Byron Buxton is currently the number one prospect according to Baseball America.
Over the last few years something has changed in Major League baseball. The "prospect" has lost its value. MLB front offices and execs no longer clamor for the top rated player by Baseball America. Trades and acquisitions are no longer built on "prospects" and draft picks. Teams are playing for now, they want what is already in front of them. Big league players have gone up like the gas prices. Teams would rather make a move for a guy at the end of his career instead of getting their hands on a talented player who has yet to even blossom. All of this change leads me to wonder...what is a prospect?
Dictionary.com says that a prospect is someone who is likely to succeed or has potential. In that case and to me, everyone was once a prospect. The fact that we are now in a time where the likes of Buster Olney and Peter Gammons are saying that "prospects" no longer have value baffle me. Because at some point or another, everyone was a prospect. Whether the guy was highly ranked by scouting companies or not, he was a prospect. When teams decide who to take out of high school, they are prospects. When teams chop their rosters after the spring and decide who goes where, they are handling prospects. Late summer promotions and roster expansions are done through prospects. How can prospects have lost their value? Without prospects, there aren't big leaguers. These guys don't just show up, the journey to the show is daunting for most. As big leaguers try to make their way as "prospects". Major League baseball is built on prospects.
The recent change has come as teams are embracing a trend of playing for now. All 30 MLB teams still have to draft. But as far as acquisitions and trades are concerned, teams are no longer interested in prospects as they once were. This recent deadline highlighted just that. Deals were made and players were sent different ways. Prospects played little to no part in the blockbuster deals that were made. For the Pirates, they missed out on some of their trade targets. Why? Because the teams on the other end were "not interested in prospects". There's a problem with all of this.
The lack of interest and value in prospects puts a barrier on parity in MLB. Teams who "don't want prospects" are going out and getting current MLB players and guys who are big league ready because they have the money and cap room to do so. A team like the Pirates can't go out and collect MLB guys. The franchise has to be built around prospects. They are a team who for the most part always has and always will rely mostly on guys from their own system. The fact that prospects are losing value is causing a trend that I believe MLB doesn't want to see. Teams like the Astros and Pirates with strong farm systems are going to be pushed out if the trend continues. The point of of equilibrium in baseball is that when you have a bad year, you get the best pick, the best "prospect" and ultimately that player is supposed to balance out the fact that said team was the worst in the league the previous year. If the current trend continues, this doesn't work.
Major League Baseball needs prospects. All 30 teams need prospects and they play a vital role to franchise success. We all can't be the Yankees. Buying players can only get you so far and not every market has the luxury to do so. It's a shame to see that the Pirates were actually punished this trade deadline for having such a good farm system. If only we would have had a 35 year old pitcher at the end of his career to offer up. Or a guy with a familiar last name and career .250 batting average.
The "prospect" still has value. Let's not let it fade.