I’ve been writing about prospects so frequently lately that I started to think about some of the prospects of yesteryear. Many former top prospects are Major League players, but others are not so fortunate. The Twins have had their share of failed prospects in their time, as has every other team. It seems so unfair when a prospect fails. Fans wait such a long time just to see these players reach the highest level, and when they actually arrive and then fail to meet expectations, it can be very hard to let go. I remember that I was VERY upset when the Twins traded Todd Sears, and he wasn’t even really a prospect at all.
Michael Restovich was a prospect, and boy was he ever a prospect. Restovich was a standout high school baseball player at Rochester Mayo. In fact, he was named Minnesota player of the year in 1997 and was also named an All-American. The Twins drafted the hometown kid with their 2nd round pick in 1997. He signed a deal with the Twins and immediately went to work hitting baseballs very far and very often. He posted an OPS of 1.134 in his first full season. He had a .312/.412/.513 triple slash line in his second season. Restovich was officially on the prospect map.
Going into his 3rd season, and ready to make his High A debut, Restovich was ranked as the 26th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. His 2000 season was the first loose thread in his proverbial sweater. If you wanted to destroy it, there were many threads you could start with. First, his power dipped from a .513 slugging percentage down to .408. In addition, his walk rate dipped. Not a lot, but enough. Finally, his batting average fell. That part of his game never really returned. He also dipped off of Baseball America’s top 100.
2001 was a better year for Restovich. When you look closer, it was only better in one way. He hit more home runs. His average, OBP and doubles were basically the same. His strikeouts increased and his walks dipped ever so slightly. He was playing a AA, so some of the change came from normal growing pains. He had played well enough to get himself back onto Baseball America’s top prospect list, showing up at number 63 prior to his first season at AAA in 2002.
Restovich’s 2002 season was a huge success. He displayed huge power, good on-base skills and made his MLB debut in mid-September. However, 2002 was also a season that significantly hurt his chances to contribute in 2003. This had little to do with Restovich’s AAA season. It was more of a numbers game. The Twins had entrenched starters Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter in left and center field. Right field was seemingly Restovich’s long term position. But one person changed all that: Dusty Kielmohr.
Dusty was a mash-up of Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty. Neither player had Restovich’s pedigree or prospect status. What they did share was a relatively successful 2002 season. They combined for 24 home runs, 91 RBI and Kielty alone put up a 136 OPS+ in roughly half a season’s worth of at bats. They were such an effective platoon that each finished in the top 8 of Rookie of the Year voting. In addition, they were effective enough to earn the right to platoon again in 2003. This left Restovich without a place in the 2003 outfield. The emergence of Matthew LeCroy kept the DH position closed, especially since the Twins rarely use a certified DH for a full season.
Restovich had an up and down 2003 in a couple of ways. He spent most of his season in Rochester, but also played 29 games in Minnesota. His power numbers dipped a bit, but his OBP stayed healthy. Dusty Kielmohr floundered in their collective sophomore season, but Lew Ford emerged and the Twins made a trade for Shannon Stewart that revitalized their season. Stewart ended up getting MVP votes for his performance. Stewart then signed a 3-year-deal to stay in Minnesota, and Jones and Hunter were also under contract for the foreseeable future. The Stewart/Hunter/Jones outfield was primed for the start of 2004, leaving Restovich on the outside looking in.
Restovich didn’t help his cause, putting up a disappointing 2004 season in Rochester. He posted an OBP below .300 and didn’t supply the type of power that many expected from him. He seemed to be languishing and at age 24, it was becoming clear that he was slowly leaving the Twins’ long term plans. Jason Kubel had really put himself on the map at this point and was nearly ready to supplant one of the long-term starters in the outfield. Restovich, due to his bouncing up and down from Rochester and Minnesota, was out of options going into the 2005 season. The writing was on the wall.
Restovich’s 2005 was significant for two reasons. First, he was released by the Twins after Spring Training, ending his nearly 8 year odyssey through the Twins’ farm system. Second, Restovich finally got a chance to play significant games in the Majors. He was claimed by the Devil Rays, then they tried to get him back through waivers and the Rockies grabbed him. If ever he would have a chance to flex his awesome power, it would be in Colorado. He didn’t. He only made it 14 games before being shipped to Pittsburgh. He played 52 games for the Pirates, but only had 92 at bats. He was only 26, but his major league career was largely over.
Restovich spent most of 2006 and 2007 at AAA. He played 25 MLB games during that span. On May 5, 2007, he struck out as a pinch hitter for the Nationals. He hasn’t played in MLB since. He played in Japan in 2008 and returned to AAA for the White Sox in 2009. He played in AAA for a few organizations in 2010 and 2011. He retired after the 2011 season, when no one called him for a job for 2012. You can read this article to see what he is up to since retiring.
It seems so odd that a career in anything can be over before a person turns 35. Restovich likely made a decent amount of money and can always say that he played baseball at the highest level. He likely made a lot of great and famous friends. I am sure most fans would trade places with him in an instant. The odd thing is that Restovich never really received a full-time job, despite his pedigree. Perhaps a long series of at bats would have been just what he needed. We will never know. The prospect world can be so cruel.
Michael Restovich is not one of my top 10 Twins of all time. These 10 are: Click here for madness. More importantly, who are some failed Twins prospects that you would enjoy reading about?