Failed Prospects from the Last Half-Decade: Dishonourable Mentions

Brad White

With the recent release of the (now outdated) Fangraphs Top 15 and Baseball America Top 10 prospects lists, ranking season is upon us once again. Prospecting, along with most other things in baseball, brings with it both hope and heartbreak. The Blue Jays have seen their share of both over the past half-decade, and over the next few weeks I will take a look at some of the biggest disappointments from that time. In part one we covered Russ Adams and Dustin McGowan. Two weeks ago we remembered David Purcey and Curtis Thigpen. Last week we talked about Travis Snider and Kevin Ahrens. Today, in the final part of this series, we'll take a quick look at a number of players who were either not bad enough or not hyped enough to make the cut.

Before we dig right in, I'd like to make a few notes about how I came up with these names: first, not all players in this series could really be classified as a 'bust' or a failure, since most of them did at least have (or are likely to have) a career in the majors. Secondly, I only considered players who ranked as top five prospects in the organization according to Baseball America at least once since 2005, and were taken in the first 40 picks of the draft . Lastly, I do recognize that a large number of Jays fans have followed these players since they were drafted. If that's you, you can read the following to dampen your day and laugh at me: a relatively new fan who is just beginning to understand the pain of prospect disappointment.

Justin Jackson

Jackson was drafted by the Jays out of high school in the supplemental round of the 2007 draft. In the five full seasons he's spent in the organization, he has never had an OPS higher than .708, and that came in Lansing during the 2008 season. Since then, he's spent most of his time in Dunedin, though he's also played in Lansing and New Hampshire (he spent more than half the 2012 season in New Hampshire). While splitting time between AA and A+ in 2012 he hit .220/.300/.282 with a wRC+ of 61 in Dunedin and 70 in New Hampshire.

He'll probably begin the 2013 season in New Hampshire, and if he does well enough he may get promoted to AAA. I wouldn't count on it though, and unfortunately I don't expect he'll ever make it to the majors.

Chad Jenkins

Chad Jenkins was drafted out of college by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2009 draft. He was the first pick in former general manager J.P. Ricciardi's last draft. He began his professional career in 2010 with the Lansing Lugnuts, and was promoted to Dunedin by the end of the season. He had an ERA of 3.94 over the whole season, and a very good FIP of 2.94 in Lansing. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

He spent 2011 and 2012 in AA New Hampshire, having a particularly poor season in 2012. His ERA climbed to 4.98 (with a FIP of 5.08) and his strikeout rate was an awfully low 11%.

He made his MLB debut on August 7th, coming out of the bullpen. In his 32 innings (13.2 of which came in starts) he had an ERA of 4.50 and a FIP of 5.25. He's currently 6th on the starting pitching depth chart, and I assume he'll be battling for a spot in the bullpen during spring training.

Deck McGuire

Deck McGuire, the first draft pick made under current general manager Alex Anthopoulos, was drafted 11th overall in the 2010 draft. He signed with the Jays at the deadline for $2 million. He's only been pitching professionally for two season: most of his 2011 season was spent in A+ Dunedin, though he was promoted to New Hampshire before suffering a season ending oblique injury.

McGuire's numbers in 2012 were not pretty: he pitched 144 innings for AA New Hampshire and had an ERA of 5.88 (with a FIP of 5.26). His strikeout rate fell from 23.2% to 15.1%, and his walk rate increased from 8% to 9.6%.

While it's still too early to write Deck McGuire off completely, it's beginning to look unlikely that he'll be able to start in the majors. Lets hope for better things from him in 2013.

Zach Stewart

Stewart is the only prospect in this series who was not drafted by the Blue Jays. He was acquired by the Jays as part of the Scott Rolen trade, along with Josh Roenicke and Edwin Encarnacion. He was the Jays' number one prospect after the 2009 season. He spent 2010 and part of 2011 in AA before being called up to make his debut with the Blue Jays on June 14, after Kyle Drabek was demoted to Las Vegas.

Stewart only pitched 16.2 innings with Toronto before being traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of the mega-deal that landed Colby Rasmus. His best game came with them on September 5th, when he pitched seven perfect innings in a start against the Minnesota Twins. In June he was traded to the Red Sox along with Brent Lillibridge for Kevin Youkilis. After being designated for assignment on November 20th, he was traded to the Pirates for a player to be named later.

And that's the end of this series! A case could be made for the inclusion of a few other players (I'm looking at you, Kyle Drabek) but I think that the ten players covered here provide the reality check I was looking for.

Join me again in five years to hopefully NOT discuss what a bust that Travis d'Arnaud was.

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