Earlier this week, the official list of minor league free agents was announced. Here are 35 (of 533) that interested me.
The "What Could Have Beens: First Rounder Edition"
Clint Everts (Blue Jays) - Drafted fifth overall in the 2002 Draft by the Montreal Expos (R.I.P.), Everts never appeared in a Major League game. In fact, he only saw action in 11 games above the AA level. Oh yea, in that same draft, Zach Greinke went sixth and Prince Fielder went seventh overall. Salt, meet wound.
Chris Lubanski (Blue Jays) - Although he has yet to see any Major League action, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 Draft (Royals) still might have a future in the game. He will only be 26 on Opening Day 2011, and he slugged .538 in (hitter-friendly) AAA Las Vegas in 2010. Drafted in large part because of his speed, Lubanski has only swiped 69 bags in eight professional seasons.
Eric Duncan (Braves) - Selected in the first round by the Yankees in 2003, Duncan - a local product from New Jersey - was supposed to be the next "big thing" to hit the Bronx. Unfortunately, things never panned out for him as his .720 minor league career OPS would attest. I remember it being a huge deal around this area when he hit the facade of the old Yankee Stadium during a pre-draft BP session. I also remember hearing a story from a trusted source that played on a rival youth team which claimed Duncan made only one out during the entire summer when he was 12-years old (a scorching liner to center).
Joe Borchard (Giants) - The White Sox selected Borchard 12th overall in 2000 and gave him a record $5.3m signing bonus to convince him to give up football. It worked...for Borchard. He hit all of 12 homers for the South Siders between 2002 and 2005, not exactly the return on investment they had hoped for. The team was able to recoup some value when they dealt him to Seattle for reliever Matt Thornton in 2006. Borchard has not returned to the bigs since 2007.
Russ Adams (Mets) - Following a strong junior campaign at UNC Chapel Hill that saw Adams steal 45 bases, the Blue Jays selected him 14th overall in 2002. Adams has done absolutely nothing of note as a professional in any facet of the game.
Chad Cordero (Mets) - Arm troubles have spelled doom for the former 47-save closer. He was popped by the Expos 20th overall in 2003.
Lou Montanez (Orioles) - Selected third overall by the Cubs in 2000 as a slick-fielding shortstop, Sweet Lou never lived up to the billing. He eventually moved to the outfield where he had a cup of coffee with the Orioles in each of the last three seasons. [For what it's worth, the 2000 MLB Draft could be one of the weakest on record.]
Ryan Harvey (Rockies) - Drafted sixth overall by the Cubs in 2003, Harvey has never reached any level above AA.
John Van Benschoten (Yankees) - Since being picked eighth by the Pirates in 2001, JVB has given up more earned runs (92) than innings pitched (90) in the Majors. He has walked (68) more batters than he has struck out (65). He has also allowed 125 hits. Not exactly what the Pirates had in mind.
The "What Could Have Beens: Second Rounder Edition"
Dallas McPherson (A's) - A classic four-A hitter done in by his lack-of contact skills. At one time, he rated as high as 12th on Baseball America's minor league prospect list.
Michael Restovich (Dodgers) - Picked by the Twins in the same draft as Michael Cuddyer, the two came through the minors together. Restovich, however, stalled in Triple-A.
Eddy Martinez-Esteve (Mariners) - A hitting machine at FSU, EME's skills never translated to the professional game, posting more than nine homers in only one of his seven minor league seasons.
Jeremy Reed (White Sox) - Drafted by the White Sox in 2002, his career has come full circle. Unfortunately for all teams that employed Reed - White Sox, Mariners, Mets, and Blue Jays - he never came close to living up to the hype that once surrounded him. A complete lack of power is to blame.
The "What Could Have Beens: Everyone Else Edition"
Andy Marte (Indians) - Marte ranked as a top-50 prospect as early as age 19. He was going to be the Braves' franchise player, and his hype at that time nearly rivaled that of Jason Heyward. Clearly, he never met expectations.
Joel Guzman (Orioles) - A big-time prospect in the Dodgers' system, he quickly outgrew the infield and his lack of consistency prevented him from accomplishing much at the big league level. His claim to fame might be the fact he was traded for Julio Lugo, as sad as that may be.
D'Angelo Jimenez (Twins) - A player once regarded as a better prospect than Alfonso Soriano, Jimenez's career was derailed - and he was nearly killed - in an automobile accident near his home in the Dominican Republic.
The "Really? We Made a Big Deal About This Trade" Guys
On December 12, 2006, the Rockies traded Jason Jennings and Miguel Asencio to the Astros for Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh, and Taylor Bucholz. Four short years later, Jennings (A's), Hirsh (Yankees), and Taveras (Rangers) find themselves on the free agent list proving once again that this trade was a complete waste of time.
The "Ones That Still Might"
Angel Salome (Brewers) - The most surprising name on this list to me, as recently as two years ago, Salome was considered the future backstop in Milwaukee. After requesting a position change, the vertically-challenged, far-from-starving Angel finds himself in limbo.
Wily Mo Pena (Padres) - Limitless power with no way to harness it. Someone will take a chance on him yet again.
Wladimir Balentien (Reds) - Yesterday, Balentien signed a deal in Japan, but for my money, I don't think we've seen the last of the Mariners' former top prospect.
The "Once Upon A Timers"
Chris Shelton (Astros) - Fantasy baseball players will remember that Shelton made waves back in 2006 when he hit 9 homers in the Tigers' first 13 games. He then proceeded to hit only seven more in his next 102 games. A fun run while it lasted.
Dontrelle Willis (Giants) - If you don't know his story by now, how on Earth did you find this blog?
Gookie Dawkins (Marlins) - A great name from the past despite the fact he accomplished very little as a big leaguer.
Josh Barfield (Padres) - The former top prospect who was traded for Kevin Kouzmanoff after a promising rookie season (13 homers, 21 steals), Barfield has never come close to producing again at that level.
Mark Prior (Rangers) - See Dontrelle Willis.
Mike Maroth (Twins) - It probably shouldn't really surprise us that a player made famous because he lost 21 games in a season finds himself on any type of free agent list.
The "Notable Ex-Mets"
Endy Chavez (Rangers) - The person responsible for the greatest defensive play of all time, Chavez was a grind-it-out type fan favorite in New York even before that play. I will never forget "The Catch."
Carlos Delgado (Red Sox) - The end is finally upon Delgado after one last-ditch effort in 2010. He has nothing to be ashamed about as his career included two All Star appearances, five top-12 MVP finishes, 473 home runs, and a career OPS+ of 138.
Jason Isringhausen (Reds) - A member of the Mets' famed "Big 3," Izzy ended up being the only decent player. [For those trying to remember the other two: Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson.] He was a two-time All Star and racked up 293 career saves, leading the NL once with 47. He earned just north of $56m for his efforts. A very solid career which probably should have concluded a few years ago.
Kaz Matsui (Rockies) - We were told he was "the next great thing from Japan." Clearly, we were lied to.
The "Ones I Played Against"
Brandon Jones (Tigers) - Easily the best player I ever competed against, Jones hit a 400-foot shot against us as an eighth grader. His Team Florida squad mercy-ruled us in all of three innings. My OBYJ team's performance that day can be described in the exact way I would summarize Jones' professional career: forgettable.
Reid Gorecki (Yankees) - Never really a top prospect, my high school team played (and defeated) his team twice in 1999. He was a 12th round pick of the Cardinals and saw action in 31 games with Braves during the 2008 season.
And, Finally... The "Joke's On You" Guy
Ryan Braun (White Sox) - Never really a huge prospect, but he brings to mind a funny memory. In my first year of doing fantasy baseball auction drafts, someone brought up his name with the hopes that another player would mistake him for the Brewers' Ryan Braun. It worked perfectly when another newbie to auction drafts spent $35 on the Royals' middle reliever.