this started as an email and ended as a blog post..
Rangers minor league SS Joaquin Arias has been injured during all of 2007. Soon enough, b/c Michael Young is playing in Arlington, Arias will probably be traded.
I am sad about Arias' injury. There was talk of him playing CF this season in OKC. I WOULD LOVE to see Arias in CF. He is beautiful when he runs. I have seen him twice in person, both times when he was in Frisco. He runs with long and lanky strides, and he just cruises, really - until he really needs it, THEN you can see him lean forward just a bit more, and you can see his stride lengthen as he seriously kicks it in gear and just EATS UP the ground. He is a beautiful, long striding blur. He runs like Nureyev danced. He gets there before anyone should.
Arias got 473 At Bats with OKC in 2006, yet he still needs seasoning. He walked 19 times in 2006, and hit below .300 for the first time in three seasons, ending at .268. If Arias can nudge those walks up to 40+ walks per 500 ABs - including cutting down on swinging at bad pitches, then he can be a seriously talented championship type of player. If he hits .300 in 500 ABs(and I think he usually will) 40 walks will give him an OBP of .380. GMs desire an Arias type hitter who can have an OBP of .370+.
Though it's maybe just a dream, I really want to see Arias in CF. Were I the GM, I would not trade him. He's got plus tools, and you could not get fair return for him at this time. IMO: he is such a naturally talented defender that he could be major league ready after one minor league season in CF. The bigger question for him is if he can develop better pitch selection while at bat.
Arias is an example of where MLB needs to revamp their thinking on how to develop players. Whether Arias makes it is now 0% dependent his already proven physical skills, and 100% dependent on his head.
What is his "head"?
The stuff covered in this post, i.e Arias' philosophic/religious/competitive understanding. Arias likely has the necessary intellect for learning. He likely has the optical-neurological ball-tracking skills to allow for an outstanding concept of the strike zone. What he doesn't have, yet, is the philosophic/religious/competitive grounding necessary to meet his challenge of developing an outstanding concept of the strike zone. He doesn't yet have the grounding to properly motivate him through the pain and struggle of the necessary process, and to see him through the failures along the way.
This is where the Rangers are failing Arias, and maybe all major league teams are failing their players. The Rangers are merely hoping Arias will make it through the transition to having a good concept of the strike zone. The process will be filled with failure, and will be filled with long nights in Nashville hotel rooms. Arias will be alone in the darkness, alone with that night's 0 for 5, and alone with his thoughts and fears. The Rangers are hoping. They are not - in any significant way - coaching him on how to philosophically think his way through the process and the difficulties. The Rangers are hoping. They are tossing out pats on the back, and baseball cliches, and "go get ems". Hoping is inadequate. Pats, cliches, and "go get ems" might not be enough - probably will not be enough. The shallowness of these methods does not respect the value of the asset Arias represents. Pats and cliches and "go get ems" can only affect Arias at a surface level. They will not penetrate to the level of true foundational philosophies and motivations.
I judge Arias has a 25% chance of really excelling as a major league batter, a 25% chance of being somewhere between mediocre and average, and a 50% chance of failing - and thus earning fewer than 100 lifetime MLB at bats. My estimates might easily be overly optimistic.
Given that Arias is an asset potentially worth millions of dollars in profit to the franchise, the franchise management is failing both Arias and the franchise. If the franchise, through philosophic/religious/competitive training, could increase Arias' odds of success by even 5%, then their efforts would be well worth the cost of the additional training. I think the franchise could increase Arias' odds of success by far more than 5%.
The Rangers have another talent coming right behind Arias whose major challenge is identical to Arias: CF Julio Bourbon must develop better strike zone judgment. Bourbon was the 35th overall pick in the 2007 draft. Agent Scott Boras negotiated a contract for Bourbon worth several million dollars, and which forces the Rangers to keep Bourbon on their 40-man roster.
That's a large investment in Bourbon. It would be wise if the Rangers - via better coaching of Bourbon's head - could increase his odds of developing good strike zone judgment, and thus increase the odds of recouping their investment.
"90% of this game is half mental."