Baseball America has an excellent discussion page up. An excerpt:
Brandon F (Poulsbo, WA): Ackley, Zunino, Peterson ... I think it's fair to say these guys were drafted where they were expected to go. It's not like the M's reached on them. So I'm wondering is this just a run of bad luck or can a team's deficiencies in player development really have that dramatic of a negative impact?
John Manuel: Great question. I think it’s a different answer on all three. With Ackley, I was incredibly high on him out of college. I always thought he just should go out as an outfielder or first baseman, even without profile power. I’ve read a lot of opinions on Ackley over the years ; I hope the shift away from Safeco gives us a better read on his bat. Yankee Stadium certainly should play to his favor if he can carve out playing time. Zunino was rushed to the majors; catching is hard and I think Seattle made things harder on him by putting so much on his shoulders. But he also struggled with breaking balls in college and wasn’t a dominant hitter. I thought he’d be a .250-.260 hitter with 15-20 homers and tremendous intangibles, but his inability to control the strike zone has kept him from reaching that ceiling. Peterson … he’s just not as strong as he was earlier in his career, and he was a strength-based hitter, not a guy with tremendous whip or bat speed. If you have a strength-based approach and then lose strength, you’re in trouble. We have some reports of work ethic issues as well that have to be disappointing to the organization and his old college coach Ray Birmingham at New Mexico.
In other words, Mr. Manuel (through no fault of his own) has no idea what would be wrong with the draft picks, or why they didn't pan out. He cheerfully admits that he too would have drafted Ackley and Zunino and run with them.
You can say "the M's should have helped them develop better," but ... if we were wrong, how would we know?
The whole Player Development thing reminds me of the debates of yesteryear. Steve Carlton would go 27-10, 1.97 one year but 13-20, 3.90 the next. Johnny Bench would hit .293 with 148 RBI one year but .238 with 61 RBI the next (actual stats, and in the same number of games). WHAT DOES THIS GUY NEED TO FIX THIS WINTER? People would tear their hair out wondering what should be done.
It's the future, and we now know that nothing could have been done. Ironically, they had to try. And tragically, they had absolutely no way to know it wasn't their fault.
Well, you say, ERA and AVG turned out to be luck-driven. But! The same is true in the amateur draft. The #4 overall draft slot returns an X% chance of an ML star, I think about 25%, whoever is drafting there. If some club bats 2-for-2 in a decade at that slot, we've still got noise. They're as likely as anybody to go 0-for-2 next decade at that slot.
It's not ALL luck. :- ) I tried real estate, and don't believe for a second that Donald Trump is richer than me purely because he caught that one break that one time. But how differently our lives might have turned out if that one elevator door had closed a moment sooner that day.
For all his confident veneer, Jerry DiPoto has got to be a bit white-knuckle going into his "rookie" year as a GM-in-total-command. If I were him, I'd be blowing hardest on the dice before I threw them on James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Leonys Martin and Steve Cishek. You get smooth performance from 3 of those 4 guys, you're going to look like a tree full of owls.
"Time and chance happeneth to every man." It is part of our lot in life that we live under the domination of dice rolls. Jack Zduriencik benefitted hugely from the dice landing 7's on Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. He reaped massive rewards from it, became rich and famous because Weeks, Braun and Fielder turned out to be stars. He detrimented hugely from the dice landing 2's on Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. The NFL may be a little different, but the luck factor in baseball is proven.
Your life and mine are no different. :- ) This is the travail, that we have been given to deal with.