jays: SP Gustavo Chacin, 2005
2005 WAR: 3.2
Career WAR: 4.0
Left-hander Gustavo Chacin had an excellent rookie season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 24-year-old posted a 3.72 ERA with 18 quality starts in 34 games, pitching 203 innings and finishing fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
That was followed by a 5.05 ERA in 17 starts the following season, and he spent the bulk of the 2007 season in the minors.
All told, he finished with a 5.06 ERA in 22 starts and 44 relief appearances over the remainder of his career, and his age-29 season in 2010 was his last in the majors.
Washington Nationals: SP John Patterson, 2005
2005 WAR: 4.8
Career WAR: 5.5
The No. 5 overall pick in the 1996 draft, John Patterson always had tremendous potential, but he struggled to find success at the MLB level early in his career.
Over his first three seasons, he posted a 5.04 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 184 innings. Entering his age-27 season, it was fair to question whether he would ever live up to his top prospect billing.
Then came a breakout 2005 season.
While he went just 9-7 over 31 starts, he ranked among the NL leaders in ERA (3.13, ninth), strikeouts (185, 10th) and ERA+ (130, 10th) while holding opposing hitters to a .233 batting average.
Unfortunately, a forearm injury kept him from building off that stellar performance, and he ended up pitching just 72 innings with a 5.75 ERA over the next two seasons before his MLB career was over.