To Demote or Not to Demote
From Baseball America's latest Prospect Pulse:
The Mets have moved two of their top remaining prospects, outfielder Lastings Milledge and righthander Matt Lindstrom, back to low Class A Capital City to help the Bombers make a playoff push. It's business as usual for the Mets, who demote players more than any organization in an attempt to win in the minor league playoffs--especially at short-season Brooklyn.
Milledge hit .235/.319/.432 in 81 at-bats in a brief callup with high Class A St. Lucie, and his nine walks in 22 games matched his total in 52 games with the Bombers, where he has hit .322/.373/.593 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs.
"He has tremendous bat speed and is a real good athlete," said an area scout with an AL club. "(The Mets) depleted their system and traded a lot of their top guys--I mean, I thought Kazmir had big league stuff last year--so Milledge is probably their top guy."
That business as usual line is classic. I know some people have serious problems with this but there are two distinct arguments here.
What is more important, 1) player development or 2) winning minor league pennants while demoting guys who are clearly above that league to help you do so. There are two sides of the argument. Which one are the Mets on?
1) As far as player development goes, that should always be the #1 priority for prospects. The minors are not for winning, they developing talent for the major leagues. If you do happen to win along the way, it is a nice bonus and would probably be indicative of a strong system at all levels and it should be. You should not win pennants because you have high A ball and AA players on a low A or short season roster. For me, if you have a player and you want him to work on developing plate discipline, you can have him do that. Specifically tell him to not swing at the first pitch and start taking some pitches. Their numbers may suffer and it may hurt the team and their record, but the player rounding out his game is more important in the long run. In terms of pitching, a player can learn a new pitch while getting smacked around. For instance, if Jae Seo ever decides to learn a curve ball, there is no better place than at AAA to start trying it out. Seo may get tuned up for a few starts by throwing it more than he should, but minor league numbers and the team records should take back seat to player development. To take some valuable playing time away from some of your top prospects against better competition in which they can improve their games against is perhaps not the smartest idea. You also displace players on the lower levels and perhaps stunt their current growth while the sit on the bench or get demoted as well.
2) Winning is something that is infectious. One of Kazmir, Wright, and Peterson's best memories were winning their hig A ball championship. The idea that instilling a winning attitude and giving a player a taste of what playoff pressure and competition is about can only move them forward while building character. If a player has won at mostly every step of their minor league career, they come to expect winning. They develop a desire to win and strive for that all time. I know you are thinking who does not want to win, but until you do, you do not know what it feels like and may be complacent. Winning is addictive and once is not enough. For a chance to give your players this unique experience of a playoff atmosphere is just as valuable as the 60 or 70 at bats or three or four starts they would be missing against better competition. It only better prepares them for the future even if you are demoting players that are above the competition. The experience will be a lasting one.
Which is right and which is wrong? I tend to think somewhere in the middle. It is not as simple as you just do not do it or you do it. There are some instances when it is OK and some when it is not. Lastings is 19 and is ahead of schedule anyway. Give him a chance to win something in professional ball this early in his career. For a guy like Lindstrom, he needs to keep moving. He took two years off to go on a Mormon mission so he is behind schedule as is. He is getting demoted to low A-ball when a AA call up may have been more warranted for the rest of the season. He turned 24 in February and had a 5-5 record, with a 3.77 ERA exhibiting good control for a flame thrower in high A-ball. For me, he is not getting younger and with his power arm he has no room to be demoted. After holding his own for Cap City, he should have been given a chance to show his ability in AA. He should be fast tracked until a level proves to be too much for him. He'll be 25 and heading into spring training in 2005 with only a few appearances in high A ball and does not look like he’ll reach AAA until he is 26. That is counter productive. A guy that old that still has a lot of potential considering he can get the ball near 100 mph and has good control needs to be moving onward and upward at this age and does not need to be hanging around low A ball. He still has good stuff and projects as a back of the rotation starter.
In addition to the demotion of those two recently, the Evan MacLane demotion earlier in the year has been much maligned. He had proved he can pitch at Cap City with a 2.39 ERA and was rewarded by being demoted to Brooklyn. I believe the Mets demote players for the playoffs for all the wrong reasons. They have everything screwed up. Although Milledge's demotion makes more sense, I'm sure they did it for all the wrong reasons. Aarom Baldiris played the entire season at St. Lucie. If he was eligible to be demoted to the Cap City squad, I’m sure he would have. With the recent organizational moves of the Mets, it's hard for anyone not to be critical of anything they do. Until they prove that they have a clue, this kind of stuff will not stop and shouldn't stop. This organization proves they are clueless day after day. Their priorities are not where they should be.
The article does mention that Durkin has signed which is some bit a good news. He was signed for $800,000, which is more than the initial $750,000 the Mets offered, but well below his $950,000 demand.
"The tools are all there," said the righthander, who added that he has thrown 96 mph and averages in the low 90s. "I'm confident I'll be able to bounce back."
He was a pre-season All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as well as ranked in the preseason by Baseball America as the nation's 18th-best junior professional prospect. At San Jose State he compiled a 4.49 ERA, while going 8-5, going 110.1 innings, giving up 101 hits, walking 49, and striking out 103 in 2004, which hurt his draft position. He only allowed four homers in those 110.1 innings. His 2004 season was a huge disappointment after post ERAs of 2.76 and 2.60 in his first two seasons. Matt was previously drafted in the 10th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of San Jose's Willow Glen High in 2001 and was a projected first round prior to the 2004 season. He has a fastball that ranges between 92-94 mph.
Now Humber needs to be brought in. Although, if I were him, another year a Rice would be looking mighty nice right about now. He can have one more year of no worries at school, beer, and college girls, or he can sign with an inept franchise that will most likely trade him for some pitcher with a career ERA over 4.00 and that is either injured or not going to resign.
"We haven't really had any significant discussion," Duquette said. "We're still quite a bit apart."
Humber and agent Michael Moye are waiting to see what other pitchers taken in the top six picks sign for before agreeing to a deal. As long as Humber doesn't go back to college baseball this year, the Mets retain his rights until next June's draft.
Not much will get me too happy in September, but this is one thing that will. Signing this blue chipper and shipping him to the AFL.