March 23, 2017
Guarding The Lines
When It's Different But Still Great
Great players comes in all shapes, with all kinds of skills, and so do great prospects. Yet there’s some great players or even good players that were great prospects that projected to hold totally different skills than the ones they ultimately ended up with. What happens when you successfully project how good a prospect will become as a major-league player, but totally miss on what kind of player he will become?
I’ve thought about this a lot watching baseball’s great, young infielders in the World Baseball Classic. Francisco Lindor is exactly the player we, as a prospect community, thought he would be if things worked out—the most aesthetically pleasing player in the game, the best defender on the planet with an excellent, well-rounded offensive game to boot, the very model of a modern role 8. Manny Machado, same thing, the best defensive third baseman you’ve ever seen because he’s really a very good shortstop and very good defenders at short don’t play third, and also one of the major’s best power-hitters. Carlos Correa, Third-Year MLBer is about the 75th percentile outcome of what we thought Carlos Correa, Elite Prospect could be, in precisely the ways we thought he could be it.
And then there’s Javier Baez. At his peak, he was a prospect every bit as good as those guys, peaking at fourth on our 101 three years ago. We marveled at his extreme hand-eye coordination, his power potential, his great arm. We wondered if he’d be defensively reliable enough for the middle infield, whether he’d control his swing enough to hit for any kind of average, but we took for granted that he’d hit a lot of homers. Through his first MLB stint in 2014, that profile remained, but the Javy Baez that reemerged in 2016 isn’t anything like Javier Baez the prospect. Now he’s a stellar defender anywhere on the diamond and has reined it in enough to hit for a fine average, but with only moderate game power.