December 09, 2017

Ohtani Deserves the #1 Prospect Ranking and Stanton to the Yankees Wasn’t a Jeter Conspiracy

There have been a couple of reactions on the baseball internet, to the top baseball stories of the day, that are frankly just incorrect, surprisingly enough.  In response to the Angels signing of Shohei Ohtani, some are upset that immediately ranked him the top prospect in baseball.  In response to the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, some are upset and view it conspiratorially that Derek Jeter, an ex-Yankee, traded the reigning NL MVP to his former team.

The argument some have against ranking Ohtani as the top prospect is that he hasn’t played against the same competition as a prospect who has played in the North American minor leagues affiliated with the major leagues.  The problem is the Japanese professional leagues are akin to the minor leagues in North America, to some degree.  No, the Japanese leagues aren’t the major leagues but they are generally assumed to be at least as good as Triple-A.  But let’s say they are a notch lower, than they are more like Double-A or Triple-A than “Quad-A,” in between Triple-A and the majors.

Ohtani played in the Japanese Pacific League in his ages 18-22 seasons.  He turned 23 in July.  In the Pacific League, he’s slashed .286/.358/.500 in 403 games as a hitter.  He’s had 10.3 strikeouts per 9 innings, 3.3 walks per 9, and 0.4 homeruns per 9, and a 2.52 ERA in 543 innings and 85 games, 82 of them starts.  He throws an upper-90’s fastball, a low-90’s splitter, a high-80’s slider, an average curveball and an average changeup.  Say there is a player who did all this in Double-A and Triple-A ball in North America at ages 18-22 and had the same scouting report as Ohtani.  He would easily be the top prospect in the game and get as much hype as Ohtani has gotten.

As far as the conspiracy theories regarding Derek Jeter trading Stanton to his own team, this is absurd on a number of levels.  First of all, if Jeter still had an affinity for the Yankees, he could have just went to work for the Yankees, instead of going through the trouble of buying the Marlins for the purposes of trading their MVP to the Yankees.  That is a lot of trouble to go through because you still have strong feelings towards your former team.  Second, Jeter and the Marlins had deals for Stanton done with the Cardinals and Giants, and Stanton rejected those deals. I guess the idea is that’s all part of the conspiracy to make it not look so suspicious when Stanton ended up with the Yankees.  But, why would the Cardinals and Giants play along?  I’ve seen some suggest that the Marlins didn’t get enough.  But, Stanton had a no-trade clause, an expensive contract and an opt-out that complicated things.  Fans underestimate the impact of contracts in the value of players as assets to teams.  The Marlins had to trade him to a team that Stanton approved, they had to trade him to a team that could afford him, and the team is only guaranteed Stanton for three more years before he could opt out; and if Stanton gets hurt or becomes unproductive, he doesn’t opt out and the team is is stuck with an expensive player through 2028, his age 38 season.  The Marlins could command some sort of great package in return.  They had to basically take what they could get.

Ohtani is clearly talented enough and has performed well enough in a good enough professional league to warrant being ranked the top prospect in the game.  I can understand if one doesn’t think a player who has played several years in a professional league shouldn’t qualify as a prospect.  But, a) Ohtani is 23 and b) the rules state he’s a rookie.  If an outlet is going to rank rookie-eligible players, it’s hard to argue with ranking Ohtani #1.

Derek Jeter is Derek freaking Jeter.  If he had such strong feelings for the Yankees that he would buy a team and make sure to give that team’s league MVP to the Yankees, he would have just went to work for the Yankees.  The Yankees would have easily given Derek Jeter a job.  Plus, again, Jeter had a deal worked out with two other teams before the Marlins dealt Stanton to the Yankees.  There would be no reason for the Cardinals and Giants to go along with this plot. I understand that it’s frustrating that the rich get richer and that it was annoying the Yankees won so much while Jeter was on the team.  But, that’s no reason to buy into some foolish conspiracy theory.




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