It is rough out there in the Majors, but at least the farmhands are still tending to the crops deeper down in the organization. With the future in mind, let's get to looking at positives and what the MLB team's present might yiel for its future.
Prospect Spotlight: Carlos Tocci, CF, Age 21
.284/.331/.362. That was Carlos Tocci's line during what was, officially, his age-20 season. That won't win any awards (well, actually, it did win a FSL Post Season All-Star Award) and it won't launch Tocci up any prospect lists. It was good enough, though, for 10th in the FSL batting race. It is even a bit down from 2015 when, at age 19, he hit .287/.339/.363 across low-A and high-A, but it's certainly no bust. He is still a great defender, but needs more muscle and, much like the Phillies and Ender Inciarte in 2012, will be tough for any team, Rule 5 or otherwise, to carry all year. What will happen, though, is he will be looked on favorably by evaluators, and he will likely be the everyday center fielder in Reading at age 21. Tocci almost certainly will play winter ball in his native Venezuela this winter, where he will face advanced pitching and prepare for that jump to the next level. At this point, all he needs to do is keep adding muscle little by little and, by 23-24, he will be big enough to really put some muscle behind his hits.
I bring this all up because Tocci is now the kind of guy who will get buried in the system; at this point, without our hopes and dreams attached, he is probably just a garden variety Big Leaguer. Maybe that is a regular in center field. Maybe it is just a good outfielder who puts up good defensive statistics. That has value, even while the team searches for stars, because everyone would almost certainly rather watch Tocci in three years than whoever the 2019 version of Peter Bourjos is.
If you have questions for future weeks, tweet them to me @Matt_Winkelman, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The goal is to answer 3-4 questions each week that are more abstract, and less about rankings or lists.
@Matt_Winkelman how important is statistical dominance in the minors? any examples of players w great tools but didn't perform until majors?— Steven Cohn (@spcohn) September 9, 2016
The correct answer is that it does not matter at all. That being said, dominant stats are often a byproduct of being better than your peers. The stats themselves don't really tell you much about being Major League ready; the "why" is the real story. Part of the reason for a lack of domination can be team inflicted limitations, or that a player is physically underdeveloped for the level. It is particularly common, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.
In 12 AAA starts before being promoted to the majors in 2013, Gerrit Cole had a 2.91 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, and 6.2 K/9. Robinson Cano hit .259/.316/.403 for 61 games in Triple-A the year before breaking into the Majors. Francisco Lindor's best minor league SLG was .401, and that was in high-A; he has slugged .482 and .460 in the Majors the past two seasons. Wil Myers spent his age 20 season in Double-A hitting .245/.353/.393.
@Matt_Winkelman is it wise to deal Jeanmar and other vets, or have vet leadership to coax kids in?— Davin Brown (@davin_brown) September 9, 2016
I think they need some vets. I don't know if "leadership" is the right word for why I think you need vets (particularly on the pitching side). What you really need, and what guys like Gomez and Hellickson provide you with, is stability.
Jeanmar Gomez is not a good closer by "closer" standards, but he reliably gives you a decent outing, and that is going to keep you from extending games you are winning and using more relievers. If, every fifth day, Jeremy Hellickson pitches and gives you six innings, even if he gives up three runs, that takes pressure off your bullpen for those days when you don't know if Velasquez will go four or seven. If someone gives you a giant offer, I don't think that stops you from trading someone like that, but their actual presence on a team is valuable.
I also believe that positive feelings reinforce behavior and create a good working environment, and winning (or at least competing) often brings that. That doesn't mean to sacrifice development for winning, but if you can provide some and keep your team in a good place, that is not a bad thing.
@Matt_Winkelman at what point do we start trading from our deep system to help the big league team— Shaun (@brewington1997) September 9, 2016
Already happening. They used two fringe prospects to bring in Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton. It is all about the right deal: You don't want to block a prospect that is important, you want the player to be around for you to compete, and you don't want to hamstring yourself financially. When that opportunity is there, you make the trade if the price is right for you.