If The St Louis Cardinals Win With Kids, Why Can’t The Boston Red Sox?
The Cardinals have continued to win while successfully bringing rookies into the fold to fill key roles. 2013 1st round pick Marco Gonzales picked up two of the three Wild Card series wins. Matt Adams shocked with a three run home run off of Clayton Kershaw and Randal Grichuk (ROTOscouting Report) and Kolten Wong left the park during the four game series too. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ season ended in a one run loss while its young, impact player (Yasiel Puig) pinch ran. A little faith and patience can go a long way in winning now, while building for a successful future. Maybe the Yankees, Red Sox and other major market teams should take note.
A look at the Cardinals current roster points to a gradual approach of transitioning young hitters to MLB. Seven of the eight players listed played in less than 100 games in their rookie year and John Jay came close. Kolten Wong’s development path has mirrored Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams since he received a taste of MLB, followed by a 100-plus game look the following year. Those expecting Oscar Taveras (ROTOscouting Report) and Randal Grichuk to play 150 games next season should take note. The St Louis Cardinals don’t rush players and expect the learning curve to be steep. Playing match ups and adding young talent to playoff rosters helps build confidence while placing players in situations where young players have the best opportunity for success.
Player Name 2010 GP 2011 GP 2012 GP 2013 GP 2014 GP M. Carpenter 7 114 157 158 M. Adams 27 108 142 J. Jay 105 159 117 157 140 D. Descalso 11 148 143 123 104 O. Taveras 80 R. Grichuk 47 P. Kozma 16 26 143 14 K. Wong 32 113
At times, St Louis Cardinals’ strategy creates a logjam which eventually needs to be dealt with — the Allen Craig trade for example. But the depth created allows young players to ripen on the vine at the upper levels of the minor leagues when other teams would have already pulled the trigger on a call up.
The St Louis Cardinals Don’t Rush Top Talent, But The Red Sox Do
Case in point the Boston Red Sox who have handed multiple positions to rookie position players in recent years. Will Middlebrooks was handed the starting third base gig in 2012 and excelled in the role before an injury derailed his rookie season. Tabbed the starter in 2013, he stumbled, then cratered. With a 44 wRC+, he’s gone from top prospect in the system to change of scenery candidate.
Xander Bogaerts was handed the starting third base job late in the 2013 season and held it through the World Series. He entered 2014 as the starting shortstop for the defending World Series champion, then struggled to a .240/.297/.362 triple slash line, while being reeled into the Stephen Drew debacle. And while Bogaerts started strong, his first slump of 2014 wound up lasting three months.
Finally, Jackie Bradley was handed the starting centerfield job out of spring training in 2013 and collapsed. Multiple attempts to allow him a redo failed and he finished the season with a triple slash line of .189/.280/.337. But instead of working him in slowly to avoid a similar fate, the Red Sox handed Bradley the centerfield job again. Unsurprisingly, he struggled again and was exiled to the minor leagues for a period of time. But when Boston fell out of contention, the left-handed hitter was once again force fed to the Red Sox faithful.
Catcher Christian Vazquez is just 200 plate appearances into his MLB career, but he was handed the starting spot too without a plan to work the defensive standout in slowly. Not known for his offensive prowess, a .240/.308/.309 triple slash line is abysmal — even for a backstop.
Mookie Betts (ROTOscouting Report) is the outlier of this group. He debuted briefly before being sent back to Triple-A. A return to Boston saw the right-handed hitter become a sensation. But before pointing to this example as proof this sink or swim method of player development can work, understand Betts has the baseball IQ and plate discipline of a 10-year MLB veteran.
Brock Holt played well too, but 2014 was his third MLB opportunity and he rose through the Pirates system.
Towards the end of the 2014 season, the Boston media’s attention turned to blaming the rookie Red Sox for the team’s 90-plus loss season. In truth, it’s the organization’s responsibility to place players in optimal situations for success. This means sitting Jackie Bradley against David Price, or Xander Bogaerts against Max Scherzer since he can’t hit a slider. The Red Sox failed to do this. The St Louis Cardinals would have done it differently.
After looking at the games played totals for a number of young players on both teams, it appears the Cardinals’ transition year where a top young player appears in 100 games was vital to the development of Carpenter and Adams. With Wong on the same track, is this an organizational strategy other team’s should consider employing?
Ultimately, throwing rookies into the fire after the fan base anoints the player a savior is a recipe for disaster. Even the Cardinals were unable to come away unscathed as Oscar Taveras floundered in his first MLB assignment. However, the St Louis Cardinals generally find a way to maximize the production of young players by continuing the player development process at the MLB level. By avoiding the sink or swim mentality, the team achieves success year in and year out.
9 Oct 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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