At some point during each season there are fans who follow the minor leagues who begin to wonder why “Player X” hasn’t been released and is still sticking around. When the numbers aren’t good and it seems that maybe the tools have declined or aren’t playing as well as maybe they should for prolonged periods of time (seasons, not a few weeks), it’s understandable that people ask the questions.
So what is it that makes an organization stick so much with guys who have struggled for long stints of their career? Well, there are a few reasons. Fairly or unfairly, money is at times a factor. When an organization has spent a lot of money to sign a player, several people have vouched for that player and to release that player reflects on their assessment. It’s easier for an organization to release a guy who is struggling that was signed for five figures than a guy who was signed for seven.
Usually what comes along with that money though is the thing we often hear about when talking about minor leaguers, the tools. Guys who have big tools wind up getting the big signing bonuses. There is obviously a difference between a tool and a skill, but its very difficult to take a guy and improve his tools, so when you have a player that has some that stand out, even if they are inconsistent, it’s tough to let them go.
So why am I writing about this today? Well, there are a few reasons, but at my site there have been several discussions about why Daniel Corcino is still pitching in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos rotation despite his clear struggles. Despite a 3.66 ERA, he has 33 walks and 41 strikeouts in 59.0 innings pitched. Over the last three seasons he has really struggled to throw strikes, walking 171 batters in 331.1 innings. That is a fraction over one walk every other inning. There are clearly some issues going on there that won’t translate to the big leagues, and they didn’t translate to Triple-A last year either, though his stuff was a bit different last year than it is this year.
Right now, Corcino finds himself on the 40-man roster. He was demoted from Triple-A to start the year, so clearly the organization is saying that they understand he is struggling and they are trying to do things to right the ship.
A second reason I am writing this is that I noticed a former high end prospect for another team that is absolutely dominating in the Major Leagues right now after having a very up and down minor league career. Before I mention who that player is, I want to give some background information on the player. He was drafted out of high school at 18-years-old and after his first season in the minor leagues in just a handful of innings, he was a Top 100 prospect. This player didn’t show back up on a Top 100 list for four more seasons moving forward. From his age 19 season through his age 21 season, he walked 106 batters in 191.0 innings pitched. Then out of nowhere as a 22-year-old he walked just 22 batters in 85.1 innings and showed up on top prospect lists again. Over the next three years he then walked 211 batters in 341.2 innings pitched and that took us through the 2013 season in the minor leagues. He would have a bit of a drop in velocity in there from his peak velocity reports and he even wound up having Tommy John surgery. But the team stuck with a big time arm despite his struggles and eventually they were rewarded.
Now 26-years-old, he has spent the entire season pitching in the big leagues out of the bullpen. He has a 1.59 ERA in 28.1 innings with nine walks and 49 strikeouts. Despite years of struggles in the minor leagues, the Yankees stuck with Dellin Betances because he had shown things throughout his career, even if it was just in flashes, that you simply can’t teach and now they have arguably the best reliever in baseball this season.
While there are likely far more guys who weren’t able to turn things around once they went through long struggles, Dellin Betances is a perfect example of why teams don’t give up on guys and give them seemingly chance-after-chance. It may not always work out, but when it does it can turn into an elite level player rather quickly if something clicks.