Perhaps my favorite players to stumble upon betwixt my scouting escapades are the “Conversion Guys”, players who are undergoing a positional change because shortcomings in their skill set force them to find a new path to the Majors if they hope to achieve that dream at all. Most often this occurs when a position player with superlative arm strength struggles to hit so mightily that his employer abandons all hope in his ability ever to learn how and moves him to the mound.
These conversions happen at various stages of development and have any number of useful results. Jacob deGrom moved off of shortstop between his sophomore and junior year of college and is a budding rotational mainstay. Kenley Jansen spent four years catching as a pro before moving to the mound in 2009 and exploding to the majors as a reliever. Tony Pena Jr. moved to the mound at 28 and became a minor league depth arm who ate innings at upper levels for a few years and made Veteran Minor Leaguer Money for a little while longer than he would have if he would’ve been a stubborn, punchless shortstop.
Plenty of these developmental journeys begin in the Rookie-level Arizona League (AZL), where I was lucky enough to observe a handful of them this summer.