Former Top Prospects Who Now Look Like Busts: 2024 Edition

Back in 2022, John Bitzer wrote an article about former top prospects who now look like busts. It’s time for a refresh. 

In that piece, John posited that, based on the actions of front offices around the league, prospects have about a two-year window, on average, to prove their worth before their club -- or the league as a whole -- moves on. The amount of time or number of chances a team is willing to give varies from player to player, but the point remains: players need to prove their worth in a reasonable timeframe, or they’ll be cast aside.

Using that two-year rule as a rough guideline, let’s take a fresh look at a current set of former top prospects who meet that criteria.


Joey Bart

For the better part of the 2010s, the Giants enjoyed the luxury of having one of the league’s premier backstops. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 draft, the Giants made a selection they thought would keep that tradition going: Bart, a 6’2” catcher from Georgia Tech who was drawing comparisons to two other former Yellow Jacket alums, Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters. It was the highest draft selection the Giants had made since 1985, and Bart was ranked the Giants’ top prospect and the 29th prospect overall by Baseball America right away in 2019.

Bart’s minor league career was brief, having played just 130 games – only 22 above A ball – before being thrust into Major League action when Buster Posey opted out of the COVID season. What little development time he had before then was cut even shorter, first by a fractured left hand, and then by a broken right thumb, both suffered after being hit by pitches.  

With such little time to develop before the big leagues, he was understandably overmatched in 2020. Bart posted a 36.9% strikeout rate and just a 2.7% walk rate in the 33-game sample that season, but was still able to put up 0.2 fWAR thanks to defensive metrics, and the positional benefit. When Posey returned in 2021, Bart took his rightful place in AAA, where he could work on his plate approach without the pressure of the major leagues. 

When Bart was called upon again in 2022 following Posey’s retirement, however, his strikeout issues continued. He carried a massive 38.5% strikeout rate through 97 games that season and seemingly regressed defensively. In 2023, he was able to cut his K-rate down to 24.2% in 30 big-league games, but several small injuries opened the door for Patrick Bailey to start, and the job never returned to Bart’s hands. 

Bart’s Giants tenure came to a close this spring when he was traded to the Pirates following a DFA. He’s showing some signs of life in Pittsburgh so far, but it’s hard not to look at the now-27-year-old as a bust given the high draft position and the expectations placed on him as the heir to Posey.


Nick Pratto

The Royals drafted Pratto with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 draft. At the time, he was highly regarded for his plate discipline, drawing early comparisons to fellow left-handed hitting first baseman Joey Votto. He also got looks as a pitcher, but the combination of discipline and raw power made first base his logical position as a pro. He peaked as the Royals’ top prospect in 2018 and as the 43rd-ranked prospect in baseball in 2022, according to Baseball America.

In the upper levels of the minors, Pratto’s power started to show up. He slugged 38 homers in 124 games between AA and AAA in 2021, and added another 17 in 82 games at AAA the following season before his big league call-up. 

His plate discipline showed up right away at the MLB level, walking at a 10.4% clip in his first 49 games. He had 7 home runs in that 49-game sample but struggled mightily making contact, with a 36.3% strikeout rate and a 76% zone contact rate (league average is 87%). When he did make contact, it was mostly poor quality, with an average exit velocity of just 86 mph, according to Statcast. This led to a major league batting line of just .184/.281/.386 in 2022.

It was around this time that another Royals first base prospect, Vinnie Pasquantino, made his big-league debut. Pasquantino outperformed Pratto head-to-head, with 1.4 fWAR over 72 games vs Pratto’s -0.1 fWAR showing in 49 games. Pratto’s spot as the Royals’ everyday first baseman had been taken – that is, until Pasquantino’s June shoulder surgery took him out for the remainder of the 2023 season. 

Pratto had his shot to regain ground, but was unfortunately injured himself in July and didn’t return until September. His overall batting line in 2023 was just .232/.307/.353, and his strikeout rate climbed to 40%. That was not nearly enough to make the Royals reconsider their first baseman of the future, and Pratto began the 2024 season in AAA. 

With Pratto in his last option year and the first base job firmly in Pasquantino’s hands, the future looks murky for Pratto in Kansas City. Barring another injury, he’s a likely DFA candidate next season, certainly not what the Royals hoped he would be when they selected him 14th overall. 


Deivi Garcia

Once dubbed “The Pitcher Who Was Promised” by Yankees fans, Garcia peaked as the #2 prospect in the New York farm system and #55 prospect in baseball in 2021. 

Garcia’s prospect status grew exponentially as he tore through the Yankees’ farm system, reaching AAA by the time he was 20 years old in 2019. He made his big-league debut in 2020 and tossed 34.1 innings with a 4.98 ERA and 4.15 FIP as a 21-year-old. His promotion was largely due to the Yankees’ desire to get him game action while there was none available in the minor leagues, however, and he thus returned to AAA in 2021. 

This is where things began to take a turn for Garcia. His results in AAA were poor, as he notched a 6.48 ERA in 90.2 innings. He was called up to the majors only briefly that season, experiencing more poor results and allowing 7 earned runs in only 2 starts. It has only been more of the same for Garcia since then, with a combined 6.89 ERA across AA and AAA in 2022 and a 5.07 ERA in AAA in 2023. His command ultimately deteriorated, and even a conversion to relief couldn’t save him. 

Looking back, the Yankees probably regret calling him up to the big leagues in 2020. Adding him to the 40-man roster started his option clock, and as a result, he has no option years remaining. This resulted in a DFA in 2023 and a waiver claim by the White Sox, who recently DFA’d him again (there were no takers). 

Perhaps Garcia’s command would have disappeared anyway, but the Yankees still could have held onto him for longer had they not rushed him to the show. He’s still only 25, and could have stuck around as fungible relief depth at worst if his command had shown any improvement. 


At the end of our 2022 article, John offered a handful of players who could prove to be busts in the future, so here’s a follow-up on some of those players:


Spencer Howard

In earlier years, Howard was on the opposite end of the prospect spectrum, considered as a sleeper rather than a bust. He was selected in the 2nd round by the Phillies in the 2017 draft after joining the Cal Poly program as a walk-on. He began his college career with a mid-80s fastball, but by the time he turned pro he was regularly touching 100 mph with the pitch.

That rapid increase in velocity led to some issues with dead arm and shoulder soreness in 2018 and 2019, but his minor league results were mostly fantastic and he quickly rose to prominence as a prospect. By 2020, he was considered the #1 prospect in the Phillies’ system and the 27th overall prospect in the game by Baseball America. He made his big-league debut in 2020 and posted a 5.92 ERA and 5.86 FIP in 24.1 innings across 6 starts, but maintained both his #1 Phillies ranking and #27 overall ranking in 2021.

He pitched 11 more games for the Phillies (7 starts) in 2021, posting a 5.72 ERA (albeit with a 4.01 FIP this time) before becoming the headliner in the 2021 deadline deal that sent Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy from Texas to Philadelphia. He continued to struggle for the Rangers in 2021 with a 9.70 ERA and 5.65 FIP across 8 starts. 

His 2022 season wasn’t much better, and by 2023 the Rangers had seen enough. He was claimed off waivers by the Yankees in August of 2023 and is currently in AAA with the Giants without any options remaining. 

Overall, his big-league career has consisted of 115 innings of 7.20 ERA ball. At the time of this writing, his 2024 ERA at the AAA level is north of 6. Baseball is full of redemption stories, but at this point Howard’s days as a major-league option are likely over. 

Carter Kieboom

The Nationals had gone four straight years drafting a pitcher with their top pick, but they ended that streak in 2016 when they selected high school shortstop Carter Kieboom 28th overall. Kieboom was lauded at the time for his advanced plate discipline, which has mostly held up at every level he’s played, as he has routinely recorded walk rates upwards of 12%. He hit quite a bit in his rise through the minors as well, with particularly impressive 158 and 149 wRC+ showings at the lower levels in 2017 and 2018, and a 123 wRC+ showing at AAA in 2019.

Kieboom made his major league debut as a 21-year-old in 2019 and was subsequently ranked the Nationals’ #1 prospect and the #15 prospect overall by Baseball America entering 2020. Washington had high hopes for Kieboom heading into the shortened season and had a regular spot in the lineup vacant for him after third baseman Anthony Rendon departed to Los Angeles in free agency.

He did break camp with the team in 2020 but had a difficult time producing hard contact, finishing the shortened season with just a 68 wRC+ and no home runs in 33 games played. That prompted the Nationals to send Kieboom back to AAA for 2021. He rebounded a bit there, with a 113 wRC+ and the same high-walk, low-strikeout approach he’s consistently shown at the minor-league level. His call back to the big leagues in July of that year produced another 70 wRC+ and .201/.301/.318 batting line in 62 games. Kieboom then missed all of the 2022 season with Tommy John surgery, returning in 2023 for another 27-game stint of mediocre production at the plate. 

Kieboom, having played in the majors in parts of 4 seasons to a combined -2.0 fWAR, found himself without a call to the big leagues to open 2024 and with no option years remaining. The Nationals placed him on waivers and he cleared them – meaning that each of the other 29 teams passed on the chance to place him on their 40-man roster – resulting in a AAA assignment. 

He has consistently hit at the minor league level, and that remains true so far this year with a 138 wRC+ in AAA at the time of this writing. Some guys are just AAAA players. Kieboom, now 26, seems as if he’s fallen into that category.


Taylor Trammell

Thanks in large part to his exceptional athletic ability, Trammell was selected 35th overall by the Reds in Competitive Balance Round A of the 2016 draft. He peaked at #33 on Baseball America’s Top 100 ranking in 2019, and that summer became the most notable prospect in the 3-team trade that landed Trevor Bauer in Cincinnati and Trammell in San Diego. It wasn’t long before Trammell was traded again, this time in a 2020 deadline deal that sent him and others to Seattle in exchange primarily for catcher Austin Nola.

Trammell’s multiple trips around the country seemed to have an impact on his performance at the plate. After 131 and 129 wRC+ showings at the lower levels of the minors in 2017 and 2018, Trammell reached AA with Cincinnati in 2019. He was off to a 106 wRC+ start in his first taste of AA, but that number dropped to just 98 after the trade to San Diego, likely impacting his stock. He did hit for more power after the trade, however, with a lower walk rate and a higher strikeout rate. That combination of metrics could be an indication of an approach adjustment San Diego wanted him to implement upon his arrival there.

After his trade to Seattle, he returned to his old approach and recaptured some of his previous performance with a 104 wRC+ at the AAA level in 2021. That prompted his first major league action in 2021, but he struggled mightily at the next level with a .160/.256/.359 batting line and a 42.1% strikeout rate in 51 games. 

He received more major league opportunities with the Mariners in 2022 and 2023 but finished his career there with just a .168/.270/.368 batting line in 116 major league games. He was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers in April of this year but was DFA’d again and claimed by the Yankees on April 18th, who recently DFA’d him again.

To make matters worse for Trammell, his once-blazing speed declined to just the 43rd percentile in the league in 2023. This was one of his carrying tools as a prospect, so any losses there serve to further complicate his path to prominence as a big-league player. 

One has to wonder if the lost 2020 season had a particularly negative impact on Trammell. If San Diego truly did mess with his approach, it would have been particularly difficult for him to continue to work on those adjustments without any game action. We can only look back and wonder now if Trammell would have been a different player had Covid not happened at such a crucial time in his development, but as of now, his major league outlook looks bleak. 


John’s original article also listed a few more that were trending down; at this point, it seems fair to label Miguel Andujar, Nick Senzel, and Sixto Sanchez as busts.

And at this point, former top prospects Nick Madrigal, Jose Barrero, and Ian Anderson also look like disappointments, relative to previously high expectations.

A few others who are on our radar as possible busts if they don’t turn things around in the next year or two include: Matthew Liberatore, Andrew Vaughn, Jack Leiter, Austin Martin, and Henry Davis.

Many of these players still have major league opportunities ahead of them, and some (like Jo Adell and Jordan Walker) may even have star potential left. Others (like Jarred Kelenic) may settle into more complimentary roles that, although they don’t quite live up to the promise they once had as prospects, lead to long and useful MLB careers. 

But baseball is a brutal business, and not every prospect will make it.


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