It looked like the Seattle Mariners might have had something when Michael Saunders arrived on the scene in 2009.
The 22-year-old could pick it in the outfield, ran pretty well, had some pop and could take a walk.
Saunders scuffled a bit, then seemed to put it together in 2012, knocking 19 homers, swiping 21 bases, slapping 31 doubles and producing 57 runs batted in and 71 runs in just 139 games.
The next year, his power dropped but he increased his on-base percentage to a career-high .323.
If he could put it all together...
This is the 13th in a series previewing the 2017 Phillies. The most recent post looked at reliever Joaquin Benoit. This post looks at Michael Saunders' unfulfilled promise.
Saunders seemed to put it together in the first half of 2014 before injuries saddled another season. He went into the break hitting .276/.327/.434.
It fell apart with him just playing 20 games through the next season.
Saunders broke out in the first half of 2016, earning his first trip to the All-Star game. He fell off a cliff afterward, but still finished with 24 homers, 32 doubles and an .815 OPS.
He'll be 30 this season.
I'm not saying Saunders will be an MVP candidate - I imagine him playing fewer than 150 games in his Phillies career - but he could be a player like Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez or Jose Bautista who finally puts it together later in their career.
Bautista didn't make his first All-Star game until he was 29. Werth was 30. Ibanez was 34. Ibanez and Bautista didn't put up their first OPS+ above 100 until they after they were 28.
It's not unheard of for a player to have better numbers from 29-33 than 23-28. But it's rare.
The Phillies would be lucky to get a .270/.325/.435 campaign from Saunders with 20 home runs and 5-8 stolen bases.
Then people can stop pondering what might have been with Saunders.