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Sure, He's Been Playing Great, But What's The Rush?

It's always fun to watch your favorite prospects excel and progress at whichever level they might be playing at. It's even more exciting to witness your personal favorites get a promotion to a higher level following a successful stint on his former team. One of the bigger storylines amongst Minor League Baseball fans thus far in 2011 has been the unwillingness of some to understand the fact that in order to make the most out of a prized prospect--one that a team has heavily invested in, to say the least--the team has to be patient with him. As Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein recently pointed out in Podcast #46 and repeatedly reinforces to his pestering followers, taking it slow with prospects and letting them fully prove themselves is the smartest thing a team can do. 

I tried to contemplate what the real life (well, baseball of course is real life, but you get the point) equivalence of this matter might be. I came up with the idea that this sort of thing must come up each and every day at each and every workplace -- If you're succeeding at your job, whatever that job might be, quickly rushing you to a higher level might prove to not only be worthless since you need to prove your worth and ability at your current job, but you simply might not be ready. It would amount to setting someone up to fail when there's no need to, especially when your colleagues are succeeding fine at the next level. (Back to the minors, think about the fact that the Major League team couldn't care less about the destiny of their affiliates. Grooming players comes first. Winning a title comes second.). Ultimately, it would be pointless.

This also prompted me to think about the other pros and cons when it comes to promoting one to a higher and more prominent role. Fans tweeting Kevin and asking him these questions tend to think that the only thing teams have in mind at this point is "how quickly can we promote player X?" Just because a player is promoted to a higher level doesn't make him any closer to the majors. If he's not ready, the whole experience of sending him up will go for not. All 30 franchises have numerous amounts of scouts and player development personnel as well who have a huge say when it comes to deciding player X's fate, and they usually do a great job at determining when a player is ready to move on up. Many times they do not. When that happens, it usually doesn't bode well for the players future.

Basically, a manager sees similar talents in his employees when it comes to their potential to progress in the organization. Promoting someone simply because they're succeeding in their current role could be premature. Hec, they're supposed to succeed wherever they're at which ties back to the point I made previously regarding teams measuring when a player is ready for the next step. Minor Leaguers are purposely given six years of team control after they sign following the draft because they're supposed to experience and endure the Rocky Road of Professional Baseball. When doing your job whether it's writing for a Baseball site, filing documents in a law practice firm, or what ever it may be, you shouldn't be rushed until your at "mastering" status. Keep in mind as well that usually promoting someone (in baseball) means that you need to make a corresponding move and there's no need to do so without a significant reason.

I asked Sky Kalkman for his opinion on these types of situations. His reponse:

A hitter's ceiling might be an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10. Right now he's a 4. If you challenge him with pitchers with skill level 5 or 6, he'll struggle, but at least understand why he's struggling, make adjustments and pull himself up to that 5 or 6. But if you rush him to the majors to face pitchers that are 8 to 10's, he'll struggle and have no clue why. Or there are five reasons why. And so he can't meet the challenge because the challenge is so huge. He stays at 4. But he also might try new things that aren't productive long-term, such as swinging earlier to catch up with the faster fastballs, which leaves him more susceptible to off-speed pitches. Or maybe he guesses more because that's the only way he can have a positive outcome. He can hit .240 instead of .200 that way, but approach-wise, he's further away from getting to .280.

There's no doubting the fact that from the time a player is drafted, as a fan and baseball enthusiast you're hopes are that he shoots through the system. I bet the teams, players, scouts, and other personnel have the same aspirations for a certain player but the difference here is that they understand how development, growth, and maturity work. Once a player makes his way to the highest level, well, staying up there should be his number one goal. But prior to that, taking it slow and perfecting every level while figuring things out and learning as much as he possibly can is the priority.