Greg Maddux made his professional debut in the summer of 1984, shortly after the Cubs selected him in the second round of the June draft. He pitched well in the rookie-level Appalachian League. Maddux spent the summer of '85 pitching for the Cubs' low-A team in the Midwest League. He was good there (13-9, 3.19 ERA), but not many low-A pitchers are considered outstanding prospects, and Maddux was no exception. In 1986, though, he zipped through Double-A and Triple-A, and debuted in the major leagues in September.
After that 1986 season, when Baseball America named its top rookies entering the '87 season, six pitchers were listed: Bobby Thigpen (No. 3), Joe Magrane (4), Jeff Parrett (7), Eric Bell (12), Vicente Palacios (13), and Marvin Freeman (16). That's right, folks: Entering what figured to be his first full season in the majors, Maddux was not ranked as one of the six best rookie pitchers in the game. Thigpen was a reliever and still holds the single-season saves record (57 in 1990). Parrett also was groomed as a reliever. The other four were starters. Let's see how they -- and a few other top rookie starters -- stacked up against Maddux that season: