So I just posted in another thread about my views on when you can "safely" project a pitching prospect. That got me thinking, why do we always talk about a guy making the big leagues based on his current place in the minors? What if we only talked about his move to the next level? That is, from the perspective of AA ball being baseline "majors", who are the best prospects. What player in A ball is going to make the biggest impact in AA? What player in AA is going to make the biggest impact in AAA?
What if the type of player who moves well from A to AA is significantly different from the guy who moves from AA to AAA. Maybe walk rate is less important going from A ball to AA -- but a big deal for the next step. Maybe contact rate becomes less important relative to power as you move up the chain.
I say it because a lot of the Reds' high level talent is still really young. Cueto & Bruce haven't played above A ball yet. There's this notion that certain types of guys who perform great at low levels hit their ceiling at a certain point. Is this really true? What skills progress linearly through the minors and which become more or less significant? As a rule, can we write off that soft tossing righty who locates his stuff well and dominates A ball by not walking a sole? What about that kid with some pop who hits .320/.340/.450 but never saw a ball four he didn't want to hit? At what point is a power frame merely a frame and a weakness an inability?
I think we all internalize this process as we project guys all the way up the ladder, but perhaps it would be wise not to. I think we're hiding what it means for a player to develop. As players progress, they must refine their skills and perhaps learn new ones. They have to refine second and third pitches. They have to locate their fastball. They have to fix that hole low and inside and learn to recognize a slider from a lefty.
Any stumble along the way from Rookie ball to the majors can keep a guy from making the show. Even guys who make the majors can flatline because of a developmental hurdle. (Say hi to Mr. Not-a-Fastball Mr. Larson) Thus, rather than trying to project players across all of these potential developmental stumbling blocks, why not try and break it down a bit. Once a guy has cleared a hurdle, let's look at his chance of clearing the next one -- not just refining our estimation of where he'll finish in the race. Until we know how likely a guy is to clear each hurdle (and if those likelihoods vary for different types of players), judging his overall shot at the majors seems like a complete guessing game.