Ten years ago, Baseball America started listing top prospects by team. The Phillies at the time had a weak system, and BA chose reliever Ryan Brannan as the Phillies' top prospect. Brannan never reached the major leagues. Over ten years have passed, so now it is apparent whether any of the Phillies' farm products at the time became successes or failures. Looking back, could any of their players made better picks as top prospects? I drew up a list of the top ten based on current career win shares. Players in the organization as of January 1, 1998 and claimed rookie eligibility status.
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS (18 years old)
Sally League: 270/332/370, 46 stolen bases
Impressive second year, as Rollins displayed a bit of pop, plate discipline, lots of speed. A shortstop who happened to be one of the youngest players in the league AND exceeded the league OPS is certainly a top prospect.
2. Randy Wolf, LHP (20 years old)
NY-Penn League: 4-0, 1.57 ERA, 40 IP, 8 BBs, 53 K's.
Wolf was the Phillies' second round pick in the 1997 draft. It is hard to put a lot of stock in 40 innings. Michael Cisco would qualify as a top prospect under the same criteria. It would be interesting to go back and read scouting reports on this one.
3. Marlon Anderson, 2B (23 years old)
Eastern League: 266/318/374, 27 steals in 42 attempts.
Those numbers are hardly impressive at all. Low average, little power, high caught stealing rate. Anderson would explode for 62 extra base hits the next year in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Anderson spent a couple years playing second base for the Phillies before settling in as a valuable spare part for the New York Mets.
4. Desi Relaford, SS (23 years old)
International League: 267/323/400, 29 steals.
You want a higher batting average, but that's not bad from a 23 year old SS in AAA. Relaford bombed as a starter though in 1998. Relaford got mileage out of a career as a utility infielder. His placement on the list is due to longevity rather than real ability.
5. Johnny Estrada, C (21 years old)
NY-Penn League: 314/341/489.
223 at bats, 9 walks and 15 strikeouts? How do you evaluate a player like that? Estrada never got his OBP up. He reached the Majors in 2001 thanks to an injury to Mike Lieberthal, but was terrible. He had a solid year with the Braves in 2004, but otherwise he was a poor hitter. A player like this lives and dies on his batting average and when you do that, it better be closer to .320-.330.[/i]
6. Carlos Silva, RHP (18 years old)
Appy League: 2-2, 5.12 ERA, 58 IP, 14 BBs, 31 K's.
Home run rates are unavailable, so I don't know if Silva's ground ball tendencies were readily apparent. While Silva crashed and burned in 2008, he's had a fine career thus far as a starting pitcher.
7. Adam Eaton, RHP (19 years old)
Sally League: 5-6, 4.18 ERA, 71 IP, 30 BBs, 57 K's.
Nothing in the stat line really stands out. The Phillies packaged Eaton to the Padres for Alan Ashby before the 2000 season. Eaton had a 4.13 ERA in 2000 and since then has NEVER posted a better than average ERA in a season of any length.
8. Bobby Estalella, C (22 years old)
International League: 233/321/418
A beast. Estalella had power to spare, and was built like a truck. Unfortunately he had yet to hit for an acceptable average. Estalella exploded the following season in Scranton, posting a .993 OPS in 76 games. Estalella hit just .216 though in 904 MLB at bats.
9. Wayne Gomes, RHP (24 years old)
International League: 38 IP, 24 BB's, 36 K's, 2.37 ERA
MLB: 42.7 IP, 24 BBs, 24 K's, 5.27 ERA
How the heck did this guy ever come around with those peripherals. Gomes had three decent seasons from 1998-2000, before losing effectiveness.
10. Derrick Turnbow, RHP (19 years old)
Appy League: 24 IP, 16 BB, 7 K's, 7.50 ERA.
Wow. Turnbow found his stuff for one good season in Milwaukee, but otherwise he had extreme control issues his entire career.
I think Rollins and Wolf were obvious talents at the time. The rest are generally a collection of journeymen who had lengthy careers as reserves. In retrospect, Rollins probably should have been the number one prospect.