I've been doing this for three years. Hardly feels like it has been that long since I received that first email from David inviting me to join the ranks of the TCB staff and start covering the minor leagues on a regular basis.
From 2010 to 2013, a lot has changed. TCB has gone through it's changes. The Houston Astros fan base has changed. The focus of that fan base has changed. The Astros have changed. The minor leagues have changed.
I started reading TCB in 2007 and did my fair share of lurking until I started getting active in the community. And, let's be honest, the team wasn't good during those years. So while I grew rapidly in understanding of the game and of sabermetrics through that time, I yearned for the light at the end of the long dark tunnel that Drayton McLane was leading us all down. (I know he did his fair share of good, but there is no arguing that the team was not in a good place. So no Uncle D arguments, please)
The combination of being intrigued by the only major sport with a farm system in place (sorry hockey fans) and how it works and all of the kinesology courses I was taking for my undergraduate degree threw me straight into the deep end of the prospecting pool. I was learning prospect names and stats and the tiers of the minors. I was researching the draft in depth and going to minor league games. I was getting the courage to talk to scouts at games and reading every top ten prospect list I could find.
Sure, I knew the general idea of the farm system and how things worked before hand, but I never had gotten deep into it. My nerdiness into the world of biomechanics, exercise physiology, motor development, sports injuries, rehabilitation, and sports training had created something.
At first, covering the minors was a personal hobby that few were interested in. Many read my daily recaps, few commented, and seemingly fewer cared.
I couldn't really blame them. The system was one of the worst in baseball. The majority of those who performed well did so at a much too old of an age for their level. The little bit of talent that was there either was struggling, over-rated, or had the weight of the system on their shoulders. That created guys like Jordan Lyles and Ross Seaton as the saviors. That's another discussion for another time.
There were some rough times in covering the minors. At times it was hard to find the significance in all of the small wins that would show up on occassion. It was hard to spend time on an article that in reality had nothing exciting in at times. There was nothing to get excited about on most days.
But, it began to grow.
The system slowly started to add more exciting talent. The blog began to grow more. The community started to really look at the minor leagues as a resource for a brighter future. Daily recaps were getting 100 comments or more on a regular basis. I think we even had a few days in a row back in 2011 where there were over 200 comments on the recaps.
We started doing top 30 prospect lists and features.
We added Jayne from What the Heck, Bobby for the 2012 season.
There was excitement!
Now, we sit here in 2013 with top five farm system with top 100 prospects in Triple-A and according to some publications, the major leagues.
We have added three writers to do daily minor league recaps. We have two to three others that help us out with minor league coverage. We have nearly the entire staff assisting in minor league lists and coverage. We have sabermetric articles getting produced that look at minor leaguers. It seems like every writer has written a minor league focused article at some point.
There is no doubt that covering the minors has changed for me.
It used to be that very few knew anything about these prospects. Now, it seems like every commenter knows plenty. Nothing goes unchallenged when it comes to prospects around here. There is always a differing opinion with every prospect it seems and the large majority are well thought out and researched. People actually know the system.
There's more pressure to deliver content. When recaps go unwritten, people know it. It gets mentioned. Quality is an emphasis. I can't half research anything. Everything I write has to be well researched. I have to be much more in-depth in my analysis.
The way I evaluate prospects has changed. It used to be basic statistics and looking at trends. Looking at prospects age and try to find a scouting report (usually failing to find one).
Now, there are so many sites with great in-depth statistics that allow us to know so much more. Scouting reports are much more widely available. Why? Because prospecting just hasn't grown among Astros fans, it's grown across all baseball fans. Fantasy baseball has helped with that with keeper leagues.
Now, I have built up some friends in the industry and get first hand reports on a regular basis. I know a small amount of scouts that I will sit and talk with at games.
I have been able to apply my education in biomechanics and orthopedics into understanding scouting a little bit (definitely more so with pitching than hitting). So, while I have added that element and relied on it a bit more, I don't like to think of using stats less, because I haven't. In fact I use them more. It's just my evaluations have become more in-depth and comprehensive.
The times have changed from digging to find a prospect who could contribute to digging to find which one is better at the same position. The depth has brought so much interest and intensity to coverage. There is just so much talent.
Times are tough in Houston. But, the system is thriving and is on it's way. The way the culture of minor league baseball has grown, TCB will be prepared and waiting.