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April 19, 2012

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Chat Accountability

by Jason Parks

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In the modern age of prognostication, it’s not uncommon to see writers champion their hits and conveniently fail to recall their misses, taking full advantage of the social media at their disposal and exploiting them for their snapshot platforms and schizophrenic memories. I’m included in this cadre, although my placement within the hierarchy is considerably lower than my contemporaries, mainly because I’ve only been on the national scene for a few years, which pales in comparison to others’ tenure in the field, and because of my information-to-entertainment ratio, which admittedly stretches some of the credibility I’ve built up with my productive opinions. My point here centers around credibility, or, better stated, accountability, which is both easy to deflect when opinions go south and easy to bolster when opinions become fact.

To borrow a page from Kevin Goldstein, who has never been shy about putting a spotlight on his opinions from the past, I want to revisit a chat from last spring and put some of my own opinions on trial for their substance. I’ll give myself a pat on the back when applicable and when my self-esteem requires it, but the main point is to see what information you received last year, how that information held up over the last 12 months, and, if the thoughts and opinions turned sour, what was missed then and what has changed now. When it comes to prospect prognostication, we are going to miss more than we hit, and public acknowledgment of that fact won’t change the realities of the field. Prospects are always changing, so answers about prospects are always changing, but there is a difference between the fluidity of the evaluation process and constructing answers on a website with a lackadaisical approach because of question volume. I answered 200 questions in the chat from last April, and was asked close to 500. It’s not hard to conclude that some of my answers were influenced by volume, and those answers need to be called out for falling victim to that approach. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

From BP chat on April 13, 2011

mef (Brooklyn): More likely to make the majors: Donovan Tate or Tim Beckham?
Jason Parks: Tate. More talent; better tools.

2012 Update: A casual answer on my part. The question wasn’t most likely to be a star, or prospect with more talent or better tools. Beckham reached Triple-A in 2011, and despite a poor start to 2012, is a prospect that has a realistic chance to play in the majors at some point in the future. Tate is still a toolsy dream, but he was in the low minors at the time, and he remains in the low minors, so it’s not likely he will play in the majors anytime in the near future. I saw tools and jumped on the tools, but it was a sloppy answer. If asked again, the answer would be Beckham. No brainer.


xxx (yyy): you see anyone in AZ that you expect to "explode" upon the prospect scene this year? go from being not in a teams top 20 to in the teams top 3?
Jason Parks: That's quite a step forward, but Luke Jackson from the Rangers could jump into the top 5 in their system with a monster season. Not an AZ arm, but Workman from the Sox could jump into the top 5 in their system if he really puts it together. Cuthbert from the Royals could be a top 5 in the system by the end of the season.

2012 Update: Luke Jackson wasn’t a bad answer, but it was a wrong answer. He had the stuff to make such a leap; with two pitches that flash plus and another pitch (CH) that could reach that level. After spring training, he was sitting 92-96 with his heater and showing a hammer curve. My eyes liked the prize, but the season didn’t find him joining an elite class. Workman was a good Internet answer and was probably influenced by his Texas roots. Workman had a good season, but he was a 22-year-old in the Sally League and he didn’t absolutely crush it, so it’s hard to call it a great season. His prospect status stayed in the same ballpark. I could have made a better pick. I nailed Cuthbert.


Dman (WI): Who do you like better for the pros - Mahtook or Wong?
Jason Parks: Interesting question. I like Mahtook, especially if he can stay in CF. Wong is going to sneak up on people, though.

2012 Update: Interesting question, but not a very interesting answer. Mahtook doesn’t profile as a CF at the highest level, and most scouts were aware of that before he was drafted. Mahtook is a 50/55 type of player, with a balanced, solid-average skill set capable of making him a second-division starter, but without any loud tools and without a CF profile, unlikely to become a first-division impact talent. I hadn’t seen Mahtook at the time but you wouldn’t know it from my response. I was right that Wong was going to sneak up on people, but I hadn’t seen Wong at that point either, so I was just blowing smoke based on other people’s reports and a quick opinion formulated after I read the question. What did people get from this answer? That I liked Mahtook more than Wong, but that Wong could sneak up on people. Weak answer that wasn’t well thought-out and wasn’t based on much outside of cursory second-hand reports. Yet again, I could have provided a better answer.


lloydecole (Chicago): Rated on upside: B Hamilton, Profar, Segura?
Jason Parks: Upside: Profar, Segura, Hamilton

2012 Update: Going with Profar didn’t take a lot of thought; I had been around the kid since he signed and I knew he was special. Going with Segura over Hamilton had more to do with Hamilton than Segura. I’ve never been a big fan of Hamilton’s offensive skill set, and I downplay the influence that speed has on a game, almost to a fault. This player can come back to haunt me. I’ve seen him several times and I’ve never witnessed a major league quality bat; didn’t like his trigger and thought his bat control was suspect. He’s the fastest player in baseball and he might be able to stick on the left-side of the infield, but I’ve said that his speed won’t matter unless he can get on base, and I didn’t like him much as a hitter and therefore didn’t like him much as a prospect. In 2011, Hamilton hit .278 and stole 103 bases as a 20-year-old in the Midwest league. So far this season, a few scouts have mentioned how his bat looks better and his speed is still a 9 on the 2/8 scale. I might be wrong in my assessment of Hamilton, but I think my opinion is well thought out and based on several in-person observations. The problem is that I pushed Hamilton to third in that queue as a protest to all the people who I feel overvalue Hamilton because he is crazy fast, which made the answer a bit immature and too subjective. I never offered any report on Segura and why I thought he was a better prospect than Hamilton. It was a deficient answer. It was easier to just list the players and walk away without explanation. It was too easy.


xxx (yyy): assuming you rank cole the #1 guy in the upcoming draft, right now who else rounds out your top 3?
Jason Parks: Rendon and Gray or Starling

2012 Update: In the not so distant future, prospects like Lindor, Bundy, and Bradley will make this answer look even more foolish and shortsighted than it appears now. It was a lazy answer based on very limited knowledge of the candidates. I was aware of the top players in the upcoming Rule 4 draft, but instead of further researching the question and coming to an educated conclusion, I just fired from the hip because I had questions piling up. It would have taken less than an hour to poll some industry friends and read some evaluations, but I picked a Texan, a guy who could pump serious smoke, and the known tools monster. I can do better than that, and I don’t care that it was April and not June.


timber (KC): You really think KC will call Hosmer up early enough for him to be ROY? I can't see it...
Jason Parks: If they call him up by June, Hosmer will win ROY. If not, I'll set a car on fire.

2012 Update: Hosmer was called up on May 6th 2011, and hit .293/.334/.465 in 128 games, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting. I’ve yet to set the car on fire, so I’m a fraud. However, I will set a car on fire if Hosmer doesn’t win an MVP award before he leaves Kansas City, and I will set a car on fire if Hosmer doesn’t call me to hang out when I’m in Kansas City for All-Star weekend.


Alan (Portland): Ackley:10-15 HR guy or 15-20-peak HR guy?
Jason Parks: 10-15 HR at peak with tons of doubles.

2012 Update: Ackley is going to hit more than 10-15 HR a season at his peak. I have a tendency to sell him short; I know he’s a great hitter but I’ve always questioned the power potential. After watching more swings and applying the major league context, I’ve altered my projection and think the latter projection is more likely. I still think he will be more of a doubles guy, but he has power in that swing and I don’t see any reason why 20 homers is not possible down the line. He’s a very good hitter and I sold him short.


xxx (yyy): re: Cuthbert + KC top 5 - is this because you think the royals could graduate a ton of prospects, Cuthbert actualizing his talent or a combination of the two?
Jason Parks: Combo. Royals should graduate Hosmer/Moose/Crow at the least, so the door is open for Cuthbert to walk in. He has legit tools, so if he can put them together he has a chance to shoot up prospect lists.

2012 Update: I am the Lord of all creation.


mef (Brooklyn): Did the Dodgers show their faith in Dee Gordon by promoting Ivan De Jesus Jr? (by the way, when else has one son of a former player been promoted over the son of another former player?)
Jason Parks: Gordon isn't ready. The glove flashes, but its not consistent and I question the long-term potential of the bat. He just lacks strength and I don't see where it’s going to come from.

2012 Update: I’ve been on record about Gordon since I started with Baseball Prospectus, and this answer reflected that opinion. I like some of the characteristics of the skill set, most notably the speed and defensive tools, but the bat scared me off. Gordon is slight, and that might not do justice to the word slight. He is a crazy athlete, but I questioned his strength and I thought he could get the bat knocked out of his hands at the major league level. I’m still on the fence about his bat, but I do like to watch him play in the field and I enjoy watching him run around the bases, so I hope he proves me wrong. As for this question,


Matt (Chicago): Are you a believer in Alex Gordon's turnaround?
Jason Parks: Not really. I think he will be a better hitter this season than previous seasons, but I don't think he will make the secondary adjustments during the season. I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to see him offer consistent production.

2012 Update: I was wrong. Gordon hit .303/.376/.502 in 151 games in 2011, turning his career around by making the secondary adjustments during the season that I suggested he wouldn’t.  


J (NY): Thoughts on Jay Bruce’s early struggles? Seems he forgot how to lay off that low/away breaking ball. Second half of last year he wanted nothing to do with it. Is it just a matter of getting into a rhythm?
Jason Parks: I think he will be fine, but his balance looks off and pitch recognition skills aren't sharp at the present. I picked him to win the NL MVP, so he needs to start chopping.

2012 Update: My MVP choice had a very solid season, but not a spectacular season. In 157 games, Bruce slashed .256/.341/.474 with 32 bombs, but didn’t live up to the hype that I was trying to fan. Bruce is obviously a Texan, so I’m once again out in the rain, waving the flag and dressing up like Davy Crockett. I might have picked Bruce to compete for the award again in 2012. I still like his bat a great deal, and one of these years he is going to explode and slug .600. At that point I’ll once again dress like a solider at the Alamo and take to the streets with my Come and Take It flag. One of these days, I might have to start championing prospects and players born outside of Texas. You know, for credibility.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Minor League Baseball

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