The moral of this story? The guys you ask about for Inbox now could be playing for a World Series ring in the future.
Pearson certainly had an encouraging pro debut this summer. Check out the video above for my answer.
As luck would have it, I just talked to Phillies farm director Joe Jordan for some Phillies instructs news. Following the summer in the short-season New York-Penn League the Phillies' No. 19 prospect (don't worry, he's going to move up in 2018) had, we of course had to discuss Ortiz.
Ortiz turned in an All-Star season for Williamsport, finishing with a .302/.401/.560 line. To say he improved his production from his .231/.325/.434 pro debut in the Gulf Coast League would be a bit of an understatement. As Jordan said, "This guy came 1,000 miles forward this year." He cut his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate, always a good sign. And he doesn't turn 19 until November.
Obviously, the Phillies felt Ortiz was capable of this. That's why they gave him $4 million to sign in July 2015. Considering they had him make his pro debut stateside, instead of sending him to the Dominican Summer League first, it's impressive how far he's come already. The raw power was always evident, but he's shown a better hit tool than many anticipated, doing things like going the other way with two strikes, the kind of approach that often doesn't come until much later, if at all.
He's also more athletic than many thought. Ortiz has slimmed down considerably, and while many thought he'd be a first baseman only, the Phillies' decision to put him in a corner outfield spot is looking more and more like a good one. They feel he has more offensive upside than anyone in their system and I think that what he did this summer is just a preview of what's to come.
There certainly are some extremely talented sons of former big leaguers on prospect lists now, aren't there? Just look at the Blue Jays' system, where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette (sons of Vlad Sr. and Dante) are considered two of the better hitting prospects in all of baseball.
To answer your question, I think it's a combination of the two. Scouts will always talk about MLB families. Overstating the obvious, a good gene pool is a bonus. Physical traits can be passed down from parent to son and can impact the ability to play the game. Size, strength and speed are the easy examples, but I also think things like hand-eye coordination can be genealogical heirlooms.
But the line between nature and nurture gets pretty blurry. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that "growing up around the game" augments whatever physical attributes are handed down. That allows players to be more comfortable and know what to expect when they enter the pro game, but it also affords them the opportunity for more advanced instruction and guidance. It's obviously not a guarantee of success, but the next generation players do seem to have a better chance as a result.
As for the $1 bet question, I'm curious. Am I Mortimer or Randolph Duke in this scenario?
The simple answer is: It depends on the pitching prospect. But I'll elaborate.
There are some pitchers who you just know are relievers. Maybe they don't have the secondary stuff (i.e. a third pitch), the command or both to start. Maybe they don't have the body type that will hold up over the course of trying to log 180 or more innings in a year. Some, especially from the college ranks, were already turned into relievers and the role suits them, sort of an "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" scenario.
In general, though, I think pitchers should be given the chance to start first. There are the obvious exceptions from the groups above, and typically you can get a pitcher to the big leagues more quickly (need at the Major League level is always a contributing factor, especially as the pitcher gets close to helping out.), but if you talk to most player development folks, they'll talk about how hard it is to develop a true, reliable starting pitcher. Given a choice, most would allow someone to work as a starter in the Minors at least until they show they can't do it at the upper levels.
There are a couple of reasons why this is a good idea. One, you never know when someone will surprise you. Many felt Lance McCullers Jr. was a future reliever because of the effort in his delivery, command issues and power stuff. Maybe he's not the best example because he's had some injuries and arm fatigue, but he was an All-Star this year. Hey, some scouts even thought Max Scherzer would end up in a bullpen because of his delivery and we've seen how that turned out.
But even if a pitcher never makes it as a starter, getting stretched out, working on all of your stuff and pitching against a lineup more than once in an outing, all of it makes you a better pitcher. So even if eventually a guy gets shortened up, the lessons learned when taking the ball every fifth day undoubtedly help. So I say exhaust every possibility to make a guy a starter, then shorten them up if there's a need or it's clear the prospect isn't going to stick in the big leagues as a starter.
The best example I can think of right now is Archie Bradley of the D-backs. Now, truthfully, no one saw him as a future reliever when he was drafted, but he never quite got over the hump as a starter. But after competing for a spot in the rotation this spring, the D-backs had a need in the bullpen, and Bradley took advantage of the opportunity, becoming one of the best setup men in baseball.