Just finished watching the Voice on TV. It’s a show about talent coaches listening to young singing talent without watching them first. No bias on appearances. One of the talent coaches picking a team of 12 for the competition said “you know it when you hear it” about the contestants ability to sing. To me watching baseball talent is similar. In judging baseball talent “you know it when you see it”. Not how high the guy was drafted, who he was traded for or what he signed for. That’s why nothing beats watching batting and fielding practices or pitchers throwing bullpens in addition to the game itself.
At times players in all sports slip through the cracks and need a break to make it. Just last week in the NBA Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin came off the bench to capture the imagination of New York fans by leading the Knicks to five straight wins. Lin was released by two previous NBA teams and was buried so low on the Knicks bench before injuries set in that he was about to be released. All these type of guys need many times is a chance.
Yet for various reasons the great minds of sports take so long to recognize the skill sets that these over looked players bring to the game. Chris Coste of the Phillies fell into this category. He hit .327 in his first year in the major leagues with the Phils in 2006 and wrote about it in his book “A 33 Year Old Rookie”. Then he helped them win a World Championship in 2008 as the backup catcher and a DH in a game of the World Series.
I got a big charge out of the Yoenis Cespedes circus. He just got $36 million for four years from Billy Beene and the A’s. He becomes the highest paid “moneyball” player on Beene’s team. Yet he has yet to show anything recently outside of Cuba. He played in a few games in the Dominican Winter League last month and struggled but lives off his legacy. Our Tim Kennelly, Derrick Mitchell and Tyson Brummett played well in off season ball and we hear nothing of them. On the other hand Cespedes will probably deny former Phillies prospect Michael Taylor a shot at a corner outfield position on the A’s 25 man opening day roster just by showing up for Cactus League baseball.
Who will be the Phillies players that will play on the big league roster some time this season yet not get an invite to the major league camp or play in a Grapefruit League game this spring? Remember back in 2007 when Kyle Kendrick was called up from Reading and won 10 games for the Phillies that season as they made it to the playoffs. He never got an invite to the Major league camp or appeared in a Florida game that season. In 2010 Vance Worley pitched a few innings at the end of that season for the Phils but was not in a Florida spring game that season. And last year I will never forget standing behind Joe Savery on his first day reporting to the minor league camp at the Complex with a bat in his bag standing in front of Ashburn Field trying to figure out what to do next. Then to end the season I watched him on TV striking out the best hitting catcher in the National League Brian McCann to help dash the Braves playoff hopes.
When I go to a minor league game I try to see not only the obvious hot shots but players who seem never to get much of a chance. I try to watch when practical batting practice, infield practice and pitchers bullpens in addition to the games because the only way “to know future major league talent is when you see it!” and hope they do not fall through the cracks before they get a chance from the Front Office.