Minor Leaguers are people.* One of the reasons that I focus this blog on the Blue Jays’ minor league system is because I’m trying to shine a light on an otherwise overlooked part of professional baseball. Yes, sometimes we disassociate a prospect from the fact that he is, indeed, a living, breathing human being. We break them down into mechanics, velocities and statistical data, but we can’t forget that these are just young men trying to make their dreams come true and/or make a living doing what they’re best at.
One of the great things about writing this blog is that I’ve been able to meet, interview and talk with some of these players, hyped and unhyped, and try to see them a little bit more as people rather than prospects. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that few minor leaguers (especially those at the lower levels of the game) will even make the majors and even fewer will have long, productive careers. There are so many obstacles to be overcome, from physical injuries to mental and emotional demons, that a mental and physical toughness is required beyond the athletic gifts that these young men were bestowed.
Why do I preface this article with these thoughts? Because I’m going to explain how minor league players are categorized by writers, bloggers and even their own organizations. That’s not to say that players who aren’t as gifted can’t become major leaguers but their paths are certainly more difficult. Generally, once a player acquires a label, it’s difficult to shake it. Sometimes fortune smiles upon individuals not originally destined for The Show. Other times the obstacles mount too high for them to surmount and a once promising prospect languishes in obscurity.
For the purposes of this article, I define the “High Minors” as Double-A and Triple-A.
Without further ado, here are my prospect archetypes.
The stud is a young prospect, possibly selected in an early round in the draft or given a large international free agent signing bonus who has been coming through a minor league system quickly. These guys have had a lot of success at every level at a young age and progress very quickly through an organization. They’re seen to be almost sure-fire impact players at the major league level and don’t tend to spend too much time in the minors. In fact, they’re usually fast-tracked up the ladder unless they really experience some adversity or injury.
The Quad-A Guy
This player is someone who has distinguished himself at every level of the minor leagues but has not been able to perform at a high enough level in the majors to be able to stick. Most of these guys have not had too much of a chance at the major league level, but haven’t done much when the opportunity has arisen.
These players are given the “Quad-A” stigma and frequently aren’t given more chances at the major league level. They’re a necessity in minor league baseball as teams have become more inclined to fill their Triple-A clubs with veteran players who can perform well at that level and could be called up to the majors in a pinch. These players are also usually blocked at the major league level by players that are either very good or whose contracts prohibit moving them. Additionally, the Quad-A player’s fate can be determined by whether or not he is on the 40-man roster, how many minor league options he has and what the option situation on the big club is.
The Org Guy
If you’ve been interested in prospects or a team’s minor league system, you’ve probably come across the term “Org Guy” before. Basically, an Org Guy is a player that is not expected to play in the major leagues but will be a useful contributor to a team’s organization.
For me, an Org Guy is a player that will have a shelf-life within an organization beyond a couple of years. He’ll probably make it to Double-A and be able to have decent numbers at that level despite not really projecting as a major league player. Usually the player has a limitation or two that gets in the way of a major league shot but can still be productive and useful in the high minors.
For a pitcher, this limitation could be below average velocity or a lack of consistency in his off-speed stuff. For a hitter it could be a lack of bat-speed, an inability to really keep his head above water against quality breaking stuff or even a lack of a real defensive position (particularly problematic for players in the organizations of National League teams).
Keep in mind that “Org Guy” is not a derogatory term despite the way that it’s used by some writers/bloggers to dismiss a guy who isn’t necessarily a prospect. Major league organizations all need and value the Org Guy, especially one who understands and accepts his role within the team’s system.
This type of player is definitely more rare than any of the others. This is an example of a player who might have limited “tools” (i.e., raw abilities like speed, power, arm-strength) but is able to transcend those tools by using baseball intelligence (i.e., the ability to position himself well, the ability to read hitters’/pitchers’ weaknesses and exploit them). This player will rarely become a major league regular (although exceptions occur) and pitchers generally tend to be #5 starters or bullpen arms. Some can stick around in the majors longer than others while some might never get a shot.
* And not just Minor Leaguer, the blogger. Follow him on Twitter – @Minor_Leaguer