Monday, January 22, 2007

A Word On Prospects

I'm very optimistic on this site. However, I have failed to mention one caveat that must be assumed during any discussion of prospects.

Prospects fail. A lot. The vast majority of those who are considered top-30 prospects will never see a major league pitch. Just like other facets of baseball, good player development depends on how a team can cut back that failure and find the success stories in the rubble.

Prospects can fail for a lot of reasons. Pitchers tend to get injured... a lot. For every major league pitcher, two promising young prospects went down with a career derailing injury. Sometimes prospects get lucky and recover from those injuries - Mariano Rivera for example. Sometimes prospects fade into obscurity. The Yankees are trying so hard to prevent this with Phil Hughes. But even if everything is done that can be done to try and prevent an injury, sometimes it will still happen. Liriano is a perfect example.

Of my top-10 prospects, we will be very lucky if five work out. Hell, if five of them work out, we'll have another World Championship core going. Of our other top 30 prospects, we'll be lucky if another five work out. The ticking clock of age and injury will catch up to some, while others just won't have the hard work and talent in their bodies to succeed at this very high level.

I used to include "Chance of Reaching Majors" at the end of every profile to illustrate this point, but I deleted it because the numbers were pretty arbitrary.

Brian Cashman has decided to overcome this problem through sheer volume. The Yankees have had trouble - Chien-Ming Wang aside - developing pitchers for the longest time. Cashman's solution? Draft, trade, and sign every little pitcher he can. He has eight starting pitchers who could potentially contribute at the major league level in 2007. That is an enormous amount. How many will have successful careers as major league starters? Maybe three. Four if we are lucky. The others will become the next generation of Kris Wilsons and Aaron Smalls, or leave baseball entirely before the decade is over.

When I make a prediction, I have to look for predictive signs that can determine whether or not a prospect will emerge from the crowd. And I am wrong, very often. I don't care what amateur or professional prospect analyst that you reference, we are wrong very often. Like all other facets of baseball, we must seek to act with the least possible amount of failure.

I have a lot of plans for the upcoming season. I will be writing a lot about the MLB Yankee team, but also I want to run a daily recap on the minor league farm system. I will not be writing too much in preparation for the draft - because I do not have the time and know-how to navigate the vast amount of information beyond the first round draft picks. I will however be writing detailed analysis following the draft. I will be away for the summer again - which could shut the blog down for two months, although that is not as certain as it was last year. After the season, I will rerank and reprofile the Yankee prospects.

I am looking forward to all of this (Pitchers and Catchers in less than 3 weeks!), and I hope you are too. If you have any suggestions about what I should cover during the minor league season, please tell me.