The major league power outage could have its cause in the minor leagues, writes Kevin Goldstein.
Home runs are down nearly twenty percent from their 2004 peak, and scouts have made it clear that, based on what they are seeing in the minors, the downward trend is going to continue. With Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in the big leagues and Seattle's Jesus Montero beginning the year there, all of a sudden there are precious few power hitters in the minors. While there are plenty of theories as to the cause, there's no obvious answer as to why.
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.
While Bryce Harper is the cream of the crop in right field, as it turns out, there are other legit corner outfielders in the minors.
Well, friends, this is it, the final installment in the series (although I am planning on doing a recap article, so I guess that’s not entirely true). It’s been an exercise within an exercise, and by this point in the minor-league season, the initial lists in the series are obsolete. I’d hang myself with the arbitrary noose of the process, but I thought it was fun to compile, and the constant [read: pestering] correspondence with my sources strengthened my willingness to correspond with my sources. Let’s call it professional growth.
Throughout the 11-part series, I’ve tried to put a spin on traditional rankings by mixing up the formula, either by manipulating the display or profiling players based on characteristics other than their present skill level. At times the waters were murky, but I’m a lake man, so I prefer the dangerous swill of that liquid to the pellucid waters of the norm. I wanted to create conversation and consternation, rather than consensus and contentment. One of my biggest pet peeves is the need to make everything black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Baseballs might come in a box, but the end result should never fit comfortably back into one, so I try to encourage the debate that stems from dissatisfaction, even when the debate is firmly rooted in general ignorance and internet chest inflation.
Taking a spin through the divisional matchups on Opening Day.
By this time next week, we'll be busy poring over the first real box scores of the year and arguing over whether the Giants can repeat based on the outcomes of one night's worth of games. After a long spring of "the best shape of his life" stories, a multitude of injuries, drunk driving arrests, and T.J. Simers' and Murray Chass's ongoing efforts to pen the most despicable story of the year, it feels wonderful to be so close to meaningful baseball.
Baseball fans really have only have two modes: waiting for Opening Day and waiting for the playoffs. With Opening Day just around the corner, let's examine the season's first prospective matchups to see what kind of first impression 2011 might make on National League Central fans.
As talented as the Royals system's top prospects are, nobody's perfect, are they?
Falling in love with prospects is like dating someone because of their physical beauty. At first, you are blinded by the fact that you are involved with someone who is attractive, because, let’s face it, ours is a superficial society, and waking up next to David Beckham or Megan Fox is more appealing than waking up next to Clint Howard or Roseanne Barr. It's a little like having a system headlined by Eric Hosmer and Mike Montgomery being obviously more appealing than a system headlined by Mark Rogers and Cody Scarpetta.
But as the relationship advances, you might get to witness the weaknesses of your new dream partner consume their strengths. In the end you could still be left with a good-looking uniform, but it's draped on a prospect who ultimately failed to live up to the ceiling their initial attractiveness suggested was possible. Once you see the light, you promise yourself that you will no longer fall for a face... except that then you once again start looking for pretty faces, and the cycle repeats itself. Eventually, the aesthetic beauty that tickles your fancy actualizes into the complete package, and the world rejoices at your good fortune.
Brett Myers has put together an interesting string of starts in his first season with the Astros.
When the Astros signed Brett Myers to a low-risk contract as a free agent in the off-season, the type of reward that could potentially be had was unknown. Though the actual signing itself was about as predictable as the Nationals selecting Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in the amateur draft a few months earlier—Astros GM Ed Wade seems to religiously sign ex-Phillies or Phillies farmhands—Myers was coming off of a few fairly enigmatic seasons. From 2003-06, he seemed like the future of the Phillies' rotation, a big-framed and durable righty who threw hard and also featured nasty breaking stuff. He could miss bats and remain accurate with each of his offerings but was yet to overwhelm the opposition. He would not get a chance to take a step forward the following season, either.
Because of his bulldog attitude and nasty repertoire, as well as an injury to Tom Gordon, he spent the better portion of the 2007 season as the Phillies' closer, helping them reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The next season Myers returned to the rotation and produced league-average numbers across the board, before falling prey to the injury bug in 2009 and splitting time in the starting rotation and the bullpen. Suffice to say, inquiring minds were not sure what the future held for Myers, who had proven himself successful in both roles. All told, he entered the 2010 season as a 29-year old pitcher who had come nowhere near reaching his vast potential. Heck, Myers himself probably didn’t even know what interested suitors had in mind. In our 2010 Baseball Prospectus annual, we even derived a term to describe pitchers similar to Myers:
Our resident economist looks at who benefited from their late-July deals and who might have made a mistake by standing pat.
As the trade deadline neared, I prescribed who should be buyers and sellers, and now that the deadline has passed, we can see whether those teams ignored their diagnoses. In discussing the rare success that selling teams have when making deadline deals, Steven Goldman wrote last week that “the vast majority of prospects don’t achieve anything close to greatness.” Of course this is true, but it does not mean that selling teams should not try because when these deals do work out, they tend to have very large positive effects. It is important to temper expectations, but that does not mean that selling is unwise. The reason that selling makes economic sense is that buying teams have more value from wins due to their position in the standings than sellers, and making a trade can be a mutually beneficial way to extract value from a player’s contract that you cannot gain by holding on to it.