The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lohud: Jennings: Yanks: Eric Duncan looked like sure thing, but wasn’t

At 18, Duncan was a first-round draft pick. He was touted for his power and praised for his work ethic. The Yankees thought his left-handed bat would be perfect in the Bronx.

“You love him, you’re happy you got him, and as soon as you sign the guy, you think, boy, I hope he plays well,” Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said.

But a baseball contract offers no promises. Not for the organization. Not for the player.

Duncan’s quiet journey was not unusual. It is simply an untold truth in a game that celebrates only an extraordinary few.

A pretty interesting article on Eric Duncan, a guy we had high hopes for who unfortunately never quite made it.  H/T to Tim.

--Posted at 10:34 am by SG / 27 Comments | - (0)


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Duncan.  Drew Henson.  And that kid who was supposed to be the next El Duque? What was his name? I only remember that he was being called “El Duquecito” at one point.  And wtf happened to Ricky Ledee? He seemed like he could be a decent hitter and could have stuck around with NY much longer, with more success.  Am I correct in saying he had some overwhelming anxiety issue or something like that? At least he had some fantastic moments with late 90’s teams.  I was at game 1 of the WS in 98 and he was hitting ropes everywhere.

I remember seeing Ledee in the last 90’s and thinking he had a beautiful swing.  I really remember thinking he was going to make it and put it all together.  I think he had a pretty decent MLB season the year before he got traded too.  I liked Justice, he obviously made the team better but I thought they were going to regret giving up Ledee.  I was wrong on that one.

But yeah, prospects are a crap shoot, even as they get older. Only a hand full at the top of each draft are good bets, and even then not sure bets.

I saw Duncan play a LOT of games in Scranton.  He was a very popular player.  Partly b/c he was around so long of course - it’s hard to get attached to players that are only there for a few months - but also b/c he interacted with the fans, and you could see how much effort he put in and how much he cared.  It’s the first I have heard about the eyesight problems, and that’s unfortunate.  However on top of that I think the Yankees did mess him up.  That swing change (first I heard of that too), and also promoted him too fast through the system (that could have killed the confidence). 

Who knows?  Maybe if the Yankees had been more cautions early he maybe never makes AAA.  Or probably even if they were more cautions and did everything perfectly, he’s a backup corner IF for a few years until he’s arb-eligible.  Still…

And that kid who was supposed to be the next El Duque? What was his name?

Adrian Hernandez.

And wtf happened to Ricky Ledee?

My guess is he was never really as good as he was hyped to be, and to be fair he did play 10 seasons in the majors and put up a line of .243/.325/.412 in 2307 PA. 

He did have a nice swing though.  And I’ll always remember his 1998 World Series.

The absolute best athlete I knew in college was someone who told me he had been projected to possibly make AAA before he shattered his right leg in multiple places. (He was adamant that he never had the talent for the major leagues.) I knew a couple of Olympians in minor sports and the like and he was still a better athlete, even after the injury.

Major league baseball players are such the tiny tip of the mountain-top of millions of children who learn baseball.

Nothing succeeds like success.  The only way to tell if a player is really going to make an impact at the big-league level is when they actually do make an impact at the big-league level.  You could fill 10 halls of fame with players who everone “knew” were going to be great someday.

and also promoted him too fast through the system (that could have killed the confidence).

It seems to me that this is something they do fairly often.  I know people didn’t agree when I’ve brought it up in the past related to Hughes and especially Joba, but it seems happens with a lot of players in the organization.  They don’t always give them enough time to fail and make adjustments.  Maybe it props up their value as prospects and if you are using them as trade chips only, that’s not a big deal but slower progressions they get them to MLB as little older and a little more vetted isn’t a bad thing. 

I’m not saying an inflexible rule like players have to spend 2/3 of a season at a level before they advance is the way to go but the Yankees have seemed to have a lot of urgency in getting players to the MLB as fast as possible for a team with very little open opportunities for MiLB talent on their MLB roster.

[7] I think there is an argument to be had that Hughes needed more AAA time before he broke into the ML, but I have a hard time believing Joba did.

Joba pretty much dominated until he took that weird fall in Texas. After that the Yankees seemed to have mishandled him, but I don’t think they rushed him to the bigs.

I don’t really know either way if they bring players up too fast, but I would guess that there is a difference between pitchers and position players.

I think part of the difficulty of learning to hit is that you only get a few plate appearances a day against a pitcher with the same motivation to get you out as you do to get a hit, while that pitcher could see 20ish batters that day. I realize it averages out to a similar number, but I would guess that doing more in fewer days is helpful in a situation like this, where the amount of practice you can do is highly limited.

[8 previous]  Pin, you are just nakedly angling for inclusion in Lord Jon’s paper.  I got my eye on you.

[7-10] I don’t think they rushed Hughes either.  Hughes was dominating every level of the minors when he was called up, and he already had put in a decent amount of MiLB innings.  His issue was the injury in Texas, and after that everything changed.  I doubt he would have been under any less chance to get hurt in the minors (though it’s possible), or if he had not come up until the following year.

Joba I think was rushed.  Yes, he was dominating, but whereas Hughes had over 200IP in the minors, Joba had less than 100.  They moved Joba up b/c they needed a reliever and he was deemed ready.

I’m not really sure if the Yankees have a history of rushing prospects either.  Some they surely have, others have waited a long time in the minors (free Colter Bean!) before finally being called up, for good or for ill.  With prospects in general, I don’t think there is any hard-and-fast rule for “too soon”.  What I like to see, is EITHER a decent period of dominance (3+ months) at a level, OR a full season of being above-average at the level before being promoted.  Of course there are always exceptions to every rule; but a half-season per level seems appropriate, and that would allow a player to reach the bigs in his 4rd professional season (partial season ball after signing, A/A+ next year, then AA/AAA, then bigs).

Hughes I think they were great with until 2007. In 2007 he kind of just skipped past AAA. 

And let’s not forget IPK either.  He was rushed every bit as much as Joba.

Turning all 3 loose into the rotation to “start” 2008 was a horrible decision. 

But still, I’ve noticed it in other places too, or maybe I’m just projecting.

Found this thru Deadspin:

Wasn’t Verlander to some extent the template for Hughes and especially Joba with one year in the minors and skipping AAA?

[11] Joba was a high upside pitching prospect who looked more polished than advertised. He blew through and dominated every level of the MiL he played in. Hughes dominated as well, and clearly the injury was a concern. I think it’s fair to say that both could have used a bit more AAA time.

[15] That was supposed to say College prospect.

Joba was undid by the midges. He was never the same.

I blame Torre.

So Bourn got “stuck” with the Indians. Hilarious. 4 years/$48 million.

[18] Not bad. Wonder what kind of extension they could sign Gardner to right now. 3/24 too much?

[18] The Indians have made some pretty solid signings/trades this year and could be sneaky good.

Cleveland also signed Giambi to a minor league deal.

Let me see if I can figure out a likely lineup for the Indians…

CF Bourn
SS Cabrera
1B Swisher
C Santana
DH Reynolds
2B Kipnis
LF Stubbs
RF Brantley
3B Aviles

While that’s likely not enough to realistically compete for the second wild card spot, they DO play in the AL Central, so who knows? At the very least it will make the Tigers’ job harder!

22. The outfield defense should be pretty damn good.

True. Rare to see an outfield made up entirely of above average center field defenders (with Bourn being one of the best in the game).

[24] With Bauer’s flyball tendicies, a more friendly home park and that OF, he could be primed to a very good year.

[12] I don’t think it’s unusual for highly talented players - including pitchers - to skip AAA.  Minor correction but they didn’t turn all 3 loose at the beginning of 2008.  Hughes and IPK were in rotation, Joba in bullpen.  Looking back, I think they would have been better served to let one of IPK/Hughes win the 5th starter’s job - finding a veteran for the 4th spot - and letting the other pitch in AAA until needed.  Which, seems more like what they are doing nowadays.

[15] But Joba dominated in extremely small samples.  I’m not sure what his college career looked like, but it’s possible that Hughes had more IP - against a higher level of competition - than Joba did when he was promoted.  As well as Joba did, it was SSS at least level (~40IP or less).  I don’t think asking for at least 100IP in the minors - for a starter! - is unreasonable.

I don’t think Joba or Hughes were rushed in the slightest. Duncan, however, was.

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