Allstate Journal

As top MLB prospects arrive in a hurry, spotlight only intensifies

When then-Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg made his Class AA debut, the “most-hyped pick in draft history” did so in front of 70 credentialed media in Altoona with a portion of the game nationally televised. When Nationals farmhand Bryce Harper homered in A ball and then blew a kiss to the pitcher, the video disseminated widely, and there was uproar in the baseball community.USP MLB: COLORADO ROCKIES AT HOUSTON ASTROS S BBA USA TX

When Astros minor leaguer Mark Appel threw a bullpen session at his organization’s big league field, days were spent analyzing etiquette and protocol. When Cubs rookie third baseman Kris Bryant made his major league debut, MLB Network broke into its coverage to show each of his at bats live. All four of those players were No. 1 or 2 overall picks since 2009, and each has developed with exorbitant hype and under unprecedented scrutiny.

“I don’t think about it too much, but obviously with Twitter and stuff, it’s easy for fans to get that information,” Bryant said. “But I think it’s good for baseball, too, because there’s a lot of guys in the minors that are going to have very good careers. Especially in our system, there’s a lot of guys down there. I follow along with it, too. I’m just like any other fan. I’m rooting for them and want them to be up here as soon as possible. I think it’s good for the sport.” In the last fortnight, three more über-prospects reached the big leagues, including Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. (One of Correa’s teammates, catcher Hank Conger, a former Futures Game MVP himself, posted a photo of his clubhouse arrival on Twitter with the caption, “The Prodigy has arrived.”)

In all, four of the top-five in Baseball America’s Top-100 prospect list have already debuted, as have 13 of the top-20. The influx has caused prospect-heads to bemoan the stripped down talent on display at next month’s Futures Game, while also eagerly wondering when one of the top young stars still awaiting a call-up – Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, 21 – might join the youth brigade in the major leagues. And it’s also served as a reminder that a sport long framed by the ability to handle failure now puts its youngest commodities under a far more invasive spotlight.

Thirty years ago, the Brewers chose B.J. Surhoff first overall and sent him to Class A Beloit (Wisc.) for the 1985 season. A big media day, he recalled, was a visit from the local TV station in nearby Kenosha. “Nothing like this,” Surhoff said at this year’s pre-draft luncheon for prospects and media, a few hours before the nationally televised event. “Quite frankly, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this.”


February 2018
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