7. Matt Riley
When you come to spring training as a 20-year-old driving a Mercedes with a “24KTARM” vanity license plate, you’re not only buying into your own hype as a top prospect but not making many friends along the way.
The lefty made his major league debut a month after his 20th birthday in 1999 and quickly earned a bad reputation as a kid who was late for practices, didn’t listen to coaches, and was arrested for getting involved in a bar fight, but his talent was undeniable — posting a 3.22 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A Bowie as age 19 — before he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2000 season. A third-round pick out of high school in 1997, Riley was Baseball American’s 20th overall prospect in 1999 and 15th overall minor-league talent in 2000 but never climbed to the same levels of promise after the injury.
Riley eventually made it back to the major leagues in 2003 and made 13 starts in 2004 (5.63 ERA) but again saw his maturity come into question after he drove home to Baltimore despite being instructed to travel early to Philadelphia to rest ahead of his next start. He was traded to the Texas Rangers at the end of spring training in 2005 and hung around several years in the minor leagues after that but never realized what was once great potential.
Continue to next page for No. 6