Prospecting ranty rant

Excuse me if this reads as something of a braindump. The Mets play at 1 p.m. today and I haven’t had much time to organize these thoughts in any cohesive manner. And I realize they will seem rather, ahh, curmudgeonly.

The MLB draft is over two weeks away and already much of my Twitter feed is filled with people’s mock draft projections. And look: I don’t fault people for Tweeting whatever the hell they want to Tweet. I could always unfollow if it grows unbearable, plus I realize that mock drafts in all sports are good business these days, for better or worse.

But — and again, this is just one man’s opinion — c’mon.

Look: There’s no doubt the draft is massively important, and that drafting well is a huge key to a baseball team’s success. It’s also really, really difficult to do and something into which teams pour a ton of resources. I don’t necessarily think some professional scout’s eye is any better than an amateur with a good working knowledge of college baseball — not at all — I just think it’s probably safe to assume teams are making extremely well-informed decisions with their picks.

And while I think it’s fair to criticize the process when a big-market club refuses to go over-slot for picks or, say, drafts college closers, I don’t think it’s reasonable to nitpick over specific evaluations because teams are probably working with way more information than we are.

Also: Half of these guys are going to suck anyway, and in many cases we’re not going to know which ones are good for six years. It’s not like the NFL where they’re going to be expected to contribute immediately.

Again, I don’t want to undercut how important it is for a team to build a strong organization from within. That’s how you make a winning baseball club. But as understanding of that importance has crept into the mainstream, it seems like maybe the emphasis has gone just a little too far in the other direction.

Like if I have to read another article crowning the 2013-2020 Royals the Kings of Everything, I might something something. I get that they had three of Baseball America‘s top 10 prospects and like half the top 100 or whatever. But let’s not forget that these are the same Kansas City Royals that not only signed Jeff Francoeur and anointed him starting right fielder this offseason, but held a press conference upon doing so. That doesn’t exactly scream “winning baseball franchise” to me, million dollar smiles and prospects or otherwise. These are the same Royals led by staff ace Bruce Chen, who is Bruce Chen.

I know Eric Hosmer, one of those top Royals prospects, has mashed the ball in his first 42 Major League plate appearances. And I love Kansas City’s great baseball and barbecue traditions and I’m the proud owner of a Kansas City Royals jersey. But I’ll believe the Royals will be a top-flight team when I see one of their prospects hit for a full Major League season and their front office get out of its own way.

I remember, I think about midway through the 2005 season, seeing a debate in some somewhat reasonable baseball forum over if David Wright had “surpassed” Andy Marte. What the huh? Wright had by then been mashing Major League pitching for nearly a full season; Marte was still merely a very well-regarded prospect.

We can prospect and speculate and turn every bit of information inside out trying to figure how good these guys will be, but all that really matters — to us, the Major League fans, at least — is how they perform when they get to the big leagues. Part of the reason I enjoy following the Mets’ prospects on Mets Minor League Blog is that Toby and Mike take a very realistic approach to young players. It comes off as pessimistic sometimes, but it’s kind of the way things are.


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