Baseball is a fickle mistress. One year a player can be a rising star, the shining hope of his franchise, the next big thing...and the following year he can be out of the majors. This isn't some sort of rare occurence. It happens almost ever single year in baseball. In fact, it happens so often that you could fill an entire team with these sorts of players, one that you might call "The All Lost Potential Team":
SP: Mark Prior
Coming out of Southern Cal Prior was viewed by many as the All-American pitcher and the savior of the Cubs franchise. Early returns were good, as Prior followed a decent rookie campaign with a banner year in 2003, going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. Prior had the look of a future Cy Young winner, but then the wheels fell off for the young pitcher. Prior has battled shoulder injuries in the years since 2003, and last season he bottomed out, going 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA. This April Prior had season ending rotator cuff surgery, and may never be able to return to his former form.
RP: Kerry Wood
First off, here is something that might shock some of you: Kerry Wood is 30 years old. The young right hander that burst onto the national scene with a 20 K performance his rookie season is now a shell of his former self, working back up to the bigs as relief pitcher. When Woods first burts onto the scene many people saw him as the second coming of Roger Clemens, but since that time Woods has never won more than 14 games in a season. The culprit for Wood's downfall is likely the Tommy John surgery he had after his rookie season, as he has never regained his velocity and success since that time.
1B: Jorge Cantu
You may remember Cantu's breakout year with the Devil Rays in 2005, when he batted .286 with 28 HR and 117 RBI. The 23 year old Cantu seemed poised to be a cornerstone for the Devil Ray's franchise, but last season saw his average plummet to .249 and his HR and RBI totals were cut nearly in half. A broken left foot contributed to the slump, and now Cantu looks unlikely to break back into the Rays lineup anytime soon with Carlos Pena performing at an All-Star level at 1st and BJ Upton and Ty Wiggington entrenched at 2nd and 3rd respectively.
2B: Junior Spivey
Spivey was so highley regarded just a few short years ago that he was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Richie Sexson from Milwaukee to Arizona. Spivey made the All Star team in only his second major league season, posting a .301 average and scoring 103 runs in 2002. Injuries began to mount for Spivey however, and a shoulder injury incurred during a head first slide in 2004 may well have ended his career. Spivey hasn't played in the big leagues since a 2005 stint with the Nationals where he batted .221 in 28 games. Spivey is currently playing with the Bridgeport Bluefish along with fellow former major leaguer Quinton McCracken.
3B: Edgardo Alfonzo
While Alfonzo is not exactly a young man, he is 33, his sudden flame out certainly earns him a place on this list. In 2004 Alfonzo hit .289 for the Giants with 11 HR and 77 RBI, but since then the former All Star and Silver Slugger winner has fallen off the face of the earth. In 2006 Alfonzo hit under .200 in seperate stints with the Angels and Blue Jays and is currently playing for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
SS: Angel Berroa
Berroa was the Rookie of the Year in 2003, beating out Hideki Matsui of the Yankees for the award. That season Berroa hit leadoff for the Royals and batted .287 with 17 HR, 73 RBI, and 21 SB. Since that season however, Berroa has gone down the tubes. His poor fielding (95 errors from 2003-2006) was equaled by his hitting in subsequent seasons, as Berroa has been unable to match any of the numbers from his rookie season. The Royals appear to have given up on Berroa as they are now starting rookie Tony Pena Jr. at short and designated Berroa for assignment
C: Einar Diaz
Diaz was never a great hitter, but he flashed signs of being a servicable batter in his run as the Indians starting catcher. From 1999-2001 Diaz hit over .270 for the Indians and started the majority of their games behind the plate. In the 2002 season however, Diaz slumped and his average fell all the way to .206. After a short tenure with the Rangers in 2003, Diaz has been shuttled all over the majors and minors, and currently finds himself in the Pirates minor league system.
DH: Erubiel Durazo
When Durazo first came to the A's from Arizona he was one of the poster boys for Beane Ball. Durazo took a lot of pitches, walked often, and hit for power. In 2004 Durazo had a spectacular season, hitting .321 with 22 HR and 88 RBI. After a dissapointing follow up in 2005, Durazo has not been back to the majors, failing to make it with the Twins, Rangers, and A's in the minor leagues.
OF: Rocco Baldelli
Baldelli came out swinging for the Devil Rays as a rookie in 2003, hitting .289 with 11 HR, 78 RBI, and 27 SB. Baldelli looked like a great all around player, showing both promising speed and hitting ability. In 2004 he posted similarly good numbers, but during that offseason he tore an ACL and missed the beggining of the 2005 season. Things turned from bad to worse for Baldelli when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery, spelling the end of his 2005 season. In limited action in 2006 Baldelli appeared to be back and better than ever, hitting 16 HR in just 92 games. The 2007 season has not been nearly as kind to Rocco, as he was hitting .204 before heading to the DL with a hamstring injury,
OF: Lew Ford
You remeber Lew Ford right? He was the highly touted Twins prospect before Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer came onto the scene. In 2004 Ford hit .299 with 15 HR, 72 RBI, and 20 SB. Once considered one of the top 5-tool prospects in baseball, Ford has done little since his rookie season to back up that distinction. His production and playing time have steadily decreased in the past three seasons. Ford was downright bad last season, as he hit .226 for the season and was only able to produce 4 HR and 18 RBI in his diminished role. Lew currently finds himself behind Jason Kubel in left field for the Twins.
OF: Rick Ankiel
Ankiel has a special spot on this list, mainly because he appears to be the player most likely to make it back to big league prominence. Of course the twist to that story is that Ankiel is poised to make it back the Cardinals as an outfielder instead of a pitcher. Ankiel's wild streak and subsequent retirement as a pitcher are well documented, and since giving up pitching Ankiel has shown himself to be a very good hitter at the minor league level. Ankiel was named as a starting outfielder in the Triple A All Star Game, and currently has 19 HR and 53 RBI for the Memphis Redbirds. The only problem for Ankiel is that the Cardinals can't send him back to the minors without sending Ankiel through waivers, so his return to the majors has been delayed.