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allen wrenched . . . . . (alternate title: watson and jetsam)

welcome back; hope you all had a nice xmas. you've learned by now that suppan signed with milwaukee, and very likely you've read walter's words (with which i agree, in this instance) on the virtues of stand-pattism. mulder is expected to make a decision shortly; the cardinals are said to be one of two or three finalists. stay tuned.

i read with interest john sickels' preliminary list of the cardinal system's top 20 prospects, which appeared over the weekend (see DJ87's diary for the list and some reaction). `twas the 2d top-prospect list to appear in recent days, following kevin goldstein's list at baseball prospectus (see Brock 20's diary for the names.) the lists essentially agree; colby rasmus is The Man, jaime garcia is #2, adam ottavino and bryan anderson are the best of the rest. each rater had a surprise in the top 5 --- john jay (#3 on sickels' list) and daryl jones (#5 on goldstein's) --- but in general they're in agreement on the farm system hierarchy, as prospect handicappers are wont. when they're right, they're usually right as a herd --- ditto when they're wrong.

which leads me to today's question for discussion: which cardinal prospect of recent (or not-so-recent) memory were you most wrong about? which would-be future star let you down the worst? set aside rick ankiel, who is perhaps the biggest disappointment in franchise history; he's in a class by himself, so don't bring him up. even if we disqualify him, there's no shortage of candidates: geronimo pena, alan benes, todd zeile, dmitri young, and bud smith all leap immediately to my mind; go back a few more years and names like joe magrane, jim lindeman, and andy rincon enter the mix.

for me, the answer to this question is allen watson. the first year i played in a roto league, i had watson on the taxi squad; when the cards called him up in mid-1993, i fearlessly activated him. this was back in the dark ages before Moneyball and broadband modems and saturation sports coverage; the minor leagues were almost entirely unknown provinces, and something as simple as knowing baseball america's top 100 prospects could give you an advantage in a rotisserie league. watson was #9 on the 1993 list, listed alongside guys like chipper jones and manny ramirez and carlos delgado. he had raced through the minor-league system in two seasons and got to the big leagues at age 22 with a career minor-league era of 2.20 or so. i was convinced he was It.

in his major-league debut, watson tossed six innings of 1-run ball to beat the braves. he struggled for a couple of starts, then reeled off five strong outings in a row, yielding just 5 runs and 21 hits in 33+ innings. by late august he stood at 6-0 with a 2.86 era; my roto team was in 2d place, and i looked like a genius. and then, suddenly . . . . on august 24, watson took the hill at jack murphy stadium in san diego and got bombarded --- faced 10 men and gave up 4 walks, 3 doubles, and a homer. his final line: 8 runs in 2/3 of an inning. the cardinals lost 17-4; watson wouldn't win another game that year. my roto team fell to 5th place.

watson lasted two more years with st louis, with an era well over 5.00; his career era in 8 seasons was 5.03. no other flop stung me quite like that one (excepting ankiel, of course).