While our Top 20 Moments of 2007 countdown returns on Monday, I figured that with the 2008 Baseball America Prospect Handbook set to reach bookstores very soon, it might be time to revisit some of their picks from years back.
For starters, let’s take a look at their top 30 Yankees prospects from 2004 and see how they turned out…
1. Dioner Navarro, C
While I will always think that dealing Dioner Navarro was a mistake, it’s also fair to say that he didn’t turn out quite the way a lot of people thought he would. Only at the last trade deadline were the Yankees able to acquire an adequate backup catcher in Jose Molina, but this is a role that Navarro easily could have filled instead.
Traded in the Randy Johnson deal, he’s spent the past two seasons with the Dodgers and Devil Rays. Since L.A. shipped him off to Tampa, his stats have steadily declined, and he hit a career low .227 in 119 games last season.
2. Eric Duncan, 3B
It’s interesting that while Shelley Duncan was crushing the ball at every stop of the Yankees organization, it was Eric that was getting the recognition as a top prospect. Now, Eric is about a year away from being considered a total bust, while it’s Shelley who set the world on fire in the Bronx last year.
Frequently hampered by injuries, the Yankees first pick in 2003 struggled last season in Triple-A Scranton, hitting .241 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI.
He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, and went unclaimed.
3. Rudy Guillen, OF
It’s really hard to believe he was the 3rd best prospect in the Yankees organization at one time. He spent parts of two seasons in Trenton, and after hitting a paltry .173 in 21 games in Double-A in 2006, he attempted a conversion to pitcher.
Last season for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, he appeared in three games, and allowed three runs in four innings of work.
4. Joaquin Arias, SS
Arias was dealt to Texas right before the start of the 2004 season and actually reached the big leagues with Texas in 2006. He hit .545 in six games, collecting an RBI. He only appeared in five games last season at the minor league level, and missed the majority of the season after suffering a shoulder injury.
5. Ramon Ramirez, P
Ten years from now, if anyone remembers Ramirez at all, they’ll recall that he got busted for performance enhancing drugs. In reality, Ramirez was a pretty solid pitcher who played for the Thunder in parts of three seasons.
As has been mentioned here before, the converted outfielder was dealt in the deal that netted the Yankees
future Hall of Famer Shawn Chacon. He has appeared in 83 games for the Rockies over the past two seasons, but struggled last year after an impressive 4-3 record and 3.46 ERA in 2006.
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
Is there really anything new I can tell you about Robinson Cano? Along with Navarro, he was one of the first true top prospects that the Thunder had under their relatively new affiliation with the Yankees. He joined Trenton in July of 2003, and stayed there until he eventually hit his way to Triple-A in June of 2004.
He briefly returned to Trenton during his All-Star season of 2006, rehabbing an injury in three games at Waterfront Park. Cano was very generous with his time with the media, and also with the fans, and reminded everyone why he was one of the more popular players in Thunder history.
7. Ferdin Tejeda, SS
Tejeda is the second position player in the top 10 who crapped out and tried a conversion to the mound. He wowed Thunder fans with a .174 batting average in 30 games during the 2004 season, and lasted one more year as a middle infielder before trying his hand as a relief pitcher.
He was actually quite good last season in Charleston, going 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 31 games.
8. Jorge DePaula, P
Those looking for a sign that the Yankees pitching depth has improved need look no further than DePaula being ranked as their second best pitching prospect just four years ago. I personally liked DePaula a lot, and he was subject of the very first feature I ever did on the Thunder.
But the Yankees got very little out of him (10 games over a three year span) after he battled injuries, and he eventually went back to the Rockies organization for 2007. A 6.41 ERA in 19 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs earned him his release.
9. Estee Harris, OF
Harris was the Yankees second round pick in the 2003 draft. That’s pretty much the extent of good moments he had under the Yankees umbrella. He never made it out of Charleston, hitting .216 in 2005 and a mind-numbing .177 in 2006.
He eventually ended up with the Road Warriors of the independent Atlantic League last season, and spent most of the season there before being acquired by the Long Island Ducks of the same league.
10. Bronson Sardinha, 3B
No, that’s not a typo. Sardinha was a third baseman at the time, and stayed that way through the 2004 season before being converted to an outfielder in Trenton for the 2005 campaign.
He was also still pretty highly regarded as a top prospect in the organization, but his average play over the next few seasons would eventually send him down the Top 30 list. But the Yankees still thought enough of him to protect him on their 40-man roster before the start of last season, and he somewhat imexplicably got a big league call-up despite hitting just .222 in Triple-A last year.
11. Eduardo Sierra, P
Has yet to crack the big leagues after nine seasons in the minors. Was dealt in the Shawn Chacon trade.
12. Chien-Ming Wang, P
Quite possibly the most underrated starting pitcher in the game. He’s 38-13 in his last two seasons with the Yankees, and has emerged as a perennial Cy Young contender. Oddly enough, the highest ERA of his minor league career came in Trenton in 2003 (4.65).
13. Scott Proctor, P
Was one of Joe Torre’s most reliable relievers before being traded back to Los Angeles, where they’re now re-united.
14. Danny Borrell, P
One of the game’s good guys, Borrell was tantalizingly close to the big leagues before injuries essentially ended his career…or so everyone thought. He came back last season with the Oakland Athletics organization, and went 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 19 games, including nine starts.
15. Matt DeSalvo, P
DeSalvo recently signed with the Braves organization after finally putting it all together and getting a chance at the big league level in the Bronx last year.
16. Hector Made, SS
A made man by name only, the undersized Dominican was traded to the Phillies in the Sal Fasano deal. Entering his seventh season in the minors, he briefly reached Double-A last season, hitting a home run for his only hit in ten at-bats.
17. Sean Henn, P
Henn had his best chance of securing a regular spot in the Yankees bullpen last season, but essentially blew it after posting an ERA of over seven in 29 games.
18. Mark Phillips, P
Phillips returned to professional baseball for the first time since 2003 last year, appearing in seven games for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.
19. Melky Cabrera, OF
Got Melky? The Yankees still do, despite numerous trade rumors involving the young outfielder. Several analysts have predicted the Thunder alum will be a breakout player in 2008, but for which team?
20. Jose Garcia, P
Garcia was traded to Texas in February of 2004, and eventually found his way to the Cardinals organization. Released midway through last season by St. Louis, he also went to Newark of the Atlantic League, where he and Phillips won a championship.
21. Jose Valdez, P
Did not pitch in the 2005 season, and appeared in only 14 in 2006. In his first full year back, Valdez went 3-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 37 relief appearances in Tampa.
22. Michael Vento, OF
Vento appeared in two games for the Yankees in 2005 before joining the Nationals organization the following season. The career .282 hitter in the minor leagues collected five hits in nine games with Washington before spending all of 2007 in Triple-A Syracuse with the Blue Jays.
23. J.T. Stotts, SS/2B
Stotts did not play last season. He hit just .228 with no home runs and 21 RBI in 86 games for the Thunder in 2006, primarily being used as a utility infielder.
24. Brad Halsey, P
Halsey made his Bronx debut in 2004 after going 11-4 with a 2.63 ERA for Columbus. He pitched in a grand total of eight games for the Yankees before being shipped west to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson deal. After joining Oakland in 2006, he was converted to a reliever, but appeared in just three games last season due to injury.
25. Jason Stephens, P
In five seasons of minor league baseball, has appeared in just 61 games. The sixth rounder is 17-9 with a 2.68 ERA when he does pitch, however.
26. Jon-Mark Sprowl, C
Sprowl did not play last season, and most recently played in 2006 as a member of the Cubs organization. He hit just .118 at the Single-A level.
27. Erick Almonte, SS
Another player who eventually went to independent baseball, Almonte was off of the affiliated map by 2006 and ended up as a member of the independent Long Island Ducks. The man best known as Derek Jeter’s temporary replacement was eventually picked up by the Detroit Tigers and played well for them at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season.
28. Tyler Clippard, P
Clippard threw the first no-hitter in Thunder history, and made a very steady climb as a prospect in the organization. But with a glut of starting pitching prospects — something that was clearly not a problem when this list came out — he was dealt this off-season to Washington for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo.
29. Ben Julianel, P
Julianel had two relatively unremarkable years in the Yankees system before joining the Marlins organization in 2006. He reached Triple-A for the first time last season.
30. Mike Knox, P
Knox last pitched in 2005, where he had an 11.50 ERA in 14 games for Single-A Tampa.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com