The off-season is ripe with prospect talk as usual. The lists are coming out, the rankings are being disputed…you know the drill.
As I was placing the 2016 Baseball Prospectus on the shelf – temporarily – I ran across a long forgotten book entitled ‘2009 Minor League Baseball Analyst’ by Deric McKamey. I remember buying it now at an airport bookstore (airport still forgotten – MSP maybe?). There is a really decent amount of data, projections and comments on a large number of players. Far superior to what that grumpy, bald guy wrote about prospects in the 2010 and 2011 Royals Authority Annuals. So, let’s take a quick trip back in time and find some names you might have forgotten and have a little fun with some of the projections.
Leafing through publication, which has the players listed alphabetically, the first Royals you come across are Jeff Bianchi, whose potential was rated to be a reserve infielder, and Jose Bonilla. Do you remember Bonilla? At one time, well about 2009 actually, there was logical debate about him being a better prospect than Salvador Perez. Here, Bonilla was seen as having the potential to be a starting catcher, although his probability of reaching that potential was doubted. Bonilla, save for one plate appearance, never made it past A ball.
We work our way down the alphabet, past outfielders Joe Dickerson (I remember thinking he had a shot) and Jose Duarte and land on old friend Johnny Giavotella. Remember, back in 2009, Johnny was just coming off his first pro season. McKamey rated him as a 50-50 shot to be an average starting second baseman who might make his major league debut in 2011. Well, after all was said and done, I would say that is exactly what happened. Fun fact, the entry right above Giavotella is that of Chris Getz.
If you know your alphabet well, you might have guessed that the next Royal we find is Eric Hosmer, who had collected 11 total professional at-bats in his first pro season (2008). With a projected major league debut of 2011 and the potential to be an elite first baseman with “arm strength and the ability to scoop low throws”. I am not sure I would label Eric Hosmer as ‘elite’, but he did bat in the middle of the order on two World Series teams.
Before I forget, let’s go back and touch on then Brewers’ farmhands Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. Cain’s potential was seen as a solid regular in either center or right, who “has improved his power production through experience, better plate discipline and physical maturity.” With the potential to be a solid regular at short, Escobar was described as “an athletic infielder with plus defense” and added this bit of prophecy “doesn’t hit for power or draw many walks”.
Kila Ka’aihue comes next as the reigning Texas League Player of the Year. Kila was seen as a potential platoon first baseman….oh, Kila, how I had such hopes for you. McKamey didn’t see a lot of hope in Chris Lubanski and his “moderate bat speed” and was concerned about Mario Lisson’s regressing plate discipline. Mitch Maier was a “strong/athletic player who plays above average tools” who was a near certainty (80% chance) of being a reserve outfielder in the majors. Well, that was our Mitch, wasn’t it?
Of course the guy in the middle of the alphabet you care about is Mike Moustakas, projected to be a starting third baseman with a 50-50 shot at being ‘elite’. It was noted that Moose was certainly better suited to third than shortstop, a move that was starting to be made that year. Interestingly, there was this notation: “Adjusted well to league after initial struggles by being more disciplined and using the whole field.” Hmmmm….
Adrian Ortiz (either needs to add walks or power) and Jordan Parraz (bat speed is present but lacks loft to hits) come next and Salvador Perez does not even get an entry. We run across Jason Taylor, who could not/would not hit breaking pitches (or seemingly stay out of trouble) before running out of position players in this particularly publication.
Keeping in mind that prospect evaluations almost always end with what a player could be in the majors more than what he is likely to be, this particular publication did a pretty decent job of getting close to what these players turned out to be. Overrated Moustakas a little, underrated Cain a little, pretty much nailed Escobar and Giavotella. As we wait for brand new baseball news to start happening this spring, I’ll likely dive back into what the pitchers were thought to be back then. Today, however, I didn’t feel like ruining my appetite!