The Vintage Baby Pictures Quiz

Back in November, THT’s John Brattain presented a couple of fascinating looks back at the scouting-report prognostications on some intriguing young prospects presented in the 1994 Baseball Almanac. John called the looks “Baby Pictures,” an evocatively apt description: When presented with a snapshot of a familiar adult from when he or she was in diapers, sometimes we can clearly see the resemblance, and sometimes we can’t. Similarly, these soothsayers predicting the future trajectory of unproven young talents sometimes get it right on the money, and sometimes they don’t.

It’s no surprise that even the experts don’t always foresee the development path of prospects. If everyone knew what would happen in advance, there would be no reason, as the old saying goes, to play the games. Lots of things happen, good and bad, lucky and unlucky, to ballplayers as their careers progress; generally, it’s only in retrospect that things become obvious or appear inevitable.

Inspired by John’s idea, here I present the complete minor league statistics of some prominent historic players, mostly from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. But rather than just tell you up front who owned each bunch of stats, I’ll challenge you to try to figure them out. Let’s find out how well you can recognize them, based strictly on the numbers they compiled before they reached The Show.

The answers are down at the bottom of the article. No fair peeking until you’ve made your best guess!

Questions

We’ll start off with some pretty easy ones. What players do these three minor league careers belong to? Obviously, these were, to say the least, some rather impressive young prospects.

Player No. 1

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1949  17   K.O.M.     D       SS        89  323   54  101   15    7    7   63   52   66   20 .313 .404 .467  .871
1950  18    W.A.      C       SS       137  519  141  199   30   12   26  136   94   90   22 .383 .480 .638 1.118
1951  19    A.A.     AAA      OF        40  166   32   60    9    3   11   50   23   30    5 .361 .450 .651 1.100


Player No. 2
 
Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1950  19  Inter.-St   B       OF        81  306   50  108   20    8    4   55   42   34    7 .353 .440 .510  .950
1951  20    A.A.     AAA      OF        35  149   38   71   18    3    8   30   14   10    5 .477 .528 .799 1.326


Player No. 3

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1952  18  Northern    C       SS        87  345   79  116   19    4    9   64   33   19   25 .336 .402 .493 . 894
1953  19   S.A.L.     A       2B       137  574  115  208   36   14   22  125   35   22   13 .362 .398 .589  .987

Okay, now some pitchers. These might be a little bit easy as well, given that these are four of the most startling minor league records ever put together. Who are these four guys?

Pitcher No. 1

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1952  19    A.A.      AAA      12   62    2    5   37    ?   62   61 5.23 1.60
1953  20   Eastern     A       23   98    7    3   64    5  126  104 4.68 1.94
1954  21    A.A.      AAA      33  251   22    5  140   13  140  330 2.62 1.12


Pitcher No. 2

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1965  18   Appal.   Rookie     13   78    3    6   61    4   56  115 4.38 1.50
1966  19  W. Carol.    A       29  183   17    2  109    2  127  272 2.51 1.29
1966  19   Eastern    AA        3   19    0    2    9    0   12   35 0.95 1.11
1967  20  Fla. St.     A        1    4    0    0    1    0    2    5 2.25 0.75
1967  20    I.L.      AAA       3    7    1    0    3    0    3   18 0.00 0.86


Pitcher No. 3

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1982  17   Appal.     SA        9   66    5    4   53    1   25   66 2.47 1.18
1982  17     NYP       A        2   13    0    1   11    2    3   18 4.15 1.08
1983  18  Carolina     A       27  191   19    4  121   11  112  300 2.50 1.22


Pitcher No. 4 

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1983  20   Fla.St.     A        4   29    3    1   22    0    0   36 1.24 0.76
1983  20   Eastern    AA        7   52    4    1   31    1   12   59 1.38 0.83
1984  21    I.L.      AAA       7   47    2    3   39    3   14   50 1.93 1.13

Okay, now these might be a little bit more difficult. Who are these two young second basemen?

Player No. 4

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
1960  19    NYPA      D       2B        85  321   60   89    8    5    1   43   55   35   18 .277 .385 .343 .727
1961  20   Fla.St.    D       2B       130  484  105  160   20   30    2   77   60   33   30 .331 .403 .508 .911
1962  21   S.A.L.     A       2B       139  540  136  178   31   17    9   71   95   61   15 .330 .431 .500 .931


Player No. 5

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
1964  18    Cocoa  Rookie     2B        37  123   17   40    5    3    0   21   14   22   14 .325 .416 .415 .831
1965  19   Fla.St.    A       2B       125  439   57  133   20    8    1   52   73   74   52 .303 .400 .392 .792
1966  20  Carolina    A       2B       112  383   64  112   19    3    1   30   50   79   28 .292 .367 .366 .733

And how about these two young pitchers from the late 1950s?

Pitcher No. 5

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1957  21    A.A.      AAA      10   42    2    1   46    5   27   25 4.29 1.74
1957  21   S.A.L.      A        8   43    4    3   36    2   34   24 3.77 1.63
1958  22    A.A.      AAA      13   87    3    4   79    1   39   47 3.31 1.36
1958  22    I.L.      AAA      20  103    5    5   88    0   54   75 2.45 1.38
1959  23    A.A.      AAA      24  135    9    9  128    4   70   98 3.07 1.47
1960  24    I.L.      AAA       6   41    2    3   33    2   17   36 2.85 1.22


Pitcher No. 6

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1958  20   Midwest     D       35  245   21    8  200   11   50  246 1.87 1.02
1959  21   Eastern     A       37  271   18   13  238   12   47  208 2.39 1.05
1960  22   P.C.L.     AAA      18  139   11    5  116    9   34  121 3.11 1.08

All right, we’re going to get more challenging. Who is this interesting pair?

Both were left-handed batters, good defensive outfielders who could handle center field but were best suited for right.

Player No. 6

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1953  18  Northern    C       OF       114  418   74  136   18   13    9   80   76   62   14 .325 .432 .495  .927
1954  19   Three-I    B       OF       134  502  105  158   26    6   32  111   80   53   25 .315 .414 .582  .996
1955  20    Texas    AA       OF        25   90    9   21    1    0    1    9   15   18    2 .233 .346 .278  .624
1955  20   Eastern    A       OF       113  374   74  108   15    3   19   78   77   60   24 .289 .414 .497  .912
1956  21    A.A.     AAA      OF       131  433   77  127   20    8   17   75   41   55    7 .293 .358 .494  .852


Player No. 7

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1953  19   Mt.St.     D       OF       125  513  129  167   20   24   35  164   70  142   17 .326 .409 .663 1.072
1954  20  Carolina    B       OF        17   48   10   13    0    2    2    7    8   14    0 .271 .362 .479  .841
1954  20  Northern    C       OF       114  406   94  146   11   11   27  105   52   71   22 .360 .447 .640 1.087
1955  21   Western    A       OF       141  502  117  158   25    6   40  116   79   81   14 .315 .409 .627 1.037
1955  21    A.A.     AAA      OF         9   22    2    6    2    0    1    3    ?    ?    0 .273   ?  .500    ?
1956  22    A.A.     AAA      OF       154  574  114  168   35   12   37  120   57  112   15 .293 .364 .589  .953

We’re getting into seriously difficult territory now. Any guesses on these two pitching prospects?

Pitcher No. 7

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1950  18  Ohio-Ind.    D       17  123    7    8  120    6   68   83 3.22 1.53
1951  19   Three-I     B       22  150    8   10  110    2  105  103 2.88 1.43
1952  20   Eastern     A       20  129    5    9  113    ?   63   85 3.49 1.36
1953  21    I.L.      AAA       3    5    0    0    6    ?    0    4 1.80 1.20
1953  21    S.A.      AA       34  158    5   12  151   13   66  124 4.56 1.37
1954  22    S.A.      AA       35  193   13   11  182   21   91  140 4.29 1.41
1955  23    I.L.      AAA      20  129    8    5  106   13   81  105 3.77 1.45
1956  24    A.A.      AAA      22  163    9   11  142    ?   56  144 3.53 1.21


Pitcher No. 8

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1951  20   Eastern     A       33  263   20    9  207    ?   53  173 2.16 0.99
1952  21    A.A.      AAA      20  160   11    4  143    ?   46  143 3.15 1.18
1953  22    A.A.      AAA      36  261   23    9  198   22   57  211 2.90 0.98

Here are a couple of fun ones. Who are these two minor league mashers?

Player No. 8

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1951  18   Calif.     C       OF        66  201   21   46    9    0    4   31   27   47    2 .229 .325 .333  .658
1952  19   Pioneer    C       OF       129  515  115  161   30    4   31  121   72   99    4 .313 .402 .567  .969
1953  20    (In Military Service)
1954  21    (In Military Service)
1955  22    S.A.     AA       OF        13   30    4    6    0    0    0    3    3   12    0 .200 .273 .200  .473
1955  22   Mexican   AA       OF         7   27    3    4    1    0    1    4    ?    ?    0 .148   ?  .296    ?
1955  22   Pioneer    C       OF       101  366   84  113   19    5   32  104   64  109    4 .309 .417 .650 1.067
1956  23   Western    A      OF-1B     141  523  131  156   25    3   66  158   88  171    4 .298 .406 .736 1.142
1957  24   P.C.L.   Open      OF        23   72    8   17    0    0    6   17   10   32    0 .236 .337 .486  .823
1957  24    S.A.     AA    OF-3B-1B     23   90   18   19    2    0    8   21   13   31    1 .211 .311 .500  .811
1957  24   Western    A      1B-OF      97  348   71   92   13    0   31   84   61  117    2 .264 .383 .569  .952
1958  25   P.C.L.    AAA      1B        80  315   61   98   14    1   31   82   36   76    0 .311 .380 .657 1.037


Player No. 9

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1977  19   Midwest    A       OF        22   53    9   10    4    0    0    3    8   23    1 .189 .302 .264  .566
1977  19   Pioneer   SA       OF        34  100   22   25    3    0    7   21   11   32    3 .250 .319 .490  .809
1978  20   Midwest    A       OF        13   35    2    5    2    1    0    4    1   14    1 .143 .167 .257  .424
1979  21  Southern   AA       OF        53  157   28   43    9    1    6   26   12   47    0 .274 .347 .459  .806
1979  21   Midwest    A       OF        35  120   18   31    3    1    2   12   15   46    0 .258 .341 .350  .691
1980  22   Midwest    A       OF        61  209   31   66   15    3   12   56   20   47    0 .316 .403 .589  .992
1980  22   Eastern   AA       OF        17   65   11   20    3    1    4    9    4   14    0 .308 .362 .569  .932
1981  23   Eastern   AA       OF       109  389   97  126   17    3   40  102   60  107    0 .324 .429 .692 1.120
1982  24   P.C.L.    AAA      OF       127  472  121  163   22   10   50  144   74  109    5 .345 .450 .752 1.202

This impressive young trio was in the same organization. Who are they?

Player No. 10

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1968  17  Northern    A       1B        57  212   22   55    5    0   13   43   18   64    3 .259 .335 .467  .802
1969  18  Carolina    A       1B       129  464   75  134   22    3   31   92   58  148    6 .289 .373 .550  .923
1970  19   Eastern   AA       1B       141  471   94  153   25    5   33  120   85  148    4 .325 .448 .609 1.057
1971  20   P.C.L.    AAA      1B       142  548  104  171   30    5   36  114   39  167    1 .312 .358 .582  .940


Player No. 11

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1969  18   Appal.  Rookie     1B        64  231   50   84   18    6   10   60   36   42   14 .364 .446 .623 1.069
1970  19  Carolina    A    OF-1B-3B    118  402   77  126   19    4   22   67   81   79   16 .313 .430 .545  .975
1971  20   P.C.L.    AAA      OF       134  482  111  161   28   10   36  100   83  108    8 .334 .428 .658 1.085
1972  21   P.C.L.    AAA     OF-1B      88  309   60   92   14    1   17   56   58   96    4 .298 .400 .515  .915


Player No. 12

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1971  21   Eastern   AA       SS        74  237   27   50    7    1    8   31   27   66    3 .211 .307 .350  .657
1972  22   P.C.L.    AAA   2B-3B-SS    131  436   80  127   23    6   26   91   87  145    6 .291 .418 .550  .969

And who are these three right-handed pitchers?

Pitcher No. 9

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1965  18  Fla. St.     A       25  175    8   15  148    3   69  108 2.98 1.24
1966  19   Calif.      A       22  159   11    6  120   15   43  152 2.77 1.03
1967  20  Southern    AA       18  102    6    5   75    1   36   61 2.21 1.09
1968  21  Southern    AA       18  108   10    4   94    8   28   93 3.00 1.13


Pitcher No. 10

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1970  18    G.C.    Rookie      3   16    0    0   11    1    4   21 2.81 0.94
1971  19   Midwest     A       25  187   18    2  141    9   50  149 1.83 1.02


Pitcher No. 11

Year  Age  League    Class      G   IP    W    L    H   HR   BB   SO  ERA WHIP
1972  17   Calif.      A       12   75    5    5   87    6   33   56 4.80 1.60
1973  18   Calif.      A       31  202   12    8  182   15   91  218 3.65 1.35
1974  19    Texas     AA       23  167   14    3  141   14   60  163 3.40 1.20

All right, our final test is the most difficult. If you can figure all these guys out, you are a true master.

At the conclusion of the 1964 season, would you be in favor of trading this guy:

Player No. 13

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1961  17    Soph.     D   OF-3B-2B-P   128  502  159  178   39    7   35  108  109   97   64 .355 .467 .669 1.136
1961  17  Northwest   B       OF         9   25    2    7    1    0    0    1    ?    ?    2 .280   ?  .320    ? 
1962  18   P.C.L.    AAA   OF-3B-1B    121  391   55   87   16    6   16   41   21   66   16 .223 .263 .417  .680
1963  19    Texas    AA      OF-3B     125  475  112  148   27    5   36   95   65   91   35 .312 .395 .617 1.012
1964  20   P.C.L.    AAA     OF-2B     132  464   70  134   18    3   12   54   64   81   40 .289 .366 .418  .784

… even-up for this guy?

Player No. 14

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1961  18  W. Carol.   D   C-1B-2B-OF    96  332   63  108   20    4    3   69   44   23   13 .325 .411 .437  .848
1962  19   Calif.     C      C-3B      106  314   51   99   21    2    2   32   45   34    5 .315 .401 .414  .815
1963  20  Northwest   A      C-OF       85  261   30   83   10    0    2   36   46   35    3 .318 .426 .379  .806
1963  20   P.C.L.    AAA       C         4    5    0    0    0    0    0    0    1    1    0 .000 .167 .000  .167
1964  21   P.C.L.    AAA  C-OF-1B-3B   125  406   71  125   20    6   23   83   66   71    1 .308 .407 .557  .964

And would it change your decision if you knew that in your organization, you already had this guy …

Player No. 15

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1959  17  Neb. St.    D        C        44  143   14   41    4    3    2   28   25   37    3 .287 .394 .399  .793
1960  18   Calif.     C        C        77  250   36   63    9    2    5   32   39   62    3 .252 .352 .364  .716
1961  19  Northwest   B        C       124  385   48  112   21    6    3   56   59   53    2 .291 .382 .400  .782
1962  20   Eastern    A        C       103  323   34   85   19    3    1   50   43   50    1 .263 .357 .350  .707
1963  21   P.C.L.    AAA       C       112  311   36   94   20    1    6   36   32   38    1 .302 .362 .431  .793
1964  22   P.C.L.    AAA       C       108  314   22   54    7    0    4   29   29   58    2 .172 .237 .232  .469

… as well as this guy …

Player No. 16

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1960  18    Soph.     D      C-OF       91  290   55   71   12    3   12   51   69  108    8 .245 .398 .431  .829
1960  18   Calif.     C        C        10   24    2    1    0    0    0    1    6   12    0 .042 .226 .042  .267
1961  19    Soph.     D      C-OF      109  328  106  109   21    6   24   95  159   89    6 .332 .554 .652 1.207
1962  20  Northwest   B   C-OF-2B-3B   118  339   49   99   15    3   14   68   66   67    2 .292 .409 .478  .887
1963  21    Texas    AA       OF       134  469  128  166   25    5   35  101   91   91    6 .354 .479 .652 1.131
1964  22   P.C.L.    AAA      OF       143  452   70  118   24    2   19   73   89   98    1 .261 .385 .449  .835

… and, for good measure, this guy, too?

Player No. 17

Year  Age  League   Class     Pos        G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1960  18   Appal.     D        C        44  153   32   41   10    3    3   15   21   34    0 .268 .352 .431  .784
1961  19   Calif.     C      C-OF       88  273   36   68   12    1    6   45   56   72    6 .249 .368 .366  .734
1962  20   Calif.     C     C-3B-OF    105  331   42   79   12    3    8   39   37   77    7 .239 .315 .366  .681
1963  21    Texas    AA      C-3B      115  379   66  123   30    3   23   81   35   66    2 .325 .378 .602  .979
1964  22   P.C.L.    AAA       C        21   62    6   16    4    0    2    8    5   14    0 .258 .304 .419  .724
1964  22    I.L.     AAA     C-OF      113  374   40   81   10    1   13   40   26   92    4 .217 .269 .353  .622

Answers

Player No. 1: Mickey Mantle

Player No. 2: Willie Mays

Player No. 3: Hank Aaron

All three, of course, went on to all-time great major league careers, after all three had simply dismantled their minor league competition. I’m not sure if Aaron was still batting cross-handed there in 1952, but he was still playing shortstop.

Pitcher No. 1: Herb Score

Pitcher No. 2: Nolan Ryan

Pitcher No. 3: Dwight Gooden

Pitcher No. 4: Roger Clemens

Some serious heat bein’ brung here. Score in particular is a guy I wouldn’t have wanted to dig in against.

The most amazing one is Clemens, simply because unlike the others, he was demonstrating masterful control from day one. Zero walks in 29 innings in the Florida State League, against 36 strikeouts? That’s just not fair.

Clemens was so damn good the Red Sox quickly decided to dispense with the whole minor league development thing, and just bring him up to the big leagues, the way the Giants had done with Mays. One can hardly blame them. But it’s awfully intriguing to imagine what kind of a stat line Clemens might have put up if he’d been given a full season in the minors.

Player No. 4: Pete Rose

Player No. 5: Rod Carew

Something quite interesting here is Carew’s rather high strikeout rate, with virtually no power and a high batting average. That’s a very unusual combination, and one that’s generally unsustainable. In the majors, Carew would continue to demonstrate the odd profile to a lesser extent, until he finally reduced the strikeouts and became a truly sensational high-average hitter.

Rose, on the other hand, was controlling the strike zone from the get-go. And was he a triples monster, or what?

Pitcher No. 5: Bob Gibson

Pitcher No. 6: Juan Marichal

Based on their minor league careers, one would have been hard-pressed to expect that they’d find similar success in the majors, indeed that Gibson would become the superior pitcher. Marichal dominated minor league hitters like few pitchers in history, while Gibson showed pretty good stuff but struggled with his control. One remarkable thing about Gibson is the degree to which he was preventing home runs in the minors; that was a far more impressive skill of his at that point than his capacity to strike hitters out.

Player No. 6: Roger Maris

Player No. 7: Willie Kirkland

Maris was clearly a very impressive, well-rounded young talent, but if you’d told me that one of these two guys would become a two-time MVP and a record-setting home run champ, my money would sure have been on Kirkland. He was in some hitters’ leagues, but still Kirkland was leading his leagues in all kinds of stuff, while Maris never led a minor league in anything.

Kirkland’s career turned out to be among the more disappointing in history: He played well in the majors for a few years, but never developed into the star it appeared he would, and then, at age 28, he suddenly collapsed into a journeyman.

Pitcher No. 7: Jim Bunning

Pitcher No. 8: Gene Conley

Betcha didn’t get these two, did ya?

Talk about your career twists and turns. Bunning meandered through the minor leagues for a long time, showing decent stuff but never performing among the best pitchers in any of his many leagues. Then, in his first full year in the majors, Bunning would suddenly break out as a major star, and remain one for the next decade.

Conley, on the other hand, just blew the minors away, destroyed them. His minor league stats closely rival Marichal’s for sheer all-around polished brilliance. Then, in the majors, after a solid rookie year, Conley turned out to be okay but nothing special, nothing close to a star.

Minor league statistics are very predictive of major league performance, but they are by no means infallible. And once in a while, they’re amazingly off the mark.

Player No. 8: Dick Stuart

Player No. 9: Ron Kittle

A couple of guys most assuredly not attending the “put-the-ball-in-play” school. Stuart, in particular, was about as one-dimensional as a player can be, but when that one dimension is home runs, at a rate like that, it would seem that eventually you find your way to the majors.

Player No. 10: Greg Luzinski

Player No. 11: Mike Anderson

Player No. 12: Mike Schmidt

Rarely in history has an organization had three, count ‘em three, young right-handed power prospects coming along all at the same time quite like these three.

The most impressive of the prodigies, all things considered, was Anderson. Weirdly, he was never able to translate his dominance of the minor leagues into major league success. Not only did Anderson never break through as the major league star it appeared he would, he was never even able to establish himself as a major league regular. He was an excellent defensive outfielder, but his status at the major league level rapidly deteriorated from can’t-miss-prospect to semi-regular to defensive replacement to gone.

Luzinski did make it as the major league star slugger he seemed destined to become. But the Phillies made the very odd decision to shift “The Bull” from first base to left field and leave him there, despite his incapacity to cover any ground at all. And Luzinski’s weight seemed to get the better of him as time went on; he wasn’t nearly the hitter past the age of 27 that he had been up to that point, and he was finished at 33.

Schmidt, of course, just became the greatest third baseman in the history of the sport, that’s all. But he was primarily a middle infielder in the minors, and it’s interesting to contemplate what sort of value Schmidt might have generated had he continued to play shortstop and/or second base through the heart of his major league career.

Pitcher No. 9: Rollie Fingers

Pitcher No. 10: Rich Gossage

Pitcher No. 11: Dennis Eckersley

It’s debatable whether the two of these fellows who are in the Hall of Fame ought to be, and/or whether the third should be too. But one incontestable point is that these are three of the greatest relief pitchers in major league history.

All three were starters in the minor leagues, and all three were hugely impressive in that role, as we see. Eckersley went on to forge a very good (though not great) career as a major league starter. That his teams continued to use him in the starting role until he clearly demonstrated he was no longer up to it, and only then moved him to the bullpen, is entirely sensible.

But the decisions to commit both Fingers and Gossage to relief specialist roles while still young major leaguers are highly questionable. Both thrived wonderfully in the bullpen, of course, and both were amazingly durable and resilient relievers. But those very attributes suggest that, given the proper opportunity, coaching and patient guidance (and that thrust upon Gossage in 1976 by the 67-year-old Paul Richards likely wasn’t it), both could have delivered outstanding major league starting careers, and produced even more value.

The bullpen is always there, ready and waiting, to welcome and comfort veteran starters, or those who demonstrably aren’t hacking it in the more demanding starting role. But the rush to commit a star-quality young pitcher to a bullpen career has never made sense to me.

Player No. 13: Jose Cardenal

Player No. 14: Jack Hiatt

Player No. 15: Bob Barton

Player No. 16: Dick Dietz

Player No. 17: Randy Hundley

Hiatt was a fine-looking catching prospect, no doubt about it. He’d hit .300 at every level, and drawn walks at a nice rate, and suddenly in AAA at age 21 shown good power as well. The fact that his organization (the Angels) kept fooling around with him at positions other than catcher might indicate that they weren’t thrilled with his defense behind the plate, but it might not; there are good reasons to move a young player around and try him at different positions even if he shows good aptitude at his primary spot.

But the concept of Hiatt as a better-looking overall prospect than Cardenal is hard to swallow. This kid Cardenal was amply demonstrating the kind of power-speed combination that one very rarely finds. The Giants themselves had been so dazzled by Cardenal that they jumped him all the way up to AAA at the age of 18. He proved to be not ready for that, but he then blew out AA, and when given another AAA shot at 20 Cardenal looked to be coming along just fine. Should the Giants have given up this guy before he was 21, in exchange for Hiatt?

The one obvious reason to do so would be positional need within the organization. Catchers are often in short supply; if the Giants needed a catcher, and especially if they were overloaded in the outfield, then Cardenal-for-Hiatt might be appropriate. But as we see here, the Giants already had three viable catching prospects at the AAA level.

Each had failings, for sure, but each also had something going for him:

- Barton didn’t impress much as a hitter (though his completely disastrous 1964 batting performance was likely a fluke, it reasonably had to alarm the Giants), but he seemed to be a fine defensive catcher.

- Dietz looked ready to be an outstanding major league offensive perfomer, but the fact that the organization had moved him from catcher to left field strongly indicated the unsatisfactory status of his catching defense.

- Hundley’s hitting had been up and down, but all the evidence we have from subsequent seasons clearly indicates that his quickness, alertness and throwing strength as a catcher were highly impressive.

None was an apparent star, but among the three it would certainly seem that the Giants had some useful talent coming along behind the plate. And it wasn’t exactly as though the team had an urgent need for catching help: At the major league level, the Giants already had an excellent young regular, in 27-year-old Tom Haller.

And while the Giants were obviously more than adequately served in center field with the veteran superstar Willie Mays, the five players who’d combined to fill the two outfield positions alongside Mays for the 1964 Giants had presented OPS+ figures of 108, 91, 77, 75 and 71. It wasn’t as though they had no room for improvement in the outfield.

It was a trade that simply didn’t make sense from the Giants’ standpoint, and it worked out dismally. Cardenal, given a chance to play with the Angels in 1965, immediately became a solid regular, and played in the major leagues though 1980. Hiatt, with little opportunity to play given the crowd of Giants behind the plate, didn’t make the majors to stay until 1967, and never became anything more than a utility player. Cardenal would earn 212 Win Shares in his major league career, while Hiatt earned 48.

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