It's easy to be overwhelmed by a prospect's potential. Maybe his swing is so natural, hitting looks easy. Perhaps you're in desperate need of a reason to feel excited about your team, and the young players coming up are all that inspires you.
The guy can hit. Or he can pitch. Great.
A Major League scout recently told me that, when a team asks for his reports, one of the first things they want to know is where a player is at mentally. Does he have psychological issues that could hurt his chances and, ultimately, hurt the team that's investing in him?
A young player with tremendous natural talent in one area might have you impatiently tapping your toes: When's he getting his shot? He's ready!
Maturity is often used in baseball terms, but it's so deeply important in the development of any player. He might get there, but staying there is the tough part.
The dilemma for a team must be extraordinary. A player that has clear talent, but a history of emotional, legal or family troubles, is a risk for them both in the short and long term. To invest in a player with those issues, likely will require some extra effort on their part.
One young player who made it to the Majors, only to go back down again, had such trouble keeping in line that his father was asked to travel with the team. He followed the bus in his car. It turns out, the extra effort didn't quite pay off.
Baseball folks talk about Yankees pitcher (reliever, starter...) Joba Chamberlain's lack of maturity. And how impressive Blue Jays minor leaguer Kyle Drabek's maturity is. When Curt Schilling was young, he was considered a goof off. That worked itself out. Regardless of how you feel about some of Schilling's other tendencies, he learned what he needed to have longevity. He (don't gasp) had the benefit of maturity.
Phillies reliever Ryan Madson told me that when he was at Triple-A Scranton (formerly a Phillies affiliate), he knew mentally that he required more time at that level. And not because he was lacking maturity or harbored any fear.
"It took awhile for me to have the strength to handle that kind of pressure."
He knew instinctively what he needed to do and he executed. His quest to get to the Majors involved knowing what he was good at and what he needed to have to be successful.
Oh, the...relief in a team obtaining a young player with that kind of nature. Half the battle is already won.
When you see a spectacular player on the field, it's easy to see the future of your team. The ones with the natural talent, those are the guys that'll give you a start. There's a moment, sometimes, where you see someone and you know you're watching something special.
But he has to know it too. He has to respect his opportunity.
Otherwise, his dad's trailing behind the bus.
And there's no guarantee that's going to work.