The transition from prospect to major leaguer is rarely smooth. For every Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza or Albert Pujols who hits the ground running, there is a Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay or Jim Thome who needs multiple years—and sometimes multiple demotions and callups—before blossoming.
That remains true today.
Jose Ramirez hit .239/.298/.346 over three partial seasons to begin his career and didn’t stay in the majors until his fifth callup. Max Scherzer was demoted to Triple-A during his third season and didn’t post his first sub-3.00 ERA until his sixth season. Nelson Cruz, who hit more home runs than any other player in the 2010s, bounced between the majors and minors for four seasons and didn’t become an everyday player until he was 28.
That’s just to name a few. Tim Anderson hit .258/.286/.411 in his first three seasons before winning a batting title and becoming a two-time all-star. Corey Kluber posted a 5.35 ERA in his first two big league stints and didn’t become a regular in the rotation until he was 27. Austin Riley hit .232/.288/.488 his first two seasons before blossoming into an MVP contender. Corbin Burnes posted an 8.82 ERA and was dropped from the Brewers rotation a year before becoming a perennial Cy Young contender.
Some players become standouts quickly, but others take time. Just because a player hasn’t established himself as an everyday player by his mid-20s doesn’t mean he never will. While early struggles can sometimes be an indication of real, lasting problems, other times they are little more than just bumps in the road the player eventually overcomes.
Here is a look at more than a dozen former Top 100 Prospects who have graduated from prospect eligibility but have yet to establish themselves in the major leagues, along with how scouts across the game view them and their outlooks.
Some have shown flaws that evaluators don’t believe can be overcome or that will limit them throughout their careers. Others have struggled early but shown enough for evaluators to believe brighter days are ahead.
All scouts are employed by MLB clubs and were granted anonymity to speak freely. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Jo Adell, OF, Angels
Highest ranking: No. 3 in 2020
Career statistics: 161 G, .215/.259/.356, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 34.8% K rate, 4.7% BB rate, 70 OPS+.
Adell stormed through the low minors and established himself as one of the game’s elite prospects in 2019 when he excelled at Double-A…