Has Prospect Mania Reached The Point Of Insanity?

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14: Pitcher Dellin Betances #72 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Yankees have had a a glaring need for quality starting pitching even before Cliff Lee spurned them last offseason, yet during this time there has been no shortage of good starters available. Mat Latos, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, and Zach Greinke have all changed hands since July 2010, all of them with at least two years of team control (and often several more) at below-market salaries remaining, and any one of them would undeniably rate as the Yankees second-best starting pitcher today.

Yet Brian Cashman has sat on the sidelines, either wisely or foolishly, depending on your point of view, unwilling to part with the minor league prospects necessary to acquire that mythical #2 starter.

I understand that prospects provide flexibility for a team that's loaded with expensive veterans on long-term deals, so it makes sense for Cashman to incorporate some of them into the team's plans. However, the Yankees' primary objective isn't simply to be young and cheap, it's to win, and I fear he and Yankees fans alike are overlooking the obvious.

Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos are all outstanding prospects, but expecting even one of them to be a star player on a future Yankees World Series winner goes against the odds based on what we know from history. Let's repeat that, just so it sinks in.

Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos are all outstanding prospects, but expecting even one of them to be a star player on a future Yankees World Series winner goes against the odds based on what we know from history.

To illustrate this point, below is an analysis of the career fWAR totals of Baseball America's top 25 prospects from 1997-2001, and the results shouldn't be shocking to anybody who's followed baseball for more than a few seasons:

Untitled_medium

Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay are all on this list, but so are Dee Brown (-4.3 career fWAR), Karim Garcia (-3.5), and Ryan Anderson (never played in the majors), and there's no way to tell them apart as they break into the major leagues.

I realize there's a high degree of subjectivity involved in defining a "good" career, but nearly half of these prospects failed to break the 10 WAR barrier when they hung up their spikes for good. That's clearly a disappointment. Add to them the players who bounced around several organizations before achieving success (Carlos Pena), were good but struggled with injuries (Nick Johnson, Mark Mulder), or put up unglamorous, but nevertheless solid numbers (Eric Milton, Jose Cruz Jr, Matt Clement), and it means that at least two thirds of these prospects came nowhere close to meeting the kind of expectations now being placed on Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos.

Despite the high rate of prospect failure, I concur that it's foolish to trade talented prospects in the kinds of deals the Yankees routinely made back in the 1980s. But refusing to part with any of them to acquire young, cost controlled talent that fills a clear need on the team makes even less sense than swapping Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps.

Yet the insanity continues.

I asked this question, borrowed from River Avenue Blues, on Friday night:

Bet_medium

Thousands of pitchers have appeared in the major leagues, and for all of his flaws, AJ Burnett has had a better career than all but 300 or 400 of them. Betances, on the other hand, has some serious control problems and hasn't yet thrown two dozen innings above AA ball, and if you consider Burnett's career to be a disappointing outcome for him....well, I'd hate to see the look on your face after you buy lottery tickets and realize you didn't win.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Pinstripe Alley

You must be a member of Pinstripe Alley to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pinstripe Alley. You should read them.

Join Pinstripe Alley

You must be a member of Pinstripe Alley to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pinstripe Alley. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker