Jeff Passan has a new article up on the Dodgers, and it should frighten you. The headline is “Here's why the future Dodgers are downright scary,” and the text is a rundown of all the young players they’re going to employ over the next few years. It would be preferable, and entirely fair, if the Dodgers were cosmically prevented from developing young, low-cost talent. That’s not the case.
We know about Corey Seager, and I’ve raised the alarms about Julio Urias here myself, but there are a bunch of new, unfamiliar names, including ...
- Cody Bellinger
- Alex Verdugo
- Willie Calhoun
- Yadier Alvarez
- Jose De Leon
- Walker Buehler
- Yusniel Diaz
- Austin Barnes
- Brock Stewart
- Chase De Jong
- Josh Sborz
- Trevor Oaks
If, oh, three of those players turn out to be All-Stars, it will be unconscionably irritating. Because not only will they be helping the Dodgers win baseball games, but they’ll allow them to spend big on other free agents, who would ostensibly help them win more baseball games.
I’m of two minds, here.
The first reaction of mine is pure, steamy, orange-and-black arrogance, because I’ve lived through these Great Prospect Scares before. We buried munitions and potable water in preparation of the limitless Sean Burroughs, Tagg Bozied, Khalil Greene, Josh Barfield, and Jake Gautreau infield. We’ve cowered before the mighty, unstoppable core of Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Carlos Quentin, and Stephen Drew.
And those guys were all hitters. Don’t even bring up the different pitchers who have frightened us and faded just as quickly.
This first reaction is a good one. It’s a healthy one. Don’t count the eggs in the bushes before they hatch because you’ll crack the eggs in your hand. Baseball is, and always will be, a sociopath.
My second reaction isn’t so ducky, though. It’s to really investigate the premise that the Dodgers are to be feared, and I’ll be honest: It holds up to scrutiny.
I don’t have any empirical evidence (not yet, working on it), but I’m mostly convinced that the science of prospects is improving, just as it is with, oh, hydrodynamics. That’s the right science for the analogy because we’re still a long, long way from any sort of certainty, but it continually advances and gets better, especially for the teams that can really invest in their organization. Like the Dodgers.
And more than that, the Dodgers are showing that they’re really committed to this idea of bolstering their long-term fortunes by holding on to as many prospects as they can. It might have cost them a championship or two when they refused to trade for David Price or Jon Lester — and I’m okay with that — but I admire the commitment to the long-term vision. If they build the base of young players like the Rays or A’s of yore tried to do, yet have the $250 million payroll to keep the best ones together and add whatever superstars they needed along the way, they’ll be a total powerhouse organization.
(I mean, four division titles in a row suggests they already are that kind of organization. But, uh, also worry about the future.)
It’s the combination of the prospects and patience that’s worrisome to me. It’s unlike any sort of hyper-rich team that we’ve seen before. They could have had any pitcher they wanted behind Clayton Kershaw, and all they had to do was trade Seager, but they decided they wanted a decade of Seager more. That was a, uh, good decision.
What can the Giants do? Keep on keepin’ on with the Duffy/Panik factory. At least, hope there is a factory and that just wasn’t a fun, well-timed coincidence. Instead of using them to foretell a possible future of scrappy infielders, though, they’re more a symbol of the Giants spitting out players who can help them, just like they did with Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford before. Because they aren’t getting any more Poseys, Lincecums, or Bumgarners anymore. The sweet safety net of high draft picks is gone.
The Giants will need to keep it up and rediscover their ability to polish rough arms. They’ll need to hold on to their best draft picks, which made Mark Melancon a nice fit, and take advantage of the limitations for the richer teams in the CBA. They’ll need to develop, develop, develop, and maybe in a couple years, they’ll have a bullet-pointed list of their own.
It’s been a long time since the Giants had a super prospect of their own. I miss those guys. They turn out to win awards and stuff.
Until then, they’re not that far behind the Dodgers in terms of talent in the short term, and they can hope for all those prospects to go the way of Bozied and Tracy in the long term (or, less ghoulishly, hope they’re all traded for bad players). We’ve been told that the future is unspeakably bright for NL West foes before, and it hasn’t always panned out that way.
This time feels different, though, and I’m pretty sure the Giants need to keep up in the arms race. Legs race, too. Definitely the biceps race. All of the races. Because that list up there scares me more than any of the other ones. This one comes with Kershaw and $250 million.