Since 2000, the Rookie of the Year award has yielded a bounty of stars including MVPs, Cy Young Award Winners and, no doubt, some future Hall of Famers. But for every Buster Posey, the face of two San Francisco Giant World Series titles, there is a Geovany Soto, a young star who peaked his rookie year. Injuries, run-ins with the law, and drug suspensions are just some of the reasons the majors has more than its share of flashes in the pan.
In a few cases, rookies follow a stellar debut with the sophomore jinx, but in at least five cases, rookies of the year come out of the starting gate with great promise only to have their careers wane to the point where these almost-stars wash out of the Bigs or wind up toiling away in the minors or indie ball. Here are baseball’s five biggest Rookie of the Year busts since 2000.
1. Bobby Crosby
A former star at Cal State Long Beach, Bobby Crosby was selected by the Oakland A’s in the first round of the 2001 draft. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Crosby was pegged as a shortstop in the mold of Cal Ripken, Jr., with an equal mix of slick fielding and batting prowess. However, after a strong start, what started with high hopes ended quickly.
Despite turning in a less-than-impressive batting average of .239, Crosby ended the 2004 season with 22 homers and 64 RBIs in 151 games with a decent fielding percentage of .975 at shortstop. Not to diminish the prestige of the Rookie of the Year award, but 2004 was an off year. Second place in the voting involved pitchers Shingo Takatsu of the White Sox and Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles.
Crosby was lost in the Athletics shuffle after a few years of suffering from nagging injuries, a few of which the former first-rounder claimed were misdiagnosed. After washing out with the A’s after seven years (and a batting average of .236), Crosby went on to play for the Pirates and Diamondbacks — for one season each — before hanging up his cleats after the 2010 season. Technically, his career ended with the Brewers in 2013 when he was signed as a free agent, but he was cut during Spring Training.
2. Jason Jennings
It’s sad when your first game as a major leaguer turns out to be best of your career, which is what happened to Jason Jennings, an All-American pitcher with the Baylor Bears. After being selected by the Rockies in the first round of the 1999 draft, Jennings made his debut (in 2001) when he became the first pitcher in the history of the majors to pitch a complete game shutout and hit a home run. (We won’t mention the fact that the game was at Coors Field.)
Jennings’ 2002 season, his first full year with Colorado, ended with a 16-8 record and a 4.52 ERA. Portending future failures, in his rookie season, Jennings — a winner of college’s Golden Spikes Award in 1999 — tallied a mediocre 1.46 WHIP while giving up 16 more hits than innings pitched. Despite those stats, the Dallas native finished first in Rookie of the Year balloting ahead of Montreal’s Brad Wilkerson and slugger Austin Kearns of the Reds.
After being traded by the Rockies in 2006, Jennings bounced around with the Astros and Rangers before taking the mound for the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, where he started and won game five of the AA championship that season. Jennings retired in 2012 with a win-loss record of 62-74.
3. Dontrelle Willis
Although calling Dontrelle Willis a bust might sound unfair given his celebrity, the legend of this former eighth-round 2000 draft pick is based solely on a few strong seasons with the Marlins. Willis’s quirky delivery and human-interest backstory overshadow the fact that the Oakland native was a star with a limited shelf life.
Willis toiled in the minors before finding his stride in 2002, when he was named the minor league Pitcher of the Year for The Fish. In 2003 — when the Marlins beat the Yankees for the World Series crown — Willis ended with a 14-6 record and an ERA of 3.30. He had a WHIP of 1.282, gave up 12 fewer hits than innings pitched, and was named Rookie of the Year, beating out Scott Podsedenik of the Brewers and Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks.
Unlike his fellow Rookie of the Year flameouts, Willis went on to have one more great year. In 2005, Willis posted a 22-10 record and an ERA of 2.63. He led the National League with seven complete games and five shutouts while allowing less than one home run per game. The Marlins southpaw finished second in the Cy Young voting to Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals by 20 votes. The 2005 season was Willis’s last strong year on the hill.
In 2006, he was part of a Marlins housecleaning trade as he was dealt to the Tigers along with future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera for a handful of prospects including Cameron Maybin (now back with the Tigers) and current Yankees closer Andrew Miller.
While Willis’s career dragged on for five more years in the majors and two stints in the indie Atlantic League, the former Rookie of the Year never regained his once dominant form. Over nine major league seasons, Willis ended with 72 wins, 69 losses, and a 4.17 lifetime ERA. Perhaps not the worst career stats ever, but for a pitcher who showed great promise, it’s disappointing to say the least.
4. Andrew Bailey
Perhaps it’s cruel to say that Andrew Bailey may not be considered a major leaguer any longer given the fact that he plays for the Philadelphia Phillies. Philly sports sarcasm aside, Bailey came out of the gate as the 2009 Rookie of the Year for the Oakland A’s after being selected in the sixth round of the 2006 season. A perennial long shot out of small Wagner College, the N.J. native took home the ROY award with a season that featured a record of 6-3 with an ERA of 1.84 and 26 saves.
Bailey, who beat out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and Red Sox hurler Rick Porcello for the award, followed up his strong opening campaign with a good 2010 season in which he nailed down 25 saves with a 1.47 ERA and made the All-Star game. After getting hit in the head by a line drive in 2011, Bailey floundered a bit and was later traded in a deal that brought Josh Reddick from the Red Sox to the A’s.
While battling shoulder issues, the former ROY struggled over the next few seasons with a combined 14 saves for 2012 and 2013. Bailey then sat out the 2014 season and had a brief visit with the Yankees in 2015 before joining the Phillies as a free agent for the 2016 season. Bailey has yet to record a save in 2016, leaving him with 89 for his career. At age 32, Bailey may have a few more miles of tread, but it’s unlikely that he will eclipse or even match his rookie feats.
5. Wil Myers
Wil Myers was touted as one of those baseball studs who comes around once in a generation. A star high school player from N.C., Myers had committed to play ball for the University of North Carolina, but when the Royals ponied up a $2 million bonus after drafting him in the third round of the 2009 draft, the major leagues became his new occupation.
Portrayed as a five-tool player, Myers was traded to Tampa Bay in 2012, before playing a single game for the Royals. The deal was a good one for the Royals as they netted James Shields and Wade Davis, two future stars. Out to prove his former team foolish in its move, Myers went on to have a great rookie year, batting .293 with 13 homers and 53 RBIS in 335 at bats. Beating out Jose Iglesias (then with Toronto) and teammate Chris Archer, Myers won the Rookie of the Year award by a 34% margin.
In 2014, Myers’ fate changed when he collided with outfielder Desmond Jennings while chasing a fly ball. The mishap resulted in a stress fracture in his right arm, which shelved Myers for most of the rest of the season. The former ROY was never the same after that incident. After the 2014 season, Myers was traded to the Padres in a three-team transaction that also involved the Washington Nationals.
The 2015 season was unkind to Myers with two trips to the disabled list. He ended the season playing just 60 games with a .253 batting average and eight home runs. This season, Myers is off to a more promising start with seven home runs to date and a batting average of .278, but he has an anemic OBP of .298 with more than five times as many strikeouts as walks.