Wonky Prospect Valuations
Since parting ways with FanGraphs last summer, my only real mention of the site in the newsletter or Facebook page was when Marc Hulet took a shot at Baseball Prospectus’ prospect coverage model. At the time, his implying they were wannabe scouts was comical considering two of their prospect writers had already been hired by teams, only the announcement hadn’t been made yet.
Before that, I had planned on ignoring the site completely — even though I wanted to publicly support friends like Eno Sarris, Dave Laurila, Wendy Thurm, JD Sussman and others. I didn’t want to seem overly negative or petty at how things went down and felt any shots I took would just damage my own credibility.
Now that we are in a new year, enough time has passed where I feel comfortable critiquing prospect coverage at FanGraphs the same way I would other sites who miss the mark based on my experiences at the park. Last Friday, Dave Cameron posted a piece about Masahiro Tanaka and prospect valuation. In it, he surmised elite prospects such as Archie Bradley were worth 100-million or more since Tanaka stands to make that much in free agency. The reality of that statement makes little sense.
Back in 2012, Chris Blessing of Bullpen Banter and I drove to Elizabethton, Tennessee for a look at Byron Buxton, the current king of the prospect world. The Twins’ home field was run by the local parks and recreation department. Before the game, players intermingled with fans at the concession stand. “Season ticket holders” were allowed to tie lawn chairs down and save seats. The team even allowed onlookers to sit down the right field line in foul territory.
During the game, I remember being amazed at just how close fans were allowed to get to the Twins six million dollar man. Where was the security? What would stop an individual from attacking Buxton? It all seemed pretty surreal to me when many people in Appalachia own and know how to use firearms. If the Twins perceived Buxton as a 100-million dollar asset, I have to believe things would have been much different. Think about it. Would you leave a 100-million dollar asset so unprotected?
In Surprise, Arizona, a swarm of Japanese cameramen and reporters charged me unexpectedly on the back fields. Little did I know Yu Darvish was right behind me flanked by security and/or Texas Rangers personnel. The number of people with nothing more than a rope coming between them and Texas players was a bit unnerving, but Darvish’ security was more fitting of a Major League asset worth tens of millions of dollars. However, it was still not ideal considering Darvish’ 56-million dollar contract.
Speaking of Archie Bradley, I interviewed him just outside of the visiting locker room in Chattanooga after standing a few feet from 42-million dollar man Yasiel Puig for over 20 minutes. Meanwhile, other fans were around me including multiple creepy autograph seekers. While a number of them appear harmless — especially the parents with kids, others give off a vibe which makes me very uneasy in their presence. Think Robert DeNiro in “The Fan”.
Once again, if Puig and Bradley were truly viewed as 100-million dollar assets, wouldn’t they be guarded more closely as franchise players? Heck, as soon as Johnny Manziel finished the Chick-Fil-A bowl, he was surrounded by security personnel.
Speaking of NCAA football, how rigorously do schools protect their cash cow?
In my time scouting prospects, only Bryce Harper was closely guarded from fans and media alike. The Nationals made a considerable investment in the young outfielder and worked hard to protect him. Other than that, I haven’t seen a minor leaguer receive such attention.
Maybe I’ll tackle this from a different angle tomorrow, but it’s important to understand how elite prospects are treated as minor leaguers before saying one is worth 100-million. In this case, Cameron challenges many are worth as much. If this were really the case, wouldn’t teams be traveling with armed security posted outside a player’s seedy hotel room or apartment complex? Would a prospect be allowed to walk through fans and crowds to enter and exit a stadium? Would he be eating at Steak & Shake at 3 am? Would Latin American players be allowed to return home… ever given how common kidnappings have become? Probably not….
One final thought. Since Xander Bogaerts was specifically mentioned in the piece, why do international players like him sign as 16-year old players? If he was really going to be worth 100-million at the age of 20, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to to go a different route? Japan? International competition? Why sign with an organization and surrender many years of organization control when one can go the Alfonso Soriano route? If any minor leaguer was really worth so much, every agent of a potential impact talent would be working on ways to circumvent the system.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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