How Much Time is Too Much Time When You’re Serving Time in the Minors?


August 25, 2012; Boston, MA USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) is congratulated by a teammate after scoring a run during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

Does anyone else feel like it takes forever for a player to get through the Royals’ minor league system? I call it a “feeling” because as I’m writing this I have yet to do the research to confirm my theory (though I’m in the process). But it certainly feels like our prospects move at a snail’s pace through our minor league system, with the Royals always making decisions on the side of caution. Always favoring seasoning over challenging or trial by fire.

As it turns out though (research done), that may not be the case. If we look at two players from other teams as representative of an elite prospect (Jurickson Profar) and a very good prospect (Anthony Rizzo), we can see that their stays in the minor leagues were pretty comparable to most of the players the Royals have brought up, or should bring up at the beginning of next year, during their youth movement. (These are times spent in minors until major league debuts. It doesn’t include being sent back down).

Profar: 304 games played in two and three-quarters minor league seasons

Eric Hosmer: 291 in roughly roughly three seasons

Wil Myers: 404 in four seasons

Rizzo: 375 in four and a half seasons

Mike Moustakas: 438 in four and a half seasons

* Many of these include short stints in rookie ball

Profar and Hosmer seem to be the anomalies, as they moved more quickly through the minor league systems of their teams. Their situations, though, are different. Hosmer forced the hands of the Royals, while Profar’s call up seems unique. He was doing well at AA (.281/.368/.452), but not destroying the ball, as Myers did this year. It’s hard to say why he was called up. The Rangers may be the best team in baseball without him, and he’s done virtually nothing since coming up. Maybe, it’s part of their plan for getting him ready, having him experience adversity and getting a taste of the difficult challenge of the big leagues.

But a debate could certainly take place over the benefits of bringing up a player quickly. Hosmer is living proof that trial by fire burns like hell. He’s having a very difficult second year, struggling to make adjustments to the adjustments pitchers have made to him. In hindsight, maybe a little more seasoning would have helped. Or maybe not, who knows?

Rizzo got plenty of seasoning in the minors and still ended up struggling after his debut in San Diego and getting sent back down to the minors to adjust. It seems his extra time didn’t do much for him. Nor has Mike Moustakas’s extra time done much for him. He has yet to match the promise of his minor league numbers or his high draft pick. He’s been decent and much better than expected with his glove, but I don’t know anyone who can say he’s lighting the world on fire. And he’s got plenty of minor league time.

I think the truth that seems to be emerging for me is that players need to learn how to making failure learningful at some point, and for the best players that failure is tough to come by at any level other than the majors. Hosmer destroyed AAA pitching in his short stint there forcing the Royals’ hand, but his failure this year, at this point, seems like it was inevitable and we just didn’t want to see it. Most guys will never hit the type of skid Hosmer has, but it was inevitable that he would learn some hard lessons at the major league level because there was no opportunity to learn them in the minors where he could crush everyone and everything thrown at him.

To me, this is the greatest case for why the Royals should have brought up Myers in August (I don’t care about roster situations. Sell Francoeur at a flee market for all I care). Myers struggled for about a two-week stretch at AAA this year, but in order to get him where he needs to be, the Royals have got to let him face the fire of major league pitching. Some players just aren’t meant to learn great lessons in the minors. Profar will never learn a great lesson in the minors. Rizzo’s greatest lessons came at the hands of major league pitching. Hosmer’s and Moustakas’s too.

That said, I’m not terribly disappointed with the Royals’ approach. I didn’t look at any pitchers so I can’t make an assessment of how that’s handled (maybe in another post). But for position players, it looks like they’re on par with most others (but if you know of a study that proves otherwise let me know). I think it just feels agonizingly slow to Royals fans because we so look forward to our saviors. It’s like staring at the clock waiting for class to end. The more you stare, the slower it will go.