Once again, we've got a question for you to debate. This week, it's about one of Houston's most polarizing prospects. Here's what Kevin Goldstein had to say about him when Delino DeShields, Jr. was selected to the Organization All-Stars:
"There are a lot of people talking about how he had an off year and hurt his prospect status, stuff like that," Goldstein said. "I hope all our guys have off years and hit .317. You know, please give me that."
There's a disconnect between the player DDJ is and the player we assume he can be. At least, that's the only way I can describe what Goldstein is getting at here. So, I wondered to the TCB staff email list last week whether or not DDJ would have been viewed differently if he hadn't been drafted so highly.
Specifically, I asked this: if Houston drafts DDJ where they drafted Austin Wates instead, is he still considered a disappointment? Are his expectations set artificially high because of where he was picked in the draft?
Two TCBers stepped up, drew straws and picked sides. Here's what they had to say:
Terri Schlather: Yes, perception is hurting DDJ
Scouting and rating of prospects is always about perception really, right? So it stands to reason that our perception of a what a first round pick should be capable of will taint whatever we think about that pick throughout their career.
We'll either point and say, "I told you he was worth that first round pick," or we'll take a guy, like this one, who's a pretty darn good ball player and pick him apart because he didn't become the game's next great superstar. It's all about perception.
But lest we forget my other favorite part about drafts and prospects and developments - it's all a freaking crap shoot. Teams are playing the odds. There aren't any guarantees. Any first rounder can tank. Is it as likely as an 18th round pick? Nope, but it can happen.
So the toughest part of evaluating a prospect is likely ignoring the hype. Sit back and ignore what round they were chosen in and by whom. Ignore if they went to college, ignore who their father was and judge the player for what they do every single day on the field.
But it's damn near impossible. We're human and perception is everything. And we place a certain value on a first round guy, like they're all destined to be All Stars - some are, but if they aren't we deem them less than, because "we wasted a first round pick on that?"
But DDJ? He's a good ballplayer. Look at his record, look at his age, look at his level and ignore everything else. It's damn hard to do.
And to answer the question - if he'd been picked later, I think everyone would be much more excited about him. For the record, I think the magic was in the high socks and he needs to bring them back.
Anthony Boyer: No, draft position shouldn't matter in evaluating DDJ
The question of Delino DeShields, Jr. goes to the heart of prospect evaluation, and raises some incredibly thought-provoking questions about what colors our perception of a prospect.
Let's examine what we know about Delino DeShields, Jr. We know that he played the 2013 season as one of just twenty-seven players under the age of twenty-one who received at least 100 plate appearances in High-A ball. We know that he put up a 133 wRC+ while he was there, struck out less than 17% of the time, walked more than 10% of the time, and has stolen 152 bases in the last two seasons combined - not counting the 8 he had in the Arizona Fall League.
By all counts, Delino DeShields, Jr. is a fantastic prospect. No one would dispute that. So, then, why does it seem like the prospect-evaluation community has suddenly soured on him? Certainly not because of his results, which are good. Rather, his status has slipped for other reasons: Questions about his makeup, an influx of talent behind him in the Astros' system, a seeming lack of position, and the idea that he hasn't progressed rapidly enough from where he was at this time last season.
These are questions based on scouting and on context. Whether or not you agree that they have merit, none of them has anything to do with DeShields' draft position. They have to do with what people expect from a top 100 prospect. While it's true that most top prospects are also top draft picks, it's a case of correlation not equaling causation. Players are drafted highly because they are good players. They're also rated highly as prospects because they're good players - not because they're high draft picks.
What do you think? If DDJ were picked where Austin Wates was, would he be considered a better prospect?