Spring Training is one of the best times of the year. It seems like every player is “in the best shape of his life,” ahead of schedule in his rehab, or wowing the coaching staff. Every year teams have incredibly talented prospects in camp, and every year teams drive their fans crazy when they send their prospects back to the minors.
Since I’ve started following prospects, it seems that there’s always one mega prospect that’s far ahead of the rest of the crop. This year, we have the joy of three such prospects.
Just hearing the name Mike Trout excites me, as I envision him hitting .330, swiping 40 bases, and knocking 20 homeruns every year. Oh and I can also see him making a ton of web gems every year, too. I love Mike Trout like Stanley Hudson likes Pretzel Day.
Bryce Harper is 19 years old and might be the greatest prospect ever. If he reaches his ceiling, he’s got 50-homer pop and should be the #1 pick in every fantasy draft. If he gets halfway there, he’s Adam Dunn, a perennial all-star and borderline hall-of-famer. I’ve scouted him every time he’s been within a two-hour drive and he wows me in a different way every time.
Matt Moore could be an ace this year. He’s got everything you want to see in a pitcher: clean delivery, above average velocity, great secondary stuff, and plus command and control. Moore is the pitcher every team dreams of getting, and he’s ready to go right now. I like the Rays without Moore, but with him pitching every fifth game I could see them going all the way.
As much as I love each of these prospects, there is a slim chance that they will fail to become the players we all see them becoming. But who is the most likely to fail and why?
Mike Trout’s most glaring flaw is his noodle arm, but even that might be average. His defense will still be great because he’ll get to almost everything. The tools are off the charts, but he could struggle against righties in the immediate future. I expect Trout to adjust to big league stuff and mash, but there’s a chance he won’t. That would be what causes him to fail to reach his ceiling. In the very worst case, Trout will play above-average defense and mash against lefties, which still makes him a very good player.
Bryce Harper is a very different player. I don’t expect Harper to steal bases like he did in his professional debut season. We should expect him to continue to add muscle to his 6-3 frame, which means he should slow down in the outfield. He’s got a cannon, so he’s going to end up in right field. Harper has insane power and it’s not going anywhere, but you could question his hit tool. I expect him to settle in in the .260-.280 range, but he struggled against breaking pitches when I saw him in Double-A. He’s still very young so he has time to work out those issues, but if he fails it will be because of the hit tool. If things go wrong with Harper, he’s a low-average outfielder with crazy power that he can’t fully access because of his hit tool.
Matt Moore is ridiculous, but he’s the most likely to fail of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong; I love the combination of an upper-90s fastball, sharp slider, and plus changeup. The only reason Moore could fail is if he gets hurt. The 22-year-old southpaw has an easy delivery, but you just never know with pitchers. Science and medicine are incredible today. Stephen Strasburg made it back to the majors less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but shoulder injuries have derailed quite a few careers over the years. I hate to even throw the idea out there, but there’s a real chance it gets Moore. There’s also a real chance that he’ll stay healthy and be an ace for the next decade.
All three are off-the-charts talents, and I expect them all to become superstars, but it’s important for us to realize that these guys could fail. Consider yourself warned. Now go buy their jerseys.
Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.