This is a new weekly segment modeled after the Forde-Yard Dash, a college football article written by Yahoo’s Pat Forde each week. And by modeled after, I mean copied the format directly. We’ll be discussing prospects rather than college football, of course, but I have to give credit where it's due to the style of the article. Twenty on the Scale: It’s the article whose tools are so bad, it barely got a grade from scouts.
Earlier this week, Marcus Meade of the excellent Kansas City Royals (1) blog Kings of Kauffman (2) asked the question “How much time is too much time when you’re serving time in the minors?” In fact, it was title of the article.
He asks a reasonable question, one spurred on by the lack of promotion for Wil Myers (3) this September. His answers, however, have some holes in them that need to be filled.
His first argument centers around the theory that the extra time Myers has spent in the minors may not have done much good, making the argument that the extra at-bats that Anthony Rizzo (3) got in Triple-A at the start of this season “didn’t do much for him.” Last season, Rizzo hit .141 in 153 plate appearances for the Padres (4). After spending the first two months of 2012 in Triple-A, he came back to the majors and has posted an .808 OPS in a half-season worth of games for the Cubs (5). We don’t know exactly what part of that improvement is from additional time in the minors and what is from simply being more relaxed his second time up, but I’ve yet to hear an argument that didn’t at least give a little credit to his stint in Iowa.
He made his second argument a little later when he said “players need to learn how to make failure learningful at some point, and for the best players that failure is tough to come by at any level other than the majors.”
Naturally, my first inclination is to discuss the use of the word "learingful", which or course doesn’t exist, but this isn’t a grammar site and I don’t like to be mean. Plus, I like to make up words too to get my point across.
I disagree with the premise that players have to fail at the in the majors in order to learn. Of course all prospects fail at some point when they get to the majors. Failure is a part of the game. Every player takes the same developmental path in the majors, just at different speeds.
The league adjusts to every player. The success of every prospect is determined by how quickly they adjust back. Mike Trout (6) went through it last season, but adjusted back nicely this season.* But for some players, the adjustment period is hardly noticable, coming in the middle of a season and not lasting long enough for anyone to take significant notice or to have a lasting effect on the player's overall numbers. Every player will struggle at some point in the majors, regardless of how quick or drawn out their path through the minors is. And there's no amount of time in the minors that can help with the adjustment they'll have to make in the majors when it happens.
The overall goal of Meade’s article was to make a case for why Myers should have been called up in August, a premise I disagree with. The only valid argument for calling Myers up this past summer would have been to get him some experience so he can make those adjustments in order to ready him for legitimate production during a playoff run next season. Are the Royals ready to compete next season?
Not without a lot of pitching help, they’re not. If they are planning on spending this off-season on pitching or making a big trade for a player like David Price (7) (a trade they won’t be able to pull off without Myers anyway), they won’t be a playoff team next year either. That being the case, why begin Myers’ service clock early? They can afford let him take his lumps next May and June.
Assuming he has lumps to take at all.
It’s the time of year when clubs and their minor league affiliates play a glorified game of musical chairs, with the last club standing often ending up in a rundown old stadium rather than chairless.
The big switch in the upper minors involved the Blue Jays (8) and the Mets (9), who switched affiliates, with the Mets now sending their top prospects to Las Vegas (10) and the Mets now using Buffalo (11).
The Mets made their switch first, so technically the Blue Jays were the ones left without a chair when the music stopped, but from a player development standpoint, there’s little reason for the Mets to choose Vegas over Buffalo.
The distance between Vegas and Queens could create some issues when a prospect needs to be recalled quickly, a problem that wasn’t the case with Buffalo. Additionally, it’s difficult to gauge hitting prospects in the Pacific Coast League, and especially playing their home parks in Las Vegas. Expect major numbers from Wilmer Flores (12) next season, along with all kinds of excitement from Mets fans who overvalue it. Remember the excitement after David Cooper (13) hit .364 there in 2011?*
*What?!? You weren’t invited to that party? Damn you, Canadians.
Lastly, there’s the Vegas factor. If you ran a business where your most valuable asset was good-looking 21-year-old guys with lots of money, could you think of a worse place to send them for a year than Las Vegas?* In the end, wouldn’t Zack Wheeler (14) and company have been better off getting fat from wings than arrested for solicitation?
*This from the organization that invested with Bernie Madoff.
A Ruf Road
Darin Ruf (15) got his first big league start on Tuesday, and did what he does best – homered. The Phillies non-prospect, as I’ve come to call him, got the start in left field despite being a career first baseman.
If there’s an opposite of a bandwagon, scouts and dedicated prospect-watchers have been on it with Ruf all season, insisting that his power-outburst this year doesn’t make him a prospect, and continually pointing out that he really has very little to speak of in the way of tools.
All of which still holds true today. of course, but is also beginning to show that it doesn’t have to keep him from carving out a nice major league career. There’s not a lot of room for guys who only hit lefties and can only play first base and left field, but if there are at-bats to go around to those guys, it’s going to be to the ones who can put a ball in the seats. Ruf showed he can do that.
Don’t be surprised to see Ruf get a chance to platoon with Domonic Brown (16) in Philadelphia (17) at some point next year.
A Look Ahead
With no games going on for a few more weeks, there’s not a lot of game action to look forward to, but the Arizona Fall League (18) and Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan winter leagues (19) are just around the corner, and the Instructional Leagues (20) are already under way at the team’s facilities. There’s not a ton of news to report as the youngest players of most organizations work on things like new pitches or new positions, but we’ll keep you posted nonetheless.