Prospects are strange animals. They all develop different, they progress different and produce wildly different careers. So, in a nutshell, knowing when a prospect is ready comes down to one simple formula.
That could be the worst lead in the history of journalism, one that gets my editor shaking his virtual fist at me in an email. It's really true, though. Aside from the once in a generation prospects that we recall being highly touted, we just don't know what we'll have until they progress.
Surely, all of you reading this are fans of a team that have a highly touted prospect you're dying to see play. You want that kid to arrive so you can begin to enjoy him and he can begin to help your team win.
Most general managers in the big leagues will have some sort of answer to the question of when they expect a guy to be ready. That answer will be the same regardless of prospect, and most general managers have the same canned answer of "when he's ready."
Of course, no GM is the same. So how they determine when a prospect is ready may differ.
What is it that we're looking for to know a player is ready? Is it talent alone, the maturity to handle the spotlight or some combination?
I'm one that believes talent trumps all when deciding who to play in a game. If it's the aging franchise icon that should have called it a career a year ago, or the reserve who has nothing left to prove on the bench, I'm the callus "non-fan" who will go with the kid every time.
What about prospects, though? Is being better than the veteran enough? Should you rush a kid to help your squad now and risk his long term development?
It's worth repeating. It depends. It depends on tons of variables that are unique to each prospect and each organization.
What may hurt a right handed pull hitter at Petco Park might make him an instant bopper at US Cellular. While patrolling the outfield in Houston may prove tough for a guy, camping at Fenway may not be.
Remember this next time you find yourself frustrated that your favorite prospect is still toiling in the minors. Your general manager has his best long term interest in mind.
I know. So much for sexy analyzing.