How quickly do we give up on MLB prospects?
We love talking about how great a prospect will be. We salivate at the possibilities for our team’s future. Once that guy arrives, however, does he ever meet the hype? Is it even possible for him to do so?
I had the chance to chat with Eric Garcia McKinley of Rockies Zingers (in person!) the other week, and he put it simply yet eloquently:
“The only reason we love prospects so much is because they haven’t failed yet.”
It’s amazing how quickly we move on, unimpressed with a prospect once he actually arrives in the big leagues. I recall with some clarity the buzz about Jordan Pacheco. All he does is hit! He doesn’t have a position, but it doesn’t matter! The Rockies need his bat in the big leagues!
The Rockies designated Pacheco and his .236/.300/.347 slash line for assignment last week. As of today, this is where he is:
Source: #Rockies Jordan Pacheco is currently on outright waivers after being designated for assignment. Will find out fate in next 48 hrs.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) June 10, 2014
In Pacheco’s case his lack of talent was ultimately his undoing; he was never actually worthy of that hype.
I am not here suggesting that anybody has given up on Eddie Butler or that he wasn’t worthy of the hype. But what I am observing is how astoundingly quickly the buzz went away in his case.
We built up for Butler’s debut for over a year. He and Jon Gray are considered the great hope for the Rockies as a franchise. The build-up was significant on a ‘Nolan Arenado level’ for Rockies’ fans, perhaps even more so because Gray and Butler were written about by national baseball writers.
All of that buzz was effectively squashed in a disappointing 24 hours. Butler struggled against the Dodgers and then was placed on the disabled list with an injured throwing shoulder.
With that, the hype for Butler is effectively dead. I am not saying that he will not be an important pitcher for the Rockies or that I’m no longer excited about him. What I am saying is that we will move onto the next big thing, because now we have seen the possibility that Butler might not be it, even if it was just one rough start and one injury.
We aren’t giving up on Butler, but it is more pleasant to focus on the awesome possibilities for somebody who is unknown. It’s just easier to be excited about somebody who hasn’t failed yet.
We almost always get a reality check once these guys arrive. They need to adjust. Immediate success is darn difficult for young players, no matter how much hype accompanies them. If we do take a breath and allow ourselves to take the long view, guys often break through.
Here are two more examples from the Rockies: it took Nolan Arenado over a year to look like a big league hitter (and he still has work to do). And how about Charlie Blackmon? Remember the buzz for his debut? Injuries deferred the payoff for him for over two years. These guys still panned out as effective players, but they did so with the hype surrounding their respective debuts nothing more than a distant memory.
If Butler clicks as a member of the Rockies’ rotation, he will likely do so in a different context. Like so many guys not named Jose Fernandez or Mike Trout, he did not immediately enjoy success in the big leagues. And that’s OK. It just means we will view Butler’s return, whether this season or later on, with the nuances of cold hard reality. And because that’s not nearly as pleasant, we will also shift our prospect obsession to somebody else.
Thinking of you, Jon Gray.