Let the prospects PLAY!
Let the prospects PLAY!
I’ve always been fond of analysts and websites that try to project careers of prospects coming up through farm systems. As fans, we like to think that every prospect we have waiting in the wings of our respective team is going to be the next superstar. Rarely is that true, but the allure of possibly having a great player just waiting to hit the majors gives people hope for the future.
The thing with prospects in sports, though, is that until and unless they perform on the big league stage, no one truly knows what they have. Over the years, the Sox have had some prospects that have come up through the system that have made the impact scouts predicted. Names like Nomar, Youk, Pap, Pedroia, and Ellsbury come to mind.
But for every star, there are players who never reach that potential. Who’s who of bad prospects like Abe Alvarez, Craig Hanson, Jason Place, and Jonathan Egan.
Now, while Sox prospects that haven’t panned out would be an interesting piece in itself, that’s not what I’m trying to bring to light.
Baseball, and sports in general, are like real life in that it could take a long time to build up a reputation, but it only takes one bad season to tarnish it all.
Lars Anderson is a name that’s been floating around the organization for what seems like the last 10 years (really it’s just been five.) After being drafted in 2006, it wasn’t long before he was being touted as the first baseman of the future for the Sox. He was the number one prospect in the organization and for a long time was viewed as untouchable. That right there, is the meat and potatoes of this piece.
Anderson has been in the organization for five years now, the last two of which have started with “this could be the year Lars puts it all together and gets time with the big club.” Unfortunately for Lars, as well as the Sox, Lars has been on a downward slope as of late and is no longer viewed as a can’t miss prospect. He’s gone from a potential starter or center prospect in any potential big move, to someone who the Sox just hope eventually reaches the majors.
So here’s my point. Why haven’t the Sox given him the opportunity to play or traded him? Over the last couple years, how many trades do you think the Sox have rejected because the opposing GM has requested Anderson be a part of the deal? It has to be multiple. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 but how was the team supposed to know what he was really worth unless they brought him up?
Now obviously Anderson’s development is somewhat irrelevant now because of the trade that brought Gonzo to Boston (a trade which, ironically enough, involved Anthony Rizzo, who was a first base prospect, and not Anderson) and with the development of Ryan Lavarnway (hopefully our DH of the future) but the point is, instead of getting anything out of Anderson, whether help for our organization or help in a trade, we got nothing because we never got the chance to see his real value.
What really brought this whole rant up is that the Sox now have a few major league ready prospects, and yet, from the reports I’ve read, those prospects will be spending the majority of another season in AAA ball.
Jose Iglesias was tabbed as our shortstop of the future. The Sox have used fill-in shortstops ever since we traded Nomar. Renteria, Lugo, Cabrera, Lowrie, and Scutaro just to name the more prominent names. The knock on Iglesias, and rightfully so, is that his bat isn’t good enough to hit major league pitching. Now, 9 times out of 10 that’s enough reason not to call someone up. But Iglesias is the exception to this rule, because what he does bring to the table is enough to mask his lack of hitting: a glove that’s already been compared to the greatest defensive shortstops of all time.
In 2012, the Sox will boast a batting order that would scare even the greatest pitchers in the game. Gonzo, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Papi, Youk, Crawford and Salty should produce more runs than a lot of teams do this season. At no point, should the Sox (in theory) be short on run scoring ability. Now if that’s the case, let me ask you this: why shouldn’t the team start a potential gold glover at arguably the most important defensive position on the field and just deal with the fact that he’s still a developing bat?
Let’s say we give Iglesias the starting SS spot. In this theoretical world, let’s say he hits .200 with two homeruns and 35 RBI (again, this is a complete lowball just to prove a point). While his hitting statistics are trash, let’s say he plays gold glove shortstop all season. The Sox now have, without a doubt, the best defensive infield in baseball with Gonzo, Pedroia, Iglesias, and Youk. That not only looks good for them as individuals, but also imagine the impact it will have one the pitching staff knowing they can throw pitches that will induce grounders. Not only that, but with the seven hitters I mentioned previously, you’re still putting up enough runs to compete, even in the revamped A.L.
It’s the same situation with the dilemma in right field. Why in the world would the team even consider bringing in someone like Cody Ross or Carlos Beltran when the Sox have Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish waiting in the wing? Reddick was hitting around .400 until fatigue of a long season kicked in last year, and Kalish is arguably the Sox most major league ready prospect. What good would that do anyone? Lets say the team brings in Beltran or Ross. What happens next? Reddick and Kalish get spot duty and either hit poorly because of lack of playing time and lose value, or we ship them off for 75 cents on the dollar. If the team is so worried about the luxury tax all of a sudden, how about playing the prospects that we already have?
So here’s my proposed starting nine for next year’s Red Sox:
SS: Iglesias (knowing he will hit 9th, but play gold glove defense)
RF: Reddick/Kalish (knowing they will hit 8th with hopes of improvement)
Would fans really be upset with that lineup?
The point I’m trying to make is this: unless we give prospects the opportunity to play against major league competition, teams will never truly know the value of a player. I’m not saying skip the minors all together, or throw every prospect into the fire and see how they come out, but how valuable is a prospect who’s been in the minors for five to six years? (I’m looking at you, Lars.)
Photo Credit: Flickr user tjperrBy Boston Red Sox
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