Roundtable: Potential/Consistency?

The Roundtable is back this week to debate the merits of prospect potential versus consistency. It boils down to the essential questions that are routinely asked: how are prospects ultimately dissected and ranked?

When rating a prospect, how do you weigh the potential of an underperforming "toolsy" player against a player who performs consistently at a higher level, but doesn't possess as high a ceiling?

Brian Walton,

There is an important element implied here - time. First is the age of the player and second is the amount of time spent in the organization.

All things equal, I would give more leeway to an 18-year-old out of high school who has struggled for a year or two than I would to a 22-year-old with four years of college experience. By definition, the immediate expectation is higher for the college player and the runway is shorter. After two years of poor performance, the college player is likely gone, while the organization may still be preaching patience with the now-20 year old. The downside is not knowing when to cut ones' losses.

If the lower-ceiling player performs consistently at a high level, one should seriously consider adjusting that player's ceiling upward, rather than keeping him pigeonholed in the original projection. After all, history is littered with late-round draft picks and free agents who seemingly "came from nowhere" to enjoy long and productive major league careers. The never-ending challenge is to identify them, even when they are already in the organization.

Patrick Teale,

Players with higher-ceilings, those possessing tools, are much more valuable prospects when compared to players who put up numbers but do not possess plus tools, no matter how good the stats may look.

The critics will point out players with tools often don't make the big leagues when in fact, non-toolsy players who put up numbers have just as high an attrition rate, if not higher. The reason why scouts weigh high-ceiling players in great favor is, in the majority of cases, they become the impact players at the big league level because their talent is ever increasing and not capped.

Minor league statistics, whether good or bad, are insignificant in comparison to potential in this scenario.

Jason Cole,

A player's on-field performance, regardless of ceiling, will usually take precedence over anything else. But there are certainly exceptions to the rule.

The higher the level, the less likely it becomes that an underperformer with a lower ceiling can be rated over a so-called overachiever. If a high-ceiling player isn't performing up to their potential by the time they reach the Double-A or Triple-A levels, it obviously becomes less likely that they reach their supposed ceiling.

The decision can go either way at the lower levels of a minor league system, as there is still plenty of time for a high-ceiling player to realize their potential. There also tends to be more unanticipated success from lower ceiling players at the lower levels of a system. While performance will generally get the nod over potential, each situation is definitely unique and should be judged accordingly.

Chuck Murr, Indians Ink

Performance generally takes precedence over potential. There's nothing like watching a player in person and seeing him perform, rather than prognosticating how his "high ceiling" skills could possibly play out.

Having said that, in our magazine's upcoming (January) issue, which ranks the top 100 prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization, there are, however, three players listed who have yet to take the field as a professional.

In these instances, potential is given preference over the performance of some established players in the organization. Potential cannot be ignored, but it is actual performance that weighs heavier and leads to a prospect being classified as having potential anyway.

Chuck Hixson,

There is no way to overlook consistent achievement as a player moves through the system. Certainly, when they reach the higher levels, their performance should have at least proved the potential, if not surpassed it.

You always have to keep in mind that players, not having a legitimate chance to prove themselves, only have their potential to be truly judged on. Players in the lower levels of the minors have a lot of adjustments to make - wood bats, different teammates, strange surroundings, etc. - and some require more time to make those adjustments. By the time the player has reached the High-A or Double-A ranks, it's time to see production on the field.

Some players simply don't have the natural talent that allows them to step into the pro ranks and dominate; that's where the time to adjust is important. Knowing the player's personality allows you to judge how quickly he can make adjustments.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories