Fear and Loathing in Prospecting

Fear and Loathing in Prospecting

We all have fears in life.  In baseball, the big fear is that your favorite team will be terrible and miss the playoffs.  In the case of the Cubs, that fear more often than not is borne in reality.  A huge part of that fear in the current incarnation of the Cubs is that all the prospects that were accumulated will fail because they’ve never proven anything.  I guess that’s a legitimate fear because baseball has such a huge attrition rate.  Every year, you’re talking about something like 1200+ guys signed to compete with another several thousand guys competing for the 750 or so available active roster jobs.  There’s going to be massive amounts of failure, which is the inherent nature of baseball.  We at WSD are excited about the prospects, but we are also staying cautious with our optimism with this in mind.  You can listen to some of our thoughts in the latest version of the Dreamcast.

Every week, we battle with fans who say that the Cubs should abandon the current rebuilding plan and open their pocketbooks.  When the triumvirate of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were hired, I wrote this to put some perspective on why they were nuking the franchise and starting over.  The point here is that we should hold some fear that guys won’t pan out, but that fear should not be crippling.  In order to alleviate some of that fear, the organization had to build up depth at just about every position.  That’s why they drafted so many pitchers with some upside, that’s why Tom Ricketts poured so much money into scouting and development, and that’s why the Cubs are looking for any deal they can to stock the cupboard.  It’s like a mutual fund idea: if one stock falls flat in a mutual fund, the damage is limited.  Are we going to let our fear prevent us from investing in the real stock market so that we can grow our fortunes and build our retirement funds?  Of course not!

Similarly, fear cannot stop a professional baseball franchise from doing its job to seek out the best potential baseball players.  It is true that veteran players are more established and reliable than a prospect just signed out of high school or college or a foreign land like Japan.  But the fear exists in free agency and international amateur free agency as well.  With free agents, you risk losing a bunch of money when your free agent acquisition declines or just flat out sucks, which the Angels have had to deal with recently.  With international guys, you risk the possibility that their skill set will not translate to the majors very well.

I understand the frustration out there.  I wish the Cubs had signed Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes or Masahiro Tanaka.  I wish they were in a position to replace Darwin Barney with Robinson Cano.  But maybe the lack of free agent splurging isn’t a sign of fear, but rather a sign of wisdom and consistency in seeing this plan through.  There is a great risk in putting all the eggs into the prospect basket, but if they’re going to do it this way, then it’s good that we’re relying on guys with a history of success in scouting and development.  If we’re going to conquer this fear, we need to believe that guys like Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are the real deal because some very smart people think so.  Maybe, after all, there is really nothing to fear.

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