Number 1 Prospect: Chipper Jones, SS Atlanta. You have probably heard of him. Though he didn’t stick at shortstop Chipper spent his entire career playing for Atlanta primarily as a third-baseman and then later as a left fielder. He batted over .300 in his 20-year career. His best year was probably 1999 where he 45 home runs and stole 25 bases with an OPS over 1.000.
Royals prospects: 22 - OF Johnny Damon; 32 - RHP Jim Pittsley; 40 1B/OF Michael Tucker
Johnny Damon is easily the most famous person among this group. The speedster, who was born in Fort Riley, debuted in 1995 and struggled to find his way with an odd-ball, left-handed swing but finally broke out in 2000 when he batted .327 with 46 stolen bases and 126 runs scored. Those all ended up being career highs for him. Those early 2000’s Royals weren’t paying anyone so he was part of a 3-team trade with Oakland and Tampa Bay that netted the Royals a well-respected shortstop prospect in Angel Berroa, veteran catcher in A. J. Hinch, and proven closer in Roberto Hernandez.
Damon had a terrible 2001 and it was fair to wonder if the Royals had dodged a bullet. That off-season he signed a four-year deal with the Boston Red Sox and eventually became the face of their ‘Idiots’ World Series winning team in 2004. When that contract ended he signed for four years with the Yankees and earned another ring with them in 2009. He played a year each in Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. He even appeared in the 2011 ALDS with Tampa Bay, though they were eliminated there.
Johnny still hasn’t officially retired, and as recently as December of 2014 he was still open to contract offers, though he had admitted in August it was pretty unlikely he would receive any. Damon currently lives in Florida with his wife and six children. He is active in the Wounded Warrior Project and has a personal website.
There’s not a lot to say about Jim Pittsley. This was not his only time in the top 100 list - in fact he showed up there five consecutive seasons between 1993 and 1997. He never did very well at the major league level, unfortunately, at least in part due to a partially torn UCL he suffered shortly before finally being promoted to the majors. He pitched parts of the 1997-1999 seasons with the Royals and his ERA went up every year. In the middle of 1999, sporting an astonishing 6.99 ERA after 5 starts he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Brewers. He pitched 15 games in relief for them for a 4.82 ERA and was granted free agency following the season. He never appeared in major league baseball again.
Michael Tucker never developed into the super star the Royals hoped he would be, but he ended up spending 12 years in the major leagues all the same. He made his debut with the team in 1995 but really didn’t do much to wow anyone. He was traded during the ‘96-’97 off-season along with Keith Lockhart to Atlanta for Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker. Tucker has his best season there in 1997 but had only just begun bouncing around baseball.
He was a left hander who could hit righties alright, but struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers. This meant there was always enough upside to acquire him, but rarely enough to justify keeping him. Atlanta traded him to Cincinnati following the 1998 season. The Reds sent him to the Cubs at the 2001 trade deadline. That off-season he was traded back to the Royals for Shawn Sonnier. As a free agent in 2003 he signed with the Giants, who traded him during the waiver period of 2005 to the Phillies. That off-season he signed with the Nationals who released him toward the end of Spring Training which allowed him to sign with the Mets. He was granted free agency again in the 2006 off-season and didn’t sign back up with a team until joining the Red Sox in May 2007, when they released him that August that was the end of his major league career, though he played for two different independent league teams in 2009.
Last he was seen, Tucker was helping run a baseball clinic on the Sanibel and Captiva islands in 2011.
Other notable prospects:
16 - 1B David McCarty, Twins.
82 - OF Raul Mondesi, Dodgers.
Number 1 Prospect: Cliff Floyd, 1B Expos. It took Floyd some time, a position change to corner outfielder, and a team change to the Florida Marlins before he really got going but once he did he had a very productive career from 1998 to 2005. He played before and after those years, but that was his peak. One weird note is that he appears to have been traded twice during the 2007 trade deadline season. From the Marlins back to the Expos for two weeks and then to Boston on July 31.
Royals prospects: 19 - LHP Jeff Granger; 25 - 2B Michael Tucker*; 31 - OF Johnny Damon; 82 - RHP Jim Pittsley
*Yes, Michael Tucker was listed as a second baseman on the prospect list in 1994. He did end up playing nine innings of defense there for the Reds and Royals.
This list includes our first set of repeats, so we won’t go over them again. That leaves Jeff Granger. Granger had a pedigree to go with this high ranking, having been taken in the first round of the 1993 draft, fifth overall. This was immediately following his sophomore season where he struck out 150 batters to break Roger Clemens’ southwest conference record. Like future fellow left handed starter Brandon Finnegan Granger made his major league debut in September of the same season after dominating in his minor league appearances.
Unlike Finnegan, Granger was rocked in his sole appearance giving up three runs in a single inning of relief. He started ‘94 in the minors but eventually came up and pitched poorly in two starts in May while still dominating in the minor leagues both before and after. He didn’t see major league action again until 1996, pitching five times in relief and allowing 12 runs in only 16 and 1/3 innings. He was thrown into the deal the following off-season that sent Joe Randa and Jeff Wallace along with fellow minor leaguer Jeff Martin for Jay Bell and Jeff King. That trade holds the unofficial record for most Jeffs in a single transaction.
Granger pitched nine games of relief for the Pirates in 1997, allowing ten runs in five innings before being demoted back to AAA. He never saw major league action again despite competing at the minor league level for three more years.
According to Kings of Kauffman, Granger is currently a financial advisor for Chase Bank in a small Texas town.
Other notable prospects:
9 - OF Rondell White, Expos.
34 - RHP Mac Suzuki, Mariners. He was actually acquired by the Royals twice. He was selected off waivers from the Mets, then traded to the Rockies two years later then signed back on as a free agent after being released by the Brewers during the 2001 off-season.
51 - OF Raul Mondesi, Dodgers.
56 - LHP Brian Anderson, Angels. Signed as a free agent with the Royals prior to the magical 2003 season, where he wasn’t bad. He made up for it by being pretty terrible the next two seasons, his last in the big leagues.
68 - RHP Ricky Botallico, Philles. Signed a one-year deal with the Royals as their closer for the 2000 season.
99 - LHP Paul Spoljaric, Blue Jays. Journeyman reliever who pitched his last big league season for the Royals, completing 9 2/3 innings for them in 2000.
Number 1 Prospect: Alex Rodriguez, SS Mariners. If you haven’t heard of Alex Rodriguez, I’m not sure I can help you. Alex Rodriguez has had an astonishing career as a baseball player and has served as a focal point during the steroid controversies of the late ‘90s and early 2000’s. His storied career took him from Seattle to Texas and finally to the New York Yankees. He was suspended an entire season for trying to impede a steroid investigation. He finished his career with 696 home runs and more than 3000 hits.
Royals prospects: 9 - OF Johnny Damon; 32 - OF Michael Tucker; 39 - RHP Jim Pittsley; 61 - 2B Sergio Nunez; 74 - LHP Jeff Granger
There is not a lot to say here, most of these are repeats again. Sergio Nunez is not, but he also never made it to the big leagues. He spent 1997 with the Royals AA affiliate in Wichita and then in 1998 was with the White Sox in their AA affiliate, Birmingham. As late as 2000 he was still playing pro ball for Florida’s A+ team in Clearwater. It’s unclear what he’s doing these days.
Other notable prospects:
50 - RHP Jeff Suppan, Boston. Suppan was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Royals in September of their inaugural 1998 season. Suppan went on to headline Royals’ rotations from 1999-2002.
88 - OF Jermaine Dye, Atlanta. Acquired in the Tucker deal during spring training of 1997. Was an all-star for the Royals in 2000 when he hit 33 home runs. Infamously traded to the Rockies for Neifi Perez at the trade deadline of the 2001 season.
92 - SS Desi Relaford, Seattle. Signed a two-year deal with the Royals as a free agent before the 2003 season and played mediocre baseball all over the field.
There were a lot of repeats in this set of data, but out of a total of five prospects during this period the Royals managed to get one super star, one serviceable major league player - who was traded for an above average guy - and three busts.
One pattern that is beginning to become apparent is that the Royals never seem to have a highly touted prospect come up and immediately be successful. Damon became awesome, but spent several years under-performing before finally finding his way. Tucker didn’t end up as good but after struggling for a couple years became a bit above average for a bit. Even Jermaine Dye, who had a moderately successful rookie campaign for Atlanta, struggled for two years before finally getting it together with the Royals. It’s almost as if not only is it hard to get prospects to the majors and to get them to be successful, but it’s really hard for them to be immediately successful.