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A History of Royals Top 100 Prospects Part 3 (1996 - 1998)

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Things start to go downhill

Carlos Beltran #36 belts one

If you’ve been following the Royals for a while you may recall that from 2000-2009 the team was just entirely non-competitive. The prospect class lists from this period are a big part of why.

1996

Number 1 Prospect: Andruw Jones, Atlanta. Is it any wonder that Atlanta was as good for as long as they were in the '90s? After Chipper was the number 1 prospect, they had Andruw. This particular Jones was probably a bit undervalued because he had a low batting average in a time when many still considered that to be of vital importance. While Chipper had a career average well over .300 Andruw's sits at .254. He did have 434 career home runs - that’s 32 home runs every 162 games - and a .337 career OBP, which is nothing to be scoffed at.

Despite not being as well-regarded as he might have deserved, Andruw made the All-Star Game five different times for Atlanta, won ten consecutive gold gloves from 1998 - 2007 and factored into the MVP voting five separate times, culminating in a second place finish during his best season in 2005 when he hit an astonishing 51 home runs with a .922 OPS.

Royals prospects: 24 - RHP Jim Pittsley; 83 - LHP Glendon Rusch

Stop me if you've heard this before: Royals' starting pitching prospect with a good pedigree comes up and performs very poorly, but shows flashes of potential promise that, combined with the fact that they don't really have any better options, keeps him pitching in the big leagues. I could be describing any number of former Royals' starting pitchers, but I am talking about Glendon Rusch.

Rusch pitched only two and a half seasons for the Royals before they traded him to the Mets in the summer of 1999 for Dan Murray, a reliever who appeared in a grand total of 14 games for the Royals between the '99 and 2000 seasons before being cut and never again pitching in the big leagues.

Glendon did find some success as a starter in the 2000 New York Mets rotation, going 11-11 with a 4.01 ERA with two complete games for the club that made it to the World Series that year. Rusch pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs, giving up only one run across 8 1/3 innings. That was, unfortunately, Rusch's best season as a starter in the big leagues.

He continued to bounce around every couple of years finding value as a left-handed swing-man; he was traded to the Brewers then signed with the Rangers in January of 2004 but was cut before the season started, so he signed with the Cubs. Then resigned with the Cubs following that season before being released again in January of 2007 after suffering a life-threatening blood clot in his lungs. He made a come-back in 2008, signing a deal with the San Diego ball club and made the team out of spring training. He was cut in May but signed a deal with the Rockies and finished his career for them, retiring following the 2009 season.

Glendon Rusch just finished his second season as a pitching coach for San Diego's class A club, the Lake Elsinore Storm, after working with youth baseball players for the intervening five years.

Other notable prospects:

26 - C Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh. Jason played his final season, 2010, with the Royals well after injuries and age had robbed him of his All-Star skills. He was under contract in 2011 but saw no big league action that year. He signed a deal with the Royals in July of 2012 but retired five days later. He currently works in the Royals' front office and seems to be on the short list for future Royals manager, so far as such a list can exist while the guy who led (was dragged by?) the 2015 World Series champions is still on the job.

30 - OF Jermaine Dye, Atlanta.

35 - RHP Jeff Suppan, Boston.

63 - SS Neifi Perez, Colorado. As previously noted, he was acquired in an infamous trade for Jermaine Dye because the Royals felt they did not have the money to re-sign Rey Sanchez.

77 - RHP Scott Elarton, Houston. Opening Day starter for the 2006 Royals, took the mound in 2007 as well. Did not pitch well.

85 - RHP Brad Rigby, Oakland. Acquired by the Royals when they traded Kevin Appier to the Athletics.

88 - SS Miguel Tejada, Oakland. Signed as a minor league free agent before the 2013 season and eventually became the starting second baseman for the club before becoming injured and then suspended for his use of a banned substance, the second such suspension he endured. Tejada is often credited with the unique celebrations the 2013 Royals used when reaching base that one can still see in the team, today. He may have helped foster the fun-loving/winning attitude that Raul Ibanez is credited with later crystallizing into the perennial powerhouse we now enjoy.

89 - 2B Desi Relaford, Seattle.

1997

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three
Carlos Beltran is still playing.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Number 1 prospect: Andruw Jones, Atlanta. At first I kind of assumed this would be the only time this would happen. How could a number one overall prospect get so little playing time in the big leagues that he still qualified as a prospect the next year? But it actually has happened twice more, so far. Both of those guys have looked really good so far, too. But we'll talk about them when we get to them.

Royals prospects: 56 - RHP Jim Pittsley, 89 - LHP Glendon Rusch, 93 - OF Carlos Beltran

And now we get to our earliest top Royals prospect who is still playing, Carlos Beltran. Carlos came up for a cup of coffee in 1998 and didn't make too much of a splash. But he started 1999 with the team and won Rookie of the Year. His 2000 campaign was shortened by injuries, but he hit 20 home runs or more in every completed season with KC. He was leading the way with Mike Sweeney during the smoke and mirrors magic of 2003. In 2004 he even broke the Royals' home run record, the only problem is he hit more than half of those home runs with the Astros after he was traded during the final year of his contract to a contender. He finished that season with 38 home runs and 42 stolen bases between the two teams - that’s Trout-esque.

Carlos has hit 30 or more home runs four times in his career, he stole so many bases when he was younger that even now he averages 21 stolen bases a year across his 19-year career, though he hasn't stolen so many as five since 2012. He has nine all-star appearances, including this year in his age 39 season. He has won three Gold Gloves and placed in MVP voting seven different times, topping out in fourth place following his 2006 season.

He's been to the post-season six different times with five different teams but has lost the only World Series he appeared in, despite being an absolute monster in post-season play. Across 12 series he has hit 16 home runs and batted .323 with a 1.078 OPS. He has stolen 11 bases and never been caught. Houston traded for him to boost their post-season run and all he did was hit eight home runs across twelve games, despite the fact that his team lost the NLCS to the Cardinals in seven games.

Leading up to the 2004 trade there was a lot of talk about what the Royals could get for him; the thinking typically seemed to be that they should try to get a third baseman or catching prospect if at all possible. The Royals got both, and both of high quality, in Mark Teahen and John Buck. They also got Mike Wood thrown in as well. Following 2004 Beltran signed a huge deal with the Mets and played for them until he was traded at the deadline to the Giants for a good pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler. Following that season he signed a deal with the Cardinals, which culminated in his only World Series appearance to date, then signed with the Yankees in 2013. He was traded to the Rangers for their post-season push at the deadline of this year for three prospects. Unfortunately his season ended when the Blue Jays swept his Rangers out of the ALDS.

Beltran has not yet officially retired, and there's still a chance he'll try a 20th season in 2017.

Other notable prospects:

6 - SS Miguel Tejada, Oakland.

24 - OF Jose Guillen, Pittsburgh. Dayton Moore's first big free agent flop. He was known as a clubhouse cancer and did not perform well, either. He was cut before his contract was finished.

33 - SS Neifi Perez, Colorado.

37 - C Eli Marrero, St. Louis. Eli was an outfielder and occasional first baseman by the time the Royals traded a career minor league player to Atlanta for him. He was traded again, to Baltimore, before his first year with the Royals was complete.

60 - RHP Jeff Suppan, Boston.

63 - OF Terrence Long, New York Mets. Traded to the Royals along with Dennis Tankersley (Not to be confused with Dennis Eckersley) for Ryan Bukvich and Darrell May. He played 2005 for KC and was part of one of the most memorable moments of that season: he jogged back to the dugout alongside Chip Ambres as the ball each thought the other was going to catch dropped to the outfield grass behind them.

83 - LHP Bruce Chen, Atlanta. Signed three consecutive free agent deals with the Royals starting before 2009. Was once accused of visiting a strip club with Yordano Ventura and refusing to tip. By all accounts otherwise a charming and funny guy, he was the opening day starter in 2012.

84 - RHP Brett Tomko, Cincinatti. Signed as a free agent prior to the 2008 season. He was so bad even the 2008 Royals cut him before the season was over.

90 - OF Todd Dunwoody, Florida. The Royals traded a career minor leaguer for him prior to the 2000 season. Dunwoody rewarded them with a 28 OPS+ in 61 games that season.

91 - RHP Brad Rigby, Oakland.

98 - RHP Sidney Ponson, Baltimore. Never pitched up to his potential, signed as a free agent prior to the 2009 season with the Royals and pitched so poorly that he was a free agent again in August. Never pitched in the big leagues again.

1998

Kansas City Royals Photo Day Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Number 1 prospect: OF Ben Grieve, Oakland. Ben is the first number 1 prospect with any kind of Royal connection, and even then it’s tangential. He was part of the Johnny Damon deal and went from Oakland to Tampa Bay to secure Roberto Hernandez for the Royals and Cory Lidle for the Athletics.

Ben was an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year in 1998, then had a pair of really good seasons for Oakland in 1999 and 2000. He was still pretty good in 2001 and 2002 for Tampa, but quickly fell off and bounced around playing unproductive baseball for a few more years before giving up following the 2005 season.

Royals prospects: 32 - OF Dee Brown

Dermal "Dee" Brown played parts of seven seasons for Kansas City, and was largely terrible in all of them. The Royals drafted him in 1996, convincing him to abandon his commitment to play football for the University of Maryland Terps. He had tremendous tools, allegedly including both speed and power. But Dee only managed to steal eight bases in his major league career while being thrown out six times. He hit 14 home runs. If you're curious that averages out to eight home runs and five stolen bases every 162 games.

According to this Minor League Ball article, Dee just couldn't ever get 'comfortable' at the major league level. Nagging injuries didn't help, either. The last info I can find on him is that he played with the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan for 2010.

Other notable prospects:

10 - SS Miguel Tejada, Oakland.

18 - LHP Rick Ankiel, St. Louis. Like fellow Cardinal-teammate-turned-Royal Eli Marrero, Ankiel was an outfielder by the time he joined the Royals. He had been a stud pitcher who could kind-of hit as a rookie. He inexplicably lost his ability to throw strikes and converted to the outfield in 2005. It worked well enough to get him seven more seasons in the big leagues. Also like Marerro, Ankiel was part of a trade between Atlanta and Kansas City, but he went the other way at the 2010 deadline with Kyle Farnsworth for Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez, and Tim Collins. All three of whom have become moderately successful big league ball players.

27 - LHP Bruce Chen, Atlanta.

28 - RHP Scott Elarton, Houston.

33 - C Eli Marrero, St. Louis.

42 - C A.J. Hinch, Oakland. Was part of the Johnny Damon deal.

78 - RHP Sidney Ponson, Baltimore.

82 - RHP Gil Meche, Seattle. Signed with Kansas City as a free agent for what, at the time, was the biggest free agent deal in Royals' history. A five-year $55 million deal which led to a couple pretty good seasons atop the rotation with Zack Greinke and an all-star appearance and finished with a couple pretty bad seasons that included a complete game shutout which many have credited as wrecking his arm because he had to throw more than 130 pitches to finish it.

Famously retired rather than collect his salary for the final year of the deal. The "Meche Money," as it has become known, has been spent many times over by the Royals Review community on any number of players, but according to Kansas City Star writers was actually used to sign Cuban pitching prospect Noel Arguelles.

87 - OF Todd Dunwoody, New York Mets.

For those of you keeping score at home, this three-year period featured only four unique prospects, and only one of them had true success at the major league level for the Royals. True he turned into a super-star that might have a hall of fame case, but that’s just not enough.

I’ll warn you now, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

You can read Part 1 of this series here. Part 2 can be found here.