As is customary, I recently returned from a lengthy spring training odyssey and sat down for a lengthy online chat, where hours rolled into hours and the questions flowed forth in a never-ending supply. Aside from the backfield games in March, the post-spring training chat is my favorite part of the process, a detox of sorts from the grind of camp. My latest installment ran a robust eight hours and featured over 300 answers, although at least a quarter of the responses were sententious at best and esoteric to a fault at worst. But when it comes to the baseball opinions, I tried to answer with thought and honesty, and I stand by the statements on their merits, without a hedge or a statesman-like wiggle to avoid accountability in the face of ignorance or mistake.
It’s easy to let your fingers do the work of your lips, spouting off rhymes without much reason in an environment where failed prophecies hide in the shadows and successful prognostications get to live on the mantle in the family room for all guests to admire. If you are going to champion your scouting wins, it’s equally important to stand next to your scouting loses, and I’d rather present a responsible product that I take ownership of than play politician in order to maintain a high-gloss on an expert badge this particular platform pins to my chest. I don’t mind being wrong. I expect to be wrong. But I want to learn from those mistakes and misjudgments, and I don’t find much comfort in the binary outcomes of the process.
Let’s step back a year, to April 4th 2012, and examine the ups and downs of the annual post-spring training chat. Let’s put these answers under the cheap lighting of cheap motel mirrors, and stare into the face of handsome imperfection.
(04/04/2012) Wendy (Madrid): The ETA for Wil Myers is 2012, but Gordon just had a breakout season and the Royals signed Francoeur to an extension. What is the plan for Myers? Would you rather have him or Domonic Brown?
Jason Parks: 2012 is possible, but Myers might not be a full-time contributor until 2013. At that point, you can re-evaluate the outfield situation. The Royals need arms more than bats, so a trade could always clear space.
One-Year-Later: Nostradamus ain’t got sh*t on me. Ignore the opening narrative. I’m just going to slap my own back for the next thousand words. This chat is going to set my star into the sky. Cashing checks.
(04/04/2012) Bryant (San Diego): Domoromo, Tate, Rincon – who ends up having the greatest impact on a MLB roster?
Jason Parks: Tate. He's still a game-changer if he reaches his ceiling. That's an impact that can be felt. Domoromo and Rincon might contribute, but any impact would be minimal in scope compared to Tate. I haven't given up on him yet. He was really good when I saw him this ST.
One-Year-Later: Damn. Glory must have a shelf life. I was high on Tate that spring, and he rewarded my renewed faith by having the worst season of his professional career, which included posting sub-.600 OPS in a return trip to the Midwest League. He showed a few signs of life in the California League, but the final tally reads like a Baudelaire poem, with disappointment muting the flash of any game-changing impact. Here’s the truth: Tate isn’t a game-changer; rather, he’s a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when you give millions of dollars to an explosive athlete with limited present baseball skills and questionable makeup. He will always have the raw natural ability to tease, and if you allow yourself to be taken in by the aesthetic beauty of a premium athlete doing premium athletic things on a field, your evaluations will reflect that promise at the expense of the realities of the skill-set. As much as I’d like to say I will never succumb to the allure of a fast-twitch flash, my eyes are programmed to appreciate the grace that accompanies such flash, so I will most likely continue to fall in love with small-sample sizes of promises over the truth of the present. It’s something I have to work on.
(04/04/2012) Kyle Dekker (Saint Paul): Eric Hosmer over/under 26 homers this year? I've got a case of Schell's Firebrick Ale riding on it.
Jason Parks: 25 homers in 2012; 30+ homers in 2013
One-Year-Later: Hosmer managed 14 home runs in 2012, after sending 19 out of the yard as a rookie. I owe Kyle Dekker a case of Ale and a warm, mournful embrace. My love for Hosmer could cost me a job before this chat is over.
(04/04/2012) Not JT (Riding): Which young arm in COL has a better season this year? Nicasio or Pomeranz?
Jason Parks: Pomeranz. He's going to be a monster.
One-Year-Later:…and by monster, I mean he’s going to battle injuries and consistency throughout the season, spend time back in Triple-A, and not show many monster-like qualities.
Jason Parks: I did. I saw bat speed; he pulled inside velocity (94+) on several occasions without cheating. I think he's going to hit for power again. OBP has never been an issue. He could hit 30+ bombs.
One-Year-Later: After an incredibly disappointing 2011 season that saw Dunn hit a career low .159 and slug a career low .277, he rebounded in 2012 to hit a more robust .204. However, the power did return and the bat speed I saw in camp wasn’t a spring illusion, as he belted 41 home runs, the second highest single-season total of his career. My glass of chat-based redemption is chilled and delicious.
(04/04/2012) Or Moyal (Denton): The Rangers' starting outfield next year is…
One-Year-Later: No. Just no.
(04/04/2012) Mike (Utica, NY): Do you think Harper can hit 20 HR's this year I have a 20-1 bet that he will and I would get 400 if he does?
Jason Parks: I don't think so. I don't think he will get enough opportunities.
One-Year-Later: Harper hit 22 home runs in 2012, playing in 139 games at the major-league level. Mike from Utica is $400 richer and I have the complexion of a meth addict under these lights.
(04/04/2012) Behemoth (Scotland): Tell me someone obscure who you think has a chance to be really, really good.
Jason Parks: Brewers infielder Orlando Arcia
One-Year-Later: Arcia broke his ankle early in the season and never made it onto the field. I’m quite the luck dragon, Atreyu. I’m still high on Arcia, and I was able to watch his skills in action this spring. I like the potential quite a bit.
(04/04/2012) thebeej21 (Houston): Barring injuries, who has the better career, Trout or Hosmer?
Jason Parks: Great question. Hosmer, but it's going to be close. Trout is going to bring big defense, big speed, and lots of hits. Hosmer is going to hit for average and power. Both should be perennial MVP candidates
One-Year-Later: Wow. While I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure my marriage dissolved because of the ridiculousness of this answer. The Dear John arrived soon after Trout got the call-up in late April. Coincidence? Trout emerged as the best player on the planet and Hosmer fully embraced the sophomore slump, producing an OPS of .663 from a premium offensive position. The story is far from over, and Hosmer is likely to rebound and develop into a first-division talent, but Trout has a chance to be a generational superstar in the mold of a Mickey Mantle or a Willie Mays, and I’m just a fool following Hosmer around asking him to wear my promise ring. Good call. Sharp mind.
(04/04/2012) jaymoff (Salem, OR): Most impressive prospect no one is/was talking about prior to Spring Training but will be soon enough?
Jason Parks: Cubs infielder Javier Baez. The bat could be special.
One-Year-Later: I’m back, baby! Baez crushed the Midwest League and shot up prospect lists all season long. Of course, he was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft and a well known amateur prospect with a lot of hype, so it’s not a wizard prognostication on my end. That said, I need all the love I can get right now and my body is bronzing in the prospect glory.
Jason Parks: Potential stud. His swing is going to bother scouts up the chain, and he's also going to hit all the way up the chain. It's not always pretty, and he swings the bat like he's trying to kill someone breaking into his home, but it works.
One-Year-Later: Your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you. She tied you to a kitchen chair. She broke your throne, and she cut your hair. And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah
(04/04/2012) Dennis (LA): You are an animal! Do you think Chris Sale can become a successful starting pitcher? If so, what is his upside?
Jason Parks: I prefer him in the 'pen because of his delivery and his arsenal. He has tremendous upside because he has very good stuff, but as I said, I don't see it staying consistent in a rotation over the course of a full-season.
One-Year-Later: His delivery, his arsenal and his consistency made him one of the better starting pitchers in the majors in 2012. Rick Hahn named a goldfish after me and then forgot to feed it.
(04/04/2012) Hip2Hops (Seattle): How long before Teheran lands in ATL rotation for good? How bad was his spring?
Jason Parks: I don’t think it was that bad. I think Teheran lands in ATL to stay at some point in the summer, and he makes all the bandwagon jumpers look like fools come 2013. It's easy to forget how young he is and how much development he still requires. I urge people to stay with this kid. He has the stuff to make a difference in a major league rotation.
One-Year-Later: I’m not giving up the fight for Teheran’s honor. If he can build on his winter ball and spring training performances, he should take a big step forward in 2013. He needs to find comfort in a go-to breaking ball and the command needs a grade jump, but with more movement on the fastball and the plus changeup, he has the arsenal to compete against major-league hitters. I’m hoping he makes all the bandwagon jumpers look like fools, but at this stage of the game I’d settle for positive development at the major-league level.
(04/04/2012) carp1626 (MO): Hosmer and Harper enter the Thunderdome, who leaves?
Jason Parks: Hosmer. He's Koveian tough
One-Year-Later: I might need a Hosmer intervention or some counseling for Hosmer-related addiction. Everybody knows that Harper would emerge from the Thunderdome. Hosmer would be preoccupied with trying to hit balls on the inner-third or rolling over off-speed stuff, while Harper would be focused on the harsh realities of the dystopian landscape and the base pursuit of survival. Also, he’s just a better warrior.