Prospects or suspects? Desperate move or marketing ploy? Trade bait or the future?

Baseball fans have become more and more fascinated with prospects. Losing teams tire of seeing the same players run onto the field day after day, only to see them return from the battle with loss after loss, failed promises from the spring…then the chant begins to bring on the youth, the new players that will somehow propel the home team to the promised land.

So, at what age are these prospects ready? Is there a common age? Yes, every player should be evaluated on their individual skills and merits, and not by a rigid timetable, but does the historical record provide a gauge as to what can be expected or of a way to measure a team’s farm system.

I went back in Reds history more than 50 years to look for patterns in player major league readiness. I didn’t measure how productive they were except for seasons and games played. My assumption was that if a player was good enough to play, he was probably contributing something. If the player wasn’t good enough, he would have been phased from the game.

I decided to exclude all active players from the study (I’ll bring them back later), which also meant, to be fair, I had to exclude all players, even retired players, from any study that included players active from that point. After all, if the player is still playing professionally, the player could still add to his total number of seasons and games played totals.

This took me back to 1995. Chad Mottola, a Reds 1996 first round draft choice, is still toiling in the high minors according to the online site, “Baseball Almanac.” Mottola has appeared in five different seasons and only 59 games in these 14 years, but his most recent major league appearance was 2005 and he was still playing AAA last year for love of the game and the hope of returning to the Show. So, I chose a “generation” of baseball players, 40 years, which directed me to include the years 1956 through 1995 for the study. I chose players that made their Major League debuts with the Reds, whether they had long careers for the Reds or not. Players who debuted for other teams and were acquired by the Reds were not included.

225 players made their Major League debut for the Reds over that 40 year span (1956-1995), 114 hitters and 111 pitchers, an average of 5.6 debuts per year. No players made their Major League debut with the Reds during the 1966 season (also none in 2004). I expected the best players to debut at earlier ages than less-talented players, which seemed logical to me. Better players start earlier and play longer than their less-talented cohorts; that seemed rather obvious. However, I was surprised at exactly how pronounced that premise turned out to be.

Oh, to look up any of these players and get their career statistics, please go to baseball-reference.com and you’ll find their records.

I. Positional Players

114 positional players debuted for the Reds between the years 1956 and 1995. All but two played a fielding position (exceptions: 1956, John Oldham only pinch ran; 1979—Rafael Santo Domingo only pinch hit). Below you will see:

Age: the debut age of the player
Debuts: the number of debut players for that particular age
Season avg: the average number of seasons for each player at that age
Game avg: the average number of games played for each player at that age
Players: most prominent players from that age group

Positional Players 114 players

Age……. Debuts….Seasons..Games… Players
18……… 3……….. 10……… 781……. Curt Flood, Don Pavletich, Bob Henrich
19…….. 2……….. 17.5…… 2314…… Johnny Bench, Vada Pinson
20……… 4……….. 12.5…… 1343…… Frank Robinson, Willie Greene,Kurt Stillwell, Joe Azcue
21……… 12……… 12.5…… 1394…… Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, Leo Cardenas, Tommy Harper, Ray Knight, Eric Davis
22……… 10……… 12……… 1224…… Tony Perez, Lee May, Barry Larkin, Paul O’Neill, Kal Daniels, Bernie Carbo, Ron Oester
23……… 25……… 9.9…….. 914……. Ken Griffey, Hal McRae, Tommy Helms, Johnny Edwards, Reggie Sanders, Nick Esasky
24……… 14……… 4.9…….. 316……. Joel Youngblood, Jeff Treadway, Eric Owens
25……… 23…….. 4.7…….. 267……. Gary Redus, Tracy Jones, Chico Ruiz, Jeff Branson
26……… 9……….. 4.6…….. 296……. Chris Sabo, Jacob Brumfield
27……… 4……….. 1.3…….. 14……… Pete Rose Jr, Danny Breeden
28……… 2……….. 5……….. 443……. Lloyd McClendon, Terry Lee
29……… 0
30……… 2……….. 1.5…….. 38……… Greg Tubbs, Tom Runnells
31……… 1……….. 1………. 7……….. Bobby Balcena

You’ll notice the HUGE drop off in average seasons and average games played for players who reach the majors after age 23. This strongly suggests that any “prospect” not playing in the major leagues at age 23 will probably not be a star player, or may even have trouble holding a starting job for more than a couple of seasons. This doesn’t mean those players don’t have value. Chris Sabo, Tracy Jones, and Gary Redus all had productive years, even if they did have relatively short careers.

As for age 18…two of three players listed were “bonus babies.” “Bonus babies” is a term that refers to a rule from the mid-20th Century that prevented major league teams from sending certain youngsters to the minor leagues for two years after the young players signed large free agent contracts. Don Pavletich and Bob Henrich were two such examples. Pavletich went on to play a substantial career; Henrich only managed to squeeze out 48 major league cames in three years and suffered without minor league instruction.

In case you are wondering about players who have reached the major leagues since turning professional in 1996 (no games or seasons included since they are still in progress):

Positional players (43 players)

Age 20: 2, Wily Mo Pena and Gookie Dawkins
Age 21: 5, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Jay Bruce, Miguel Perez, and Ray Olmedo
Age 22: 3, Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Francisco, and William Bergolla
Age 23: 2, Joey Votto, Pokey Reese
Age 24: 9, Aaron Boone, Brandon Larson, Chris Denorifa, Mike Frank
Age 25: 10, Josh Hamilton, Jason LaRue, Adam Rosales, Paul Janish
Age 26: 5, Chris Dickerson, Drew Sutton
Age 27: 4, Brady Clark, Ryan Hanigan, Norris Hopper
Age 28: 1, Jim Chamblee

If there’s been a change, it may appear that the demarcation age may have been pushed back a year to age 24, for Aaron Boone definitely put together a quality major league career. However, Boone was actually held up by 25-year-old Willie Greene who the Reds still hoped would develop into a big-time power hitter. Josh Hamilton is a special case where off-the-field problems delayed his major league arrival which discounts his age 25 debut year.

II. Pitchers

I was expecting pitchers to be different, and they were different from hitters, but not for the reasons I expected. What I found was a definite demarcation that seemed to project whether the pitcher would be a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher. Here’s what I found (same format as first group of hitters above):

Pitchers–111 count from 1956-1996

Age……. Debuts….Seasons..Games… Players
17……….2…………9.5………272……Claude Osteen, Dave Skaugstad
18……….1………..10.0……..250…….Gary Nolan
19……….2…………8.0………279……Don Gullett, Billy McCool
20……….5…………9.2………223……Jim Maloney, Milt Wilcox
21……….11……….8.5………244……Mike Cuellar, Ross Grimsley, Wayne Simpson, Mario Soto
22……….11……….7.2………195……Mel Queen, Will McEnaney, Ron Robinson, Charlie Leibrandt
23……….17……….6.5………208…..John Franco, Dave Tomlin, Joe Price, Rawly Eastwick
24……….26……….5.7………192…..Tom Hume, Rob Dibble, Scott Sullivan, Hector Carrasco, Tom Browning, Chris Hammond
25……….18………..4.9………156……Jeff Montgomery, Norm Charlton, Rob Murphy, Bruce Berenyi
26………..9………..3.4……….102…..Jerry Spradlin, Scott Terry, Tom Acker
27……….6………..1.7……….11
28………1………….1.0………..1
29………1…………8.0………268…….Bill Landrum
38………1…………1.0……….8………Pat Scantlebury

Wow…pitchers earning their major league trips by age 22 are starting pitchers (with a couple of lefty relievers). Pitchers getting their first big taste of The Show from age 23 on were relievers (Berenyi and Hammond excepted). I don’t know if 17 year old Dave Skaugstad was a bonus baby (I did not find him on any Bonus Baby list), but he only had 1 season and 2 games and never pitched in the major leagues again (minor league record of 23-50 with a 5.06 ERA).

Now, since 1996? Here goes…

Pitchers since 1996 (47 pitchers)

Age 21: 3, Homer Bailey, Ryan Wagner, Curt Lyons
Age 22: 3, Johnny Cueto, Darryl Thompson, Josh Hall
Age 23: 12, Scott Williamson, B.J. Ryan, Daniel Ray Herrera, Chris Reitsma, Matt Belisle, Rob Bell, Jose Acevedo
Age 24: 5, Brett Tomko, Todd Coffey
Age 25: 6, Matt Maloney, Jared Burton
Age 26: 10, Josh Roenicke, Carlos Fisher, Pedro Viola, John Coutlangus
Age 27: 4, Chris Booker, Brad Salmon
Age 28: 2, Brian Shackleford, Rick Greene
Age 29: 2, Jared Fernandez, Tom Shearn

Once again, very early arrivals for the guys who pitch a lot and project as starting pitchers; by age 23, they are potential swing men, with the vast majority of pitchers arriving at this age or older becoming relievers. Ryan Wagner was the Reds’ #1 draft pick one year and was rushed to the majors. Lyons, Thompson, and Hall are all starting pitchers who suffered injuries.

So, when we’re analyzing prospects in our minor league system, or any major league team’s farm system, it’s important to take note of the players’ ages. The birth certificate date is important in indicating future major league success, espeically as it relates to which minor league level that the player is participating. Not every young player that makes the major leagues at a young age will be a star, but the vast majority of star players do make the major leagues by age 23, and probably by age 22. That doesn’t mean that the older “prospects” won’t contribute, but the likelihood of more than a season or two is quite small.

How old are the current Reds’ prospects? Here’s the Baseball America’s top 30 list with their ages:

Todd Frazier, IF-OF, 24
Yonder Alonso, 1B, 23
Mike Leake, SP, 22
Chris Heisey, OF, 25
Juan Francisco, 3B, 23 (already debuted)
Yorman Rodriguez, OF, 17
Travis Wood, SP, 23
Matt Maloney, SP, 26 (already debuted)
Brad Boxberger, SP, 22
Zach Cozart, SS, 24
Billy Hamilton, SS, 19
Chris Valaika, IF, 24
Neftali Soto, 3B, 21
Logan Ondrusek, RP, 25
Mariekson Gregorius, SS, 20
Jordan Smith, SP, 24
Miguel Rojas, SS, 21
Juan Duran, OF, 18
Enero Del Rosario, RP, 24
Kyle Lotzkar, P, 19
Donnie Joseph, P, 22
Pedro Viola, RP, 27 (already debuted)
Phillippe Valiquette, RP, 23
Mark Serrano, P, 24
Juan Carlos Sulbaran, SP, 20
Josh Fellhauer, OF, 22
Daniel Tuttle, P, 19
Cody Puckett, IF, 23
Bryon Wiley, OF, 23
Devin Mesoraco, C, 22

37 Responses

  1. JasonL

    This is really interesting stuff. It would be neat to see a baseball-wide study like this to see if it moves the numbers any. It probably wouldn’t change the middle of the pack ages, but the very young and very old might move a fair bit just because the samples are so small here.

    Really, really neat, Steve.

  2. hoosierdad

    Steve, you obviously put a ton of work into this and I love the in-depth article. I wonder, however, if these results would hold up across MLB. For instance, I see very few great players that came through the REDS farm system. It seems as though we tend to few great players but lots of late bloomers who do decently but are not world beaters. I’ll bet somewhere there is a study that’s looked at this. So my question would be, how much is this reflective of bad scouting and a poor farm system. If you sign mostly average players you will get very few making an impact in MLB at a young age.

    • pinson343

      I wonder, however, if these results would hold up across MLB.For instance, I see very few great players that came through the REDS farm system. So my question would be, how much is this reflective of bad scouting and a poor farm system.

      The Reds had one of the best farm systems in baseball thru the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Marge Schott let it go to waste. Dan O’Brian’s main contribution during his term as GM was starting up the rebuilding of our scouting and player development programs. That’s now bearing fruit.

      • hoosierdad

        The Reds had one of the best farm systems in baseball thru the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Marge Schott let it go to waste. Dan O’Brian’s main contribution during his term as GM was starting up the rebuilding of our scouting and player development programs. That’s now bearing fruit.

        That was what I was trying to get to. The farm system and scouting system since the 70’s (until the last few years) was terrible. The REDS had to go outside the farm to get top quality players. The system produced many decent players and a few good players, but only a couple over say, 40 years (1970-2010) that you could say are legit HOF.

  3. JasonL

    @hoosierdad: Very few great players come up period. For example, I think, on average, the hall inducts three players a year. There are 30 teams, so, theoretically, you could assume that, on average, a team can expect one of those kind of players every ten years.

  4. Steve Price

    I don’t know about the great players part…a line up consisting of Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Adam Dunn, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Dave Concepcion, Tommy Harper,Paul O’Neill, Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Ken Griffey, Hal McRae, Joey Votto, Jim Maloney, Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Claude Osteen, Mike Cuellar, Milt Wilcox, Mario Soto, Wayne Simpson, Ross Grimsley, and the futures of Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce would probably stand up against most any team.

    As for sample sizes…gosh, guys, this is over 50 years for one entire organization, an organization that had one of the best talent production periods ever during the 1960’s in baseball history…the 50 years is almost 40% of the history of the Reds and would constitute about 5% of all teams….most political polls don’t reach 5% of the American public.

    Now, I don’t think the last 20 years have been the best periods of young talent for us, and that may explain the demarcation year growing by one, but I actually tend to think that has more to do with more players attending college. But, even if the last few years have been down, we had a ton of talent debut in the late 1950’s and through the 1970’s, and then more in the late 80’s.

  5. Steve Price

    For the record…I wish I had included innings pitched for the pitchers…I will probably go back and do that later tonight or tomorrow. I would be shocked if it changed my findings here, but it would add support to the starter/reliever portion of my comments.

    There’s a HUGE dividing line here on ages as to how it relates to future successes. If someone wants to guess as to what level our prospects project to play this year (the list I have above), that would make for an interesting view of our current minor league system.

    • Steve Price

      Aaaah, the immortal Pat Scantlebury.

      I couldn’t resist…also, Dave Skaugstad…I think we need to followup on the back stories for these guys; probably Bob Henrich, too.

      I am curious, too, about other organizations, but as JasonL mentioned, it’s estimated that about three potential Hall of Famers begin play each year, spread amongst all the team, so our list shouldn’t be so crazy.

      Now, during our worst years we did introduce more players, but they weren’t usually young, which may sound weird. That’s when the 26-29 years old got to play (D.T. Cromer, Terry Lee, Tom Shearn, Brad Salmon, Greg Tubbs). For the most part, the youngest players played in our better years…we had lots of talent to try out. They thought Dawkins would be a star. Bergolla, Perez, and Olmedo were good defensive players with offensive limitations so they were used when at their peak value for their best skills.

  6. GregD

    Very nice post, Steve.

    I remember the Curt Lyons fanfare, and a lot of upset fans when he was traded to the Cubs for a bench player, though he didn’t do anything for Chicago either..

  7. JasonL

    @Steve Price: I really don’t have many issues at all in the way of sample size. I think the important cutoffs will stay the same no matter what. Mostly, I’m just curious to see if, with a larger sample, we can learn something about players debuting in the 18-21 age group. My gut says it will be sharply divided between stars and flame-outs, but I really don’t know.

    Overall, this is really fantastic analysis and it tells us some important things about our current crop.

    • Steve Price

      Mostly, I’m just curious to see if, with a larger sample, we can learn something about players debuting in the 18-21 age group. My gut says it will be sharply divided between stars and flame-outs, but I really don’t know.

      Understand…most of the early flameouts came during the 1950’s when the bonus rule “gotta be on the roster for two years” when into effect. The players didn’t develop.

      What I showed here with the Reds did not come as any surprise to me; the teams don’t usually rush kids to the big leagues unless there’s real talent.

  8. doktor

    Good stuff as usual Steve. One question, is there a reason that Tom Browning is not listed in the age 24 debut group? I would think he would be, as he is the last significant starting pitcher developed by the Reds organization.

    • Steve Price

      is there a reason that Tom Browning is not listed in the age 24 debut group?

      Browning should have been there; my apologies, I’ll add him. That was the largest group I had and frankly I just missed him. If I had done innings pitched (kicking myself for not doing that…I’ll have to look up almost 160 people again) he wouldn’t have been missed.

      His addition is an important one, but wouldn’t really affect the overall conclusion.

  9. Chip

    Great article, Steve. It will be interesting to see, going forward, how the increasing number of top prospects going to college affects these numbers. Can you see a trend toward an older starting age if you track, say, a decade-long median year by year? Also, does Drew Stubbs not rate as a prominent enough player to get mentioned among the more recent age-24 debuts, or did he slip through the cracks?

    • Steve Price

      does Drew Stubbs not rate as a prominent enough player to get mentioned

      I wouldn’t say he slipped through the cracks; prominent is a better choice of words…for prominence sake, he should have been mentioned if for no other reason as a point of current reference; as for as abilities…I don’t know that he has more ability than the players I mentioned there already. In my opinion, it remains to be seen that he will hit enough to hold a starting job on a team weak on hitting already.

  10. Mike-Cinci

    This is an excellent analysis. I suspect it is consistent across all teams.

  11. RiverCity Redleg

    Great stuff Steve, very interesting. Just curious, why didn’t you include Alexander Smits (sp?) w/ the prospects? Is Aroldis Chapman 21 or 22? I think he just had a birthday.

    • Steve Price

      Just curious, why didn’t you include Alexander Smits (sp?) w/ the prospects? Is Aroldis Chapman 21 or 22? I think he just had a birthday

      I took the Baseball America prospect list which didn’t include those guys. In my opinion, a large number of guys on the BA list are not really prospects; I think the majority are “suspects” rather than prospects. The Baseball Prospectus list I liked better, but had fewer players.

      Myself…Smit is 24 and I think he’ll be repeating AA ball this year, and probably move up to AAA at season’s end if he pitches well. Barring injury, Chapman will be a Red…and he’ll be a Red before he’s ready…unfortunately. I don’t know if it will be this year, though I can see a spot start to showcase him to the fans. No doubt, the front office learned nothing from spotlighting Homer Bailey over and over instead of letting him get comfortable.

  12. TC

    Steve, my head…. still hurting.

    Do did you feel that the trend will continue with the current crop of prospects. So many of the Reds current prospects are former college players which can delay their debut by a year or two. Does that have any affects?

    • Steve Price

      Steve, my head…. still hurting.
      Do did you feel that the trend will continue with the current crop of prospects. So many of the Reds current prospects are former college players which can delay their debut by a year or two. Does that have any affects?

      I drink a soft drink called Ski for the head part…

      I’m not sure about the college part….I feel it MAY have impacted pushing the players back a year, but I really don’t know…if I was to guess, I’d say “no” and that surprised me quite a bit. Dunn, Kearns, Bruce, Bailey, Cueto…those guys all reached the majors at age 21-22, as did Barry Larkin. I tend to think if the player’s that good, the teams will pay them, the player takes the money, and then the team and player work out a college arrangement.

      Also…college is essentially a minor league…a good player seems to reach the majors within a year or two of even graduating college, so that’s year 23 or 24 or younger.

      If Yonder’s not crushing the ball this spring and early in the year, that draft pick is in jeopardy of not paying off. I read time and time again that lefties give him real trouble; Frazier’s already 24…it’s time for him to produce or he may not be what we thought either.

      • Travis G.

        Frazier’s already 24…it’s time for him to produce or he may not be what we thought either.

        That’s exactly what I was thinking as I read your analysis (add my name to the list under “excellent work, Steve”).

        Players who reach the majors after age 25 usually do so because they’ve peaked. As soon as any of their skills diminish (seems like it’s usually speed with these guys), they’re pretty much finished as useful players.

  13. Gary Maloy

    To hoosierdad

    Waddaya mean the Reds have had very few great players come through their system?! We have Robinson (HoF), Cuellar, Gullett (who would have been a HoF candidate if he hadn’t blown his arm out), Rose (HoF career), Perez (HoF), Bench (HoF), Davis, Concepcion (HoF career), Larkin (HoF career)… I would say that is a fair number of great players. Compare it to the Braves of the 1950s-60s-70s-80s-90s, for example: Aaron, Mathews, Niekro, Spahn (if he came up through the Braves system…), Glavine, Smoltz (Maddux came from the Cubs)…

    I say the Reds measure up nicely against most other teams.

  14. wanderinredsfan

    Really good work. I thouroughly enjoy these types of analyses, especially ones that use history to make sense of what to expect in the future…….However, I think there are a couple of problems with the analysis.

    I realize that there appears to be a lot of data points here, but there really isn’t enough data to compare statistically when broken down by age and position. If it can’t be done statistically, then the analysis doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, especially when the Reds are just one example of how to run a franchise. It’s descriptive and a useful platform for discussoin, but I’d be wary of broad generalizations here.

    As others have noted, the analysis really needs to be put into context with the rest of baseball. Even if the analysis was performed for just three teams, we could at least say that a representive sample of baseball teams were performed, and be able to use statistical evidence such as the mean, standard-deviation, etc. to describe the data.

    Choosing just one team doesn’t really do justice to reality. There are just too many outside variables that skew the data, especially across time. First and foremost, is the advent of free-agency. There is no doubt in my mind that Frank Robinson would have spent more time in the minors under the current philosophy in baseball, especially for a franchise managed by Walt Jocketty (preference for veterans). The numerous and various Reds’ GMs across time each had their own philosophy and pressures that influenced their decisions on player-promotions.

    Furthermore, the Reds are a special case, because they are a small-market franchise that seems very unstable with regards to revenue. Unfortunately, the paying public only seeems to pay for a contender, unlike a large-market team like the Cubs. I don’t have the data to back this assertion up, but this point cannot be ignored, and the effects it has on player promotions are most assuredly connected. In short, the 80’s and 00’s will look a lot different than the 70’s and 90’s with respect to promoting young talent.

    Currently, I think the Reds under Jocketty are too hesitant to promote talent. For instance, the L’ville squad will be absolutely stacked with talent this season, yet the Reds are still not considered capable of breaking the .500 mark. It seems to me that a more prudent way to build a competitor in Cincy would be to get-younger ASAP, but obviously Jocketty and Castellini do not agree. Hence, big-league promotions to players like Frazier get delayed when all evidence suggests they are ready for at least a September call-up.

  15. Lars Benders

    What this shows is the obvious. In the old days, players were brought to the big leagues at a younger age; overall. In this day and age, we “don’t want to rush our prospects”, we pamper them , we leave them down to let them mature and learn the game…..

    In the old day, guys were ready to play in the bigs. I’d strongly suggest the same is the case today. A 20 year-old drafted out of college has probably played organized baseball for 15-16 years of his life. If he still needs seasoning in the minors, then its a lost cause (either that or organized youth baseball needs a makeover. I don’t wanna go there, because there is likely validity in that statement).

    I would argue that Chapman, Leake, Fransisco, Frazier and all of the other promising young players be on the big league team now. They’re just wasting at-bats and wearing out their arms.

    I was distressed at the Gomes signing. BRING THEM UP AND LET THEM PLAY. If they don’t cut it, move on to the next guy. They don’t have a draft for nothin.

    • Steve Price

      would argue that Chapman, Leake, Fransisco, Frazier and all of the other promising young players be on the big league team now. They’re just wasting at-bats and wearing out their arms.
      I was distressed at the Gomes signing. BRING

      Lars, I think you’re onto something. however, Dusty a veteran player manager. If Dusty’s managing the team, these guys don’t play. It was demonstrated elsewhere before (book by Rob Neyer) that Chicago Cub GM Hendry had to keep trading away Dusty’s “pet” players to make Dusty play the rookies..

  16. BrianErts

    The Reds in the 50’s were a scouting machine, Bobby Mattick was the chief talent finder and it was not unusual then for many youngsters to play more before they hit 22 than after, many young bombs in the pre draft era, also at that time the amount of plus 35 year olds getting AB’s was at the same level as the 19th century, it was a young mans game and only superstars seemed to make it to 40. Now with contracts for older players being a organizational albatross (and non productive service time being the other side of the coin) there will be more of a tightrope walk with youngsters and I expect to see more guys like Dickerson appear over young players with a potential arb clock getting the ab’s.

  17. Steve Price

    I don’t know that I see the same info you guys are seeing (Wander and Brian). I don’t think there’s anyway Frank Robinson would have been in the minors longer today than he did in the 1950’s…in fact, he spent three years in the minors and, if anything, was probably held back due to his race. Robinson was here at age 20; Junior Griffey made it to the Mariners at age 19; ARod made the Mariners at age 18.

    Look at today…Dunn, Kearns, and Bruce were all big leaguers at 21…and under different ownership and management groups…Bailey was 21, Cueto 22…we aren’t holding the players back…the good ones make the majors just like the old days.

    As for players playing longer…that has as much to do with medical science enabling longer careers as anything.

    NO doubt, the players with the most talent arrive earlier and leave later. That only makes sense. Are there exceptions? well, sure…but, exceptions don’t make the rule, nor does it eliminate the rule….it’s just an exception and an example of why every player must stand on his merits.

    About the arbitration clock…the Reds definitely didn’t hold Homer Bailey back…

    As for positions and stats…I agree more could be done…and, frankly, most wouldn’t read it here, and probably preclude anyone from reading the more general analysis that I completed. However, and it’s a BIG however, the best players play the most games and get the most opportunities to play. I really can’t imagine anyone arguing that point and that’s what shows in the players’ games and years of experience on the charts. Again, of course there are exceptions….but very rare.

    As for the Reds and small market status, I don’t buy it. The Reds had high salaries in the 70’s compared to other teams. yes, that’s different now, but St. Louis isn’t that much bigger than Cincinnati, but they sure can pay higher salaries? Why? Because they invested in building a better team and the fans come and watch.

    As for comparing the eras of the last forty years…that’s pretty much been done…I gave a flavor of it above…the players are arriving later, and I don’t think it’s because of college…I think it’s because we’ve been drafting and chasing the wrong players. They just haven’t been that good.

    I also don’t think we have that much talent in our minor league system right now. If Yonder is that good he should be challenging for a spot right now. Frazier should be playing on the big league team this year. I fear the paper tiger talent of the early 1980s…I do think that Bruce, Bailey, and Cueto are big…Chapman will be big, too, but lots of people are excited about Louisville’s team. I suspect that Louisville has more Louisville talent than Cincinnati talent.

    Another thing I found…the better our team was, the better our YOUNG talent was…when our team was really poor we had lots of mid-20 rookies.

  18. wanderinredsfan

    @Steve Price: I’m not arguing the premise that the best players will begin their careers earlier, I agree that they do. However, I just feel that the age-distribution may be skewed for the Reds’ system compared to the rest of baseball, therefore the data may not a reliable ‘measuring-stick’ for our current players. For instance, I don’t think its fair to compare Frazier’s time-line to say someone in the pre-FA era, especially since Frazier should have probably been called up to play third base a long time ago, IMO.

    As for Robinson; ask yourself this question: If you had a 19 year-old player batting .260/.370/.530 in the Sally League, do you think Jocketty or Dusty would want to have that player start the next season in the bigs? I don’t, but Robinson was allowed to in ’56. I don’t really care to argue Robinson as a case, but I do feel that prospects are being held hostage longer in today’s environment than earlier times. Therefore, the aggregation of time-periods is a mistake of analysis IMO, even if players like Griffey or ARod break the mold. They are the outliers in my opinion, and not likely representative of the times, just as Joe Nuxhall isn’t representative for any time in baseball, except during a time of war.

    Even if the era was held constant, the distribution across the league worries me more during the analysis. With respect to the Reds, I suspect the past few seasons are skewed towards the older age of the league’s distribution. And no, I don’t think it is a lack of talent, I think it’s a lack of trust in the young talent by Walt and co.. The Reds farm system may not have top-10 talent, but they are definetely not in the bottom-10 either. They are somewhere in the middle and should be promoting players earlier, in the same manner as say the White Sox with Beckham, or the Giants with Cain, as examples. I honestly believe it’s a matter of holding the prospects hostage so as to delay their arb-clocks. It’s probably a wise finacial decision for a small-market team, but not one that get’s this team into contention any time soon.

    • Steve Price

      They are somewhere in the middle and should be promoting players earlier, in the same manner as say the White Sox with Beckham, or the Giants with Cain, as examples

      We have promoted early,in my opinion, too early. Jay Bruce was 21 and doesn’t know the strike zone. Homer Bailey was 21 and and Johnny Cueto 22..

      Doesn’t that fit right into what you are suggesting?

  19. wanderinredsfan

    @Steve Price: Those promotions were before Jocketty. I was speaking more about the present philosophy.

    Personally, I like the promotion of Bruce and Cueto, but would have liked to have seen Bailey started later. Of course hind-sight is ’20/20′, and really I don’t mind any of them being up earlier than later. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen under Jocketty, while Krivsky made much bolder moves. IMO, Krivsky doesn’t get enough credit, while Jockety gets too much respect all because of his St. Louis days. Of course, the Cordero signing might be enough reason to show Krivsky the door, so maybe he made his own bed in that respect.

    Either way, I’d like the present Reds to be more bold with their prospects, while showing the past-prime veterans the door. There is no reason to have Cabrera, Hernandez, Rolen, Lincoln, or Lehr on this team. Furthermore, it’s probably past due for the trade one or both of Harang and/or Arroyo. I mean, if we can’t sniff .500, and every projection has us well below, then what’s the point of spending cash on ‘veteran presence’?