Chicago Cubs: Was Mark Prior the most hyped prospect in team history?

Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Prior pitched like an ace from the get-go

He didn’t pitch that summer, but was so highly regarded coming out of college that Baseball America ranked him as the game’s second-best prospect in the spring of 20002, behind fellow hurler Josh Beckett – who was heading into third professional season after the Marlins drafted him out of high school in 1999.

So stopping right there for a second, it’s abundantly clear that Prior was – by pretty much all evaluations – poised to be the guy for the Chicago Cubs for years to come. In that regard, Schoenfield hit it right on the head. It’s hard for a guy to have much more hype than Prior did coming out of college, but I also don’t think it paints an entirely accurate picture, either.

Prior made his debut that year, making 19 starts and putting up solid numbers for a rookie in the midst of an offense-dominated era: a 122 ERA+ (3.32 ERA), 3.16 FIP, 3.87 SO/BB and 11.3 SO/9 across 116 2/3 innings. His big showing came in 2003, when he led the Cubs to the NLCS on the heels of a third-place finish in NL Cy Young voting after he struck out 245 in 211 1/3 innings of work with a league-leading 2.47 FIP.

We all know the story from there. Injuries mounted and what looked like the makings of a long, dominant big league career were cast to the wind. Prior now serves as the pitching coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers at just 39 years of age. All this to say, yes – Mark Prior was hyped – tremendously so. But I believe one player had more of a media circus surrounding him ahead of his debut.