Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars which will appear every Monday. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle.
Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Cincinnati Reds blog Blog Red Machine.
Nathaniel says: Well, as much as I covet prospects myself, I think it’s kind of ridiculous to label anyone “untouchable.” I mean, if I’m Walt Jocketty, and the Mariners call me asking for those two guys in exchange for Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Dustin Ackley, you can bet I’m taking that.
Of course, that’s not the sort of offer one would get for two guys who haven’t played a single big league game, and in that more reasonable context, they’re pretty close to untouchable, in the sense that they would have to get a fantastic, MLB-proven young player with a reasonable contract for a couple of years to consider a deal.
That especially applies to Mesoraco, since he’s proven himself quite thoroughly in Triple-A and is just biding his time until he gets called up. There isn’t a single better catching prospect in baseball, and you don’t give up the best anything in baseball for all but the most prized of commodities.
Hamilton’s a different story. I mean, he’s unbelievably fast, but we’re talking about a guy with a .656 OPS in A-ball. His potential is off the charts, but those numbers would honestly give me some pause. Hamilton’s at the age–he’s 21 in a month–where he has to start producing at an above-average clip with the bat to remain on the “future star” track. At some point, the evaluators will start wondering “If he’s so great, why isn’t he hitting?” and his value will drop, so the Reds could potentially have “sold high” on him by dealing him before anybody became really concerned with a lack of production. Even then, though, you’re still talking about dealing a guy who could become a Jimmy Rollins with more speed, and nobody wants to make that mistake for anything but a truly spectacular offer. And teams don’t get offers that are truly spectacular for sub-.350 sluggers in A-ball.
Wally says: I’m not big on throwing around the term “untouchable” and any GM that doesn’t take calls regarding the availability of each and every player in the organization is simply not doing his job. I agree that Mesoraco is probably the best catching prospect in the minors at the present time, and he’s proven himself capable against Triple-A competition so I would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to deal him. But, I’m also not going to ignore Devin’s 2007-2009 seasons. Yes, what he’s done in the last year and a half is more important, but those other seasons are a part of his track record and shouldn’t be erased. Further many elite prospects flame out when making the jump to the majors, and the attrition rate for catchers making that jump is even higher as they have a whole host of things to learn and deal with that other positions don’t. Even the ones that do survive often take a while to get going (see Wieters, Matt) so for a team like the Reds who are currently in their “competitive window,” dealing Devin could help them upgrade several spots on their roster. Again, I’d have to be overwhelmed, but I sure would consider it.
As far as Billy Hamilton is concerned, why not trade him while his value remains high? Yes, he’s got incredible speed, but that’s offset quite a bit by his lack of extra-base pop, relative low batting averages and his high strikeout rate. In 219 career minor league games, he’s whiffed 206 times, and that’s probably not going to improve a great deal as he climbs the minor league ladder. For a guy who’s value is going to rest on putting the bat on the ball and using his speed to wreak havoc, that SO rate is unacceptable, especially when coupled with a unimpressive BB rate. Joey Gathright was a 0.301/.380/.353 hitter in the minor leagues who struck out less and had game-changing speed but he was unable to stick in the majors. Hamilton has some added value since he’s middle infielder, but I don’t see him having that significant of an impact as an everyday major leaguer.
For more on the Reds, check out Blog Red Machine.