But there were a few surprises in the results after filtering out the names we'd expect to be there. Of these players, 3 are still active: Miguel Cabrera, Brian McCann, and Pablo Sandoval. Now, it can be argued that Cabrera's career is currently on an HOF trajectory, but a lot still needs to go right for his career to pan out that way (particularly, solving his addiction for cuban sandwiches and jailtime). For Mccann and Sandoval the odds are even more imposing.
For Mantle, Aaron et al, their early seasons of .400+ wOBA's led to baseball immortality. For others, namely César Cedeño, Boog Powell, and Bernie Carbo, Father Time was not as kind.
Cedeno's career is by far the most successful. In fact he is one of only a few players to meet the criteria twice, both in his 21 ear-old season and 22. He had all the looks of a player of the ages, at least statistically, up until an early flameout at age 26. You can see in the below chart, courtesy of Fangraphs, his trajectory was very similar to that of an early star like Griffey until that point:
Source: FanGraphs -- Ken Griffey Jr., Cesar Cedeno
Cedeno was often referred to early on as "The Next Willie Mays" with his rare combination of power and speed. His Baseball Page has some insight into what may have prevented him from becoming that type of superstar.
... a scandalous off-the-field episode that resulted in the death of his girlfriend; played much of his career for a team that rarely made headlines above the Oklahoma border; suffered from playing in the Astrodome, a stadium that cost him power numbers that may have gave him notoriety; and finally, injuries and attitude problems cost him playing time.
Boog Powell, meanwhile, despite the unfortunate first name, was an absolute masher when healthy. He peaked in his third season at age 22 with a league-leading .606 SLG. At 6'4" and weighing over 230 lbs, the future looked bright for the big left-hander. But injuries derailed his very promising early career trajectory. He stumbled in his next season with a wrist injury, only to romp the league again in the following year with an OPS over .900. He lost significant playing time in his next two seasons, only to return again in '69 and '70 with consecutive seasons of >.900 mashing. By that time, according to wikipedia, Weaver had relegated the Boog to platoon duty, but Powell gave the league one last show after being traded to Cleveland in the twilight of his career.
Bernie Carbo, however, might be my favorite story of this trilogy. Statistically, I mean. He came up in 1970, posting a slash line of .310 /.454 /.551 for an OPS over 1.000, yet still only placed second in Rookie of the Year voting to pitcher Carl Morton. Beyond his sensational rookie season, Carbo compiled a .785 OPS for the rest of his career, most of it coming from his outstanding .387 lifetime OBP, that is wholly attributable to a career BB% of 16%. 16% with no power and no ability to steal bases. His final slash line after 12 seasons of major league baseball was .264/ .387/ .427. Moneyballer4LIFE.
Carbo, however, as I come to find out, had an affinity for a certain feel good hit of the summer, if you will. In fact, Kieth Hernandez famously remarked in a federal drug distribution trial, that it was Carbo who had introduced him to the drug, which effectively sent Carbo's business and personal life into a tailspin. He also carried around a stuffed gorilla. During his playing years, Carbo remarked,
I probably smoked two joints, drank about three or four beers, got to the ballpark, took some [amphetamines], took a pain pill, drank a cup of coffee, chewed some tobacco, had a cigarette, and got up to the plate and hit. I played every game high. I was addicted to anything you could possibly be addicted to. I played the outfield sometimes where it looked like the stars were falling from the sky.It's funny to think about McCann and Sandoval as future Powell and Carbo types. Players that hinted at greatness early in their career, and then simply recessed into the shadows of baseball history, whether by wrist injury, killing their girlfriend, or plain ol' co-co-co-co-co-coCAINE!