Chris Lubanski hasn’t played professionally since 2011. This piece is from that year.
Eight years ago, in 2003, the Kansas City Royals drafted a highly-touted outfielder out of Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School in Norristown, Pennsylvania named Chris Lubanski.
Nearly a decade later, that once top-prospect is still toiling in the minor leagues, though he is no longer on any affiliated team—rather, he is exhibiting his craft with the Chico Outlaws of the independent North American League.
It would be unfair to say that Lubanski fizzled in the minors like so many prospects do. In his first professional season, 2003, he hit .326 and in 2005, he slugged 28 home runs while driving 116 runners home. As recently as 2007, he was named the fourth-best prospect in the Royals farm system by Baseball America.
In 2007, he hit .259 with 15 home runs for two teams—not awful as a whole, but he hit just .208 in 49 games for the Royals Triple-A club in Omaha.
The following season, his struggles continued at the highest level of minor league baseball, as he hit only .242. In 2009, he hit .272 overall … but only .227 at Omaha.
But you said he didn’t fizzle, you’re thinking. Well, he really didn’t.
In fact, in 2010 he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and spent the entire season with their Triple-A team, the Las Vegas 51s. That year, he hit .293 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI in only 100 games. He finished third on the team in home runs, behind Brett Wallace’s 18 and J.P. Arencibia’s 32.
2010 was a career renaissance for Lubanski, who had, from 2007 to 2009, seemingly lost his way. But, unfortunately, bad news and bad luck followed Lubanski after his comeback year.
He became a free agent following the season, was signed to a minor league contract by the Florida Marlins and—despite his resurgent 2010—was released before the 2011 season began. And no new major league team came knocking.
Lubanski was never a bad player. He showed plus speed and plus power at all minor league levels and, as proven by his 2010 season, showed that he could bounce back well from extended struggles.
And yet, that call from the big league club never came. He fell victim to a curse that befalls too many minor leaguers: Though he performed well at the lower levels, he faded when it really, really counted. And when he got his career back on track, it was too little, too late.
So today, Lubanski no longer plays in any major league organization. Today, he plays for an independent team, the Chico Outlaws, with whom he is hitting .284 with two home runs in 24 games.
And that call to the majors that this former top prospect was sure to receive at some point, eventually, one year, becomes more and more distant, and more and more of just a dream.
Lubanski was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in August 2011 and spent 19 games with their Double-A club. He hit .189 to end his professional career.