A LOOK AT CAREER UNDERACHIEVERS

Yasmany Tomas

There are some players that entered the major league baseball phase of their career with great expectations and high hopes for success.  These players were highly touted as either high draft picks or valued international signings.  Press clippings and prospect rankings promised “all world” type results.  The players were greeted with great anticipation when they arrived at the major league level.  Some of these players flew through their development programs and were probably promoted too soon.

Of course, my list is not all-inclusive. There are several top prospects that haven’t quite panned out that I didn’t include on my list below.  And of course, as always, there are players about which you will disagree in my assessment.

For now, however, here are some players that haven’t quite lived up to the hype-yet. But please remember-like fine wine, some players are slower to develop and mature.

The players are not listed in any particular order.

Jurickson Profar

Photo Credit: Ryan Morris

JURICKSON PROFAR-INF-TEXAS RANGERS

Signed as an international free agent out of Curacao in 2009, team and fan excitement about the switch-hitting Profar was extreme. He was viewed as a “can’t miss” five-tool prospect that many scouts graded as a 75 on the 40-80 baseball player scouting scale.  He was viewed as an exceptional generational type talent with skills that a team could build around for years. With good eye-hand coordination and a line-drive barrel of the batting hitting tool, Profar projected to use excellent speed and well-above-average power to vault himself among the leading hitters in the game.

Many scouts came away from watching Profar saying he was consistently the best overall player on the field game to game.

Injuries have taken a huge toll on Profar’s career.  Signed when he was only 16, Profar now enters his age 25 season. He is still young enough to rescue a career that has never really gotten started.

Injuries to shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor have provided Profar the type of opportunity that he must have to prove he belongs at the big league level. It seems he will be playing every day in the middle-of-the Rangers infield.  Once and for all, a healthy Profar, now able to throw and gain the full benefit of his arms and wrists in his swing, will be able to show the talent scouts saw in him as a teenager.

BUBBA STARLING-OF-KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Starling was a high school football star in Gardner, Kansas when the Royals made him their No. 1 pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.  He was the 5th pick in the draft behind Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Danny Hultzen (Mariners), Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks) and Dylan Bundy (Orioles).

All but Hultzen have carved out respectable big league careers.  Anthony Rendon, Archie Bradley, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez were drafted after Starling.

Starling signed for $7.5MM with the Royals instead of accepting a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska.

An excellent athlete, the 6-4, 210 pounds right-handed hitting Starling has a career .234 batting average in six seasons in the Royals development program.  He has hit 58 homers.

Starling has never really turned the corner on recognizing and hitting breaking balls. He has left himself vulnerable to sliders and curveballs by chasing those pitches outside the strike zone.

To date, Starling has never had a major-league at-bat. He has never played in a big league game.  At the age of 25 and with his baseball clock ticking, he has been assigned to Triple-A Omaha where he finished last season hitting .181 in 176 plate appearances.

KALEB COWART-INF-LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Switch-hitting Kaleb Cowart was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2010. Taken No. 18 overall, Cowart has never shown the promised scouts saw in him when he played at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia.

Cowart was drafted as a third baseman and most scouts saw him as a grade 60 player with good power, a strong arm and no speed to speak of. At the time I first evaluated him in the 2014 Arizona Fall League I graded him only as a 50-an everyday player but nothing special.  I thought he might be average, at best. I wrote at the time that his footwork and range were slow at third base and that his bat was slow and “drags through the ball”.

On March 23, 2018, the Angels optioned Cowart to their Triple-A minor league team at Salt Lake City and that’s where he is currently assigned.

Cowart never earned his first-round selection. He hit .225 last season playing in 50 games for the parent Angels club.  He hit three home runs.

Cowart was so highly touted as a high school pitcher and position player when he played for Cook High he could have been drafted as either a pitcher or hitter.  The Angels chose to play him at third base.  Looking back, maybe it was the wrong position. Maybe he would have had more success developing as a pitcher. Whatever the case, it is safe to say that at this point Cowart appears to be a former first-round bust.

Gordon Beckham

Photo Credit: Ryan Morris

GORDON BECKHAM-INF-SEATTLE MARINERS

The Chicago White Sox used their first-round draft pick, No.8 overall in the 2008 draft to select Gordon Beckham out of the University of Georgia.

In 2009, at the age of 22, in his second season of professional baseball, Beckham was summoned to the major-league club. He hit .270 for the White Sox in his 430 plate appearances that covered 103 games.  He had fans and his team excited about his infield play at second base, shortstop and third base.  Beckham hit 14 home runs that season and drove in 63 runs. His career was off and running.

Only in 2016 did Beckham hit more home runs. He hit 16 that season, his career high to date.  He hasn’t hit double-digit home runs since.

Beckham steadily declined in his offensive production while with the South side of Chicago club, and in 2014 he was traded to the Angels for a player to be named later who became right-handed pitcher Yency Almonte.  Later that year Beckham was granted his free agency by the Angels.  He has since played for the White Sox again, then he went to the Braves, the Giants and ultimately the Mariners, where he is now at their Triple-A Tacoma club.

Beckham was highly touted coming into the draft out of college. He led the Georgia Bulldogs to a second place finish in the 2008 College World Series.

When he was drafted, Beckham has flashed enough power in college to convince the White Sox that he could add some much-needed pop to their infield, especially at shortstop, a position where a loud bat would be more than welcome.

It remains to be seen if Gordon Beckham gets another chance on a major-league 25-man roster.

YASMANY TOMAS-OF-ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Oh my, this didn’t go well at all.

Tomas was signed to a 6-year $68MM contract out of Cuba in 2014.

When he arrived at the Diamondbacks training camp in his first season, the team tried to play him at third base, a position he had tried with little success in his days in Cuba. His lack of agility and range were both apparent immediately. They then converted him to the outfield, where he was a major disappointment, to say the least.

Tomas didn’t seem to improve his less than major league average defense over the course of three springs in the Diamondbacks camp.  In fact, he was deemed to be a liability in the outfield.

In his 2016 season, Tomas hit 31 home runs for the parent Diamondbacks.  He drove in 83 runs. His 2017 season was lost to injury, as he played in only 47 games.

However, Although Tomas had shown some power against left-handed pitching at the major-league level, he couldn’t produce against right-handers and his power wasn’t enough to salvage a role for himself on the 25-man roster. Following this Spring Training Tomas was sent to Triple-A Reno and ultimately removed from the 40-man roster, making him available for any club to sign. So far, there have been no takers.

In addition to his power, Tomas has a strong arm suitable for right field. However, he gets a poor jump on fly balls and has difficulty tracking balls in the air. It is doubtful he will ever become an outfielder with the ability to play regularly at the big league level.

Should an American League club be in need of a right-handed hitter capable of hitting lefties, Tomas may be able to resurrect his career.  It is doubtful any team will pick up his lofty salary for such a limited player.

JONATHAN SINGLETON-1B-HOUSTON ASTROS

It’s very hard to believe that a player with the upside and power of Jon Singleton has fallen so far so quickly. But he has.

Selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 8th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Millikan High School in Long Beach, California, Singleton had long been touted as a very powerful and dangerous left-handed hitter.  But things change.  And Singleton’s life has changed.

The Phillies traded Singleton to the Houston Astros along with a player to be named later (Domingo Santana), Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid to the Houston Astros for outfielder Hunter Pence in July 2011. The Astros viewed Singleton as their first baseman for years to come.

It never materialized, as Singleton never produced at the major-league level. In fact, in his first big league opportunity in 2014 he hit only .168 in 362 plate appearances. That’s a decent sample size, even though he was only 22 at the time.

In the following season, Singleton got another opportunity to hit for the parent team. He compiled a .191 batting average in 58 plate appearances in 2015.

Singleton spent the other part of 2015 at Triple-A Fresno. Then he played the entire 2016 season back at Fresno, hitting only .202 in 501 plate appearances.  He hit 20 home runs.

Last season Singleton was assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi by the Astros, where he hit a woeful .205 in his 500 trips to the plate.  At this reduced classification, he hit only 18 home runs.

Matters continued to get worse for Singleton. He has been suspended 100 games for using a drug of abuse for the third time in his career.  The now 26-year-old Singleton has stated, “At this point, it is pretty evident to me that I’m a drug addict.”

After being productive in the beginning of his career, Singleton earned a position among the Top 50 Prospects in baseball in 2011.  By 2013 Singleton could be found among the Top 15 prospect players. His career as a power hitter was well on its way.  However, sometimes the hype and the early success don’t materialize into expectations fulfilled.

MASON WILLIAMS-OF-CINCINNATI REDS

Mason Williams was a fourth-round draft pick by the New York Yankees in 2010 out of West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida.

A left-handed hitter, Williams had always been viewed as a good outfielder with promise as a hitter and potential base stealer.

There was a time when scouts felt Mason Williams could become an above average major-league baseball player.  Perhaps he would never be destined to play in the Yankees outfield, but he was certainly good enough to make a big league club, right?  Wrong. At least up to this point.

Williams had a bit of an unorthodox swing, and he lost speed over time, two issues that caught up with him.

A mature player with better than average skills across the board, Williams never really materialized as a big league player. He was a bit overwhelmed at the plate during limited opportunities with the parent Yankees at the major league level in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017. Although he compiled a .281 batting average over his 68 major-league plate appearances, Williams just didn’t fit the profile of a Yankees hitter or player.  In November 2017 Williams was granted his release.

Williams was signed by the Cincinnati Reds for the 2018 season, where he is playing as part of their organization for the Triple-A Louisville Bats in the International League.

KYLE CRICK-P-PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Oh, how the San Francisco Giants could have used a Kyle Crick that lived up to the hype.  It didn’t work out, and Crick is no longer in their organization.

In the 2011 draft, Crick was a 1st round pick of the Giants out of Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas. He was a flame-throwing right-hander the Giants felt could develop into a top of the rotation winning type pitcher.  It wasn’t to be.

Crick spent parts of seven seasons in the Giants system. He was traded to Pittsburgh this past winter along with Bryan Reynolds in a deal that brought Andrew McCutchen to the Pirates.

As of this writing, Crick has established a career minor league walk rate of 6 walks per nine innings.  That wildness, indicating his lack of command and control has been the major stumbling block in his career.

Whenever I saw Crick I was waiting for him to harness his fastball and throw strikes. His velocity dipped through the years but his strikeouts always remained high. He has a career strikeout rate of 10.2 hitters per nine innings.

When he first arrived with the Giants he was pegged to be a top of the rotation or No. 2 starter type pitcher. Then scouts felt he was better suited for the bullpen, the exact role he took on with the Giants the last two years of his time with the club.

At the beginning of the season, Crick was back in the pen pitching for the Pirates Triple-A Louisville team in the International League. Now he has been recalled to the Pirates parent club and will get a chance to be in the major leagues.

This may be the last opportunity for Kyle Crick to return to the form that once found him to be a first-round pitcher with huge upside.  Now 25, he has to learn how to command his pitches and stop trying to throw the ball 100 miles per hour.

Baseball can be a wonderful career for a young man or it can squash dreams quickly.

Only one player in ten assigned to a minor league club will ever make it to the major leagues.

The other 90% either remain minor league “lifers” or select another profession.

From 2011 on, here are some very, very highly regarded prospects (and the team they began with) who have not had the type of major league careers expected when they were drafted or signed.  For one reason or another, either injury or poor performance, they never became the above average player they were purported to be.

GARY BROWN-OF-SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

JACOB TURNER-DETROIT TIGERS

MANNY BANUELOS-NEW YORK YANKEES

CASEY KELLY-SAN DIEGO PADRES

BRETT JACKSON-CHICAGO CUBS

NICK FRANKLIN-SEATTLE MARINERS

TYLER MATZEK-COLORADO ROCKIES

TANNER SCHEPPERS-TEXAS RANGERS

ALEX MEYER-MINNESOTA TWINS

ZACH LEE-LOS ANGELES DODGERS

RYMER LIRIANO-SAN DIEGO PADRES

MICHAEL CHOICE-OAKLAND ATHLETICS

KYLE ZIMMER-KANSAS CITY ROYALS

DANIEL CORCINO-CINCINNATI REDS

MARK APPEL-HOUSTON ASTROS

DANNY HULTZEN-SEATTLE MARINERS

MIKE OLT-TEXAS RANGERS

COURTNEY HAWKINS-WHITE SOX

And of course, we always have to wait a bit longer for some players we think will be top of the chart, “can’t miss” superstar major league players.  We really are still waiting for:

Byron Buxton

Lucas Giolito

Austin Meadows

Miguel Sano

Javier Baez

Addison Russell

Kyle Zimmer

Max Fried

Clint Frazier

David Dahl

Jorge Alfaro

Colin Moran

Jorge Soler

Eddie Butler

Roman Quinn

Jameson Taillon

Jarrod Parker

Tyler Skaggs

Kyle Gibson

Of course, there are many more in all categories, but this provides a snapshot of how even the biggest prospects can have their dreams derailed and maybe never find their way.

Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff

 

About The Author

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Bernie's work has been featured on MLB Pipeline, MLB.com and FanRag Sports, among others. You can follow Bernie Pleskoff on Twitter @BerniePleskoff