Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Turn Back The Clock - Mets' Top 10 Prospects 40 Years Ago

With the proliferation of web sites now dedicated to evaluating minor league prospects, fans have a fairly easy time reciting their team's top prospects, usually "in order". Back in the '80's, there was only Baseball America to provide this glimpse into the future. In retrospect, there were many more misses than hits, but it's fun to look back on these lists and reflect on them. Like, whatever happened to one-time Mets' top prospects like Tito Navarro and Rick Ownbey ?

Before Baseball America, prospect hunters looked forward to the annual March issue of Baseball Digest which was dedicated to providing scouting reports on every rookie listed on every major league team's 40-man roster. These reports were usually extremely conservative. For example, several future Hall Of Famers were tagged with "has a chance at the big leagues". Baseball Digest listed the prospects alphabetically by team, so you'd have to read the reports in order to make a mental 1 to 10 list. Thankfully, I've saved all of these issues from the sixties. Just prior to the 1967 season, the Mets were loaded with prospects. 17 were listed although a few like Al Schmelz and Bart Shirley weren't even projected for the big leagues at any time. These lists also were restricted to the 40-man rosters, so #1 draft pick Steve Chilcott doesn't show up (although he would have certainly rated near the top for potential alone).

Here then is my list of the Mets' top prospects for 1967 with scouting reports courtesy of Baseball Digest. The rankings are mine, based on how BD's report projected the player's chances, but the words are verbatim from Baseball Digest's published scouting report :

1. Don Bosch cf - Good speed, fine fielder. Can be a good centerfielder. Sure to make big leagues.
2. Tom Seaver rhp - Good fast ball. Curve only fair. Control and fielding OK. First year man with hard fast one. Best of futures on Jacksonville club.
3. Greg Goossen c - Has power at bat. Very good looking young hitter. Crude catcher and needs work. Should improve and have chance for a solid long major league career.
4. Nolan Ryan rhp - Must be considered a major league future at this time. Fast ball good and poise better than average.
5. Les Rohr lhp - Has tools including good arm. All he needs is to learn to move ball around and improve curve. Fast ball is alive. If he continues improvement, has good future, even majors.
6. Ken Boswell 2b - Hitting improved from beginning to end of '66. Fairly good fielder now and should get better. Not ready yet, but should be with another year of 3A.
7. Jerry Koosman lhp - Fair fast ball. Average curve. Control only fair. Needs curve ball and help in control. Needs to pitch more.
8. Joe Moock if - Pretty good hitter. Good arm. Needs improvement in field.
9. Terry Christman lhp - Has one of best moves to first seen in minors. Also has better than average curve and poise. Fair fast ball, curve, and control.
10. Bob Heise if - Good competitor. Good hustler. Hits better than average with fair power. Throwing fair.

Looking back on this list, of course Bosch was a major disappointment, Seaver, Ryan, and Koosman were severely underrated and Rohr never lived up to his "raw potential". Goossen had a decent major league career after he left the Mets, but never was a star. Boswell basically became what was expected. So, even though this was 40 years ago, the list is not unlike the recent typical Top 10 Prospect lists when viewed in retrospect.

Of course, most teams' annual prospect lists don't include 2 future Hall Of Famers and another who was almost in that class. This was possibly the Mets' best group of prospects ever.