The rise of prospect pr0n isn't new, it's just more refined. The nuggets of information and hype leak out and we fans are suddenly worked into foamy lathers at the thought of losing a Kyle Drabek or Casey Kelly.
Brief aside: Guess what? Even if Drabek turns out to be twice as good as he looks, he'll still only be half as good as Roy Halladay. At no point of his career will Kyle Drabak give the Phillies as good a shot to win the World Series as Roy Halladay gives them in 2010. Sorry, I had to say it.
No position is more prone to hyperbole and broken dreams than catcher. The "tools of ignorance" apparently goes for anyone projecting the most recent backstop stud as "CATCHER OF THE FUTURE!" A quick look at recent free agent catcher signings &mdash and the scornful comments they provoked &mdash makes it abundantly clear that the difference between COTF and catcher of the now is quite different. Any time signing John Buck and Ramon Castro (OBPs within whiskers of .300 in tow) rank as major catching coups, we can tell something just ain't right.
That Jason Kendall & Pudge Rodriquez signed deals worth more than $3 million bucks a year in the year 2009 and Rod Barajas and Bengie Molina are sought after commodities tells us all we need to know about the Catcher Of The Future phenomenon. More often than not, more often than any other position, the catcher of the future fizzles somewhere between AAA and the big show. Teams are so desperate to find the COTF that they demand a catcher when trading away star players, like the Royals did when dealing Carlos Beltran. The COTF they received? The recently non-tendered John Buck. If anything, the Catcher of The Future phenomenon accomplishes two tasks:
- Proves Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters are hyped for a reason and indicate we still don't appreciate them enough.
- Proves the de-generative impact of catching on the human body is far greater than we acknowledge.
I don't think there is any way for us to appreciate the ultimate impact on young backstops the grinding of cartilage and breaking of spirit the act of professional baseball catching entails. 10% of all baseball teams currently employ a Molina, so genetics play a big part, too. Players rocket through the minor league ranks only to stall before they reach the zenith. Does their talent simply dry up or does their body give out? We aren't (quite) at a point were the survival rate of catchers as they mature can accurately be projected. It's little wonder guys like Pudge and Kendall keep getting work. They have, like inner-city public school teachers, only two real skills: they're willing and they're breathing.
Unless you're lucky enough to be a fan of a select group of teams, you know all too well about COTF heartbreak. The quick riser with the power bat and quick feet suddenly disappears from view. Catchers exist within a strange universe of their own, with very unique expectations and basis for judgment. The rest of us watch as retreads and hold-overs float through town until the next great Catcher Of The Future appears on the horizon. THAT guy will be untouchable!
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