Every MLB Team's Former Can't-Miss Prospect Who Missed
It's always risky to slap the "can't miss" label on a rising prospect.
For every Mike Trout or Stephen Strasburg who lives up to the lofty hype that comes with being one of baseball's top prospects, there's someone who fails to deliver.
Ahead we've selected one "can't miss" prospect for each MLB team from the last 20 years who did in fact miss, whether it was a result of injuries or simply an inability to make the jump to the MLB level.
Included is a look at each player's highest position on the annual Baseball America top-100 prospect list, their career WAR total and a quick rundown on their career as well as a few others who were considered.
Let's get to it.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Braden Shipley
Prospect peak: No. 26 in 2015
Career WAR: 0.0
A two-way standout in high school who began his college career as a shortstop, Braden Shipley went No. 15 overall in the 2013 draft on the strength of his elite athleticism and intriguing upside.
He reached Double-A in his first full professional season, posting a 3.86 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 126 innings to join Archie Bradley atop the organizational prospect rankings.
However, he has since struggled to miss bats in the upper levels of the minors, logging a 5.16 ERA and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 394 innings at Triple-A.
Still just 28 years old, he signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals during the offseason, after being outrighted off the 40-man roster prior to last season.
Also considered: SS Sergio Santos
Atlanta Braves: 3B Wilson Betemit
Prospect peak: No. 8 in 2002
Career WAR: 2.8
Wilson Betemit spent four seasons in the lower levels of the minors before finally reaching full-season ball in 2011. The Dominican-born shortstop quickly proved worth the wait.
He hit .305/.349/.449 with 34 doubles and 12 home runs in 545 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A before making his MLB debut in September 2001. However, since he was blocked by Rafael Furcal at shortstop in Atlanta, he didn't return to the majors until 2004.
Betemit ended up hitting a respectable .281/.341/.432 for a 99 OPS+ in 233 games with the Braves before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Danys Baez, Willy Aybar and cash.
That began a journeyman career that sent him to seven different teams over the course of his 11-year MLB career.
Also considered: C Christian Bethancourt, RHP Randall Delgado, 3B Andy Marte
Baltimore Orioles: LHP Brian Matusz
Prospect peak: No. 5 in 2010
Career WAR: 2.2
Only Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton and Jesus Montero ranked higher on the 2010 Baseball America top-100 prospect list than Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft made his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League and turned in a brilliant 2009 campaign. He went 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 121 strikeouts in 113 innings between High-A and Double-A before posting a respectable 4.63 ERA over eight starts in the majors.
The following season, he went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 175.2 innings to finish fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting, but that would prove to be his peak.
After bouncing between Triple-A and the majors the next two years, he was moved to the bullpen, where he became a solid contributor. He posted a 3.32 ERA and 9.4 K/9 with 34 holds in 189 appearances from 2013-15 before falling off.
Still just 33, he spent part of 2019 pitching in the Mexican League and an independent league.
Also considered: LHP Adam Loewen, LHP Matt Riley
Boston Red Sox: C Blake Swihart
Prospect peak: No. 17 in 2015
Career WAR: -0.3
Back in 2015, I penned a series called "B/R's MLB 20 for '20" in which I attempted to predict the top 20 players at each position for the 2020 season.
Blake Swihart was No. 2 on my catcher list.
Following a 2014 season spent in the upper levels of the minors, where he hit .293/.341/.469 with 26 doubles and 13 home runs while throwing out 46 percent of base stealers, he appeared destined for stardom.
Instead, he found himself fighting with the likes of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon for playing time behind the plate in Boston. He was eventually moved into more of a utility role, but was never able to break through as an everyday player.
The Red Sox finally traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfield prospect Marcus Wilson last April. Swihart hit .163 with a 35 OPS+ in 99 plate appearances last year while being used primarily as a corner outfielder.
Also considered: 1B Lars Anderson, LHP Henry Owens
Chicago Cubs: OF Felix Pie
Prospect peak: No. 27 in 2006
Career WAR: -1.6
Speedy center fielder Felix Pie looked like a potential cornerstone piece for the Chicago Cubs while he was rising the minor league ranks.
After hitting .283/.341/.451 with 33 doubles, 15 home runs and 17 steals at Triple-A in 2006, he made his MLB debut shortly after the start of the 2007 season and was the team's Opening Day center fielder in 2008.
While he was given every chance to seize the starting center field job, he wound up hitting just .223/.284/.331 with a 25.1 percent strikeout rate in 130 games before he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 24 prior to the 2009 season.
That deal brought back lefty swingman Garrett Olson, who was subsequently traded to the Seattle Mariners along with shortstop Ronny Cedeno in exchange for reliever Aaron Heilman. With that, the Pie era was over.
Also considered: 1B Hee-Seop Choi, RHP Angel Guzman, OF Brett Jackson, 3B Josh Vitters
Chicago White Sox: 2B/3B Gordon Beckham
Prospect peak: No. 20 in 2009
Career WAR: 5.4
To his credit, Gordon Beckham has carved out an 11-year MLB career and he was still active in 2019.
However, far more was expected of him after he went No. 8 overall in the 2008 draft following a junior season at the University of Georgia when he hit .411/.519/.804 with 28 home runs and 77 RBI in 71 games.
After just 59 games in the minors and an impressive 18-game stint in the Arizona Fall League, he made his MLB debut on June 4, 2009. It didn't take long for the hype train to leave the station.
In just 103 games, he hit .270/.347/.460 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 63 RBI while serving as the Chicago White Sox's everyday third baseman. That was good for a 2.1 WAR season and a fifth-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
However, he moved to second base the following season, and his offensive production tanked. All told, he's hit just .233 with a 77 OPS+ and 3.4 WAR in 966 games since that impressive debut. In February, he signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.
Also considered: OF Joe Borchard, OF Courtney Hawkins, OF Jeremy Reed
Cincinnati Reds: OF Wily Mo Pena
Prospect peak: No. 65 in 2002
Career WAR: -1.2
Wily Mo Pena never cracked the top 50 on a Baseball America top-100 list, but his tremendous power potential made him one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory.
"I've been fortunate in my career to see a lot of the top players," Gordon Blakeley, the scout who signed Pena, told Jeff Passan in 2011. "I saw Ken Griffey Jr. in high school. I saw Alex Rodriguez in high school. I saw Manny Ramirez. None of those guys had Wily Mo's power. None of them."
Unfortunately, he proved to be a one-tool player.
While he slugged a career-high 26 home runs in 2004 and hit 84 during his MLB career at a rate of roughly one every 20 at-bats, he did little else.
The 260-pounder hit .259 with a 30.3 percent strikeout rate, clogged up the bases when he did manage to get a hit that stayed in the ballpark, and was a disastrous defender in the outfield (-34 DRS).
Still, the legend of Wily Mo lives on.
Also considered: OF Chris Gruler, RHP Ryan Wagner
Cleveland Indians: RHP Adam Miller
Prospect peak: No. 16 in 2005
Career WAR: N/A
A dominant 2004 season sent Adam Miller soaring up the top prospect lists.
After a forgettable pro debut following his selection at No. 31 overall in the 2003 draft, Miller went 10-6 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 152 strikeouts in 134.1 innings between Single-A and High-A.
With that, only Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir and Matt Cain (Nos. 2, 7 and 13) ranked higher among pitching prospects on the 2005 Baseball America top-100 prospect list.
While his 2005 season ended up getting cut short by elbow issues, he returned strong the following year to go 15-6 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 161 strikeouts in 158.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
That left him knocking on the door for an MLB promotion, but injuries derailed his ascent once again in 2007 and he ultimately never ended up reaching the majors.
Also considered: 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, LHP Jeremy Sowers
Colorado Rockies: 3B Ian Stewart
Prospect peak: No. 4 in 2005
Career WAR: 3.3
At the age of 19, and in his first full professional season after going No. 10 overall in the 2003 draft, Ian Stewart hit .319/.398/.594 with 31 doubles, 30 home runs and 101 RBI while also swiping 19 bases.
Following that monster performance, only Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Delmon Young ranked higher on the 2005 Baseball America top-100 prospect list, and it looked like only a matter of time before Stewart overtook incumbent Garrett Atkins for the third base job in Colorado.
He received his first extended MLB action in 2009, hitting .228/.322/.464 with 25 home runs and 70 RBI. Both of those totals wound up being career highs.
After one more season as the team's primary third baseman, he spent much of 2011 injured and playing in the minors. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin during the offseason.
That change of scenery didn't prove beneficial, and he ended up playing just 79 more games at the MLB level.
Also considered: RHP Eddie Butler, LHP Tyler Matzek, RHP Chin-Hui Tsao
Detroit Tigers: RHP Jacob Turner
Prospect peak: No. 21 in 2011
Career WAR: -2.5
Right-hander Jacob Turner was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 draft, and he seemed to check all the boxes to be a future MLB rotation staple.
The Detroit Tigers sent him straight to Single-A to begin his pro career despite being drafted out of high school, and he more than held his own with a 3.28 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 115.1 innings.
That put him on the fast track, and he made his MLB debut in 2011 at the age of 20.
Despite struggling to an 8.53 ERA in three starts in his debut and an 8.03 ERA in three more starts the following season, he was still highly regarded when the Tigers traded him at the 2012 deadline in the deal that brought Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit.
Multiple teams took a chance on him in the years to come, hoping to unlock his potential, but he only managed a 5.37 ERA in 369 MLB innings. Still just 28, he spent last season pitching in South Korea.
Also considered: C/IF Eric Munson, LHP Kyle Sleeth
Houston Astros: 1B Jonathan Singleton
Prospect peak: No. 27 in 2013
Career WAR: -0.9
Back before guys like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Scott Kingery and Evan White signed early extensions, Houston Astros slugger Jon Singleton was the first player ever to sign an extension before making his MLB debut.
That will forever serve as a cautionary tale.
Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade, Singleton was hitting .267/.397/.544 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 54 games at Triple-A when the Houston Astros inked him to a five-year, $10 million extension and called him up to the big leagues.
He hit just .168 in 362 plate appearances with 13 home runs and a 37 percent strikeout rate while serving as the team's starting first baseman.
After beginning the following season in the minors, he appeared in just 19 games at the MLB level, hitting .191 with 17 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances. That would be his final action in Houston.
He was slapped with a 100-game suspension in 2018 for his third failed drug test, and the Astros released him later that year. The 28-year-old is a free agent.
Also considered: RHP Mark Appel, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Francis Martes
Kansas City Royals: RHP Luke Hochevar
Prospect peak: No. 32 in 2007
Career WAR: 3.8
Luke Hochevar's path to the Kansas City Royals was an interesting one.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 40 overall in the 2005 draft, Hochevar initially agreed to a $2.98 million signing bonus, but the University of Tennessee hurler backed out of the deal and eventually went unsigned.
He made four starts for Fort Worth in an independent league early in the 2006 season, posting a 2.38 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, and the Kansas City Royals saw enough to take him No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft.
Hochevar made his MLB debut the following year and became a regular in the K.C. rotation in 2008. He was given ample opportunities to establish himself in the rotation but struggled to a 5.39 ERA in 128 starts before he finally found success as a reliever in 2013.
He had a 1.92 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 in 58 appearances in his first season in the bullpen, only to miss the following year because of Tommy John surgery. He returned for two more solid seasons in middle relief before calling it a career.
Also considered: SS Christian Colon, LHP John Lamb, OF Chris Lubanski
Los Angeles Angels: SS Brandon Wood
Prospect peak: No. 3 in 2006
Career WAR: -3.8
After a forgettable first two seasons following his selection at No. 23 overall in the 2003 draft, Brandon Wood broke out in a big way in 2005.
The Angels sent him to High-A to begin the year despite middling numbers the previous season, and he exploded for a .321/.383/.672 line that included 53 doubles, 43 home runs and 116 RBI.
While he continued to show good pop in the minors in 2006 (.907 OPS, 43 2B, 25 HR) and 2007 (.835 OPS, 27 2B, 23 HR), he struggled mightily when given the opportunity in the majors.
He hit .168/.197/.259 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 494 plate appearances over parts of five seasons with the Angels, striking out at a 31 percent clip while drawing just 13 walks.
The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed him off waivers early in 2011, and he hit .220/.277/.347 with seven home runs and 31 RBI in 257 plate appearances. That was his final MLB action.
Also considered: 1B Casey Kotchman, 3B Dallas McPherson
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Greg Miller
Prospect peak: No. 8 in 2004
Career WAR: N/A
The Los Angeles Dodgers selected left-hander Greg Miller with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2002 draft.
That immediately looked like a steal when he turned in a strong debut season before the 18-year-old went 12-5 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in 142.1 innings between High-A and Double-A in his first full season.
Alas, shoulder surgery kept him on the sidelines the following season, and he was never the same.
He returned as a reliever in 2005 and racked up 41 strikeouts in 34.2 innings, but his command was gone (6.8 walks per nine innings). Those control problems would continue to plague him for the rest of his career, which topped out at the Triple-A level.
Also considered: RHP Yadier Alvarez, OF Chin-Feng Chen, RHP Jose De Leon, SS Joel Guzman, 3B Andy LaRoche, RHP Zach Lee
Miami Marlins: OF Jeremy Hermida
Prospect peak: No. 4 in 2006
Career WAR: 2.7
Jeremy Hermida hit .293/.457/.518 with 18 home runs and more walks (111) than strikeouts (89) at Double-A in 2005. He hit a grand slam in his first MLB at-bat and went 12-for-41 with four home runs that year.
Suffice to say, expectations were high heading into subsequent season.
The 22-year-old won the starting right field job out of camp but played in just six games before he was sidelined with a hip flexor injury, and he missed time again later in the year with a right ankle stress fracture. All told, he played in just 99 games as a rookie, posting an 84 OPS+ and minus-0.6 WAR.
He seemed to turn a corner the following season when he batted .296/.369/.501 with 32 doubles and 18 home runs in a 2.4 WAR season, but he was unable to build off that modest success in the years to come.
Also considered: 3B Matt Dominguez, RHP Tyler Kolek, 1B/OF Jason Stokes
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Nick Neugebauer
Prospect peak: No. 17 in 2002
Career WAR: 0.0
Nick Neugebauer was the definition of effectively wild during his first two seasons in the minors:
- 1999: 3.90 ERA, 80 BB, 125 K, 80.2 IP
- 2000: 4.01 ERA, 134 BB, 174 K, 128 IP
When he refined his command enough to trim his walk rate to 4.2 BB/9 during the 2001 season while continuing to show electric swing-and-miss stuff with 175 strikeouts in 130.2 innings, his stock soared.
However, the control problems resurfaced in the majors, and he posted a 4.99 ERA with 50 walks and 58 strikeouts in 61.1 innings with the Milwaukee Brewers.
After undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 2003, he briefly returned to action the following year before retiring at the age of 23.
With that, he finished his minor league career with 287 walks (7.2 BB/9) and 492 strikeouts (12.3 K/9) in 359.2 innings.
Also considered: RHP Taylor Jungmann, OF Tyrone Taylor
Minnesota Twins: RHP Adam Johnson
Prospect peak: No. 41 in 2001
Career WAR: -1.0
The Minnesota Twins used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 draft on Cal State Fullerton pitcher Adam Johnson. The 6'2" right-hander posted a 2.72 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with a staggering 166 strikeouts in 119.1 innings during his junior season.
He continued racking up strikeouts after beginning his pro career, logging a 2.47 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 69.1 innings at the High-A level after signing.
The Twins sent him to Double-A to begin his first full season in the minors, and by July, he was pitching in the majors.
Johnson allowed 32 hits, 13 walks and 23 earned runs in 25 innings in his first MLB stint, and he pitched just 1.1 innings at the MLB level the rest of his career.
Whether it was a matter of the Twins rushing him to the majors and hindering his development, he was never able to make the leap to the next level, and his affiliated ball career ended after the 2006 season.
Also considered: RHP Alex Meyer, OF Michael Restovich
New York Mets: OF Lastings Milledge
Prospect peak: No. 9 in 2006
Career WAR: 0.5
In a 2003 draft class that included fellow prep outfielders Delmon Young, Chris Lubanski and Ryan Harvey (chosen Nos. 1, 5 and 6), it looked like No. 12 overall pick Lastings Milledge had a chance to be the best of the bunch.
He exploded onto the top prospect scene by hitting .315/.382/.545 with 46 extra-base hits and 26 steals during his first full season, and he backed that performance up by hitting .318 with a .388 on-base percentage while reaching Double-A the following year.
The toolsy outfielder made his MLB debut at the age of 20 and posted a 91 OPS+ with 11 home runs and four steals in 115 games in his first two MLB seasons.
Despite that middling performance, he still had enough upside that the Mets were able to trade him to the Washington Nationals in exchange for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church prior to the 2008 season.
Milledge hit .268/.330/.402 with 24 doubles, 14 home runs and 24 steals as the everyday right fielder for the Nationals that year, but he was a minus-0.2 WAR player as a result of his brutal outfield defense (-13 DRS).
He played more than 100 games in a season just one other time, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, and his MLB career was over following his age-26 season.
Also considered: OF Alex Escobar, OF Fernando Martinez
New York Yankees: RHP Joba Chamberlain
Prospect peak: No. 3 in 2008
Career WAR: 7.6
Joba Chamberlain was borderline unhittable in his first taste of the bigs in 2007.
The 21-year-old posted a 0.38 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with 34 strikeouts and a .145 opponents' batting average in 24 appearances, pitching his way onto the postseason roster.
That high-profile debut earned him the No. 3 spot on the 2008 Baseball America top-100 prospect list, behind only Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria.
He split the 2008 season between a setup role and the starting rotation, pitching to a 2.60 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 100.1 innings while tallying 19 holds to finish eighth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
However, he was unable to make the full-time move to the bullpen the following year, struggling to a 4.75 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 157.1 innings over 31 starts.
He stuck around for seven more seasons as a reliever, posting a 4.01 ERA and 8.6 K/9 with 83 holds and six saves in 292 appearances, but that was a far cry from the Cy Young Award expectations heaped on him early in his MLB career.
Also considered: LHP Manny Banuelos, 3B Drew Henson
Oakland Athletics: RHP Michael Ynoa
Prospect peak: No. 54 in 2009
Career WAR: 0.2
The Oakland Athletics gave Michael Ynoa a $4.25 million bonus in 2008 that was at the time the largest bonus ever handed out to an amateur international free-agent signing.
With that hefty payday comes lofty expectations.
After a rocky start to his pro career, things seemed to click in 2013 when he logged a 3.69 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 75.2 innings between Single-A and High-A.
He made the full-time move to the bullpen the following season in an effort to expedite his path to the majors, but he never saw the big leagues in Oakland. He was traded in a six-player deal that sent Marcus Semien to the A's and Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox.
Ynoa posted a 3.00 ERA and 9.0 K/9 in 23 appearances as a solid member of the White Sox bullpen in 2016, before struggling the following season and eventually being released. Still just 28 years old, he spent the 2019 season with the Kansas City Royals' Triple-A affiliate.
Also considered: SS Jose Ortiz
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Domonic Brown
Prospect peak: No. 4 in 2011
Career WAR: 0.7
Domonic Brown began the 2011 season ranked behind only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Jesus Montero on the 2011 Baseball America top-100 prospect list.
He hit .327/.391/.589 with 22 doubles and 20 home runs in 93 games between Double-A and Triple-A the previous season and seemed destined for stardom in the Philadelphia outfield.
Injuries delayed his arrival in the majors, but he eventually broke out with a huge first half in 2013, when he posted an .856 OPS with 23 home runs and 67 RBI to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team.
A concussion limited his production in the second half, and he failed to rebound the following season before another concussion in 2015 essentially ended his MLB career.
The 32-year-old played in the Mexican League last year, posting a .936 OPS with 25 home runs and 75 RBI in 88 games.
Also considered: LHP Jesse Biddle, RHP Kyle Drabek
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP John Van Benschoten
Prospect peak: No. 24 in 2003
Career WAR: -3.7
During his junior season at Kent State, John Van Benschoten hit .440 while leading the nation with 31 home runs in 61 games.
He also served as the team's closer, saving eight games while tallying 63 strikeouts in 48.2 innings, and the Pittsburgh Pirates surprised more than a few people when they selected him No. 8 overall in the 2001 draft as a pitcher.
With a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball, all from a 6'4", 210-pound frame, it's not hard to see the upside the Pirates hoped he could tap into on the mound.
In his first full season as a pitcher in 2002, he went 11-4 with a 2.80 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 148 innings, and he continued to pitch well leading up to his MLB debut on Aug. 18, 2004.
However, he was never able to find any level of success in the majors.
In 19 starts and seven relief appearances spanning three seasons, he posted a 9.20 ERA while tallying more walks (68) than strikeouts (65) in 90 innings.
It's not hard to wonder how he might have fared in today's game with teams approaching two-way players with a more open mind.
Also considered: RHP Bobby Bradley, RHP Bryan Bullington, C J.R. House, RHP Brad Lincoln, C Tony Sanchez
San Diego Padres: 3B Sean Burroughs
Prospect peak: No. 4 in 2002
Career WAR: 5.6
Sean Burroughs hit .363/.467/.490 with 42 extra-base hits and more walks (77) than strikeouts (62) while reaching High-A in his pro debut at the age of 18.
He continued to show one of the most advanced hit tools in recent prospect memory throughout his time in the minors, hitting .322/.386/.467 at Triple-A in 2001 to ascend to No. 4 on the 2002 Baseball America top-100 prospect list, behind only Josh Beckett, Mark Prior and Hank Blalock.
The Padres reworked their defensive alignment to clear a spot for him to begin the 2002 season, shifting Phil Nevin across the diamond to first base and moving Ryan Klesko from first base to right field.
However, Burroughs ended up posting a disappointing 77 OPS+ with seven extra-base hits in 206 plate appearances, and he spent much of the season in the minors.
He eventually settled in to hit .292 with a .350 on-base percentage as the team's everyday third baseman the next two seasons, but his lack of extra-base power limited his value, as he posted a meager .384 slugging percentage and 99 OPS+.
The Padres eventually traded him to the Rays in exchange for another once-hyped prospect in right-hander Dewon Brazelton, and he played in just 96 more games after his age-25 season.
Also considered: RHP Casey Kelly, RHP Dennis Tankersley, OF Donovan Tate
San Francisco Giants: RHP Jerome Williams
Prospect peak: No. 19 in 2001 and 2002
Career WAR: 4.3
How hyped was Jerome Williams at the onset of his pro career?
"Williams was called a cross between Bob Gibson and Dwight Gooden by one scout because of his fluid arm and delivery, but his mechanics are not refined," wrote Baseball America in his predraft profile before he went No. 39 overall in 1999.
That raw ability and tremendous upside kept him near the top of prospect lists leading up to his MLB debut in 2003, when he posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 131 innings as a 21-year-old rookie.
He was solid again the following season with a 4.24 ERA in 22 starts before struggling to open the 2005 season. Williams was traded that May to the Chicago Cubs along with fellow former top prospect David Aardsma in exchange for LaTroy Hawkins.
The big right-hander continued to bounce around through his age-34 season, pitching 1,029.2 innings at the MLB level, but he was never more than a replacement-level spot starter after his first two seasons.
Also considered: RHP Kurt Ainsworth, OF Gary Brown, RHP Kyle Crick, 1B Angel Villalona
Seattle Mariners: LHP Ryan Anderson
Prospect peak: No. 7 in 1999
Career WAR: N/A
A towering 6'10" left-hander with an electric fastball, Ryan Anderson quickly earned the nickname of The Little Unit after the Seattle Mariners drafted him No. 19 overall in 1997.
He racked up 460 strikeouts in 349.1 innings over his first three minor league seasons before myriad injury issues kept him sidelined from 2001 to 2004.
The southpaw briefly attempted a comeback with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, posting a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings before calling it a career.
What could have been.
Also considered: 2B/OF Dustin Ackley, C Jeff Clement, LHP Danny Hultzen, C Jesus Montero
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Rick Ankiel
Prospect peak: No. 1 in 2000
Career WAR: 3.6 (pitcher), 5.5 (outfielder)
Rick Ankiel was the top prospect in baseball heading into the 2000 season after he went 13-3 with a 2.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 194 strikeouts in 137.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
The following season in his MLB debut, he went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 194 strikeouts in 175 innings as a 20-year-old to finish second to Rafael Furcal in NL Rookie of the Year voting. It looked like he was destined for a career at the top of the St. Louis rotation.
The wheels came off in the postseason, though, as he uncorked nine wild pitches and walked 11 batters while posting a 15.75 ERA in four innings.
He was never able to regain his form on the mound, but Ankiel reinvented himself as an outfielder, posting a 120 OPS+ with 25 home runs in 2008 to launch a productive second half of his career.
Still, things did not go at all as expected for one of the most hyped pitching prospects of all time.
Also considered: RHP Anthony Reyes
Tampa Bay Rays: OF Delmon Young
Prospect peak: No. 1 in 2006
Career WAR: 3.2
After going No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft, Delmon Young hit .322/.388/.538 with 25 home runs, 115 RBI and 21 steals as an 18-year-old at Single-A in his pro debut.
He continued to rake as he moved up the organizational ladder and peaked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
His 2006 season was interrupted with a 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire in the minors, but Young made his MLB debut down the stretch, hitting .317/.336/.476 with 13 extra-base hits in 30 games.
The following season, he played in all 162 games as the Rays' starting right fielder and hit .288/.316/.408 with 38 doubles, 13 home runs and 93 RBI to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
That offseason, he was shipped to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Young was a productive player for three seasons, including a 21-homer, 112-RBI season in 2010.
However, he was never able to take his game to the next level, and his defensive shortcomings (-45 DRS) and lack of on-base ability (.316 OBP) ultimately limited his overall value.
Also considered: SS Tim Beckham, RHP Dewon Brazelton, IF Reid Brignac
Texas Rangers: OF Ruben Mateo
Prospect peak: No. 6 in 2000
Career WAR: 0.0
Ruben Mateo showed an intriguing mix of power and speed during his time in the lower levels of the minors, setting the stage for a breakout season in 1999.
In 63 games at Triple-A, he hit .336/.385/.597 with 12 doubles, 18 home runs and six steals. While he hit just .238 with a 76 OPS+ in 127 big league plate appearances, he showed enough to earn the starting center field job heading into 2000.
The 22-year-old was hitting .291/.339/.447 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and six steals through 52 games for a 1.5 WAR season before he suffered a season-ending broken leg on June 2 trying to leg out a ground ball.
He was never the same player upon returning from that injury.
The Rangers traded him to the Reds along with a young Edwin Encarnacion in exchange for right-hander Rob Bell midway through the 2001 season. He played through the 2004 season as a fourth outfielder.
Also considered: 3B Mike Olt
Toronto Blue Jays: OF Travis Snider
Prospect peak: No. 6 in 2009
Career WAR: 4.4
Travis Snider hit .275/.358/.480 with 31 doubles, 23 home runs and 91 RBI while reaching Triple-A at the age of 20 in 2008.
That earned him a late-season call-up, and he hit .301/.338/.466 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 24 games to stake claim to the right field job.
With that, only Matt Wieters, David Price, Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward ranked ahead of him on the 2009 Baseball America top-100 prospect list, and Snider looked like one of the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Instead, he hit just .248 with a 95 OPS+ in parts of five seasons with the Blue Jays before he was traded to the Pirates at the 2012 trade deadline in exchange for right-hander Brad Lincoln.
His best season came with the Pirates in 2014, when he posted a 117 OPS+ with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 359 plate appearances for 1.9 WAR while keeping right field warm for Gregory Polanco.
Still just 32, he hit .294/.402/.497 with 11 home runs in 93 games with the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate in 2019 after spending 2018 in indy ball.
Also considered: OF Anthony Alford, RHP Dustin McGowan
Washington Nationals: LHP Mike Hinckley
Prospect peak: No. 29 in 2005
Career WAR: 0.9
It was a bit difficult to find a highly regarded Washington Nationals prospect who fell dramatically short of expectations.
Left-hander Mike Hinckley established himself as as a top-tier prospect in 2004, when he went 11-4 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 156 innings between High-A and Double-A.
However, the 2001 third-round pick did not reach the majors until seven years later, and only after he made the move to the bullpen.
He threw 13.2 scoreless innings over 10 appearances as a September call-up in 2008. Hinckley posted a 4.66 ERA with 11 walks in 9.2 innings the following season in what would be his only other MLB action.
Also considered: RHP Donnie Bridges