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The Myth Of Truly Blocked Prospects

Every off-season, the arrival of the winter meetings, top prospect lists and general baseball boredom leads to rampant speculation about baseball trades involving prospects who are presently “blocked” in their current organizations and need to be freed like Brandon Allen (Hasn’t he been freed twice in the last year already)? Maybe the Fangraphs crowd can come together and compile a list of prospects who wound up being truly “blocked” for an extended period of time, but I struggle to find even a few scenarios where a productive young player did not force his way into the picture or be traded to fill other holes.

Having previously scouted Braves Mike Minor, his name popped into my head as a pitcher who I have little doubt would have compiled 185 innings pitched as a mid-rotation workhorse and an improvement over the now exiled Derek Lowe. The extra half win or more I’m confident Minor would have provided came back to haunt Atlanta as the Braves missed the playoffs on the season’s final day.

And while it did take about a season and a half for a permanent rotation spot to be opened up for Minor, few scenarios actually exist where a legitimate big leaguer waited in the wings for two seasons or more marinating in the minor leagues. I use two seasons as a criteria for “blocked” status because an organization like Tampa will develop talent more slowly than other organizations. For me, “blocked” does not really exist when player development is still occurring at the minor league level and one has to provide leeway for that.

Additionally, I’ll also concede another season for a prospect to force his way into the picture, overtake the incumbent and then allow time for the organization to author a deal for the displaced player. Before writing my own #Free(insert prospect name here) post launching verbal darts at a General Manager pinned up on the dartboard nestled in my “Cheers” case (where much of the writing magic happens), that executive deserves ample time to negotiate the best deal possible before being subjected to this father-of-three’s G-Rated rantings.

For this reason, Mike Minor doesn’t truly fit the criteria.

In crowdsourcing fellow writers at Fangraphs, we were able to come up with the following list of players who they believed would qualify for “blocked” status based on my completely non-research based, but probably thought about entirely too much criteria;

David DeJesus (KC) / Incumbent: Carlos Beltran

Mat Gamel (MIL) / Incumbent: Prince Fielder

Ryan Howard (PHI) / Incumbent: Jim Thome

Chris Nelson (COL) / Incumbent: Ian Stewart? (Shameless Paul Swydan plug!)

Jorge Posada (NYY) / Incumbent: Joe Girardi

Richie Sexson (CLE) / Incumbent: Jim Thome

My first inclination was to break each down to provide perspective, but changed course after investigating Posada and Sexson and concluding their respective transitions were within what would be considered more than reasonable for any organization.

In recent days, the Mat Latos trade has left the Padres in an enviable position of having not one, but two first base prospects in Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso – not to mention Kyle Blanks who produced 1.1 WAR in only 190 plate appearances on the 40-man roster. While trade rumors began popping up almost immediately after the deal was consummated, prospect chats were bombarded with questions about which of the Padres odd men out will need to fend off a season long case of “The Monday’s” twiddling his thumbs waiting for an injury.

On Twitter, Royals fans were also abuzz over rumors of Joakim Soria to the Blue Jays in a package including “blocked” prospects in catcher Travis D’Arnaud or center fielder Anthony Gose.

Nationals fans are wondering what to do with Anthony Rendon, who hasn’t even played a single game professionally, when he’s ready to supplant Ryan Zimmerman.

Rangers faithful are already counting the riches Elvis Andrus will bring once he’s dealt to open up a place for personal favorite Jurickson Profar and ticking Kevin Goldstein off in the process.

If one is viewing the idea of being “blocked” through the lens of, “a team will eventually play or move the piece”, then speculate away! However, if your nightmares include both “blocked” players splitting time through their respective primes before blooming into stars for other franchises, or one simply collecting dust in triple-A, then it’s time to reevaluate that viewpoint. With thirty big league organizations and each having both strengths and weaknesses, the cream is almost guaranteed to rise sooner, rather than later and force a team’s hand.