In last Wednesday’s edition of the Fort Frances Times, I had the chance to chat with Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus about the world of baseball prospect development. But along with a general take of things, there were a few questions that had to do with certain players that couldn’t quite fit into the article. As such, here is my full chat with Professor Parks about those topics brought forth by myself and a few others who had asked questions via social media.
Can we expect the same progression/outcome out of DJ Davis as compared to Anthony Gose? And will we ever see a Gose/Davis/Who Cares about the third guy because he doesn’t need to catch anything outfield like Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos are with the Angels if both Davis and Gose become major league full-timers?
I would hope that Davis doesn’t take the same kind of career progression as Gose, because Gose was very up and down. I mean, there are still scouts that want to put him on the mound and don’t believe that he’s going to be able to hit enough to stay up at the major league level.
Davis is also a raw guy, and that’s where it gets real complicated for me. I want athletes in baseball and I want to steal the athletes away from football and basketball, but the only problem is that when you are able to actually do that, the players who have been able to do that are not always very good baseball players especially when it comes to hitting.
I’m of the belief that hitting is most certainly heavily influenced by neurological function, and it’s something that I think develops at a very early age. Hence the scouting mantra that hitters hit or you can either hit or you can’t hit, it’s really that simple.
You can’t teach a player how to hit because you can’t teach the neurological function of recognizing the ball and reacting physically. It’s a trigger that happens that is developed at a much earlier age, and if you don’t have a deep-rooted focus on baseball I think you either need to have extreme hand-eye coordination and physical gifts, or you’re not going to be able to perform at a very high level, at least when it comes to bat to ball relationships.
When it comes to a guy like Davis, I have mixed feelings about him. I love the athleticism, I love the promise, but I’m not sure he is a guy that will be able to hit upper level pitching once he gets there based upon what I’ve seen scouting the guy.
I wouldn’t put him in the outfield with Gose quite yet, and I would encourage a third outfielder, just in case.
Is it safe to say that the Jays pick of Anthony Alford has backfired at this point? Despite his documented troubles last season he has chosen to pursue football over baseball. And even if he does eventually decide to pursue baseball full-time, will the loss of developmental time prove to be too much of a hurdle for him to become a big leaguer?
I think he was destined or likely to fail even before he was forced into that decision because he hasn’t been focussed on baseball enough.
People forget this but the great Bo Jackson, who was the best two-sport athlete of all time and maybe the best athlete of all time, played baseball his entire life. Bo Jackson wasn’t a guy who played football and just decided to play baseball because he was super athletic. Bo Jackson had been playing baseball in structured leagues since he was a little kid and he played in little league, high school, and college.
I mean he was doing a lot of other sports too, and he was a freak, but Bo Jackson played and focussed on baseball. He wasn’t just being an athlete and being a football player who was also playing a baseball a bit. As I was talking about with Davis, and I’ve mentioned this when I’ve talked about Bubba Starling as well, there may not have been enough baseball play to develop certain baseball neurological functions, as they relate to read and react.
It’s a very difficult act and I believe that function is a necessity, and I believe not getting into a developmental system or playing baseball and focussing on that a very young age can be detrimental to those pursuits. So no, I don’t think he is going to develop.
The Minnesota Twins system is obviously looking very good right now with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton leading the way. How close are they to possibly overthrowing the Cardinals as the top farm system in the game?
It’s completely possible because the Cardinals are likely to lose Michael Wacha, they’ve already lost Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, and Carlos Martinez, and guys like Oscar Tavares and Kolten Wong are next, That leaves them with a system that has little bit more risk to it with guys like Tyrell Jenkins, as they were very top-heavy to begin with..
I would not be surprised with the Twins have the top system in baseball in 2014, and when I do the rankings in the off-season, I wouldn’t put it past them the Twins to be number one.
They just got Kohl Stewart in the draft, who I thought had the best prep arm, Sano is obviously becoming some sort of beast, and Buxton is someone who I can rank as the number one prospect in baseball right now and make a real valid case for it.
You have two top ten prospects there, and let’s not forget they still have a lot of other prospects in their system, like Eddie Rosario who’s a really talented guy, along with some young arms like Jose Berrios. Plus we haven’t mentioned the guys they have brought in via trades like Alex Meyer or Trevor May.
The Twins have a really deep system, and it might be the top system in baseball.
What are your thoughts on Carlos Perez, and if there is any chance of him being called up by the Astros at some point. And also, what is up with Daniel Norris so far with Lansing?
I think there has been some roadblocks with both players, and there is a reason for this.
This is something that is a good overall point to make. Player development doesn’t have a road map. Every player is an individual and every player will go through their own individual journey to the major leagues, and once they reach the major leagues they will all have to go through all those adjustments that you have to make at that level.
The way they wanted it to be scripted isn’t followed by that route, and there is going to be a period of depressed production and enhanced production. A lot of it is context related, and you have to look at where the players are playing, the talent they are facing, and they are working on specifically.
In the minor leagues it’s not always about going out and saying ‘Let’s see what kind of number I can put out.’ When it comes to pitchers, they can sometimes get beat up a little bit, and that could be because they are working on refining their change-up and a hitter knows that is coming. When it comes to dealing with catchers, they usually go through a slow developmental process, and it’s a position that is both emotionally and physically taxing.
There is always something specific going on, and it’s never as specific as a player not performing well. It’s never that simple.
Among the group of Wil Myers, Kyle Gibson, Nick Castellanos and Christian Yelich, who do you think will make an impact first in the big leagues and who do you think has the most upside?
I think Yelich does on both accounts. One of the reasons for that has to do with opportunity. The Marlins suck, but there’s also opportunity there, as they have a very young squad. Yelich is a guy that come up at a very young age and let it rip without having to look over his shoulder.
That’s the problem with a lot of these young guys who are breaking in to good teams. They have to fill an immediate need and they need to start producing immediately, as they can’t afford to give away at-bats. With the Marlins being a bad team, they have a perfect opportunity to give reps to a young player like Yelich.
I also think he has the most bat-to-ball ability out of anybody. I think he’s a future .300 hitter who can maybe hit 15-20 home runs a year and maybe have 35-40 doubles a year. He’s a very talented hitter, and he has a chance to be a really good future number three type of hitter in a major league lineup for a very long time.
Two pitchers who are just getting called up are Gerrit Cole and Zach Wheeler. What are your thoughts on both them and who do you like more out of the two? I believe you are a pretty big Cole guy from what you have said in the past.
I am a big Cole guy and one of the reasons that I am a big Cole guy is because I know raw stuff is there. Raw stuff is something you can’t really teach, and while you can always refine things a little bit, you can’t give someone that kind of stuff.
He hasn’t been dominating at the minor leagues and there are a lot of reasons for that. Part of it has to do with the way that the Pirates go about developing pitchers, as he wasn’t even allowed to uncork his full arsenal until this year. At times, he’s been working more on pitch location rather than flat-out rip and grip dominating, and I think he’s going to be a better major league pitcher than he was a minor league pitcher.
I like Cole a little bit more than Wheeler, but it’s not that I don’t like Wheeler. I think Cole has a better change-up and he has a better overall feel of command, but Wheeler has nasty stuff too. He has a very good fastball, he has two good breaking balls, and he has some form of a change-up coming.
I think he will eventually settle into a number two role with the Mets behind Matt Harvey, while Cole can be the ace of the rotation for the Pirates with Jameson Taillon coming under him.