I’ve talked a lot the last few days about very specific situations that involve the definition of the word “prospect.” Yesterday we had a few articles, including my First Pitch, talking about prospects being blocked. Today I had an article on Yeudy Garcia, a right-handed pitcher in West Virginia who is emerging as a prospect.
That word covers a lot of different definitions. And as a result, I usually see a lot of different opinions on what actually qualifies as a prospect.
Some people only use the highest definition, focusing only on top 100 guys. That would include guys like Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, and maybe expanding down the top ten list to include guys who aren’t top 100 guys, but are some of the top guys in the system. Basically, if you’re a Grade A prospect, then you’re a “prospect.” Grade B is acceptable. Anything lower, and you’re out.
This is a subject where a no one opinion is correct, since it’s all a matter of personal preference. That said, I will say this “only the top guys are prospects” opinion is absolutely incorrect. That focus of guys only at the top is how you miss potential breakout guys, and how you overlook guys who could be bench players and bullpen arms, or maybe back of the rotation starters and average position players.
Everyone else can be grouped together in some variation of the same method — evaluating players on an individual basis, using personalized requirements to fit the “prospect” label.
For some people, this means that players who are over a certain age are no longer prospects. For others, it means if you’ve struggled for X amount of years, or if you’ve reached the majors for a small amount of time and didn’t break through, you’ve lost the status. Or there are people who discount specific player groups until they reach a certain level, which is something I do to an extent with left-handed pitchers and power hitting first basemen below Double-A.
I have the opportunity to see how both sides of the game works, which gives me an interesting perspective of the divide on the opinions between the people outside the game, and the people inside the game. And the amusing thing about that is scouts and teams tend to use the “prospect” tag a lot more often than people outside of the game.
A big reason for this is that people inside the game tend to look at players in terms of their tools and abilities. If a player has one really good tool, he’s a prospect. His chances might be extremely low of reaching the majors, but he’s got a chance, and that’s all that matters.
Part of this probably comes from the idea held by every team, wherein they think that if they find a guy with just one tool, they can fix whatever is holding him back and capitalize on that small chance. There is some arrogance there, thinking that you can succeed in developing a player who others have either passed on, or have tried and failed with. But it is that arrogance which leads to teams finding surprise minor league free agents, or landing talented players in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft. It’s the same mentality that leads to the Pirates finding reclamation pitchers in the majors.
On the fan side of things, there seems to be a lot of value placed on the word “prospect.” No matter how it is determined that a player is a prospect, the title holds almost hallowed meaning. It’s almost like the label elevates a player to a different level, to the point where the prospect tag feels like a promotion to a new job title. A player has the tools, and then gets considered for the position of “prospect.” This is different from the feeling inside the game, which is that a player is a prospect because he has the tools, even if it’s only just one plus tool.
Once again, this doesn’t mean one side is right and one side is wrong. I’ve talked with scouts over the years who have been dead wrong about some players, and who have called it with other players who no one else sees as “prospects.” Likewise, I’ve seen people commenting on this site who liked some players a lot more than scouts did, and those players ended up working out.
It’s not an exact science. You’re just looking for guys who have a shot at making the majors, but you’ll never find someone who is a guarantee to reach their upside. But there’s one thing I believe: If you’ve got a chance to make the majors, even if it’s a small chance, you’re a “prospect.”