Now that Yu Darvish is officially a Ranger (nice job by our intrepid Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan on that crazy deadline. Be sure to read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter at @Sullivan_Ranger), the question is: How to deal with the Japanese right-hander on the prospect front.
It’s not an easy question to answer. In the past, our requirement was rookie status. If a player was eligible for Rookie of the Year voting, he belonged on a prospect ranking. Last year, for instance, we added Tsuyoshi Nishioka to the Twins’ top 10 after he signed, coming in at No. 7.
Darvish, of course, would rank much higher, both on his new organization’s list and on the overall Top 100 (Coming on Jan. 25 if you hadn’t heard). But here’s the thing. I’ve never been all that comfortable with including a player like Darvish on a prospect list. To me, he’s not a prospect. He’s a big leaguer and already an established star in another high-level league. Deciding on what the line is for rankings is always arbitrary, but I adhered to the (admittedly self-imposed) rookie status rule in the past.
I suppose the argument could be made that since the league Darvish is coming from isn’t at the same level as MLB (most put it at a Triple-A-ish level), he should count the same as, say, Matt Moore, also coming up from Triple-A. I just don’t see it that way and the Rangers didn’t just shell out all that cash to get anything but a finished product who will produce right away.
So, in 2012, we’ve decided to take our cue from the newly bargained CBA, as it pertains to international signings. They put particular rules in place about which international players will fall under the international player pool each team will be allotted. More advanced players like Darvish can be signed in the future without it counting against a team’s pool. Neither, by the way, would Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes.
If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us. So here’s the new rule as it pertains to such international acquisitions:
Not all international players will qualify for these rankings. Prospect Watch will follow the guidelines laid out by the new CBA: Players in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) and are at least 23 years old and have played a certain number of years in those leagues will not be considered.
So, Mr. Darvish (and Mr. Cespedes eventually), you might qualify to be ROY, but you won’t show up on Prospect Watch.
Believe it or not, this is my first post of 2012. But I have a good reason, honest. First, I was traveling overseas with my family. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture as proof (Yes, that’s the Dome of the Rock behind my Dome):
Then it was on to the Rookie Career Development Program outside of Washington, D.C. Don’t believe me? Well, proof is in this link, our overview of the Program (with player interviews galore beneath that).
These days, I’m knee deep in prospect ranking work. Don’t believe me? (Perhaps I’m overusing the theme). Proof is the first list that was released today: The Top 10 RHP Prospects, the story as well as in Prospect Watch (with video of each player). Oh, and if you didn’t notice, there’s a brand new central location for all things prospect called Prospect Central. Check it out early and often.
In the midst of all of this, there was the news of the big Yankees-Mariners trade. It’s not official just yet, so no movement on the ol’ 2011 Postseason lists, but it’s coming. And we’re making sure all the 2012 lists are up to date (Top 100 overall coming out on Jan. 25), Top 20 per team coming in February (that’s right, folks, twice as many names!!!! So you understand why the B3 Blog had taken a back seat).
So, the trade… my first gut reaction was that the Mariners gave up too much. But then I talked to a bunch of people who’s opinions I trust in the scouting industry and I’ve come around to this perhaps being a win-win. The Yankees needed starting pitching help and they can, if they so desire, have Michael Pineda for a long time. Jose Campos is a legit prospect as well and even if he’s young and hasn’t pitched in full-season ball, I had one scout tell me he thought he’d be ready by 2014.
The key, though, is Montero (Hector Noesi will contribute, tho). The M’s have wanted him for a while, remember? So now they got their man, the middle of the order (young) bat to put with Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. But, the $64,000 question is, can he catch?
My thinking is the Yankees didn’t think so, or else they didn’t want to, in the pressure cooker of New York, find out. There was no room for Montero on that roster unless he was going to be a DH at age 22. To me, the writing was on the wall when late last year they needed a catcher, Montero was up, but they brought up Austin Romine instead. Having made the determination that Montero wasn’t going to catch for them anytime soon, they were more willing to part with his bat. This, by the way, is just a theory.
I thought that most in the scouting world agreed that Montero would never have the stuff to catch every day in the big leagues. But it turns out I was wrong. I know, shocking. But in an informal survey I did of some high-level scouts, most actually thought he’d eventually be OK behind the plate. No one was ready to etch his name on Gold Gloves, but those I talked to made comparisons to Javy Lopez (he came up several times), Jorge Posada and, of course, Mike Piazza (Yes, many think Montero’s bat could be THAT good). Here’s some of what they had to say:
“There are a bunch of ex-catchers that made their mark with their bats and figured out the catching position the more they played. Remember, this kid is 22 years old and he can really throw. That’s a good start for his continued development.”
“Yes [he'll be able to catch]! The team will need patience. He’s better than Mike Napoli was at the same stage!”
“Not now (will he be able to catch full-time), but Javier Lopez did! All catchers that stay there get better if they try!”
“If he hits enough — remember Javy Lopez?”
Told you about the Lopez comps. And scouts really like to use exclamation points in text messages. But that’s neither here nor there.
So, Mariners fans, don’t expect defensive miracles right off the bat. But stick with your soon-to-be new catcher. Sounds like most think he’ll be acceptable back there and the bat will more than make up for any deficiencies with the glove.