When a highly regarded prospect finally reaches the majors, everyone’s ready for him to start producing immediately. Often, even the good ones struggle at first while they attempt to make the adjustment. And far too often, teams and their fans are quick to give up on their prospects during this brief struggle rather than sticking through it and finishing the player’s development. FanGraphs currently has a post up looing at UnBusted Prospects, pointing out that last year Carlos Quentin, Ben Zobrist, and Elijah Dukes had breakout years after being given up on by their teams.
Right now you’re probably thinking I’m going to talk about Delmon Young or Carlos Gomez, and how we should be more patient with them while they finish their development into major leaguers. But I’m not.
Instead, I’m going to look into an idea I got from that FanGraphs article. In particular, Chin-Lung Hu, who was apparently dropped from the Dodgers’ plans after a bitter cup of coffee:
For most organizations, the reaction to such a performance is to go find another option. The Dodgers re-signed Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal rather than giving Hu another shot.Now, Hu’s major league numbers are indeed pretty bad: .181/.252/.233 with 0 HR in 127 PA in 2008. But is that really enough of a sample size to completely give up on a 24 year old shortstop who hit .298/.343/.421 in his minor league career?
Now that Furcal is in hand for the next three seasons, the Dodgers are pretty much saying that Hu is out of their plans. If somebody wanted to get their hands on Hu, now would be the time to do it. Now, the question is: Will he be the type of player who turns out to be a AAAA type guy, who can hit AAA pitching but can’t hack it in the majors? Or will he be able to make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the highest level?
After a good 2005 season at A+, the Dodgers moved him up to AA for his age 22 season. His OPS fell from .777 in 2005 to .660 in 2006, his SB dropped from 23 to 11, and his strikeouts jumped from 40 to 63. But even while struggling, he was showing signs of improvement: his walks increased from 19 to 49, which is a huge jump.
In 2007, they asked him to repeat AA, and he answered by demonstrating that he had, in fact, adjusted to the level. At age 23 he hit .329/.380/.508 in 82 games, at which point he was promoted to AAA where he proceeded to continue his good year: .318/.337/.505, which is very good for a 23 year old SS in AAA.
The point of looking over that was to demonstrate that he’s clearly capable of making adjustments, if given the chance to do so. Obviously his 2008 was worse than his 2006, and it’s more difficult to adjust to the majors than to AA, and we’re talking about upgrading from the NL West to the AL Central. But I don’t see any reason to think it’s impossible for Hu to become a solid major league shortstop, with the ability draw some walks, to hit 5-10 homers and steal 10-20 bases a season while providing a solid glove in the middle infield. (I don’t have access to his advanced defensive numbers, but he only has 1 error at SS in 45 career games.)
It’s impossible to say what the Dodgers would demand in return for Hu (but realizing that they’d be dealing with the Twins, they’re sure to demand Slowey+Span+prospects+cash), but realistically it can’t be a whole lot given that they’ve clearly given up on him.
We could stash him in Rochester until we feel that he’s got his feet under him and Punto has worn out his welcome in the starting lineup.
Obviously this is complete speculation and there’s no indication that the Dodgers would consider actually releasing Hu nor is there any indication that the Twins are looking to upgrade the middle infield via trade. But trades like this are ones they should definitely be considering, when the opportunity to buy low presents itself.3 comments