Where did they wind up? Looking back at the Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects List from 1990
6 months ago
Roughly two weeks ago, I wrote an article looking back at the Toronto Blue Jays prospect list from 1985 and took a look at where those players ended up throughout their careers and whether they had any sort of impact at the MLB level or with the Jays organization.
That year was interesting because it not only was the first season the Blue Jays made the postseason but was also seven years away from when the Jays would win their first World Series championship in 1992 (followed shortly after by their second championship in 1993). My train of thought was to take a deep dive and see whether or not any Jays had an impact on those squads who went all the way, or if any of those prospects turned into pieces that helped the Blue Jays win those championship titles (spoiler – Fred McGriff).
Next, I thought it would be interesting to look into the Blue Jays’ top prospect list from 1990, which would be two years before the Jays won the World Series. This list was also from the year after the Jays went to the ALCS (losing to the Athletics) and held the 22nd pick in the 1989 draft, selecting a player who will be featured on the list below.
1. John Olerud – 1B
Taking the top spot in the 1990 Blue Jays’ top prospect rankings is first baseman John Olerud. The lefty-hitting batter was drafted in the third round of the 1989 MLB Draft out of Washington State University and fully intended on returning to the Cougars after the draft but was persuaded to sign and turn pro once the Jays front office informed the Washington product he would head directly to Toronto.
Without playing a single game in the Minor Leagues, Olerud made his Major League debut on September 3rd, 1989 and appeared in eight games to finish out the season. While he spent most of the 1990 season as the club’s DH, Olerud made the full move to first base in 1991 and became a mainstay in Toronto’s lineup for the next five years, winning two World Series rings with the organization. At the plate, Olerud was known for his ability to get on base and was the last piece of the famous WAMCO lineup in 1993 that consisted of Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, and Joe Carter, creating one of the deadliest lineups in all of baseball.
With the Jays, Olreud would accumulate a .293/.395/.471 slash line through eight seasons while collecting 213 doubles, 109 home runs, and a .866 OPS and a 130 OPS+. In 1993, he led the American League in batting average (.363) and OPS (1.072) while leading the league in doubles (54) and OBP (.473), earning his first All-Star appearance.
With Carter at first base/DH and with the emergence of prospect Carlos Delgado, Olerud was traded to the New York Mets during the 1996/1997 offseason in exchange for pitcher Robert Person. He spent three years with the Mets before joining the Seattle Mariners for the 2000 season, spending parts of five years with the Mariners before short stints with the Yankees and Red Sox led to Olerud retiring at the end of the 2005 season.
For his career, Olerud amassed a .863 OPS through 17 seasons in the big leagues and won three Gold Glove Awards to go along with his World Series rings and a batting title. While a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (Class of 2020), Olerud only received four votes in his first year on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2011 and did not meet the minimum 5% threshold.
2. Derek Bell – OF
A product of C. Leon King High School in Tampa, Florida, outfielder Derek Bell was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 1987 MLB Draft. While he spent the next four seasons playing his way through the Minor Leagues, Bell would eventually make his MLB debut in June of 1991, appearing in just 18 games that season. While he would win a World Series ring with the Jays in 1992, Bell missed significant time on the IL after breaking his wrist early in the season and became the fourth outfielder on the roster behind Candy Maldonado, Devon White, and Joe Carter.
Prior to the 1993 season, the Jays would trade Bell to the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfielder Darrin Jackson, with the Florida product receiving more playing time with San Diego. After two seasons, Bell would later be part of a 12-player trade that saw him join the Houston Astros, where he would spend the next five seasons. In 1999, the former Jays outfielder got into a confrontation with manager Larry Dierker, with Bell seeing his playing time dwindle as the season wore on. Bell would be traded to the New York Mets that offseason and later finished out his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, walking away from baseball in early 2002 when he was told he would have to compete for an outfield position (Operation Shutdown). Since retiring, Bell has been arrested numerous times on various drug-related offences, most recently in November of last year.
With the Jays, Bell compiled a .228/.323/.323 slash line with a .645 OPS through just 79 games.
3. Eddie Zosky – INF
The Jays’ first-round selection in the 1989 MLB Draft, shortstop Eddie Zosky was tabbed as the shortstop of the future for Toronto, although he got off to a rocky start in his first season in pro baseball following the draft when he struggled to get on base in Double-A with the Knoxville Blue Jays (.559 OSP through 56 games).
Fast forward to 1994 and Zosky struggled to get on base and also dealt with numerous injuries, limiting him to just 36 at-bats with the Blue Jays since making his MLB debut in 1991. After short stints with numerous clubs including the Marlins, Brewers, and Astros, Zosky was out of baseball by the end of 2000, spending most of his career in the Minor Leagues.
4. Glenallen Hill – OF
In the previous article looking at the 1985 Blue Jays’ top prospects, outfielder Glenallen Hill was ranked at #6.
While he ranked in 1986 (#8) and 1987 (#7) rankings as well, he fell off in 1988 and 1989 and ranked outside the top ten. Over the course of 13 seasons (three with the Jays), Hill amassed a 9.7 bWAR with a career .804 OPS, winning a World Series in 2000 with the New York Yankees. Hill retired following the 2001 season and recently coached/managed within the Colorado Rockies up until the end of 2019.
5. Alex Sanchez – RHP
Drafted by the Blue Jays at 17th overall in the 1987 MLB Draft, right-hander Alex Sanchez quickly rose through the farm system, reaching AAA in 1989. He would make his MLB debut later that season, appearing in four games (three starts) and compiling a 10.03 ERA through 11.2 innings of work, struggling with his command (10.8 BB/9) and earning a 2.571 WHIP through the limited sample size.
He would be traded to Cleveland in 1990 but the Jays would trade back for him just a few months later, with the right-hander spending the next season split between Double-A and Triple-A. Sanchez would later sign with Kansas City in 1992 and after stints with the Mariners, Padres, and Athletics, the California product was out of Major League Baseball, eventually making eight starts for the Mercuries Tigers in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 1995.
After three years, Sanchez returned to the diamond and made 19 appearances in Independent Ball, crafting a 5.62 ERA through 113.2 innings with the Pacific Suns and the Greenville Bluesmen, his last season of organized baseball.
6. Nate Cromwell – LHP
A product of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nate Cromwell was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 11th round of the 1987 MLB Draft. From his draft year to 1993, the left-hander worked his way from Rookie League Ball in Medicine Hat, Alberta to Double-A Knoxville but was never able to make it to AAA in the Jays system. His best season came in 1988 with Myrtle Beach in Single-A, where he crafted a 2.90 ERA through 21 outings (20 starts) and 124.1 innings, amassing a 6.2 K/9.
He would later join the San Diego Padres in 1993 and while he would later make the jump to Triple-A a year later, Cromwell was not able to make the jump to the big league level. After some short stints in Independant Ball in 1996 and 1998, he was out of baseball.
7. Ed Sprague – 3B
In 1988, the Blue Jays decided to use their 25th overall pick on Stanford University third baseman Ed Sprague, son of former big league reliever Ed Sprague Sr. The righty batter made a quick impression in the Minor Leagues, jumping to AAA right after his draft year and eventually making his MLB debut in 1991, appearing in 61 games for the Blue Jays while posting a .754 OPS and 20 RBIs during his rookie campaign.
A member of the Blue Jays 1992 and 1993 championship teams, Sprague spent eight seasons with the organization, amassing a .245/.315/.413 slash line with 113 home runs and a .728 OPS through 888 games. Most notably, the former first-round pick hit the go-ahead run in game #2 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves. The Jays’ regular third baseman from 1993 to 1998, Sprague would be dealt to the Oakland A’s in late July in exchange for Scott Rivette.
Sprague would go on to play for four more organizations before eventually retiring following the 2001 season, with the former Blue Jays infielder earning one All-Star appearance to go with his two World Series rings. The third baseman does hold one distinct record, as he is the only baseball player to ever win the College World Series, an Olympic Championship, and the World Series.
Following his playing days, Sprague was the University of the Pacific’s head coach for over ten seasons before joining the A’s organization in 2016. He is currently the A’s Director of Player Development.
8. Greg O’Halloran – C
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1968, the Blue Jays drafted Greg O’Halloran in the 32nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft out of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. Interestingly enough, O’Halloran was intending to transfer to Illinois to continue his post-secondary playing career but the Blue Jays, his childhood team, drafted and later signed the catcher. Prior to joining the Blue Jays, O’Halloran represented his country at the 1988 Olympics, with Canada finishing with a 1-2 record in the tournament.
The lefty-batter would advance to AAA by 1993 but never cracked the Major League roster with the Jays, with the organization eventually sending him to the Marlins prior to the 1994 season. O’Halloran would make his MLB debut later that year, appearing in 12 games and going 2-for-11 at the plate with one RBI while being used as a pinch hitter.
Following a short Minor League stint with the Cubs in 1995, the Toronto product was out of organized baseball and began working as a scout with Major League Baseball. He also worked with Sportsnet for a short stint in 2013/2014 but has worked in various corporate development roles as well as with the Canadian Olympic Foundation since retiring as a player.
9. Randy Knorr – C
Looking to add some catching depth, the Jays drafted luis s in the 1986 MLB Draft, selecting the backstop out of Baldwin Park High School (California).
Knorr worked his way through the farm system before cracking the big league state in 1991, seeing sporadic playing time between Triple-A and the MLB over the next two seasons before earning the backup catcher job behind Pat Borders in 1993. While he didn’t play much during the postseason runs, Knorr was on the roster and earned two World Series rings during his time with the Blue Jays. Through five seasons, the righty batter earned a .233 batting average along with a 80 OPS+ while adding 15 home runs and 57 RBI through 377 at-bats.
The backstop would later sign with Astros, Marlins, Pirates, Rangers, and Expos before retiring following the 2004 season, earning a career .226 average across 11 seasons.
Following retirement, Knorr held different managerial (Potomac Nationals) and coaching positions, most notably with the Washington Nationals organization, as well as becoming a Senior Advisor to the General Manager for Player Development. Knorr would become the Syracuse Chiefs manager (Triple-A for Nationals) for the 2018 season before rejoining the Nats coaching staff in 2020, with Knorr currently working as the organization’s catching coordinator.
10. Luis Sojo – SS
Hailing from Petare, Venezuela, infielder Luis Sojo signed with the Blue Jays in early 1986 and eventually made his MLB debut with the Jays during the 1990 season. Through 33 games that season, Sojo went 18 for 80 with one home run and nine RBIs.
Sojo would be traded in the offseason to the then-California Angels as part of the trade package for Devon White, spending the 1991 and 1992 seasons in Los Angeles before being traded back to the Blue Jays for Kelly Gruber at the end of the year. Sojo would later earn a World Series ring with the Jays.
Over the course of 13 seasons, Sojo suited up for five different organizations, most notably with the New York Yankees for parts of seven seasons. Used mostly in a utility bench role, Sojo amassed a .261/.297/.352 slash line with 152 extra-base hits and a .650 OPS through 848 games. Interestingly, Sojo retired following the 2002 season but after playing in the Yankees Old Timers Day game, the righty-batter impressed the front office enough that they resigned him and he made four plate appearances to end the year with the Yankees.
Sojo retires with four total World Series rings and went on to manage/coach at different levels across the Yankees organization while also managing the Venezuelan national team for the 2006, 2009, and 2013 World Baseball Classic tournaments.
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