Eric Anthony – 1991 Upper Deck

December 17, 2010

Wasn’t He Supposed To Be Good?

It’s not every day that 34th round draft picks are hyped as prospects.

But when you hit 10 home runs in the Gulf Coast League, you become a prospect really quickly.

Say what? 10 home runs? Well, consider that the GCL is short-season, and that Anthony out-homered two entire teams. The GCL Yanks had 8 and the 1987 GCL Dodgers had ONE home run. Braulio Castillo hit that dinger for the Dodgers, while Henry Rodriguez found it easier to blast homers in Wrigley than in the heat and humidity of South Florida.

In 1988, he hit 29 in the Sally League along with 36 doubles. Again, he out-homered an entire team (the Cubs’ affiliate in Charleston).

1989 was a monster year for Anthony. He slugged .558 in AA, and his combined 31 home runs in AA and AAA were tops in the minors. He hit four home runs in Houston in September. He was the #8 prospect in the land according to Baseball America for 1990.

“It’s hard to find guys who can hit homers in the Astrodome, but this guy is the real thing.”-an NL scout

Famous last words.

Dazzled by the bombs – and thinking they had a power source to go with Glenn Davis and Franklin Stubbs (yes, you read me right), Anthony played most of 1990 in Houston. By all accounts, this raw 22-year old did have power, but he had holes the size of Enron’s accounting practices in his swing and NL pitchers aren’t just learning their craft like they were in the minors.

He hit just .192. He had 10 home runs but 78 whiffs in half-time play. But, he’s 22. So speculators in rotiss and baseball cards were speculating all over the place.

Anthony started 1991 in Tuscon, and he got the job done. He cut his strikeouts down (to just 58 in 318 ABs) and hit .336. He launched just nine home runs in 78 games, though, but Tuscon isn’t a home run paradise.

That led to a two month recall in 1991 and he was abysmal. OPS+ of 33 and 41 whiffs in 118 at bats.

But he’s 23, and he’s got that power potential.

So he played regularly in 1992 and 1993 and wasn’t awful. His 19 homers in 1992 led a surprising Astros team that finished .500 after winning just 65 games the year before. It wasn’t the big numbers expected, but he hit more home runs than Jeff Bagwell, Steve Finley, Ken Caminiti, Luis Gonzalez, Craig Biggio and Pete Incaviglia, who were all on that team.

The Astros thought that this was the team of the future, and the OF of Gonzalez, Finley and Anthony would be set for years. Well, they didn’t develop like the Astros though they should. Anthony’s power dipped, his strikeouts inched up and he seemingly regressed a bit. He had a good arm, but he didn’t have the range to play OF in the Astrodome effectively.

But he was just…25. And at 25, it’s time to get going or get gone.

Seattle was a team on the rise, but they had some holes on offense. In 1993, Mike Felder was a total waste in LF and Pet O’Brien wasn’t that great at DH. The Kingdome was not the Astrodome; power hitters could thrive there.

A deal was struck, Anthony to Seattle for Felder and this 20-year old lefty who was force-fed to the bigs and really struggled.

Mike Hampton. Yes, Mike “I Still Get Paid If I’m On The DL” Hampton.

Anthony got a million-dollar contract, the job in left field, and a bunch of crazy AL-only fantasy players bidding huge coin for him.

Disaster. It was better than what Mike Felder did, but for a million 1994 dollars you should have an OBP over .300.

He was released DURING the strike off-season, in December 1994. Ouch, that’s cold. He found his way to Cincy. Had 1 1/2 injury prone seasons there, and 1/2 season at Colorado. Signed as a free agent by Minnesota for 1997. Released in late March, and signed by Texas the same day. He was released by Texas in April, and signed by the Dodgers three days later. After spending some time in Albuquerque, Anthony was a bench player for the 1997 Dodgers.

And aside from some minor league cameos, he was done.

But he’s…29.

Maybe the biggest mistake Anthony made was blasting so many home runs in the Sally League. Then he wouldn’t have been fast tracked to the bigs. But the thing was, he always tore it up in AAA, even late in his career.

They say that A to AA is the toughest leap, but any leap to the majors is the toughest. Just keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to spend beaucoup bucks on a rookie’s card or in fantasy. You may want to curb ye olde enthusiasm a skosh.

 

 

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