Failed Outfield Prospects?

August 5, 2009

In the prospect world, stocks can rise and fall quickly. Players who appear great one day can have their flaws exposed and see their value decline significantly in short order. But just because a player falls out of favor with the prospecting community doesn’t mean that he can’t rebound. The following four players were highly touted minor league outfielders who have yet to hit stride in the big leagues. What does the future have in store for them?

Felix Pie – Once hyped as a five-tool player, Pie has yet to excel at the major league level. The extent to which his struggles can be attributed to lack of regular playing time is up for debate, though he hasn’t helped himself out by starting slowly every season. In any event, Pie’s two most successful minor league seasons also happened to be his two seasons with the highest BABIP. That, along with pedestrian walk rates and strikeout rates, creates doubt in terms of what type of player he will eventually become. While it would be nice to see him play regularly for an extended period, at this point it appears unlikely that Pie will be much more than a expendable outfielder at the major league level.

Trevor Crowe – Selected in the first round of the 2005 draft, Crowe was valued mainly for his speed and defense. While he has posted some impressive numbers in the minor leagues, nearly all of those instances came when he was repeating a level. He can draw walks and doesn’t strike out much, but his power will likely be below-average in the bigs. He changed positions from outfield to second base and back to outfield, but at some point, his bat has to produce for him to be considered a viable major league player. Couple that with his age (25), and Crowe does not appear to be on his way to stardom. He profiles more as a fourth outfielder with speed than a serviceable regular.

Travis Buck – Buck took everyone by surprise during the 2007 season, posting a .363 wOBA in the bigs to go along with a .186 IsoP and 22 doubles in just 333 plate appearances. It looked like the beginning of big things for a player who had shown good plate discipline and the potential to develop some power in the minors. Unfortunately, Buck labored through the 2008 season, dealing with a myriad of injuries -- he had his share of injuries in the minors, too. This year he started slowly, and when he came down with shin splints in late May, the A’s didn’t bother bringing the 26-year-old back with the parent club. While he’s been decent in Triple-A, Buck needs to prove that he can be both healthy and effective for an extended period of time before he can be expected to produce consistently at a major league level.

Lastings Milledge – Another player who was once touted as a five-tool talent, Milledge was the most highly thought of amateur among the four players in this article. While he put up solid numbers in his first full season in the majors last year (.320 wOBA and .134 IsoP), he failed to have the true breakout that people were expecting. He showcased his speed, as he stole 24 bases in 33 attempts, but his power has yet to become elite or even average, as he has yet to post an IsoP above .174 at any level where he has logged at least 100 plate appearances. While he will likely never be a 30/30 player, it wouldn’t stun me to see Milledge put up a couple of 20/20 years. Of the four players listed here, I have the most faith in him going forward.

Discussion Question: Which of the four players above do you believe in most?

(Respond here.)


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