"If we just went by statistics to judge a prospect's potential, any idiot could do our job," an Amerian League scout told us. "Unfortunately, in the world of judging prospects, there are hundreds of cases where guys put up numbers [in the minors] and didn't pan out and just as many cases where guys didn't put up numbers and became all-stars at the big league level."
But the bottom line is, in lieu of actually seeing the majority of prospects play with their own eyes, the bulk of fans can only judge burgeoning big leaguers by their statistics.
With Carlos Gomez struggling in his first two months at the AA level after skipping the high-A level entirely, stat-heads can point to current Major League All-Stars who struggled at relatively similar points in their baseball careers as evidence that not every top prospect puts up earth-shattering numbers on their way up the minor league ladder.
Teaching the stat geeks who seek computative data to affirm the belief that Carlos Gomez could in fact be a special prospect, we now take it to an elementary level. In the A,B,C's of prospects, here are the first several hundred professional at-bats (in the United States) of Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, and Miguel Cabrera.
Carlos Gomez, in comparison to these three Major League All-Stars, has more than held his own. Beltran, a Puerto Rican native, had more home runs at similar points in their careers but, unlike Abreu, Cabrera, and Gomez, had the benefit of playing high school baseball.
But in almost every other category, Gomez stacks up well. Neither Abreu (who hit .283 with five home runs in the Florida State League), Cabrera (who hit .274 with nine home runs in the Florida State League), nor Beltran (who hit .229 with eleven home runs in the Carolina League) skipped the high-A level and went right to AA like Carlos Gomez.
Gomez, despite playing the last few weeks with an injured shoulder, still has the opportunity to match or eclipse the numbers posted by Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, and Miguel Cabrera at the same points in their career - and he's doing it at a level higher than they did.
This does not mean Carlos Gomez will develop into the next Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, or Miguel Cabrera. What it does show however, is that an above average Major League ballplayer doesn't necessarily put up great numbers along the way towards reaching the big leagues to confirm his top prospect status.
Stat-geeks pointing towards Gomez's "ordinary" numbers so far in his career need to sometimes look beyond the numbers. If not, they're missing the boat on a lot of great prospects.