The Future is Unwritten: Maikel Franco Scouting Report

Before you read my scouting report on Maikel Franco, I ask that you read the next few paragraphs.

“They’re not all (Buster) Posey.”

Those were the words spoken to me by a front office executive at a game I was at last week. We were discussing The Struggle, the nearly inevitable punch in the face every baseball player receives at least once on their climb toward the Major League stability. There comes a time for nearly all prospects when the horse that has taken them to whichever level they have risen can no longer pull the weight of the professional baseball buggy (Austin Wright is learning this right now, but that’s another show). Prospects that ascend to the Major Leagues unscathed by their own inadequacies are the rarest of the rare. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Felix Hernandez… players that navigate the minors without experiencing failure are the exception. It’s far more common for players to arrive in the big leagues bearing scars of development and adjustment like Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Gonzalez and Domonic Brown do.

And yet, we don’t seem to understand this. Our culture is accustomed to things happening very quickly. Our information, our food, our travel and now, seemingly, our prospects. We want him to be good and we want him to be good fast. We want to read reports on that player that reaffirm our own ideas about him. We ask questions that lead to misleading answers like, “When can we expect him in the big leagues?!?!” and “What’s a player in the Majors right now you would compare him to so I can get a grasp of what he’s like as soon as possible?!?”

This alters the prospect writer’s relationship with the reader in a way that, ultimately, does the reader a disservice. You do not want to read about how I think Jesse Biddle is a #3 starter (which, by the way, is pretty damn good). You don’t want me to write a full OFP on Royals prospect Kyle Smith, who is destroying the Carolina League this year, and tell you I think he might make it as a reliever. You want me to tell you how great I think Cody Asche is or that I think Kyle Crick has a #1 starter ceiling. That sort of sensationalism, the kind that appeases the audience, gives birth to phrases like “Baby Aces.” I don’t know how this started. Maybe readers craved these embellished, surreal evaluations and altered the way writers delineated things. Maybe writers chose to melt the prospect clocks themselves in effort to gain readership and are now left to try to feed the beast they created. It is irrelevant. It’s a chicken or the egg puzzle I don’t’ care to solve. But, at the risk of sounding like a dick, I won’t be part of it.

Stop peeking at your presents. Stop thinking you’re getting a Ferrari cake when you’re probably getting an Acura cake. Be Happy with your Acura cake, Acuras are really nice. Realize that the Acura cake takes time to make. Now you can read about Maikel Franco who, in my opinion, is going to be a pretty badass player. Which, given what you’ve just read, should mean a hell of a lot to you.

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Looking at the Best Ways to Construct A Bullpen

With the struggles the Phillies’ bullpen has faced recently, and the potential for closer Jonathan Papelbon to be traded, I’ve seen various conversations on how best to construct a bullpen pop up. There isn’t really a consensus on the matter. Based on the unpredictable nature of relief pitchers who get only a small sample of innings in which to perform — 60 to 70 innings is one-third of a season for a starting pitcher — I have long advocated putting the ‘pen at the bottom of the list of priorities. That’s not to say that one cannot put together a great bullpen by throwing money at the problem, but anecdotally it seems to fail at a much higher rate than it succeeds.

We need some data on the matter, so I looked at the top-five bullpens in baseball by ERA (min. 20 IP per reliever) and compared it to the Phillies. (Note: only five Phillies relievers crossed the 20 IP threshold, so I lowered it to 15 IP for them.) Note that contract amounts list the 2013 salary, not the total salary or the average annual value.

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