Not every prospect gets scouted on their best day, and not all performances have a positive takeaway.
“Baseball is my stereo, and the deplorable mania of doubt exhausts me, and I doubt about everything, even my doubts.” -- Gustave Flaubert
When promising physical tools and on-the-field production arrive on the scene at the same time, documenting the events and making an evaluation is relatively painless; when I see a pitcher throwing an angular fastball at 94 mph and it cruises by a swinging barrel with explosive life, my hand doesn’t strain when it puts a plus sign next to the velocity reading in my notebook. When I watch Kyle Hendricks locate a deep arsenal for eight innings, or Nick Tepesch carry the bulk of the weight of a no-hitter by showing a plus fastball/cutter combo, I get to sit comfortably in my seat, secure in my knowledge that what I’m seeing is legit, as the scouting and the production are kissing on the lips and I’m a creepy voyeur armed with a stopwatch and a smile. But what happens when the performance and the scouting aren’t compatible?
Fresh off his five-week stay in Arizona, Jason transcribes some notes on prospects he saw in the Royals system.
“Baseball is my stereo, and out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy, and out in the back seat of my ’60 Chevy, and workin’ on mysteries without any clues, and workin’ on our night moves.” –A friend of a friend of Bob Seger
The only thing better than watching prospects is watching prospects with high ceilings, and the only thing better than watching prospects with high ceilings is watching prospects with high ceilings who actually start playing like prospects with high ceilings. During my five-week stay in Arizona, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time watching the talent in the Kansas City Royals system, and with each subsequent viewing, I walked away from the fields with the another high-end prospect tattooed on my sunburned brain. It’s a pleasing pain. It’s a good hurt.
Will Myers hit? Can Bubba Starling star? Could Cheslor Cuthbert chisel his way to The Show? Why they might, and why they might not, is just a click away.
Prospect #1: OF Wil Myers Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: Myers was considered a top-ten prospect before the 2011 season by many national publications. He failed to live up to those lofty expectations in 2011, causing many to forget about the developmental aspects of the process and jump off the bandwagon when his prospect perfume wasn’t as sweet. Ah, people can be so quick to misinterpret failure. Myers has all the tools necessary to become a first-division right fielder, and the statistical setbacks that occurred in the Texas League weren’t the result of one tyrannical culprit; rather, Myers faced a series of developmental hurdles and failed to clear them on his first jump. At the plate, he has the kind of bat speed you can’t teach but can’t wait to preach, starting with fast hands, excellent hip rotation, and a clean path to the ball. He projects to hit for both average and power down the line, with the type of advanced approach that will allow for on-base ability.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: I can’t speak to the specific developmental plan the Royals have scripted for Myers, but you have to figure the 21-year-old outfielder will reach the Triple-A level at some point in 2012. It’s then that I’d like to see Myers up his intensity at the plate, taking advantage of pitches he can drive before the pitchers take advantage of him. Being patient has it’s advantages, especially against quality pitching: it can put you in favorable hitting situations, it can lead to walks, and it can force a pitcher to throw a lot of pitches while also disrupting the deception of sequence. But it can also make a hitter second-guess opportunities, especially if they come early in the count. Hitters like Myers are the opposite of complex league hitters, those that are taught to read and react, looking to drive fastballs early and often in counts. Myers has good pitch-recognition skills and can track a ball from release to glove better than a lot of major leaguers, but the best hitters also know when to attack; Myers can be a bit passive in that regard. At the higher levels, you either drive or you get driven, and without a little more intensity when the situation calls for it, Myers will remain a backseat hitter, waiting on the perfect opportunity to take the wheel. That type of approach, while applauded in certain situations, can get a young hitter run over.
Projecting prospects is a tricky business, so will our prospect guru backtrack on what he has said about players in the past?
Who: Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals) Background with Player: My own eyes Documented Observations and Prognostications: I remember the first time I saw Cuthbert: He was standing at the hot corner on a hot afternoon in March 2010, his long, flowing hair intertwined with the shadows on the field, smiling as he used the leather attached to his left hand to fan his greatness toward all eyes cast upon him. Okay, I just made that up. But I did enjoy Cuthbert when I first saw him take grounders, even though his hair wasn’t long and flowing, and I didn’t see any shadows on the field, and I’m not sure Cuthbert was smiling.
Heading into the 2011 season, Cuthbert so impressed me that I took to Baseball Prospectus and professed my love for his present and future.
The Royals' system is flooded with top-tier talent, but beneath the upper levels lies yet more prospect gems.
As I type this, the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t exactly been the beneficiaries of good fortune over the last 25 years, have the top farm system in baseball. While that certainly doesn’t come as a shock to those who follow the minor leagues, the severity of the claim can’t be overstated. For as good as the Royals are now—and believe me, they have the best set of prospects I have ever seen—the farm has a chance to avoid the systemic regressions associated with major-league promotion, general prospect stagnation, attrition, and any other words that might feature the suffix –ion.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spend a lot of time waxing hyperbolic about Eric Hosmer and his heroic (see?) potential as a player. I’ve been so drunk on his present and future that I’ve even dared to opine that he might be the best all-around offensive prospect in baseball. He’s a special talent. The same hyperbole can be applied to Mike Moustakas, although I’m not convinced he belongs in the same conversation with Hosmer. Then you have the line of projectable southpaws that seem to multiply like wet mogwais: Montgomery, Lamb, Dwyer, and Duffy. Throw Wil Myers into the mix and you have seven prospects worthy of top-100 consideration, and at least five that could be in the top 30 in all of baseball. That’s a gross display of upper-level talent.