Thursday, May 31, 2012

Terry Ryan's Swap

If you're a baseball fan you will probably remember that the Twins signed Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham this winter in lieu of Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. If you're a Twins' fan you probably had an opinion about it.

The Twins were coming off their worst season in over a decade, finishing dead last in the American League. The last thing many fans wanted to see was two-thirds of the outfield to leave via free agency in Jason Kubel and fan-favorite Michael Cuddyer. However, the new-GM Terry Ryan didn't wait around to fight with the market for the two mainstays and signed cheaper options in Ryan Doumit (1 year $3 million) and Josh Willingham (3 years $21 million). It's fairly clear that Kubel and Cuddyer both believed, like most Twins fans, they'd be returning as both of them waited to sign until the week after Willingham inked his contract with the Twins and it was clear that ship had sailed. That next week Kubel signed with Arizona for 2 yeas and $16 million while Cuddy signed a 3 year deal for $31.5 million.

(Read the rest after the jump)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Amazing Conversation on Relievers

Spending way, way, way too much time reading my baseball-centric twitter feed, I will occasionally have the honor of witness great 'Tweeting Wars'. Those are awesome. I wish I had one here for y'all today. But nope, you get to read an amazing discussion between some of the best baseball minds the public sphere has to offer, I promise you will be smarter and a better person for having read this. It took place Friday about 1 AM, and was primarily between Kevin Goldstein and Joe Sheehan. Goldstein, of Baseball Prospectus, is a smart guy with a ton of connections and regularly talks to players and management, while Sheehan is, for my money, the best independent baseball thinker around right now and he was an original founder of Baseball Prospectus who now writes for Sports Illustrated.

Below the break-

Monday, May 28, 2012

Personal Catchers

If you don’t know who Joe Mauer is, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.  He is regarded as one of the most well-rounded catchers in the game for his ability to hit and catch.  But for some odd reason Carl Pavano, who is by no means a Greg Maddux type,  likes to have Drew Butera catch him instead of the three time Gold Glover. 

Greg Maddux was known for always having his own personal catcher.  Some believe it was because he was able to coach this catcher into doing exactly what he wanted, where the regular had to work with 4 other starters and all the relievers. 

Pavano’s reason for using Butera, who is a career .180 hitter, versus Mauer, a career .322 hitter, is he because he gives a lower target.  Mauer stands at 6-5, while Butera is at a smaller 6-1.  Groundballs is Pavano’s game and if he needs a lower target to get them, so be it.  But until he starts pitching like the guy who got $40 million from the Yankees, I think Mauer might be the better choice behind the dish. 

H.A. Dorfman, a long-time sports mental skills coach, wrote about catcher pitcher relationships in his book The Mental ABC’s of Pitching.  Dorfman has worked with the Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins along with being on staff at Scott Boras Corporation. 

In his section about catchers, he talks about Terry Steinbach.  Steiny’s great competitiveness actually hurt him when he caught some pitchers, like Bob Welch.

Welch was also said to be a fierce competitor and Steiny would fire him up even more.  Seeing that wasn’t working, Steiny spoke with Dorfman and he suggested that instead of firing Welch up more, try and calm him down. 

Sure enough, it worked.

Steinbach then made an effort to know all of his pitchers and know their tendencies and what would make them succeed and help the team win.

The reason I bring this up is because I don’t understand why Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson can’t simply say to Mauer, “Give Carl the lower target so we can have your bat in the lineup.”

Being a pitcher, I can relate to this mess.  At one point in time, I had to throw to a catcher with the nick name “ejecto-mitt.”  Even though he could hit better than the backup catcher, and there is no possible way to statistically measure it, I imagine having the backup in would’ve saved us as many runs as the starter helped create.

I understand that having a strong defensive catcher can create a confidence in the pitcher, but when the catcher is still a Gold Glove caliber player, I don’t see why the pitcher can’t have confidence.

Some pitchers like a certain set up.  Some like a certain target.  But at the Major League level, shouldn’t catchers be able to adjust and give their pitchers what they want?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Adapting Expectations

The perception of time has been a theme in my day today. In my Italian Cinema spring course, the professor spent the better half of three hours talking about how nostalgia allows us to question our place in time and space, while also expounding the importance of the relevancy of time. The basics of what I took out of it was that our actions, their effect and their justifications can only truly be judged in the context of the time and place. It's a huge philosophical idea that you can ponder in your own time but naturally, it lead this narrow-minded student to it's application to baseball.

I'll get into the sports part momentarily, but I have a second "story" that will hopefully lend some sort of hand to this discussion. I was, uncharacteristically, watching "Doctor Who" on Netflix tonight before the Twins game and if there is anything that show will do, it will make you think about what time is (a lot of time travel). I'm really throwing in this example just because I said "time has been a theme in my day" and decided that my professor talking about didn't constitute a theme in my day, but TWO (!) examples must qualify, right?

Anyway... baseball. Today's ballplayer's deserve a chance to question their place in space and time to right? I mean, what if you took an average player and sent him back two, five or ten years, would he have the same production? I admit, not the most interesting hook, how much could change in five or ten years? Hell, most of the guys who were around then are still clinging onto a roster somewhere. Well I'm here to tell you that a lot has changed. Not in any dramatic or fundamental way, but in a way that a casual fan might not have noticed and it's part of a larger trend.

Since the days of Bonds and McGwire, the hitting environment has been on a steady decline. There are many reasons for this (do NOT say steroids or I will hunt you down) but we're not getting into the causes here, just exploring the effect of the weaker environment on our perceptions of players. First of all, here's the data (from

Year           AVG / OBA / SLG
2012          .250/  .317/   .395
2011          .255/  .320/   .399
2010          .257/  .325/   .403
2005          .264/  .330/   .419
2000          .270/  .345/   .437

As you can see, offense has been on a steady decline over the last dozen years. You can take that as the fact it is. The reason I want to present these data to you is because of how it relates to the average hitter (keep in mind it, of course, affects ALL hitters).

It's quite possible that a guy hitting .250/.317/.395 wouldn't have had a spot on some major league teams in 2000. On the other hand it's true that a guy hitting near the average 2000 production level .270/.345/.437 is hitting cleanup for the 27-18 Tampa Bay Rays (Ahem, Luke Scott). So what does this mean for what we should expect out of the fringy-to-average hitters that are plentiful in major league lineups every day? It means that when Twins' fans see Ryan Doumit hitting .263/.328/.441, they should actually be quite pleased, it means they should be tolerant of Jamey Carroll hitting .231/.322/.269* even if the numbers look relatively horrific based on the standards we (or at least I) grew up on.

*feel free to be outraged about Carroll's slugging percentage, that's horrific.

Depending on the context of time, the production of the average Joe can materialize in a wide range of statistics. As such, it's important to judge a player based in their current environment. As of now, that's a low run scoring environment, and you should adapt your expectations accordingly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How The East Was Won

Guess who the only team in the AL or NL East is with a losing record? I'll write a little filler sentence here while you guess.... Time's up, it's Boston. Whether that surprised you or not (not is probably likely considering all the attention they get), it should be. Boston is damn good, they have a top 5 offense and what could be, if healthy, a solid pitching staff. Anyway, the point is that 9 of the 10 teams between the two divisions are .500 or better. You could easily call them the top two divisions in baseball. But which is better?

To settle this, I'll do something that will settle or prove nothing, but should be fun. I'll pick who I think are the "East All-Stars" to this point, and let them fight it out in an epic battle that takes place in YOUR mind. Let me know who wins!

*No DH's for fairness, sorry Papi

              AL EAST                                NL EAST
1)     Dustin Pedroia 2B                  Michael Bourn CF
2)      Adam Jones CF                      David Wright 3B
3)    Alex Rodriguez 3B                Adam LaRoche 1B
4)      Matt Wieters  C                  Giancarlo Stanton LF
5)      Ben Zobrist RF                        Carlos Ruiz C
6)      Carlos Pena 1B                       Omar Infante 2B
7)         JJ Hardy    SS                      Martin Prado RF
8)   Desmond Jennings LF                Jose Reyes SS

AL EAST Rotation                         NL EAST Rotation
     CC Sabathia                                Stephen Strasburg
      David Price                                   Roy Halladay
    Jason Hammel                                Gio Gonzalez
    Wei-Yin Chen                                Cole Hamels
  Brandon Morrow                         Jordan Zimmerman

AL EAST Bullpen                          NL EAST Bullpen
 Fernando Rodney                             Craig Kimbrel
 David Robertson                              Tyler Clippard
    Cory Wade                                     Steve Cishek

More tough decisions than I anticipated! I would need to give the edge to AL East in hitting and defense, but I don't know how they could score more than a run or two against that rotation. What do you guys think I missed? Who do you think would win in a 7-game series?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dozier's Early Success

The #1 reason I'm still watching the Twins' games is Brian Dozier. I love watching him at shortstop and I love watching him hit. He brings a ton of energy to the game and he's one of the very few bright spots of the Twins' future above A-ball. Through 44 plate appearances he's hitting .286/.318/.476 a couple doubles and a couple homers. Very impressive for a 25 year-old in his major league stint looking to take over as the long-term shortstop.

But the number that's important here isn't the homers or average, it's the plate appearances. 44 PA's is a very small sample size. As an example, I'll remind you of Chris Parmelee's smashing September last season, .355/.443/.592 and 4 home runs in 88 plate appearances. As a caution I'll remind you of Parmelee's next 92 plate appearances this season, .179/.250/.262. Just about anything can happen in small sample sizes like these, a mediocre hitter can look great or downright awful. Snap judgements shouldn't be made just given these statistics.

Dozier won't be this player forever, he could be even better or he could be worse. As a young player, there are going to be impressive stretches such as these first 10 games and their will be times we will all be calling for him to go back to AAA. For now, dream on the kid, enjoy watching him, but don't be shocked if he has a Parmeleean fall back to the earth.

Monday, May 14, 2012

RBI's are awesome!

Ryan Doumit leads the Twins in Runs Batted In with 23. RBI's are awesome!

Ryan Doumit has fewer hits than Jamey Carroll and three other Twins. RBI's are better than hits!

Ryan Doumit a .316 OBP. RBI's are King!

Ryan Doumit has less than half of the extra base hits of J. Willingham. WE WANT RBI's!

Ryan Doumit bats 5th or 6th in the lineup every night. The ONLY reason he has RBI's.

Conclusion- RBI's are a useless stat, and tell you next to nothing about the player, except that they often hit with runners on base. RBI is, like VORP, WARP or DRS, a stat made by humans, and just because it was on the back of your Juan Gonzalez baseball card, does not give it credibility. I'm glad we're all thinkers here though, right?

What is Tommy John Surgery?

It seems everyday we hear the words, “He has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery.”

Most know that Tommy John surgery is an elbow surgery which takes pitchers about a year to recover but that’s about it.  Pitchers Duel will explore what Tommy John surgery is and what are the possible causes.

Before 1974, a blown ulnar collateral ligament meant a career was over for a pitcher.  But thanks to Dr. Frank Jobe and Tommy John, it is now a career saving operation.  When Dr. Jobe opened up John for the surgery he thought he might have a one percent chance at coming back.  Now, with advancements in medicine, the recovery rate for a pitcher after surgery is an outstanding 92 percent. 

The body is something that will never be fully understood.  It can do things that would otherwise be unimaginable and during the Tommy John surgery, the body puts its magic to work.

The doctor will first remove the injured UCL and drill two holes into the ulna and humerus bones that make up the elbow joint.  Using a spare tendon (usually from the patients throwing forearm or a cadaver) the surgeon will figure eight the tendon in these holes and then the body does its work.

How Dr. Jobe figured this out is spectacular.  The tendon starts a process called “ligamentization.”  This is when the tendon starts to realize it is now becoming a ligament and has a new task at hand.

During the ligamentization period, the arm is wrapped in a soft cast to prevent the arm from moving and possibly damaging the new ligament.  After the that period of time, the work begins. 

The rehab time for Tommy John can range anywhere from ten months to eighteen months.  During this rehab process, the pitcher will go through physical therapy, strengthening, rigorous workouts and a precise throwing program.

These are the reasons some pitchers come back stronger after their Tommy John surgery.  Taking time off to learn about the body and the game of baseball along with getting stronger in every physical aspect, is what makes some pitchers better. 

Players who have had the surgery have talked about picking their coach’s minds and “learning how to pitch.”  These are also reasons why some pitchers come back with tremendous results.

Why the UCL gets damaged is clear.  The arm was not designed to throw overhand at great speeds.  But why do some pitchers have long careers without the surgery is a different question.  After speaking to Dr. Mark Cohen, a surgeon for the Chicago White Sox, he came up with two main reasons why.

Dr. Cohen said mechanics and overuse are two of the reasons.  A good example is Stephen Strasburg when talking about mechanics.  Strasburg is known for the “inverted W.”   This means that during the pitchers motion, right before acceleration, the pitcher’s elbows are both above the shoulders which puts a tremendous amount of stress on the elbow, especially the UCL. 

Overuse in high school baseball is also a reason why pitchers need surgery down the road.  If a coach has a division one pitcher, he isn’t afraid to use him.  Throwing 100-120 innings during the spring and summer can be a lot of stress on a 17 or 18 year old pitcher. 

Dr. James Andrews is one of the best known surgeons in the United States for Tommy John surgeries and he suggests players take a couple of months off after the season to let the arm heal naturally.  With rest, he believes players are able to get the strength back they need and that the surgery may be preventable.

Tommy John surgery is too common in the baseball world and can be a long road to recovery.  Without it though, some careers may never be saved.

The harder you work, the luckier you’ll be.

Were We Wrong?

"Small market teams are just a farm system for the Yankees!"
              -Every Twins fan from 2000-2007

     The fans got their wish, when in 2010 the Twins payroll jumped from $65 million to $98 million and gave MVP Joe Mauer a medium sized island near Panama. It was supposed to be the start of something special, push the team over the edge and into the World Series. But it wasn't, it resulted in one stellar season followed up by a weak postseason showing, a train wreck in 2011 and what looks like a nuclear meltdown in 2012.

      So how come the Twins' success over the past decade has been nearly inverse to payroll? Literally a million reasons, probably. One being that money doesn't buy wins (or happiness :] , jklol) and another is huge, long, lucrative contracts don't come with any guarantees except to the player. Since 2008, the Twins have shelled out millions to not only Mauer and Morneau, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Matt Capps, Nick Punto and Carl Pavano. None of those players have had anything remotely resembling consistent success.

      Now, how should the team get out of this predicament? Not by spending more money, not by signing veterans a la Jason Marquis and Jamey Carroll to fill holes, that's for sure. What they must do is get back to developing top tier talent, like Morneau, Mauer, Span, Hunter, Cuddyer, etc. I realize this is among the most obvious statements I could make, but the current state of the Twins shows that once the minor league system dries up, so does the major league team. Terry Ryan will have a trying job ahead of him over the next year or so, but he'll have a great opportunity in the upcoming draft (June 4-6) with the #2 overall pick and 6 picks in the top 100 to right the ship.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Twins Best Pitches of April*

*Actually April and the first few days of May, but who's counting

Thanks to the infusion of Pitchf/x data from every major league park over the past few years, the analysis of pitching has taken huge strides. The data has a ton of useful uses like using it to find patterns and diagnose injuries. Dr. Suess wrote that last sentence, I'll apologize for him. But lately, a new trend in extracting fun out of Pitchf/x has come from the pages of FanGraphs with their "Best Pitches of 2011" feature. In it the writers used a thing called "Pitch Type Linear Weights" to measure who had the best fastball, change-up, curveball, etc. "Pitch Type Linear Weights" sounds scary, but like most things, though intimidating, is easily understood. A better name for it may be "Pitch Value", as it puts a number on what pitch is most effective. For this post, I'll use wP/c which will put all pitchers, starters and relievers on the same scale of value per 100 pitches. As with any analysis this early in the season, the SSS (Small Sample Size) Alert is on HIGH.

Best Fastball:
Carl Pavano - 5.22 wFA/C
      This comes as a surprise to me, as Pavano rarely tops 90 with his fastball. However, he does have good command of the pitch and it picks up the slack from his lack of an out pitch. Jared Burton was the only other pitcher contending for the title along with Pavano, as he has a more conventional power fastball sitting in the low-to-mid 90's.
       The biggest surprise for me here is that Glen Perkins fastball graded out as average. Nobody on the team throws close to as hard or is as impressive to watch. Unsurprisingly, Nick Blackburn has a horrible rating for his fastball that has been crushed all year.

Best Cutter:
Jared Burton - 5.25

       He and Blackburn are the only pitchers with a pitch classified as a cutter, and I'm not even sure if Blackburn throws a cutter. That said, Burton certainly does, and it's part of the reason he's one of the few righty relievers on the team with potential to contribute.

Best Slider:
Glen Perkins - 5.09

       The pitch that inspired this post and for my money it's the best pitch on the staff by far. I wish I was better at creating GIFs and I could put one here, at least for my own enjoyment. Perk throws it almost exclusively along with his fastball to form his deadly two pitch mix. His slider is the best Minnesota has seen since Liriano's glory days. There's not much else to say, but enjoy watching it while you can.

Best Curveball:
Brian Duensing - 4.27

      There isn't much competition for the best curveball on the squad, and Duensing is the clear leader here. In fact, Liam Hendriks is the only other pitcher with an above average curve.

Best Change-up:
Matt Maloney - 5.99

     The high rating here is almost certainly overstated. In watching Maloney, his change-up has been good, but it's not exactly a difference maker. There are rumors he'll be demoted on Monday, in which case the reign of 'Best Change-up' would be passed along Anthony Swarzak, who also a nice change-up but is also not a difference maker.

After just 1 month, and some of these guys pitching only 10 innings or so, it's tough to give too much credibility to any of these stats (as I said, SSS Alert is on high). However, this is hopefully something of an introduction to pitch type linear weights and gave you another or two to watch for next time you have the (dis)honor of watching the Twins get rolled over by the rest of the MLB.

If you'd like to read a little on Pitchf/x, FanGraphs has a great primer on the subject -

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Few Quick Notes

-Bryan LaHair is raking for the Cubs. He's hitting .388/.468/.821 through 21 games, numbers that would make the Babe look like Nick Punto. Looking at his minor league numbers and using a wee bit of reasoning, it's clear he won't keep up those numbers; however, LaHair has carved out a spot in the majors at 29 years old and doesn't look to be going anywhere.

-As a side note to LaHair, Seattle has to be kicking themselves after letting him go in favor of Justin Smoak, who is hopeless against lefties and anyone with a breaking ball.

-Joe Maddon. I think we all agree he's the best manager in baseball, right? This year he's has slotted Carlos Pena in the second spot in the order. It may seem counter-intuitive to have a slugger with a low batting average in that position, but it's actually a damn smart play and shows the progress of using statistics (and logic) in baseball. That's because Pena is getting on-base at a .398 clip this year, second best on the team (after the injured Evan Longoria). Putting Pena second does two things. First, it gives arguably their best hitter right now more plate appearances than if he was hitting in a more traditional spot like fifth. Secondly, it gives the middle of the Rays order (a bunch of marginal boppers) more opportunities to knock in runs. It's too bad that Tampa doesn't get the attention they deserve, because they are constantly changing the sport for the better.

-Mariano Rivera got carted off the field with a knee injury. Did not look good. Nothing to say there, but it's something you should know.

-Another thing you should know is that Astros have a second baseman. He is 5'5". His name is Jose Altuve. And he his hitting .358. See if you can tell which one he is:

(AP Photo)

-Bryce Harper is must-see TV. He's now a 19 year-old hitting 3rd on a first place ball-club.

-Derek Jeter got his average over .400 tonight. He's old, he can play the field, but you can't say he can't hit. #DoubleNegative

-I'm making chicken tacos, there's a 95% chance I screw it up... They're probably burning right now.

13 Pitchers

Each major league team is allotted 25 roster spots at any given time. Any combination of hitters and pitchers is legal. Up until the 1990's it was common to see a team carry just 10 pitchers (often less), allowing flexibility on the offensive side, while relying more heavily on 'ace' relievers to come in for multiple innings at a time if the starter couldn't finish the game. Needless to say, that has changed a good amount in the past 20 years, much to the chagrin of many baseball analysts (and myself <--- not an analyst). The waste of carrying about 12 pitchers is fairly evident if you think about it. Those extra 2 or 3 pitchers are almost certainly not of the highest quality, and are taking up innings from more effective pitchers. For example, on the Twins, pitchers such as Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray are getting significant time on the mound. The innings would be better off with Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing or even Matt Capps, and the roster spots would be better of given to a competent third baseman (Trevor Plouffe got the start tonight) like Sean Burroughs or Luke Hughes who were essentially waived in order to maintain the bloated bullpen. This strategy often takes roster spots away from good hitters like Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon, who only recently found jobs, or versatile defensive specialists are  useful in many late-game or pitcher-determined situations. Now, usually an example like the one I used in the Twins, would be would be used as an argument against the 13 man pitching staff. However, in this case, I'm not so sure.

I'll try to make this short, but the Twins starting pitchers suck. A lot. The best starter ERA is 4.91, belonging to Carl Pavano. Only Pavano has completed the sixth inning more than twice this season. The average length of a Twins' start this year? A tick above 5 innings. Given this suckitude (suckosity?), relievers have been counted on for about 4 innings a game, or at least 96 innings over the 24 game schedule to date (that's without adding in extra inning games). Extrapolated out to a year, that's about 650 innings of relief. To put that in perspective, even if the Twins carried 8 relievers, each would have to pitch 81 innings. Then to put that in perspective, only six relievers in the entire MLB through more than 81 innings last year. As you can see, given the massive workload put on their relievers, carrying 13 pitchers is a necessity as a bare minimum for the Twins right now. I don't like to see that, I don't like to say that, but with the state of the Twins currently, it's just true.

Clearly something needs to change, whether it's regression of the starters back to more acceptable production levels or Gardenhire forcing the starters to take on more of a workload. The modern reliever is not built to be effective at 80+ innings a season (that's up for debate, but is a whole different issue), and the Twins will see that soon. In the meantime, we may be witnessing one of the first necessary 13 man pitching staffs in history.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Prospects and Expectations

I've noticed more and more lately the hype machine working in overdrive on top prospects. Exhibits A-D are the likes of Trout, Harper, Matt Moore and Jesus Montero. All extraordinary prospects, however fans need to temper their extraordinary expectations for them.

The blogosphere and twittersphere have already anointed them stars, especially Trout and Harper. While I'm not here to say they won't or can't be All-Stars, a quick look at our collective track record of announcing those who will inherit the game suggests that even 3 out of the 5 becoming becoming good regulars would be a solid projection of minor league talent. For example, I present you Baseball America's top 5 from 1991:

1. Todd Van Poppel, rhp, Athletics
2. Andujar Cedeno, ss, Astros
3. Ryan Klesko, 1b, Braves
4. Jose Offerman, ss, Dodgers
5. Roger Salkeld, rhp, Mariners

I am cherry picking poor seasons here, and I will continue to do so, 1999:

1. J.D. Drew, of, Cardinals
2. Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
3. Eric Chavez, 3b, Athletics
4. Bruce Chen, lhp, Braves
5. Brad Penny, rhp, Diamondbacks

and 2000 (Top 10!):

1. Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
2. Pat Burrell, 1b/of, Phillies
3. Corey Patterson, of, Cubs
4. Vernon Wells, of, Blue Jays
5. Nick Johnson, 1b, Yankees
6. Ruben Mateo, of, Rangers
7. Sean Burroughs, 3b, Padres
8. Rafael Furcal, ss, Braves
9. Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
10. John Patterson, rhp, Diamondbacks


1. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
2. Felix Hernandez, rhp, Mariners
3. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
4. Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies
5. Joel Guzman, ss, Dodgers


1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, Red Sox
2. Alex Gordon, 3b, Royals
3. Delmon Young, of, Devil
4. Philip Hughes, rhp, Yankees
5. Homer Bailey, rhp, Reds

There are plenty of examples of "failed" prospects in these lists, many of them were can't miss (Corey Patterson, Van Poppel, JD Drew) others had all the upside in the world (Joel Guzman, Delmon Young, Phil Hughes). Even looking at the best top 5's in the past couple decades, there are many examples of expectations not met;


1. Ben Grieve, of, Athletics
2. Paul Konerko, 1b/3b, Dodgers
3. Adrian Beltre, 3b, Dodgers
4. Kerry Wood, rhp, Cubs
5. Aramis Ramirez, 3b, Pirates


1. Mark Teixeira, 3b, Rangers
2. Rocco Baldelli, of, Devil Rays
3. Jose Reyes, ss, Mets
4. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
5. Jesse Foppert, rhp, Giants

*I only include this lists because it's probably the only time you will see Joe Mauer's name right next to Jesse Foppert's.

The point of all this is that even though it's hard to imagine any of this year's crop of  'future stars' not even sticking as regulars, it's not only possible; but likely.

This fact does not bode well for prospects in the lower half of the top 100 lists, given there future prospects are even lower. For example, I'll use a specific team (the Twins, whom I'm most familiar with), to illustrate the point. I spend a good amount of time on the TwinsDaily and TwinkieTown sites (both are great), and given some time there, you'd be convinced that Minnesota was in possession of a future Juan Pierre (Ben Revere), Brad Radke (Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson) and Jose Bautista (Miguel Sano). In reality, the fans will probably need to settle for a 4th outfielder, a couple "Twins pitchers" somewhere between Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, given health, and it's probably too early to put any realistic projection on Sano as he has a looooong way to go. Other prospects like Joe Benson, Alex Wimmers, Levi Michael and could Eddie Rosario could contribute in the future as well. Any significant postive contribution should be treated as a success, not as the expectation.

Listing a fraction of the reasons players don't fulfill their potential (real or not) is pointless, however, one should appreciate that there are many causes for prospect 'failure'. Taking this as a fact, I hope fans will begin to take prospect rankings, minor league performance and projection of tools for what they are, and not as the certain fate for any prospect. The most difficult thing in baseball is not reaching the major leagues, but sticking there.


-Another note just from looking back at these lists; The difference between a #5 prospect and #20 prospect does not seem to be a large gap. However, once you look past the top #50, there are at least 5 "busts" for every major league regular.

*I realize using BA's top prospect lists is not perfect, but this isn't scientific, merely a subjective survey of the collective thought of the baseball outsiders, which I feel BA represents well enough.

This is Important

Curveball: Bruce Chen is from Panama. The country.