I often hear and read “This guy has to play more, we need to see what we’ve got”. Honestly, insert your player in there for “this guy” because what I’m talking about here is more general.
If I had to guess, it has something to do with not performing up to where people expected a player to be and wanting to see this player have opportunity to show it. That’s an oversimplification of course, but again, in general I think it covers the bases.
For some players, this can go on for years. Believe it or not, there are still fans who look at the specimen that is Gregory Polanco at 29 years old. He looks the part, and since he broke into the league in 2014 he’s put up two seasons (2016,2018) that probably satisfy the pinnacle of his career and talent level. Anthony Alford benefits from this looking the part thing too but I digress.
We’re talking about an average in the mid .250’s with 20+ homeruns and 80+ RBI. Ton of strikeouts, but if he hits like that and isn’t expected to be the cleanup hitter, that’s not a bad player to have.
OK, I haven’t mentioned his defense, a .982 career fielding percentage in Right Field is less than stellar.
Again though, for some, that’s not enough. They’d still like to see more and some of those same people have seen plenty of Kevin Newman.
Kevin Newman who has played 205 games over a three season span and put together a really solid 2019.
So, what defines having seen enough?
Cole Tucker hasn’t really hit at any level, but we want to see more right? Nice kid, for all the intangibles it would be great if it worked out for him, hey it’d be great for the team but at some point, we have to take what he’s been showing us and believe it. When?
For others we certainly wipe away needing to see more. Ke’Bryan Hayes has put together 85 at bats in MLB and nobody needs to see another swing to believe he’s a lock. Maybe he is, but what he just put together in those 85 at bats dwarfs everything he did in the minors at any stop.
Don’t get me wrong, the bat was there, just not the power. The average was good, just not otherworldly like it was in 2020. The glove has always been there. He’s a really good young player, but those 85 at bats have led some to, jokingly or not, compare him to Nolan Arenado.
In other words, 85 at bats, or 24 games was plenty for Hayes because quite honestly he exceeded literally anyone’s wildest dreams in that short sample size.
OK, Ke is a first round pick, of course people were primed to accept his success.
What about Phillip Evans? Here’s a guy who was drafted in the 15th round back in 2011, is 28 years old and had all of 39 at bats in 2020 where he put together a .359 average before a catastrophic collision with Gregory Polanco.
Since his draft he’s played all of 45 games, 11 of which were here in Pittsburgh. Yet, almost universally, everyone wants to see more.
I don’t say any of this to illustrate that anyone is wrong or right, instead I’m trying to understand what triggers the overriding sentiment that we’ve seen enough to form an opinion.
Remember Justin Turner, third baseman for the Dodgers, essentially was Phillip Evans before eventually making his way to LA where he discovered power that hadn’t been seen throughout his career. Along the way plenty of fans in New York had absolutely “seen enough” of him. So, before I poop all over Phil Evans ever being more than what he’s put on tape, his career arc isn’t at this stage much different than Mr. Turner.
Turner is a one in a million type of turnaround, but it’s also a real world example that points to it never being completely nuts to still want to see more of anyone.
Starting a piece with a question deserves an answer, unfortunately I don’t have a clear one. I pour over numbers and watch tape and read evaluations and still sometimes can’t get past what my gut is telling me. I’m sure many of you do the same.
I think at the end of the day, I tend to look more for fatal flaws.
Trevor Williams had a ton of intangibles and experienced some success in 2018. That success at the time looked like a player maturing into someone who would eat innings and be a solid back of the rotation arm for years to come. Then it never happened again. I started last season openly calling for his removal from the rotation. The fatal flaw was simple for him, he simply needed Greg Maddux level control to be successful, but clearly didn’t have it. That was it for me.
I’ve seen enough of Erik Gonzalez, he can field but I just can’t see that bat ever becoming more than a guy who drills the ball into the ground. I think I could watch him get 600 at bats in 2021 and my mind won’t be changed.
It’s different for everyone, but I guess we also have to acknowledge it’s different for every player too. For instance, some players really need the velocity from the mound to help create the power at the plate. In fact we might be seeing some of that with Hayes. As you move up levels the consistency of velocity increases and for guys who maybe lack the power to mash a changeup 375, that really can play into the power numbers.
In Pittsburgh, we have these conversations and largely they’re meaningless because there hasn’t been anyone else to play. As this build starts to come to fruition I think we’ll all find when there is actual competition there also is a much more defined “I’ve seen enough” and an open mind is the best way to digest it.