There is very little hardcore baseball fans love more than prospects. That the majority of prospect information comes in handy list form has a lot to do with this, I believe. But the promise of prospect gold is a very real and very appealing thing, especially for fans of moribund franchises who otherwise face the impending season with the sort of dread associated with the first colonoscopy of a middle-aged man’s life.
As one might expect, fans tend to overvalue prospects, especially those in the farm system of their chosen franchise. Their prospects will, against all odds and available information, sweep through the minor leagues without a hiccup, storming the big league roster by force.
This is not reality, however. Even the most highly touted prospects fizzle. Pitchers break down or just TINSTAAP their way out of baseball. The biggest level-to-level jump in baseball is going from Triple-A to the bigs. Many just can’t make it.
Don’t let the boring shackles of reality constrain your throbbing prospect member – let your biased prospect flag fly and, gasp, enjoy yourself.
Prospects are fun. It is fun to track a prospect from the time he’s drafted through his meteoric rise to the big leagues. Even if the books are cooked by context-destroying park factors or “age-for-the-level” concerns, everybody wants to be taken for a ride. Even if prospects bust out at an alarming rate and boring veteran players can perform as well or better than most floundering prospects still trying to establish their way in the bigs.
So many people see what Mike Trout has done as a member of the Angels and want to be a part. Trout shot like a rocket through the Angels system, a cold weather draft pick from late in the first round who put up crooked numbers at every turn. His ascent through the prospect rankings only fueled this hype missile – all Trout did was accelerate it at nearly every turn in becoming a hype supernova: the best prospect in baseball. What a ride for Angels fans! What a rush to have the best player in the league all but fall into your lap.
It is easy to get carried away and prematurely start a “Free Prospect X” hashtag movement sight unseen, refusing to believe the front office of your favorite team knows what they’re doing when it comes to player development. As stated above, if you’re hung up on prospects, it’s probably because the actual team sucks. If the front office knew what they were doing, the team wouldn’t be so bad as to send you scouring the internet for scouting reports and minor league stat lines to avoid 162 ruined days and nights futilely hoping Scott Rolen doesn’t disintegrate on the field in front of your eyes.
The vast majority of fans don’t know or care about prospects. They don’t study top 100 lists and don’t bog themselves down in the minutia of Arizona Fall League rosters. This is why free agency still holds such sway over most “how can we improve the team” barroom arguments. They aren’t wrong, either. The only reason young players hold such importance in professional baseball is because they’re cheaper – not better.
If you’re a big time baseball fan who stands ready to anoint the next untouchable prospect or worship at the cracked altar of Saint Travis Snider, fear not. There is no shame in tossing your line into the vast prospect pond hoping against all hope to finally boat a whale.
So what if they odds are stacked against most draft picks ever becoming much of anything at the big league level? So what if clinging to spring stat lines where one unproven kid mashes homers off another unproven kid, this one throwing meaty change ups every other pitch as he tries to work through a new grip, is meaningless and probably a complete waste of your time? So what.
Throw your lot in with Oscar Taveras. Bet the farm on Dylan Bundy becoming a can’t-miss ace. Believe with your heart of hearts that Travis d’Arnaud is more Buster Posey than Paul Lo Duca. There is no harm in believing. There is no harm in wanting it to happen, wanting to say you saw the best player in the game when he was a fresh-faced bebe in double-A, taking his hacks in a February split squad game against Johnny Neverwas and Stevie Hasbeen.
Add a dose of realism only when the pain of repeatedly let-downs becomes too much to bear. Otherwise? Go nuts. Suffer a Gaby Sanchez or two because it only makes the Giancarlo Stanton‘s of the world that much sweeter. Myopically dredge up Roy Halladay’s rebirth after a low-A stint at every opportunity not because it will ever happen again. Mention that metamorphosis frequently because, honestly, Roy Halladay. Isn’t that payoff worth the risk of disappointment?