The Value of Young Talent


There’s been a lot of talk around the Mariner’s blogosphere the last few days regarding rebuilding plans, young talent, etc. I’ve already added to that noise a couple of days ago, so don’t think that that’s what this post is about. Instead I wanted to discuss something that will likely drive Harrison crazy. (which is clearly an added benefit.)

In an article from Sport’s Illustrated, Oakland GM Billy Beane is quoted as saying that prospects are no longer the undervalued commodity they once were. In fact, he claims that they are currently overvalued. All teams are hoarding their prospects, even the large market teams who don’t really have to be playing cheap players.

Who am I to argue with Billy Beane, right? Though, to be honest though, I’ve been thinking that prospects have been overvalued for a few years now. This is especially true from the fans. If you read the comments section of all the local blogs, you think that every player in Tacoma was a future superstar.

Alex Liddi is the next David Wright. Matt Mangini could be the next Edgar Martinez, but only if Mike Carp doesn’t beat him to it. Clearly Nick Franklin is the second coming of Derek Jeter. Rich Poythress reminds you of Ike Davis, right? And it’s not just Seattle prospects. Jesus Montero in the Yankees system is totally going to end up as the next Mike Piazza. Mike Trout of the Angels is clearly Carlos Beltan but without the injury problems.

The sad thing is that I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve read every single one of those references repeatedly. Put them all together like that and it sure adds a bit a perspective. The likelihood that any of those comparisons ultimately becomes true is actually very very small.

Remember the Erik Bedard trade that “completely gutted” the M’s minor league system? “The 2nd coming of Ken Girffey Jr.” (Adam Jones) turned out to be fairly average outfielder. “Future staff ace” Chris Tillman has been labeled a bust can’t seem to even stick in the back of Oriole’s rotation. The other 3 prospects of that trade have also all flopped. One was released and is now back in Seattle’s system.

The opposite of this has also been true in Seattle. Doug Fister was a lovely non-prospect who many felt was a waste of organizational space, now he’s a capable #3 starter who fetched the M’s some pretty good players in a trade. Blake Beavan was similarly passed over by fans and pundits, and he just set a franchise record for consecutive quality starts by a rookie.

Clearly we aren’t very good at this. And I truly mean “we” in that last sentence. Don’t let me fool you into thinking that I’m am better than anyone else at predicting how well prospects will turn out, because I’m not. This is part of the reason I like talking prospects with Harrison so much. I tend to be the anti-Harrison when it comes to prospects. He sees value in everyone; I see flaws in everyone’s game.

So what is the point of all this rambling nonsense I’ve been making you read? (If you’re asking that you’re assuming I had a point to start with, which may or may not be the case.) Basically I’m saying that as fans, we need to take a step back and not take prospects so seriously. Some will pan out, others wont, and some players will surprise us and succeed in ways we never expected.

While the Mariners shouldn’t give away prospects for nothing Bavasi-style, it also doesn’t need to hoard them they’re shotguns during the zombie apocalypse. If the M’s have a chance to get genuine major leaguer who can contribute for more than a couple months, then no minor-leaguer should be untouchable.

They key is to make sure that the M’s get value in return. When ever someone starts talking about trading away prospects, it seems everyone assumes we’re talking about another Asdrubal Cabrera for Edwardo Perez, or Derek Lowe and Jason Veritek for Heathcliff Slocumb type trade. Those trades were just stupid, and clearly not enough value was received for what the M’s gave up. But not all prospect trades have to be like that.

Instead, think along the lines of the Red Sox trading Hanley Ramirez and others to the Marlins for Josh Beckett. While Ramirez has excelled (until this season) in Florida, Beckett lead Boston to a World Series title. Even with Boston’s inability to find a solid shortstop, I don’t think they regret that trade in the slightest. It’s all about value, and the Red Sox got value for what they gave up.

If you read this space regularly, then you probably already know how much I like Nick Franklin. I like his defense; I love his swing. Of all the M’s prospects he’s probably the one that I overvalue. I think he’s got “star player” written all over him. So ask yourself this: would you trade Franklin and a pair from the team’s outfield prospect depth (Saunders, Peguero, Chiang, Robinson, etc.) for the likes of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Justin Upton during this upcoming offseason?

I would, because the major league Mariners need an infusion of talent right now, not in 2013.