Every year the baseball world is put on notice by the publishing of various “top prospect” lists. These herald the best and the brightest of that year’s group of young players toiling in the minor leagues and hoping to eventually make their way to the big league limelight. Some receive their promotion rather quickly, and some never at all. Then there is a group that may reach the majors but never bloom into stardom. Here is a list of some former top prospects who are still plugging away in the minors hoping to fulfill their former promise.
Casey Crosby, Pitcher: A 2007 fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, the left-hander won 10 games with a 2.41 ERA at the age of 20 in 2009. He made three starts for the Tigers in 2012, giving up 15 hits, 11 walks and 13 runs in 12.1 innings and has never made it back since. He battled injuries, including Tommy John surgery, and sat out both 2015 and 2016 while working for a bank. He made a successful return to the game last year with a brief stint with an independent league team, and is now pitching in the system of the Minnesota Twins as a 29-year-old reliever, posting a 3.52 ERA in seven appearances.
Michael Almanzar, Third/First Baseman: The son of former Major Leaguer Carlos Almanzar, the lanky right-handed hitter signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 for $1.5 million at the age of 16. Unfortunately, he never really took off and has yet to reach the majors. After seven years in the Boston system, he has bounced between the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and now Washington Nationals. Still just 27, he is in his 11th professional season and has career minor league totals of a .246 batting average and 78 home runs.
Manny Banuelos, Pitcher: Once considered one of the top southpaw prospects in the games, he was a constant on prospect lists in the early days of his career in the system of the New York Yankees. Legendary Mariano Rivera even once said he was the best pitching prospect he had ever seen. After going 9-5 with a 2.67 ERA as an 18-year-old in 2009 in Single-A, Banuelos looked poised to make the leap. Unfortunately, other than a seven game stint with the Atlanta Braves in 2015, he never has. A litany of injuries, included the dreaded Tommy John Surgery, has stunted his growth and results. He last threw over 100 innings in a professional season in 2011 and is now on his fourth organization (Los Angeles Dodgers). Still just 27, he is showing a glimmer of his former self, having produced a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in eight triple-A starts this year.
Casey Kelly, Pitcher: When he was first drafted in the first round as a talented high schooler by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, it was up in the air whether he would be a pitcher or a shortstop. He wound up on the rubber and even won 11 games at the age of 21 in Double-A in 2011. Unfortunately, he has only pitched parts of three big league seasons, totaling a 2-8 record and 6.39 ERA across 19 games (9 starts). Injuries, including Tommy John, have contributed to his stunting. Now 28, he is currently struggling with the Triple-A team of the San Francisco Giants, posting an ugly 7.37 ERA across nine starts.
Phillippe Aumont, Pitcher: The massive right-hander was the 11th overall pick of the 2007 draft (Seattle Mariners) and had a fastball perhaps even larger than his 6’7” frame. A reliever for most of his career, he has battled nagging injuries and control/command issues. He has a 6.80 ERA in 46 major league games, spanning four seasons, and even retired following the 2016 season. However, he has come back and is with his fifth organization, the Detroit Tigers. The 29-year-old has been nearly unhittable so far in 2018, producing a 2.11 ERA in 12 minor league appearances.
Tony Sanchez, Catcher: Prior to being the fourth overall pick in 2009 (Pittsburgh Pirates), the right-hander had dominated with his bat and glove at every level he had played. The pro game has proven to be more challenging for him. While he has played parts of four seasons in the majors (combining for a .257 batting average, 4 home runs and 18 RBIs in 52 games), he has hit just .257 in 10 minor league seasons, while catching only 23 percent of those attempting to steal against him. He is playing for his sixth (Cincinnati Reds) and seventh (Texas Rangers) organizations this year and still has major league aspirations at the age of 30.
Adam Loewen, Pitcher: The fourth overall pick in 2002 (Orioles) the 34-year-old is unbelievably in his 15th professional season. Having toggled between pitching and playing outfield, the left-hander hasn’t played in the field regularly since 2013. In parts of six major league seasons he is 10-8 with a 5.85 ERA (63 games) and has hit .189 with a home run in 40 games. He last appeared in the majors in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and currently with his sixth organization (Rangers), having thrown 3.2 scoreless innings thus far in 2018. He is certainly trying to get another shot at the majors and it would be great to see him get it given all the years and work he has put in.
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