Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: A is for…

Anderson, as in Lars.

Lars Anderson wraps a whole bunch of interesting topics into one player. For those who don’t know, Anderson is a 22-year old first base prospect in the Sox organization. According to Baseball America, he’s the top prospect the Sox have. And that’s just where it all begins.
As a baseball card collector, I know Anderson as the Red Sox player with the really expensive cards. Going into this season, he had yet to play a game above AA ball, and his rookie cards were already selling for over $100. It’s incredible. For comparison, the best rookie card of Manny Ramirez will cost you about $20. Where is the disconnect? Why do people fall in love with potential over performance? I have no doubt that Baseball America is right, and Lars will become a fine player. But, he has to have a ceiling somewhere, right? Wouldn’t being Manny Ramirez, or Carl Yastrzemski pretty much top out his potential? Their rookie cards aren’t $100 and we know they were good. Heck, if you cross sports, you can get a Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rookie card on eBay for less than $50. Does Anderson have more potential than that? Does a Lars Anderson rookie card at $100 have a lot of room to go up? Isn’t it just begging for failure? It’s not just Anderson whose cards have those crazy values. I’m pretty sure an Albert Pujols rookie card will cost more than Ted Williams. A few years ago, Vince Carter’s card brought more than Charles Barkley. It’s a constant battle between potential and performance, and I don’t get it. It seems to me that I can wait until a player becomes a superstar, and then get his cards cheaper than I can now. And, I won’t have to pay $20 for a Phil Plantier rookie…again.

Anderson also illustrates how wrong organizations can be…if wrong is the correct word. Anderson was the Red Sox 22nd pick in the 2006 draft. The Red Sox thought that 21 players were better than him in 2006. In 2007, he was named the Red Sox #3 prospect. So, in one year he went from the 22nd best player in the draft to the 3rd best player they had on the farm? How did they goof like that? Why wasn’t he a third round pick? If you look at the whole league, Anderson was the 553rd selection in that draft. In 2008, he was named the 4th best prospect in the Eastern League. How did the rest of the teams miss that? If he went from 553 to 250, it would look like a huge gaffe. 553 to 4? Who missed the ball on that one? How does one season make a player go from mediocre draftee to stud prospect? What are the draft scouts not looking at that the minor league scouts are? What’s the difference?

It’s also interesting that Anderson plays first base. Kevin Youkilis plays first base. After the 2008 season, the Red Sox went heavy into the free agent market for Mark Teixeira who plays first base. Did Theo not read Baseball America? Does he not believe the scouting reports to the point that he’d rather pay Teix $150 mil than trust them on Anderson? He did a similar thing when he traded for Coco Crisp (trading baseball’s #1 prospect) while he had Jacoby Ellsbury waiting in the wings. Did he not trust the scouts who had Ellsbury rated so high? (To be fair, this isn’t an exclusively Red Sox oddity. The Phillies spent huge money on Jim Thome…blocking the way for Ryan Howard) Don’t get me wrong. I will always take proven talent over potential. If the Yankees offered to trade Teixeira even up for Anderson I’d jump at it. But, if you were trying to sign a huge free agent, or make a trade to better your team, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on areas that don’t have stud prospects almost ready? Instead of chasing Teixeira, shouldn’t they have focused the money on Pedroia or Youkilis…like they ended up doing?

It’s a lot of issues centered on one player. None of them are Anderson’s fault. He just looks to be the poster boy for a few things that don’t make sense to me. Personally, I can’t wait to see Lars in Boston. Or, to see what we can trade him for.

A is for Anderson, Lars

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