This week,, Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus came out with their top prospects lists. Like most baseball fans, I'm obsessed with prospect lists in a way that is entirely irrational. I couldn't name you the 20th man on most major league rosters -- if you pressed me at this exact second, I'd be unable to tell you who the Twins' starting second baseman is -- but I'll pore through prospect rankings like they're the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This is because prospects are perfect. Prospects never grow old, never disappoint us, never are sullied with the oppressive and banal expectations of real life. That only happens to them when they become actual Major League Baseball players. Prospects, they're always the same age. I can look at Miguel Sano or Oscar Taveras and imagine them for what I imagine them to be, rather than what they are, or will actually be. It's only later, when the average fan has seen all these players on the field, that prospect rankings are sullied by the drudgery of reality. Now, they're all going to be Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, and they're all going to change everything.

To remind myself that prospect lists are simply lists of (potential) future major leaguers rather than angels sent from above to be platonically ideal baseball humans, I decided to go back through 16 years of Baseball America prospect rankings. Sixteen years is a solid sample size: Those are full careers spanning those rankings. At one point, those were perfect prospects with their whole lives in front of them. Now, most of them are just people who have ruined your fantasy team. Here's a look, from 1994 through 2009.


  1. Cliff Floyd
  2. Chipper Jones
  3. Jeffrey Hammonds
  4. Alex Gonzalez
  5. Carlos Delgado
  6. Alex Rodriguez
  7. Manny Ramirez
  8. James Baldwin
  9. Rondell White
  10. Jose Silva

Other notables: 14. Chan Ho Park; 16. Derek Jeter; 17, Javy Lopez; 28. Shawn Green; 31. Johnny Damon; 51. Raul Mondesi; 63. Derek Lowe; 71. Armando Benitez; 78. Billy Wagner; 92. LaTroy Hawkins.
Hall of Famers (or potential Hall of Famers): 2. That's Jeter and Chipper. A-Rod and Manny have the numbers to be in, and you can make an argument, maybe, for Delgado.
Top 10 Busts: They all made the majors and most had halfway decent careers. Jose Silva had the worst, with a career ERA of 5.41.
Class Ranking (out of 10): 9. Take away PEDs, and you've got four solid Hall of Famers in the top 10. Tough to beat that.


  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Ruben Rivera
  3. Chipper Jones
  4. Derek Jeter
  5. Brian Hunter
  6. Shawn Green
  7. Charles Johnson
  8. Alex Gonzalez
  9. Johnny Damon
  10. Ben Grieve

Other notables: 11. Armando Benitez; 17. Billy Wagner; 21. Andruw Jones; 22. Nomar Garciaparra; 37. Jason Isringhausen; 41. Chan Ho Park; 42. Jason Schmidt; 49. Andy Pettitte; 50. Jeff Suppan; 52. Bobby Abreu; 81. Derrek Lee; 85. Vladimir Guerrero; 91. Scott Rolen; 95. Carl Everett; 100. Chris Carpenter.
Hall of Famers (or potential Hall of Famers): 2. Same as the year before, though you can also make cases for Pettitte, Guerrero and Rolen.
Top 10 Busts: Ruben Rivera probably had the worst career, but I remember once thinking Ben Grieve was what we now know Mike Trout to be.
Class Ranking (out of 10): 8. Manny dropping out drops the number down a spot. Sneaky deep class though.


  1. Andruw Jones
  2. Paul Wilson
  3. Ruben Rivera
  4. Darin Erstad
  5. Alan Benes
  6. Derek Jeter
  7. Karim Garcia
  8. Livan Hernandez
  9. Vladimir Guerrero
  10. Ben Davis

Other notables: 14. Billy Wagner; 15. Bartolo Colon; 16. Kerry Wood; 18. Chan Ho Park; 27. Scott Rolen; 29. Bobby Abreu; 30. Jermaine Dye; 32. Todd Helton; 33. Edgar Renteria; 36. Nomar Garciaparra; 41. Derrek Lee; 42. Paul Konerko; 44. Todd Hollandsworth; 48. Ugueth Urbina; 50. Richie Sexson; 51. Jason Varitek; 56. Matt Morris; 82. Chris Carpenter; 88. Miguel Tejada.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): 1. It's sort of unbelievable that Jeter spent three years in the top 10 of prospect rankings without the Yankees ever trading him.
Top 10 Busts: Paul Wilson was another failed Mets prospect, and Ben Davis was a career backup.
Class Ranking: 6. That top 10 is rough, all told. Lots of failed hopes in that top 10.


  1. Andruw Jones
  2. Vladimir Guerrero
  3. Kerry Wood
  4. Matt White
  5. Travis Lee
  6. Miguel Tejada
  7. Todd Walker
  8. Kris Benson
  9. Ruben Rivera
  10. Nomar Garciaparra

Other notables: 11. Paul Konerko; 13. Scott Rolen; 14. Bartolo Colon; 15. Derrek Lee; 16. Todd Helton; 17. Carl Pavano; 23. Roy Halladay; 25. Matt Morris; 26. Aramis Ramirez; 28. Chris Carpenter; 30. Adrian Beltre; 33. Neifi Perez; 38. Bobby Abreu; 53. Eric Chavez; 75. Jake Westbrook; 77. Mark Kotsay; 79. Torii Hunter; 81. Aaron Boone; 83. Bruce Chen; 84. Brett Tomko; 93. Carlos Beltran; 98. Sidney Ponson
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Maybe 1? Carlos Beltran deserves to be there, but we'll see, and Roy Halladay probably does to. Adrian Beltre may have the best case of all of them by the time he's done.
Top 10 Busts: Matt White never made the majors: Scott Boras got him a $10.2 million signing bonus from the Rays (!!!), but he only pitched a total of 122 minor league games.
Class ranking: 5. We should probably talk about Andruw Jones. It's so strange to see him as the elderly, portly feller still roaming around: At one point, it felt like he was going to dominate baseball for three decades.


  1. Ben Grieve
  2. Paul Konerko
  3. Adrian Beltre
  4. Kerry Wood
  5. Aramis Ramirez
  6. Matt White
  7. Kris Benson
  8. Travis Lee
  9. Carl Pavano
  10. Miguel Tejada

Other notables: 11. Todd Helton; 15. Juan Encarnacion; 18. Rick Ankiel; 20. Sean Casey; 30. Eric Chavez; 35. Ryan Minor; 36. Troy Glaus; 38, Roy Halladay; 43. Carlos Lee; 47. Derrek Lee; 52. Vernon Wells; 56. Magglio Ordonez; 64. Lance Berkman; 71. Mike Lowell; 75. Ramon Ortiz; 83 Javier Vazquez; 91. Dennys Reyes.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Again, maybe 1: Beltre and Halladay are the only hopes here.
Top 10 Busts: Still Matt White.
Class Ranking: 4. Ben Grieve, man.


  1. J.D. Drew
  2. Rick Ankiel
  3. Eric Chavez
  4. Bruce Chen
  5. Brad Penny
  6. Michael Barrett
  7. Ryan Anderson
  8. Pablo Ozuna
  9. Ruben Mateo
  10. Matt Clement

Other notables: 12. Roy Halladay; 13. Lance Berkman; 14. Carlos Beltran; 16. Corey Patterson; 19. Pat Burrell; 21. A.J. Burnett; 27. Mark Mulder; 28. Carlos Lee; 34. Gabe Kapler; 39. Alfonso Soriano; 44. Jason Grilli; 45. Octavio Dotel; 49. Ronnie Belliard; 51. Jeff Weaver; 52. Jayson Werth; 58. Mike Lowell; 60. Rafael Furcal; 64. Jeremy Giambi; 69. Vernon Wells; 86. Milton Bradley; 89. Jason Marquis; 93. Carlos Pena.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Just Halladay and Beltran as possibilities.
Top 10 Busts: The top two prospects were Cardinals, but neither quite worked out the way Cardinals fans thought they would. This top 10 is brutal, with Ozuna and Mateo as total flops, but only Seattle left-hander Ryan Anderson never made the bigs.
Class Ranking: 2. This top 10 is legitimately painful to look at.


  1. Rick Ankiel
  2. Pat Burrell
  3. Corey Patterson
  4. Vernon Wells
  5. Nick Johnson
  6. Ruben Mateo
  7. Sean Burroughs
  8. Rafael Furcal
  9. Ryan Anderson
  10. John Patterson

Other notables: 12. Mark Mulder; 13. Josh Hamilton; 16. Alfonso Soriano; 19. Josh Beckett; 20. A.J. Burnett; 31. Jack Cust; 32. Jon Garland; 37. Lance Berkman; 41. Barry Zito; 48. Jayson Werth; 49. Eric Gagne; 56. Adam Dunn; 57. CC Sabathia; 65. Ben Sheets; 77. Hee Seop Choi; 81. Byung-Hyun Kim; 88. Wily Mo Pena; 95. Jimmy Rollins.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): I don't see a single one. Do you? Maybe Sabathia?
Top 10 Busts: Some of the same issues with 1999 here, but seeing Ankiel atop this lists makes one want to cry.
Class Ranking: 2. If you want to know how much scouting has changed, look at Corey Patterson, thrice top-10 prospect.


  1. Josh Hamilton
  2. Corey Patterson
  3. Josh Beckett
  4. Jon Rauch
  5. Ben Sheets
  6. Sean Burroughs
  7. CC Sabathia
  8. Ryan Anderson
  9. Ichiro Suzuki
  10. Nick Johnson

Other notables: 11. Carlos Pena; 12. Vernon Wells; 13. Roy Oswalt; 22. Hee Seop Choi; 27. Alfonso Soriano; 31. Jimmy Rollins; 33. Adam Dunn; 39. Bud Smith; 40. Jake Peavy; 42. Albert Pujols; 47. Brett Myers; 55. Michael Cuddyer; 68. Carlos Zambrano; 72. Carl Crawford; 80. Joel Pineiro; 81, Ryan Ludwick; 89. Adrian Gonzalez; 91. Miguel Cabrera; 97. Adam Wainwright.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): 3, at least. This was Albert Pujols' only appearance on a prospect list: He would win the Rookie of the Year by grabbing a job from Bobby Bonilla in spring training. Ichiro is in too, as is Cabrera, and Sabathia, Rollins, Crawford and Gonzalez may have something to say when their careers are over.
Top 10 Busts: Poor doomed Ryan Anderson. Also, this incarnation of Josh Hamilton, before he turned his life around after crapping out, might be the biggest bust of all time.
Class Ranking: 9. Tough to beat Pujols and Ichiro and Cabrera in the same class.


  1. Josh Beckett
  2. Mark Prior
  3. Hank Blalock
  4. Sean Burroughs
  5. Carlos Pena
  6. Juan Cruz
  7. Joe Mauer
  8. Wilson Betemit
  9. Drew Henson
  10. Mark Teixeira

Other notables: 18. Josh Hamilton; 20. Brandon Phillips; 21. Justin Morneau; 26. Marlon Byrd; 27. Michael Cuddyer; 28. Jake Peavy; 30. Rafael Soriano; 31. Adrian Gonzalez; 33. Brett Myers; 34. Jose Reyes; 38. Miguel Cabrera; 42. Adam Wainwright; 59. Carl Crawford; 70. Jayson Werth; 74. Bobby Jenks; 78. Aaron Heilman; 80. Carlos Zambrano; 81. Orlando Hudson; 82. Colby Lewis; 90. Erik Bedard; 97. Victor Martinez
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): 1. (Cabrera). Mauer still has a chance.
Top 10 Busts: Drew Henson. Strangely, he's now a Yankees minor league hitting instructor.
Class Ranking: 3. Boy, people were totally high on Sean Burroughs, weren't they?


  1. Mark Teixeira
  2. Rocco Baldelli
  3. Jose Reyes
  4. Joe Mauer
  5. Jesse Foppert
  6. Jose Contreras
  7. Brandon Phillips
  8. Hideki Matsui
  9. Gavin Floyd
  10. Francisco Rodriguez

Other notables: 11. Scott Kazmir; 12. Miguel Cabrera; 14. Justin Morneau; 16. Victor Martinez; 17. Michael Cuddyer; 18. Adam Wainwright; 19. Hanley Ramirez; 21. B.J. Upton; 29. Rich Harden; 30. Cliff Lee; 31. Adrian Gonzalez; 33. Josh Hamilton; 34. James Loney; 43. Dontrelle Willis; 46. Travis Hafner; 51. Johan Santana; 54. Zach Greinke; 61. Shin-Soo Choo; 63. Marlon Byrd; 75. David Wright; 78. Prince Fielder; 81. Chase Utley; 83. Francisco Liriano; 91. Corey Hart; 94. Jayson Werth; 95. Jeff Francoeur; 99. Edwin Jackson.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): 3, maybe more. Cabrera, along with real candidates Utley, Wright, Fielder, Lee and Hanley. This is a crazy deep class.
Top 10 Busts: Rocco Baldelli just could never stay healthy, but Jesse Foppert only pitched in 27 games his whole career.
Class ranking: 7. The next wave is coming here.


  1. Joe Mauer
  2. B.J. Upton
  3. Delmon Young
  4. Edwin Jackson
  5. Rickie Weeks
  6. Alex Rios
  7. Kaz Matsui
  8. Greg Miller
  9. Grady Sizemore
  10. Prince Fielder

Other notables: 12. Scott Kazmir; 14. Zack Greinke; 16. Justin Morneau; 17. Cole Hamels; 19. J.J. Hardy; 21. David Wright; 27. Jeff Francoeur; 29. Ervin Santana; 30. Felix Hernandez; 39. Hanley Ramirez; 43. Joe Blanton; 49. Adam Wainwright; 52. Adrian Gonzalez; 54. John Maine; 74. Jason Bay; 86. Lastings Milledge; 91. Matt Cain; 93. Jeff Francis.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Mauer, Fielder, Wright, Hanley, Felix.
Top 10 Flops: Some solid ones up there in the top 10 -- Delmon Young is actually one of the lighter ones, so to speak -- but the Dodgers' Greg Miller is the only one who never reached the bigs.
Class Ranking: 4.


  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Felix Hernandez
  3. Delmon Young
  4. Ian Stewart
  5. Joel Guzman
  6. Casey Kotchman
  7. Scott Kazmir
  8. Rickie Weeks
  9. Andy Marte
  10. Hanley Ramirez

Other notables: 11. Lastings Milledge; 13. Matt Cain; 14. Jeff Francoeur; 15. Prince Fielder; 22. Carlos Quentin; 24. Nick Swisher; 27. Ryan Howard; 44. Brian McCann; 47. Anthony Reyes; 48. Homer Bailey; 49. Brandon McCarthy; 51. Shin-Soo Choo; 56. Edwin Encarnacion; 57. Curtis Granderson; 65. Nick Markakis; 71. Cole Hamels; 76. Kendrys Moralez; 81. Neil Walker; 89. Russell Martin; 91. Jonathan Papelbon; 97. Huston Street.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Fielder, Mauer, Felix, maybe.
Top 10 Busts: Delmon Young is perpetually funny, but Joel Guzman was a Dodger shortstop who only played 24 games in the majors.
Class Ranking: 4.


  1. Delmon Young
  2. Justin Upton
  3. Brandon Wood
  4. Jeremy Hermida
  5. Stephen Drew
  6. Francisco Liriano
  7. Chad Billingsley
  8. Justin Verlander
  9. Lastings MIlledge
  10. Matt Cain

Other notables: 11. Prince Fielder; 12. Howie Kendrick; 15. Ryan Zimmerman; 18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia; 21. Nick Markakis; 22. Jon Lester; 25. Troy Tulowitzki; 30. Hanley Ramirez; 31. Cameron Maybin; 32. Carlos Gonzalez; 35. Joel Zumaya; 36. Mike Pelfrey; 37. Jonathan Papelbon; 49. Ryan Braun; 56. Edinson Volquez; 57. Jared Weaver; 58. Jason Kubel; 61. Elvis Andrus; 68. Cole Hamels; 73. Gio Gonzalez; 76. Jay Bruce; 77. Dustin Pedroia; 80. Josh Johnson; 89. Andre Ethier; 94. Ronny Cedeno; 96. Matt Kemp.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Fielder, Tulo, Hanley, Verlander, Braun (PEDs aside of course), maybe Pedroia?
Top 10 Busts; Ha, look, Delmon Young No. 1! Finally! Also, ask a Mets fan about Lastings Milledge sometime.
Class Ranking: 5. It's too early to write some of these guys off.


  1. Daisuke Matsuzaka
  2. Alex Gordon
  3. Delmon Young
  4. Phil Hughes
  5. Homer Bailey
  6. Cameron Maybin
  7. Evan Longoria
  8. Brandon Wood
  9. Justin Upton
  10. Andrew Miller

Other notables: 11. Tim Lincecum; 14. Jay Bruce; 15. Troy Tulowitzki; 16. Yovani Gallardo; 18. Carlos Gonzalez; 21. Matt Garza; 24. Clayton Kershaw; 25. Billy Butler; 26. Ryan Braun; 27. Jose Tabata; 28. Adam Jones; 29. Colby Rasmus; 33. Jacoby Ellsbury; 38. Hunter Pence; 43. Joey Votto; 51. Clay Buchholz; 63. Miguel Montero; 65. Elvis Andrus; 70. Jamie Garcia; 75. Joba Chamberlain; 79. Elijah Dukes; 84. Ubaldo Jimenez.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Votto, Kershaw, Tulo, Longoria?
Top 10 Busts: I'm pretty sure Delmon Young will show up on prospect lists until the end of time. Andrew Miller's the pick here though.
Class Ranking: 4.


  1. Jay Bruce
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Joba Chamberlain
  4. Clay Buchholz
  5. Colby Rasmus
  6. Cameron Maybin
  7. Clayton Kershaw
  8. Franklin Morales
  9. Homer Bailey
  10. David Price

Other notables: 12. Matt Wieters; 13. Jacoby Ellsbury; 14. Andrew McCutchen; 17. Wade Davis; 18. Mike Moustakas; 19. Elvis Andrus; 21. Rick Porello; 22. Carlos Gonzalez; 24. Nick Adenhart; 28. Jason Heyward; 30. Kosuke Fukudome; 32. Chase Headley; 34. Johnny Cueto; 36. Brett Anderson; 44. Joey Votto; 49. Jair Jurrjens; 65. Chris Davis; 66. Max Scherzer; 74. Dexter Fowler; 93. Neftali Feliz; 97. Chris Perez; 100. Drew Stubbs.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Votto, Kershaw, Longoria, McCutchen?
Top 10 Busts: Did the Yankees break Joba Chamberlain, or was he always going to break?
Class Ranking: 5.


  1. Matt Wieters
  2. David Price
  3. Colby Rasmus
  4. Tommy Hanson
  5. Jason Heyward
  6. Travis Snider
  7. Brett Anderson
  8. Cameron Maybin
  9. Madison Bumgarner
  10. Neftali Feliz

Other notables: 12. Pedro Alvarez; 14. Buster Posey; 16. Giancarlo Stanton; 18. Logan Morrison; 26. Carlos Santana; 33. Andrew McCutchen; 36. Austin Jackson; 37. Elvis Andrus; 38. Jesus Montero; 41. Jordan Zimmermann; 48. Domonic Brown; 77. Jon Niese; 79. Jeff Smardzija; 81. Brett Lawrie; 87. Freddie Freeman; 98. Daniel Bard.
Hall of Famers (and potential Hall of Famers): Posey, Stanton, McCutchen.
Top 10 Busts: Brett Anderson isn't a bust, exactly; it's tough to scout injuries. These top 10s are getting a lot better, by the way.
Class Ranking: 7.

Everything else is probably too soon to tell. (Some of the players on the 2010 list are still trying to work their way to the majors.) The point is: Prospects look a lot more ordinary in retrospect than they do in the moment. You'll never love your prospects more than right now.

Email me at follow me @williamfleitch or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.