A look back at the first two-plus months of minor-league action, including prospects and systems on the rise and on the decline.
With the first half of the minor league season in the books (or at least near the books), it’s appropriate to review some of the material we have been presented with along the way. The nature of the developmental system is the tug of war between progression and regression, both at the individual level and with the farms themselves, and it’s important to recognize and review such trends without losing context of the sample or the process in general. We take snapshots of a fixed point in time, pictures of arbitrary beginnings and endings that we inflate in order to compartmentalize and classify. This is our nature and our beast, but we are not on the hunt for binary conclusions or reports chiseled into the cement. The pleasing bloom of a prospect in June could spoil and wilt by July, and the possibility of that decay is not lost on anybody reading this article. The schizophrenia of the season is one of the many reasons we adore this particular aspect of the sport; the conclusions formed in the first half aren’t predetermined as conclusions that will be formed in the second.
For this article, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting events of the first half, including prospects with significant developmental shifts, farms on the climb and the descent, and some of the statistical oddities, curiosities, and peculiarities of the first three months of the minor league season.
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Three of the best rapid talent influxes of the past few decades.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Chad Finn is a sports columnist for Boston.com and the sports media columnist for The Boston Globe. He lives in Wells, Maine, with his wife, two children, and a cat named after Otis Nixon who is older than Mike Trout. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.
Pour one out for Brad Radke and his spiritual descendants.
We don't typically think of particular player types as being associated with certain teams. There are some exceptions that seem to persist over time: the Rockies go after groundballers, for instance, and the Yankees tend to target lefty-swinging sluggers. But those teams' player preferences are tied to their ballparks. If the Rockies played at a lower altitude or the Yankees found they could fit in another luxury box by making their outfield fences more symmetrical, they would adapt to their new surroundings and stop pursuing the same sort of player.
Other apparent preferences are illusions or short-term trends based on temporary team composition or the whims of one front-office regime. The A’s, for a while, liked fat guys, but then they discovered defense. The Royals, under Dayton Moore, have a thing for former Braves. The Tigers, under Dave Dombrowski and scouting director David Chadd, have a reputation for liking big pitchers who throw hard. But that’s almost an obvious affinity, sort of like saying a team favors hitters who hit the ball far. The Tigers might like pitchers who throw hard a little more than most teams, and they might be a bit more willing to overlook the shortcomings of pitchers who fit that profile. But what team doesn’t like big pitchers who throw hard?
Is changing a player's approach at the plate like getting someone to quit smoking? And how does learning ability affect development?
Once again, let's talk about player development from a scientific perspective. For the past coupleweeks, I've been looking at the "What Can Go Wrong" Series that BP's own Jason Parks wrote last winter the way that a trained developmental specialist would and discussing how certain problems that Jason identified can be measured, even if those data aren't publicly available.
How reading a pitcher is like reading a book, and why being self-conscious can make you bad at baseball.
Last week, I began a series on player development and what a stathead like me can say about how to assess a player's progress. One of the most maddening things about baseball fandom (and, um, on the inside of the game too) is when prospects who are supposed to take the team into a brave new era don't pan out. Every team has "the name that shall not be uttered" in polite company. He was a can't-miss blue-chipper whom everyone figured would be the next Willie Mays. Except that he turned into the next Willie Bloomquist.
Our first look inside the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This is Part 1 of a multi-part series on the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement
On November 22 of last year, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA did something that the NFL and the NBA could not: reached a new labor agreement without a work stoppage. For those that follow baseball’s labor history, it has become a miraculous run. By the time the current five-year Basic Agreement (read here) expires on December 1, 2016, it will have been 21 years of uninterrupted labor peace.
How many of the last millenium's burning baseball questions remain unanswered over a decade down the road?
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Over 11 years after their publication in Baseball Prospectus 2000, how many of Keith's questions for a new millenium have we already set to rest?
A look at 10 men who should be considered to run a baseball operations department.
Welcome to Top 10 Week. All week long, various BP authors will be revealing their Top 10s in various categories. Today we start off with Will Carroll ranking the 10 best general manager candidates.
A couple years back, I did a list of the "next GM" crop. It's one of those innocuous exercises that nonetheless tells us a lot about what's going on inside of the front offices. We hear about GMs, about trades, about drafts, but even in Moneyball and earlier in Dollar Sign on the Muscle, we seldom hear about the day-to-day operations carried out by a group of people that is overworked, underpaid, and most importantly, vastly overqualified. This is a group that years ago would be more likely to be putting together a hedge fund, working for the State Department, or something a bit more "important" than the game of baseball. With the money of the modern era, teams got smarter, fast.