At the end of the year, every team in Major League Baseball wants to be holding the commissioner’s trophy above their heads, with their uniforms doused in champagne and beer. There are different approaches as to how to get there, and every championship team has its secrets. If anything though, 2015 has shown that the way to make it far into the postseason is to simply draft well and accept a few losing seasons.
Of the eight teams that advanced into the Divisional Series, seven of them, with the Cardinals being the sole exception, have had a losing season since 2012. In those four short years, they have managed to acquire young prospects and develop them. This includes the Cardinals, whose success as of late has been through developing young talent and making them major league ready. This raises the question: are prospects with potential more valuable than established veterans on a Major League roster?
There have been plenty of prospects who haven been labeled as cant miss, but have missed. 1991 first overall pick Brien Taylor, who drew comparisons to Dwight Gooden, never made it to the Major Leagues after a shoulder injury. Many of them do prosper, however, and produce for their organizations for years and sometimes decades. As the 2015 season has taught us, young talent is valuable to a professional team. The Chicago Cubs, who won their first playoff game since 2003, proved that, as their average age was around 26 or so. Many of their stars, including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are under the age of 26, and still have their best years ahead of them. While Castro and Rizzo can be considered veterans on the Cubs roster, they still are youngsters compared to the rest of the league.
Switching over to the American League, the Houston Astros are the definition of rebuilding. Jose Altuve is the face of this young franchise and one of the league’s most consistent hitters; and he’s now surrounded by loads of young talent. UConn product George Springer when healthy, has been a powerful bat in the lineup, 2012 first overall pick Carlos Correa made his case for Rookie of the Year despite playing only half of the season. The combo of Altuve and Correa in the middle of the Houston defense is a scary thought.
Veterans definitely have their place on major league rosters. Teams value veterans as guys that have their glory days behind them, and that can teach and mentor the younger generation of ballplayers. Some team in the majors will trade prospects away for older guys (I’m talking to you, New York Yankees), but in the end it only hurts them. They lose their future trying to pick up a guy who won’t give them the kind of production that a youngster will. And after a few years, you’ll be stuck watching your former prospect prosper on another team, and that veteran you got collect his last paycheck and announce his retirement. If you would have just kept that prospect, then a team would have seen growth over that time instead of going on the decline.
Prospects are the future of baseball, and are often undervalued. Teams are eager to trade them away because they believe they can get a player who has established himself already, and trade away someone who may or may not be good in the future. Prospects and young players can change the course of a franchise, and as the Cubs, Astros and Mets have all shown in 2015, young talent can take you far into the playoffs, and may even earn you a World Series ring.