Tag: Mark Prior

Stephen Strasburg’s Trainwreck 2015 Evoking Memories of Mark Prior’s Rapid Fall

See if this sounds familiar: A young power pitcher has a career year for a division-winning National League club. The next season, however, his performance drops off precipitously, injuries bite and the hand-wringing begins.

Yes, we’re talking about Stephen Strasburg, who left Friday’s game between the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds in the second inning with “a tight muscle in his neck,” per MLB.com‘s Bill Ladson. 

But we could also be conjuring Mark Prior, the former Chicago Cubs stud who rose as far and as fast as Strasburg before a steep and tragic fall.

First, let’s get back to Strasburg: Even before’s Friday’s early exit, the 26-year-old right-hander was having a disastrous campaign.

Entering the start against Cincinnati, Strasburg owned an unsightly 6.50 ERA, and that didn’t even paint the whole, ugly picture, as MLB.com’s Andrew Simon notes:

The neck issue marks the second time Strasburg has dealt with an injury this season. On May 5, he left a game against the Miami Marlins with a balky back. He made his next scheduled start May 12 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and proceeded to cough up seven earned runs in 3.1 innings.

Yes, we’re talking about a couple of rough months. They don’t erase Strasburg’s brilliant 2014, when he posted a 3.14 ERA and paced the National League with 242 strikeouts in 215 innings.

But this feels like more than a calamitous blip or a temporary funk. It feels ominous, like smoke pouring from the engine of a finely tuned sports car.

And, most troublingly, it calls to mind the sad saga of the aforementioned Chicago ace. 

In 2003, you’ll recall, Prior racked up 245 strikeouts in 211.1 innings, remarkably similar to Strasburg’s 2014 totals. 

That year, Chicago vaulted to the NLCS but fell just short of a World Series trip, losing to an underdog wild-card team. The eerie parallels continue. 

The next season, Prior missed time with an Achilles injury. When he came back, his ERA ballooned. More injuries and an eventual shoulder surgery followed, and by 2007 Prior was out of the big leagues for good.

And here’s where we arrive at a strange twist in the Prior/Strasburg comparison. In 2012, the Nats controversially elected to shut down Strasburg in September, even though they were in the thick of the playoff hunt and wound up winning the NL East but losing in the division series.

Washington did it because Strasburg, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, was on an innings limit to help preserve his arm for the long haul.

That mindset, in part, was a reaction to Prior’s fate, as Sports Illustrated‘s Cliff Corcoran spells out:

Despite his abbreviated career, Prior has a significant legacy within the game. Beyond his place in the narrative of the Cubs’ continued misfortunes, his injuries proved to be the flashpoint in the increased sensitivity to pitch counts around the game. The need to protect pitchers’ arms from fatigue was a battle that many in the advanced analysis community were already fighting before Prior came into the league, but the confluence of his heavy workloads in 2003 and his subsequent injuries made that message sink in within the game.

Now, despite treating Strasburg with kid gloves, Washington faces the very real possibility that the former No. 1 overall pick is damaged goods.

We don’t mean to be overly fatalistic. The news on this latest injury isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. There’s still time for Strasburg to click back into gear.

The stuff has been there, intermittently, as Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com‘s Ladson.

“When he is feeling healthy and he says he is healthy, his stuff shows me that he is healthy, [and] he is proven to be one of the top pitchers in the league,” Rizzo said, per Ladson. “I think he hasn’t pitched the way he wants to. We have seen flashes of it, but he hasn’t been consistent enough.”

The consistency may return, along with the dominance. But with each meltdown start, each new twinge and setback, the rumble of concern will grow louder. The fears will ratchet up. The memories of fallen aces, of the Mark Priors, will keep nagging.

Stephen Strasburg’s story isn’t written yet. Right now, though, he’s in the midst of a troubling chapter.


All statistics current as of May 29 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted. 

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Mark Prior to Reds: Oft-Injured SP’s Comeback Will Once Again Prove Futile

The Mark Prior comeback trail simply will not stop. In a deal that was first reported by MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, the Cincinnati Reds signed Prior to a minor-league contract on Friday:

Prior will immediately report to the team’s spring training and from there will attempt to make the big league roster. This will be the fourth consecutive spring that the 32-year-old has tried to make a comeback in spring training. 

Prior’s signing in Cincinnati reunites Reds manager Dusty Baker with his former protege. Baker was Prior’s skipper for four seasons with the Chicago Cubs, most notably during the pitcher’s brilliant 2003 season. Prior finished that campaign with an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA, 7.2 WAR and finished third place in the Cy Young voting.

Baker spoke about the process of bringing back his former ace on Thursday with the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo! Sports):

He called me in the winter. We talk sometimes. He sends my wife updates on the kids. He never asked me for anything. He said, ‘Hey man, I’d like to try it one more time.’ I told him, ‘If I can help you, I’ll make the opportunity.’

While the player and manager undoubtedly have fond memories, the Cy Young version of Prior isn’t walking through that spring training door. Prior has not played in the major leagues since 2006 after going through a half-decade’s worth of debilitating shoulder problems. 

Perhaps “problems” is putting it mildly. Prior essentially had the bubonic plague in his right shoulder. He has undergone no fewer than three major shoulder surgeries and did not pitch competitively for four full calendar years from July 2006 to August 2010 while recovering from the procedures.

Since returning to the mound in 2010, Prior has been on an Everest-sized quest to make it back to the big leagues. Working mostly as a middle and long reliever, Prior’s journey started in the independent leagues before spending 2011 with the Yankees organization and 2012 with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s AAA affiliate. 

In Pawtucket, Prior saw his most extensive in-game work since the injury problems started. He appeared in 25 games, finishing 1-0 with a 3.96 ERA and 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Though those are solid numbers, he struggled with control, averaging 8.3 walks per nine innings, which resulted in a 1.52 WHIP.

In all likelihood, this will be a short-term relationship. Sheldon noted that Prior’s contract did not even include a major league camp invitation, and the Reds have little need for a long reliever at this juncture.

Cincinnati is going through an adjustment with Aroldis Chapman moving to the starting rotation and Jonathan Broxton taking over as closer. Nevertheless, the team returns nearly every other player from its league-leading bullpen last season.

And it’s not like Prior’s skill set is going to scream “major league ready.” He was fine in Pawtucket last season, but nowhere near good enough to earn a trip back to the big leagues. His control was not there, and neither his fastball nor his curveball is good enough to be plus pitches anymore. 

That’s understandable. Prior is 32, has gone through multiple surgeries and is nearly seven full calendar years removed from his last time on a major league mound.  He will continue to battle his way and attempt to make a lasting impression, but as he ages, the chance of that happening decreases exponentially. 

For the Reds, taking a chance on Prior represents a move with literally no risk.  It’s a nice story for Prior and Baker to get back together. But that’s likely all it will be. Signing Prior creates some headlines and makes people wonder what could have been of his potentially brilliant career.

It’s the baseball equivalent of an NBA team signing Greg Oden—if only Oden were 32 years old and seven years instead of three removed from his sport. 

Everyone wants a happy ending to this story. For Prior to make a comeback and help the Reds win the NL Central and maybe a pennant. Unfortunately, this isn’t a sports movie; it’s real life. And the hard truth of the matter is Prior will spend his season languishing in the minors or the two sides will mutually part ways at the end of the spring.

As for Prior, he’ll likely be left wondering “what if” just as often as fans do. 

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Mark Prior Signs Free-Agent Contract with Cincinnati Reds

Everyone loves a comeback story, and right-handed pitcher Mark Prior hopes he can make his own, having signed a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Prior was signed by the Reds to a minor league deal and reported to the team’s spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz. after passing his physical on Friday, according to a report by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay.

The signing was confirmed by MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon.

The 32-year-old Prior was once one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball but hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2006 because of a litany of injuries, including several major shoulder surgeries.

The Chicago Cubs made him the second overall pick in the 2001 draft out of the University of Southern California. After a nine-game stint in the minors, he was summoned to Chicago and inserted in the Cubs rotation.

In five seasons (2002 to 2006) with Chicago, Prior accumulated a record of 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA in 106 starts. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and dominant curve, he also averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. 

His best season came in 2003, when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, resulting in a third-place finish in that year’s National League Cy Young race. Unfortunately, it was the only full season he has managed in his professional career.

He last pitched in the majors in 2006, going 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA in nine starts with the Cubs before being shut down because of reconstructive shoulder surgery.

Since then, he has pitched (primarily in relief) in the minors for the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. He even had a stint in independent ball, but he has not been able to regain his once-promising career.

Last season, Prior had a 3.96 ERA in 19 relief appearance for Boston’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, but he failed to be called up to the Red Sox.

The Reds’ manager, Dusty Baker, who managed Prior when he was with Chicago, was instrumental in bringing him to Cincinnati. The skipper told Fay, “He called me and said asked for a chance. I talked to Walt (Jocketty). (Prior) says he feels good. He feels like he has some unfinished business.” 

Once a rising star, Prior told Sheldon that he is now simply grateful to still receive opportunities:

I don’t necessarily feel like a martyr or something because I’ve worked hard and I should be paid with an opportunity, but I’m grateful for it. I don’t take it for granted. I’ll do everything I can to go out and perform and try for a spot. I enjoy competing, first and foremost. It’s always a joy to go out and compete. I’m going to take it day by day. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s literal for me. I really do have to take it day by day. I was in San Diego without a job on Tuesday and I’m here today.

Some believe that past overuse by Baker contributed to Prior’s injury woes, but the pitcher will have none of that, telling Sheldon, “I hold no ill will against him. By no means do I think it was his fault with how my career has gone. It’s no one’s fault.”

The Reds are looking to repeat last season’s NL Central title. They have little time for heartwarming stories, but if Prior can prove he still has the talent, they would be happy to give him a chance to resume his major league career. 

Statistics via BaseballReference.

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Chicago Cubs: Reflecting on Mark Prior, 2003 and What Should Have Been

Chicago Cubs fans will always remember 2003.  Most will not have particularly fond memories of that season.  With the 10 year anniversary of that season just around the corner, Cubs fans still think about what might have been without injuries and that wretched curse.

Oh, yes.  The curse.  I, for one, have never believed in it.  However, after spending last summer cringing at the product the Cubs put between the lines, maybe there is something about Billy Sianis and that doggone goat.

But 2003—that was different.  It was a solid team defensively, well, at least in the infield.  It was a good offensive team, well, at least in the outfield.  This was when Sammy Sosa still had adoring fans in right field who rose to their feet when he sprinted out to begin the game.  The fans weren’t worried about corked bats or corked biceps.

Kenny Lofton came over to play center field and energized the team.  Moises Alou, he of the infamous play along the left field wall, seemed to be an ageless wonder with his potent bat.  No one even cared that he peed on his hands to toughen them up.  But it was the pitching that really mattered.  

The Cubs had the best young rotation in baseball.

Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement.  

The collapse in the playoffs against the Florida Marlins has been well documented.  The disappointment at the time was palpable—but there still seemed to be hope.  Again, the Cubs had the best young rotation in baseball.  They would be back in the playoffs.  They would be the team to beat for the next 10 years.  With a pitching staff such as they had—anything was possible.  

Kerry Wood had come up as a phenom from the state of Texas.  He had already thrown what was arguably the most impressive game in the history of baseball, with the 20 strikeouts and only one hit in a shutout against the Houston Astros.  He had successfully come back from Tommy John surgery.  He was primed to be a staff ace.  

Carlos Zambrano was a very green young pitcher who some felt had the best arm on the entire staff. He could be absolutely dominant at times.  In 2003, we didn’t yet know he was as crazy as he was talented.

Matt Clement, he of the weird beard.  While no one was sharpening their pencils to nominate him to the Hall of Fame one day, he certainly seemed more than serviceable as a fourth starter.  In fact, he would have probably been a two on many teams. 

But Mark Prior he was the special one.  He was the guy who was going to be the Cubs Tom Seaver with the silky smooth delivery.  He was going to be the Cubs Don Drysdale with his impressive command of the strike zone.  He was going to be the Cubs Greg Maddux…nah, I’ll leave that one alone.  There are already enough regrets going on here.  

There seemed to be no reason to doubt Mark Prior was going to be the best pitcher in the National League for the rest of the decade.  No one could have known in 2003 that Mark Prior would never again return to the form he showed that season.  His fall, due to shoulder injuries, is the most disappointing of all the disappoints from 2003.

Some blamed Dusty Baker for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior’s subsequent injuries.  Is that fair?  Maybe. Probably not.  No matter, what happened happened, and the Cubs have never rebounded from that season.

It’s tough to be a Cubs fan.  Perhaps there is nothing tougher than thinking back about what could have been with that early nineties pitching staff.    

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14 Most Notoriously Soft Players Baseball Players in the Last 25 Years

After reading through these slides, your appreciation for the “Iron Man” Cal Ripken Jr. will only grow.

Major League Baseball boasts the longest and most grueling season in professional sports, so injuries are undoubtedly expected.

But there’s a fine line between injuries and injury-plagued players.

I’m not talking “soft” in regards to attitude or style of play, but rather health and being able to stay on the field and perform at a high level.

I’m sure there’s a long list of other players who belong on this list, but here are 14 of the most oft-injured players in the past 25 years.

Begin Slideshow

Boston Red Sox: Mark Prior Making Case for MLB Return

It was a chilly October night at Wrigley. The Chicago Cubs were playing host to the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Holding a 3-2 series advantage, the Cubs brought a 3-0 lead into the top of the eighth. 

After getting Mike Mordecai to pop-out to begin the inning, Cubs 23-year-old ace Mark Prior had the Marlins right where he wanted them. More importantly, he had the Cubs a mere 5 outs away from their first World Series appearance in 58 years. Five outs away from a chance to end 95 years of misery.

With a regular season resume that boasted a 18-6 record to go along with a 2.43 ERA and a 10.45 K/9 ratio, who would have doubted that Prior was the man to get the job done?

However, even the most casual of baseball fans know what came next. 

Double. Bartman. RBI single. Gonzalez error. Two-run double. Just like that, the Cubs all-but-certain trip to the World Series didn’t look so certain anymore. Five more Marlins’ runs, a Game 7 defeat, and the Cubs’ most promising of chances was stolen right out of their hands (or glove, so to speak).

The Cubs haven’t won a play-off game since. Unfortunately for Prior, his career took an eerily similar turn for the worse as well. 

After missing only a month due to injuries during his first two seasons in the Majors, Prior became a regular on the DL from 2004-2006, missing a staggering nine months of playing time. If that wasn’t bad enough, shoulder surgery would have him miss the entire 2007 season as well.

During that stretch, Prior made 57 appearances, compiling a 18-17 record to go along with a pedestrian 4.26 ERA. A mere shadow of the pitcher who once dominated opposing hitters at will in 2003 on his way to finish third in the NL Cy Young voting. He hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since 2006. 

Fast forward six years. After wooing Boston Red Sox Director of Personnel Dave Finley in Spring Training, Prior secured himself a Minor League contract with the Pawtucket PawSox. 

While it’s a fresh start, it’s a far cry from where Prior thought he’d be at this point in his career. Now 31, nobody would blame him for throwing in the towel with everything he’s been through.  According to an ESPNBoston article:

‘There were times when I thought it was time to call it a day,’ Prior admitted….’There were times when I was really frustrated. But, ultimately, I still love playing the game. I still love going out and getting guys out.’

Getting guys out is an understatement. Try a 20.5 K/9 ratio on for size. 

Granted it’s only a small sample, Prior has been superb thus far. In seven relief appearances for the PawSox, Prior is 1-0 while recording 10.1 IP, one save, 4 earned runs, and a blistering 23 strikeouts. 

While impressed, PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur isn’t going to jump on the bandwagon just yet, as reported by the ESPNBoston article:

‘He hasn’t overcome anything yet,’ [Sauveur said.] ‘You have to remember he’s in Triple-A right now. His goal, obviously, is to get back to the big leagues. When he gets there, you can say he’s overcome something. Right now, he’s still working on everything.’

On June 24, Prior suffered a minor setback when he was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. Luckily, the injury was short-term and he returned to action July 8. 

As reported in the same ESPNBoston article:

‘For me, I respect the fact that health is a major issue with me,’ [Prior said.] ‘It could turn on the drop of a dime. And I know that. But I also know that I can get guys out. I can still perform. I can still compete at a high level.’

If he wants to make an impact in the Red Sox bullpen he’s going to need to be performing at a high level. The Red Sox currently hold the sixth best bullpen ERA in the Majors at 3.08. So why throw a wrench into a bullpen that seems to be clicking on all cylinders? 

Also working against Prior is his age. A lot of people don’t believe he’s got enough left in his tank. Don’t count Sauveur among them, as reported in the ESPNBoston article:

‘I wouldn’t say the odds are against him…’ [Sauveur countered.] ‘[He’s got] plenty of years left….Since he’s been here, he’s shown me that he’s healthy…and could be called upon at any moment. Right now, everything’s going well.’

But don’t be expecting Prior to be waiting by the phone. He’s realized that nothing good comes from looking too far ahead. According to the same ESPNBoston article:

‘At this point in my career, I legitimately take it day-by-day,’ he said….’I’m having a good time with these guys and, yes, I want to get to the big leagues. I know I can still compete at that level. It’s about waking up and preparing to do my job and not worrying about…[all the] playing scenarios.’

And if he keeps up that attitude, along with his current production, it won’t be long before it’ll be opposing Major League hitters who’ll have to do all the worrying. 

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Justin Verlander’s No-Hitter: Are Pitchers Taking Over MLB?

The 2010 Major League Baseball season was coined as the “Year of the Pitcher,” but after two no-hitters in a week, will 2011 be the same? Or are pitchers just taking over the MLB?

This time, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander shut down the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing just one walk over nine innings. With his second no-hitter since 2007, Verlander has developed into one of baseball’s top pitchers.

The 2010 MLB season contained five no-hitters, including two perfect games, and after 2011’s two no-hitters thus far, Major League Baseball may experience one the greatest two-year runs in pitching.

In contrast with the League from the mid-’90s through 2000s, where hitting the home run was supreme (mostly due to a wide usage of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, but that is another story), baseball has no changed its appearance into a lower-scoring, pitching-heavy league.

But, writers, analysts and fans should start changing the name attributed to the season of 2010, because pitching is now making its recovery to the most dominating facet of the game.

The talent level of the pitching in Major League Baseball isn’t going anywhere.

With the exception of the handling of last year’s pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg by the Washington Nationals, Major League Baseball clubs have begun to take more pride and more importantly time in developing their pitching before they approach the big leagues.

In 2003, Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs was 22 years old and had been pitching in the Majors for just one season. He was an outstanding 18-6 before he was injured in September. And he was never the same after that.

During the next five seasons, Prior was on the disabled list an unfortunate nine times. His talent seemingly went by the wayside after he was rushed, in some respects, by the Chicago Cubs into the majors at just 21 years old.

By contrast, the Tampa Bay Rays drafted David Price with the first overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. He was called up to the major leagues and made some appearances for the Rays during the 2008 MLB Playoffs out of the bullpen. The next season, Price was expected to be one of the top players in the league, but the Rays conservatively held Price in the minors through the first month of the season.

Without rushing him to the big leagues too soon, the Rays and Price reaped the benefits in 2010. During the season, Price won 19 games for the Rays as they made the American League playoffs.

As both Verlander and the Minnesota Twins‘ Francisco Liriano have tossed no-hitters already this season, what was once thought as a fad in Major League Baseball has now become a reality.

Like the first decade of the 21st century was highlighted by exceptional hitting, the century’s second decade will be known as one where pitching excelled yet again.

So, instead of calling every season the “Year of the Pitcher,” save your breath and just realize this: Pitching is back at the pinnacle of Major League Baseball, and it is here to stay.

Josh Rosenblat is a high school student from Chicago looking to find a way to break into sports journalism. He often writes about the NBA (primarily the Chicago Bulls), as well as the MLB, College Basketball, and the NFL. You can email him at joshua.m.rosenblat@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @JMRosenblat. Feel free to send him comments.

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MLB News and Rumors: New York Yankees Pitching Better than Expected

A lot of questions surrounding the New York Yankees pitching rotation entering spring training are being answered half-way in.

The biggest question mark had to do with starting pitching.

Many experts felt as though after C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett, the Yankees really had no one one on their roster to fill the final two spots of the rotation.

The Yankees went out and signed a few players who may be past their prime, but were great pitchers in the MLB at one point or another. This list included Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Mark Prior.

Garcia and Colon have both impressed as potential starters, and Prior has looked solid coming out of the bullpen.

Garcia is still yet to give up a run in five innings, while Colon has allowed three runs in nine innings. Obviously, spring training stats do not always translate to the regular season, but both of these are promising signs.

Prior has pitched a single scoreless inning so far, but may find himself in AAA to start the season until he builds up his arm strength.

A lot of baseball enthusiasts thought pitching would be the weakness of the Yankees, and it is still obviously not their strength. With that in mind, the Yankees may have found some veteran pitchers who want to revive their careers and pitch for a World Series ring.

Another possibility for the Yankees is to start off the season with a four-man rotation and either give the fourth spot to Colon or Garcia or have them split starts.

This is an interesting suggestion because obviously the Yankees rotation is very top heavy, and the more starts for Sabathia and Hughes, the better. If Sabathia and Hughes can stay healthy and don’t wear their arms out, I think it would be smart for the Yankees to limit the starts of the back of the rotation.

With Opening Day only about 20 days away, the Yankees have some time to figure out their rotation, but not a lot. Fortunately for them, their offseason signings have looked smart so far and they could potentially have three pitchers reviving their careers this season.

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Baseball’s Next Big Thing: How Our Obsession With Perfection Has Scarred a Sport

It happens every year.

Minor league players, sometimes as young as 18, are hyped up to be the “next big thing” in baseball. 

As fans and fantasy baseball participants, we either watch these young talents blow up and become stars or unfortunately bear witness to them being thrown into the fire.

Being “Baseball’s No. 1 Prospect” really doesn’t mean as much as it should.  Players who have worn that title have succeeded and failed in the eyes of the big leagues.  We rarely and truly never know how a young talent will fare when called up. 

Can a power hitting catcher from Double-A protect the plate enough to hit Roy Halladay?

How will a young kid from the Midwest handle the big spotlight of a championship-hungry city?

At times it’s disheartening to see players be built up so much, just to fall harder.  Why do we as a society of fans and baseball fanatics, feed on the careers of young-blooded baseball “phenoms”?

Do we really understand how hard it is to travel, leave family, keep in touch with friends, and to forget all of those hardships to step up to the plate at Yankee Stadium?

We don’t, but we still have the nerve to complain when our 13th round draft pick doesn’t hit over .260. 

Regardless of the social and ethical borders we’ve crossed as onlookers of a beautiful sport like baseball, we still have a chance to not only realize how special young talent is, but to remember those once-heralded prospects for the sake of baseball.

With that said, the following players have been “lost at sea.”  2011 could prove the year that some, maybe even all of these players, blow up their life jackets and float their careers to safety.


Matt Wieters, Catcher, Baltimore Orioles

Wieters has had a career that’s hard to swallow.  And because of that, he’s become the distinct example of major league scarring.

Formally “Baseball America’s No. 1 Prospect” as of 2009, he’s been unable to carry his career minor league average of .333 into the big leagues.

Drafted in fantasy leagues among some of the best catchers in the game in 2009, even before he was called up to the majors, Wieters was projected to be a savior of many faces.

He was the future of great hitting catchers.  The future of the struggling Baltimore Orioles franchise and the future fantasy owner’s best friend.

Where did it all go wrong?

In 2009, through 354 at-bats, he hit a very respectable .288 average.  However, after hitting only nine home runs, the lack of power instantly rubbed fantasy owners the wrong way.  Was he a rookie bust?  That’s arguable, but that was just the beginning.

Last year, after Wieters was still being drafted among the best catchers in the game, his production absolutely plummeted.  Batting a unworldly .249 with 11 home runs, he was instantly tossed overboard and cast out to sea.

Still floating, Wieters will have a chance to rebound from last year and reshape his career as a MLB player and personality. 

Currently under the radar, the 24-year old catcher will be able to sit back and take this season in stride.  No “saviors” being thrown his way.  No “Baseball America’s No. 1 Prospect” being thrown his way.  Just the ball.

If Matt Wieters can rebound this year and become a legitimate hitting catcher for seasons to come, he will become a prime example as to why rushing baseball talents from the minors up to the majors, could ruin expectations as well as early careers.


Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals

Once projected to be the next David Wright, Gordon is now being considered the Ryan Leaf of baseball.

Where have the years gone?

Gordon stepped into the spotlight that is the mess of Kansas City back in 2007.  The former first-round pick has been unable to swim to safety, let alone keep his head above water. 

Once thought of as a perennial 30-home run hitter, Gordon has only 45 homers through four seasons and 1,442 at-bats.

Now in 2011, Gordon is fighting to not only start at third for the Royals, but he’s fighting from being demoted back down to the minors.

Gordon turns 27 today.  Since 27 is the “prime time” for hitters to produce at their highest potential, this could be the last chance for Gordon to save his career.  If not, he could go down as one of the biggest busts ever in baseball.

Does this come as a surprise?  It might, but considering Gordon was hyped to the brim, as well as being counted on to rescue one of the worst franchises in the MLB over the past 15 years, he might of never had a fair chance to build a career in baseball.

Gordon’s life jacket has slowly been leaking, and the 2011 MLB season could be the patch he’s been looking for.


Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Heading into 2011, Gomez will be playing for his third team in a four-year career.

Once thought of as the next big speedster to grace the majors, Gomez has been unable to hit enough to keep a starting job.  2008 was the only year that Gomez has recorded over 320 at-bats.

Remember, this is a guy who supposedly beat Jose Reyes in foot races on the regular at practices.  His game is speed, his talent is speed, his paychecks are dependent on his speed, and he’s been unable to utilize it.

In 445 career games, the 25-year old has only swiped 77 bases.  Quite a lower number for Gomez, who stole 65 bases between two minor league seasons from 2005-2006.

Still fairly young, Gomez still has a chance to rebound and right the ship.  However, considering that his legs are his sole and sometimes only attribute, the longer he waits to explode, his chances to do so become nonexistent. 

What can we expect from Gomez this year?

Nobody really knows.  Gomez could turn his career around and finally hit for the average that will allow him to steal 50 bases. 

On the other hand, he could continue to be trade bait, vanishing into the pool of MLB players and lose his speed as age starts kicking in.  Let’s hope not.


Honorable Mention: Mark Prior, SP, New York Yankees

Prior needed to be mentioned.  He’s a product of an unlawful and unethical sabotage of a great pitcher’s arm.

After being ran into the ground by manager Dusty Baker from 2002-2003, Prior, who was 22 at the time, pitched over 320 innings in 49 starts.  Four of those starts were complete games.

While letting a young and talented pitcher get his feet wet doesn’t qualify as a crime, Baker’s over usage of Prior has been highly documented and continuously debated. 

Prior’s short, yet impressive career, has been a building block that has been used by team’s to structure plans for their young pitchers.  Think Joba Chamberlain and Clayton Kershaw.

It’s been four years now since Prior has recorded one out in the majors, and there is no reason to believe that will change.

Every year, Prior tries to rehabilitate and resurface as a pitcher to be signed.  Usually a team will sign him in the miraculous hopes that he’ll be deemed healthy and be able to pitch even an inning in the majors. 

That’s how good of a pitcher he was.  And was is the key word.

Signed by the New York Yankees this off-season, Prior will have yet another opportunity to make a comeback at the age of 30.

If there was ever a team for Prior to get healthy for and display his talents in a major league stadium, it’s the New York Yankees.  The situation seems perfect.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Hot Stove: Bombing In The Bronx? Grading Yankees’ Offseason Moves

Is it just me, or are there any other people scratching their heads over the Yankees’ personnel decisions this offseason?

This is the time of the year that the Pinstripes are supposed to re-tool for another run at another World Series crown, isn’t it?

So far the Yanks have failed to sign a top-tier free agent outside of Rafael Soriano who will be paid $10 million to pitch the eighth inning in front of Mariano Rivera.

Perhaps the most telling fact about the Bronx Bombers’ offseason mediocrity is the rejection of Cliff Lee when he turned down the Yankees and signed with Phillies for less money. You have to go back to 1992 to find the last time that a free agent turned down a better offer from the Yankees to sign with another team when Greg Maddux opted to sign with Atlanta rather than wear pinstripes. That’s almost 20 years!

Do the Yankees make the grade with their offseason moves thus far?

Let’s take a look at some of their notable offseason transactions. Then, you decide.

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