This seems to be the time of year for prospect rankings, and in a way, that’s why Nick’s guest post was a pretty good fit this morning.
Prospect evaluation and player development are all about trying to find core players who bring both impact and longevity to an organization. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada set individual standards that might be impossible to replicate — two no-doubt Hall of Famers and two borderline Hall candidates in a single farm system at the same time? — but the theory behind their significance remains universal: A young shortstop doesn’t have to become the next Jeter to play a significant role organizational success, and a young reliever doesn’t have to live up to Rivera’s standards to have done his part.
This morning, Nick write a lot about his emotional attachment to the Core Four, and there’s no doubt that’s an important part of their legacy, but most of that emotion is beside the point when trying to improve a farm system. Certainly teams want their young players to be good guys — and they love it when those young players are also well-spoken and easy to root for — but mostly a franchise is focused on finding good hitters and good pitchers.
Even the Core Four would not have been nearly as popular had those players not been elite performers.
Now that three of the four have retired, and as Jeter moves ever closer to his 40th birthday, the Yankees are trying to build a new core. Not necessarily a Hall of Fame core, but a core that will stick around for a while and have some real success. That’s what this winter’s long-term deals with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka were all about. The Yankees spent nearly a half billion dollars this winter trying to build a new core of players.
Which is exactly the reason player development is so important.
As we saw these past three months or so, free agency is a tough way to build. It’s expensive, and it’s risky, and it’s hard to repeat year after year. Free agency is best used for patching holes, not setting a foundation. Prospects bring their own sort of risk, but that’s why it’s important to have so many of them. Once a prospect breaks through to the big leagues, he comes with a six-year trial period before any sort of long-term commitment is really necessary, and during those six years, a good young player is an unmistakeable bargain. The ability to spend is hugely helpful, but player development is a more sustainable approach.
Any emotional attachment that comes along the way, that’s icing on the cake.
Associated Press photo