(*) FANALYTICS: The truth about hoarding prospects
In my USA Today column this week, I rehashed a piece of advice that we often give here at BaseballHQ.com.
In keeper leagues, when you have the opportunity to win, you have to go all-in, no matter how much you want to protect the future. You can't afford to be sitting on minor leaguers or riding the fence between today and tomorrow. No matter how much you want to protect the long-term, you simply can't count on players being healthy, or performing up to expectation, or the winds of Lady Luck blowing in your direction every year. Stuff happens, so you have to grab for the gold when you can.
For those of you who have players like Jurickson Profar, or Dylan Bundy, or Wil Myers or Gerrit Cole sitting in your farm systems, you have to consider them as tradeable commodities if you have legitimate title hopes this year.
I thought it would be a useful exercise to take a look back and see how this advice has played out in the past. If we can assume that each year's top prospects should be expected to provide at least 10 good years of solid productivity, then we should be able to look back at the top names of 2002 and see how they've done.
Here were the top 10 prospects from 2002, from the Minor League Baseball Analyst:
10. Mark Prior was a mega-prospect, compared to Hall of Fame names like Tom Seaver. He went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 2003, but never came close to those numbers again; he last pitched in the majors in 2006. He was out of baseball completely for three years and started a comeback in 2010. He's being groomed for a bullpen role in the Red Sox organization, but has been walking nearly a batter per inning in Pawtucket.
9. Nick Neugebauer went 1-7 with a 4.72 ERA in his rookie season with the Brewers. He underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery the following February, missed the entire 2003 season, and retired shortly after that.
8. Wilson Betemit has managed to stay in the majors for 10 years. His career highs have been 18 home runs and 412 at-bats, both back in 2006. He did bat .305 once, in 2005.
7. Joe Borchard also peaked in 2006, with 10 HR and a .230 BA in 239 AB. His last major league appearance was 2007 and he retired from baseball in June 2011.
6. Josh Hamilton is currently among baseball's elite hitters. However, it would not have been a good play to hoard him in your farm system back in 2002. With all his personal issues, he didn't make his major league debut until five years later.
5. Carlos Pena has fashioned a pretty solid major league career, though his true breakout season was not until 2007. He hit 46 HR and batted .282 that year, but he's hit over .227 just once in the five seasons since.
4. Austin Kearns also saw his big breakout in 2006 with a 24 HR campaign. But he never hit more than 16 in any other season and has amassed even 400 ABs only three times in his career.
3. Sean Burroughs played full time for the Padres in 2003 and 2004, posting a solid batting average but virtually no power or speed. It went downhill from there and he hung up his spikes in 2006. In 2010, he attempted a comeback and is now playing in the Twins organization, where he continues to display no power or speed, and not much batting average either.
2. Hank Blalock had a very productive early career beginning in 2003 with Texas. 2004 was his peak season, with 32 HR and a .276 BA. He never hit more than 25 again, battled injuries from 2007 on and was out of baseball by mid-2010.
1. Josh Beckett also hit the ground running, highlighted by a masterful appearance in the 2003 World Series. Despite battling occasional injuries, this one could be considered a definite "win."
Perhaps most notable about these 2002 prospects is that only three were immediately productive and only two went on to become stars. Half of them did not post their first truly product season for 4-5 years.
The Texas Rangers refused to part with Profar or Mike Olt in their trade discussions at the deadline. That's not a luxury most fantasy leaguers in keeper leagues can have. Remember that flags fly forever.