You rarely see very quick reversals of opinion in the prospect world, especially for very young players. Scouts their second-hand mouthpieces form opinions about young players after many repeat amateur visits. They only get a few glimpses of the play each time (five or six batted balls, a few at bats, maybe a pre-game workout), but are paid to take this information and judge a player’s talent for baseball. That judgment tends to linger with prospects, even after they have started playing in professional minor league baseball, where reliable quantitative performance measures are now introduced to the evaluation.
It makes sense for these types of initial assessments to stick around for some time. A lot of weird things can happen in small sample sizes at the quirky low minor league levels. But at the same time, it makes sense for people to turn around and admit they were wrong about a prospect’s ability sometimes.
Delmon Young has always been a prime example to me. As a young player, he was branded as having a high batting average, high power swing that scouts dream of. However, it became clear in the minor leagues that while he could hit the ball, he took almost no walks, and therefore wouldn’t end up an impact position player. Good prospect? Sure. But Young was rated a top-3 prospect by Baseball America for four straight years. Despite evidence to the contrary, everyone was too stubborn on Delmon Young, and refused to downgrade their expectations.
Dante Bichette Jr, on the other hand, went exactly the opposite way. At the draft, the Yankees were widely panned for reaching too far to get Bichette with their supplemental round pick. About three months later, Baseball America named Bichette the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League, and painted a profile of him that clearly resembled a top-30 pick, which is a very surprising turnaround.
I think this is an interesting debate, which I wrote extensively on in the magazine Yankees Yearly (which you can learn more about here) this month. An excerpt:
The Gulf Coast League normally serves as an introduction for recently drafted players to professional baseball. These players are often right out of high school (or are recently signed out of Latin America), playing with wooden bats for the first time, and physically underdeveloped. GCL teams are often poorly coached, as teams focus their resources on full-season leagues. Critics argue that Bichette Jr. got a strong head start from working with his father, but the skills he acquired as a boy are skills that most players will acquire while playing in the minor leagues. Bichette Jr.’s competitive advantage would erode as he advanced to the higher minor league levels, and eventually to the major leagues.
However, not all scouts are willing to decry Bichette Jr.’s success as temporary and fleeting. Many have revised their early pessimistic assumptions, and some even forecast a big future to the young hitter. Baseball America, after panning the Yankees decision to select Bichette Jr. as an ‘overdraft’, labeled him as a player with ‘plus plus power’ in their end-of-the-year scouting report, meaning that he has the potential to hit 35+ home runs in the major leagues, along with other glowing scouting reports on his bat.
I am curious to hear everyone else’s take on this. I’m a member of a fairly large group of prospect watchers who has jumped on board the Bichette bandwagon big time. I even considered, although ultimately decided against, rating him ahead of Dellin Betances as a top Yankee prospect. But are we jumping the gun on Bichette here? Is he in for a hard landing at Charleston this year, assuming he starts there? At one point should we buy into Bichette as a 1st round-caliber prospect?
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