Monday, December 8, 2014

Reviewing BA's Top 10: 2000

I began this series two weeks ago to take a look back at 15 years of Baseball America's Top Ten Prospects for the Braves organization. The idea is that, since we are seeing many of these kinds of lists released, it's important to note just how many become notable major league players and how many bust. After all, why get disappointed with how the current list looks when its value is actually low?

For previous years, you can click here.

1. Rafael Furcal, ss - BA Top 100: #8th - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1999 (7th)

Furcal would finish his brief, but accomplished minor league career with a jump from the Carolina League to the majors in 2000. Of course, what made the achievement all the more amazing was the news that he was also just 19 years old. Course, that later proved false as he was actually 22. Still a pretty cool deal to make that jump, though.

2. George Lombard, of - BA Top 100: #46th - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1996 (7th), 1997 (4th), 1998 (5th), 1999 (2nd)

As tired as I am writing about the guy, Lombard was still a relatively young prospect with potential off the map. He had finally made it to AAA in 1999, but that's where the Atlanta native would stagnant. For trivia purposes, Lombard played for a quartet of International League teams during his career (Richmond, Durham, Pawtucket, and Columbus). Of particular interest for me, he played with Durham for both the Braves and Rays while playing for Columbus for both the Nats and Indians.

3. Marcus Giles, 2b - BA Top 100: #74th - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1999 (10th), 2001 (3rd)

Forgive the quality of this youtube clip, but listening to Skip Carey announce your first homer has to be pretty cool for Giles. And watching angry Mike Hampton face brings back repressed memories...

4. Scott Sobkowiak, rhp - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 2001 (10th)

While the 1999 Myrtle Beach staff wasn't as accomplished as the one that followed them (2.51 team ERA), it still included three of the prospects who made this list, led by Sobkowiak. In 139.1 ING that season, Sobkowiak took advantage of the wind coming off the coast to post a 2.84 ERA to make this list. Unfortunately, that was also his career high in innings. By 2002, he washed out with the Braves and got a brief run with the Reds' Carolina League team before ending his career with 88 games over 4.5 years in independent ball. He did get pitch one inning in the majors, the final inning of the 2001 season where he gave up a run to the Marlins. He now is the pitching coach at Lewis University in Illinois, where he also has obtained a Master's degree.

5. Luis Rivera, rhp - BA Top 100: #51st - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1998 (3rd), 1999 (4th)

One of Sobkowiak's teammates in Myrtle Beach, Rivera only threw 66.2 ING, but his electric arm still earned him high marks, even if he didn't take the ball but so often. 2000 would be the year he moved through the system - even if he also missed time that season - before reaching the majors for a brief run ahead of his trade to the Orioles. And then, injuries. For a trade that was massively unpopular in Baltimore, the fact that Rivera only pitched 2/3's of an inning probably didn't help.

6. Jason Marquis, rhp - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1997 (6th), 1998 (8th), 1999 (5th), 2001 (5th)

Running out of things to say about Marquis's pitching career so let's focus on his hitting. Since 2000, Marquis's first taste of the majors, ignoring his pitching, the Staten Island native was a 2.9 fWAR player, good for tenth among pitchers with at least 100 PA in that time frame. While not Hampton or Carlos Zambrano or even Micah Owings, Marquis was as good of a hitting pitcher as you will find, which led to a 2005 Silver Slugger. He's also one of just 15 pitchers since 2000 to have two triples. Which probably shouldn't mean anything, but again, I'm running out of things to say about a guy who keeps getting ranked every season.

7. Junior Brignac, of  

A middle infielder before 1999, Brignac moved to the outfield and posted his best season with a .726 OPS, muted by a second half in Myrtle Beach that didn't come close to the production he provided with Macon. However, that's where he would stick until his release after 2001. He played a year in the Angels system, but was hurt and didn't perform well. After the year, he left baseball for football, joining the University of California football team as a WR. With the Braves footing the bill after Brignac gave up a football scholarship to Washington to sign with Atlanta in the first place, Brignac doesn't seem to have ever made a catch, but did make the team. Since college, he landed at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles as an assistant baseball coach. 

8. Jimmy Osting, lhp - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 1997 (10th)

The Louisville, Kentucky native had been a quick prospect after he was drafted in the fourth round in 1995, but missed all of 1998 due to injury. His return in 1999 was an overwhelming success with a 2.88 ERA and 1.09 WHIP for Macon, getting him a return trip to the Braves Top Ten. 2000 saw continued progress to the point where he even made it to Richmond ahead of a trade to the Phillies with Bruce Chen for Andy Ashby. Osting never pitched for Philly and was lost on waivers the next spring after he didn't make the roster. He did pitch three games with the Padres that year and started three more games with the Brewers in 2002, but that was the extent of his major league career. Since hanging them up for good after 2004, Osting runs the Osting Baseball Academy in Florida.

9. Pat Manning, ss 

Talk about building expectations, but not following through. A third rounder in 1999, Manning obliterated the Gulf Coast League after signing, hitting .416 in 24 games before the Braves moved him all the way to Macon. While not nearly as dominating, he still posted a .744 OPS as a 19 year-old. Reasonable people probably had wet dreams about his talent and potential. Yeah, three years later and with zero games above A ball, Manning's career was over.

10. Brett Evert, rhp - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 2002 (4th), 2003 (9th)

A weird inclusion on this list in 2000 considering he had logged all of 48.2 ING in the minors in the Gulf Coast League, Evert would eventually become part of that 2001 Myrtle Beach staff that maintained a sub-3.00 ERA for the whole season. That got him back on this list and on the Top 100, but that success was short lived. By 2004, Evert was waived and landed in the Mariners organization. Time with the Sox and Brewers' organizations also did little to get him to the majors and after spending 2007 with Lancaster as a teammate of Sobkowiak and 42 year-old Felix Jose, Evert's career came to a close after eight seasons. Evert soon trasnitioned into being a scout, first with the Rockies, and most recently with the Braves where he is currently the Northwest Scouting Supervisor. Some players from that neck of the woods for the Braves include 2012 fourth rounder Justin Black and 2011 seventh rounder Cody Martin

Special Mention: Though he didn't place in the Top Ten for the Braves, Wilson Betemit's potential was recognized when the 18th year-old placed 99th in the Baseball America Top 100. Betemit, who some compared to Derek Jeter at the time, had three seasons of rookie ball under his belt before the 2000 season. His value would skyrocket after a big season with short-season Jamestown in 2000.

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