Below you will find a little info on how many games it takes to fully train a player at each position. Below that is an article on player development that is worth reading (especially for new owners).
1B = 100 games
2B,SS & 3B = 200 games
Any Outfield = 150 games
C = 300 games
Topic: Rookie Development
Author(s): Matt Ledford
Disclaimer: In no way do I claim to be an expert or have all the answers. The tips and techniques stated here were developed through much practice, trial & error, & through running test sims and watching closely how prospects react to different situations & developmental techniques.
Let’s start with a basic concept:
Like riding a bike for the first time, if you think you can just jump on and go, then enter a BMX rally 3 days later, think again. You need to develop and perfect your skills first, no matter how much natural talent you have. The same applies for baseball players in High Heat. Too often, players are rushed through the minors, only to “flop” or never live up to their full potential at the ML level. Players need time to develop their skills. You cannot rush them, nor can you leave them too long in the minors. Either can have a devastating effect on their ability.
Let’s look at age first:
Rookies, brand-new players in A-Ball that are generated by the game range in age from 18 – 21 with the average being 19. The average player reaches his prime around the age of 27. His best years in the majors will be from the ages of 26 – 32. So we want our prospect coming up to the bigs around age 24 or 25. This way he’ll get a year or 2 of experience at ML level just before he reaches his prime. Having that experience when he hits his prime will be very beneficial.
Now let’s look at development time:
To properly develop a player he should have no less than 4 years in the minors, and no more than 6. One year at rookie ball, 2 at AA, and 2 at AAA are the norm.
Now lets take 5 years as the average amount of time in the minors, and 19 as the average age a rookie is when he starts out. This will put him in the majors at 24, which is an ideal age to hit the bigs. Take a 21 year old rookie with the average development time, and he’s already 26 when he gets to the ML level. This is not bad, but not as good as getting him there at 24. An 18 year old rookie hits the bigs at 23, which is not bad either.
Therefore, you can see the development stage shouldn’t change much from the 5 years in the minors rule. Although with the 21 year old rookie, it is ok to start him at A ball, and then move him to AA half way through his first season. He’ll then get to AAA at 23, and the majors at 25, rather than 26. This brings him closer to the ideal age of 24. The 18 year old on the other hand, is better off spending his first year entirely at A-Ball. He’ll hit the majors at 23 likely, but could get there at 24 if you decide to give him an extra year at AAA. This is not bad either, remember, 4 – 6 years in the minors.
Now, let’s take a 19-year-old rookie 1B. You like this guy because his numbers indicate he’ll hit .310 and belt about 40 homers a season. He’s brand new in your system with no past history. This is where the first temptation to rush the guy kicks in. A lot people think to themself, “it’s ok to skip rookie ball and start him at AA, it won’t hurt his development”. This is the WRONG way to think. It will hurt his development. The first year is very important. He develops his confidence and basic game fundamentals, so if you start him at a higher level, and he doesn’t hit well against the tougher pitchers, or makes a lot of fielding errors, then he won’t build confidence. He needs, at the very least a half season at A-Ball. Skip this time, and you take a chance on him not reaching full potential.
OK, so we leave the guy at rookie ball for the full season. Next season, we move him up to AA. He spends 2 years there, then gets bumped to AAA. You look at his history after each year and see how he’s improving at the plate and in the field. This guy is right on track you figure, he’s now been in your minors for 4 years and is on his last season at AAA. Here comes the temptation again to bring him up a year early, because he’s having a great 2nd season at AAA. He’s hitting .350 with 30 homers by the all-star break. You think to yourself, “I have to bring him up, he’s being held back at AAA”. This is WRONG thinking again. That last year is critical, it gives a final boost to his confidence, and, like real baseball, he goes to spring training the next year pumped, knowing he has a very good shot at making the big club.
Now, having done all this, there is one thing you can do in his final year at AAA that won’t hurt him if you are careful. Let’s say the big league club is out of the pennant race and fluttering around .500. It’s Aug 30th and you’re already planning for next year, thinking about the draft, etc etc. Bring the kid up for 1 or 2 sims, give him a taste of the bigs. Don’t put him in as a starter, just bring him up and let him come off the bench for the first sim, then insert him in the line-up for the second sim. Then bring him back down to AAA for the remainder of the season. This little bit of experience doesn’t hurt, and can help. It also doesn’t give him enough time to count towards FA eligibility, so you lost nothing there. Just don’t keep him up any longer than 3 sims. Remember, your big league club is out of the race, he’s not going to make the difference now, but if you develop him properly, he’s going to make a big difference in the years to come.
OK, that guy gets to the majors at age 24, perfect.
Now, what about the 21 year old rookie? Well, the scenario doesn’t change very much. The difference here is, in his first year, around mid season, just after the all-star break, you move him up to AA. He’s got enough time at rookie ball to build some confidence, so moving him up won’t be detrimental. Now he finishes his first season with a half season experience at AA. He’s 22 when he starts his second season at AA. 23 when he starts AAA, and 25 when he moves to the big club. Still a good age, will still have some experience under his belt when he reaches his prime.
Development & Experience, these are 2 key requirements. I can’t stress that enough. Rush a guy and ruin him, leave him down too long and he becomes stagnate.
Now, I’ve seen many cases, and tried it in my tests, bringing a guy with 40 HR potential up early, say after he’s had 2 years in the minors, and seen him hit 40 home runs for a season or 2. But then when he should be hitting his prime, he’s burnt out because he was brought up at 21. I’ve seen owners take a guy with 40 hr potential and start him at AAA, or move him there after 1 month at rookie ball. I have seen the odd case where it didn’t effect the guy, but that was very rare. I recommend you don’t take the chance. Too many owners are too impatient; they want that 40 hr guy or that 25 game winner with 300 strike out potential on their big league team right away. Too many guys want to win now, and at any cost.
My view on that is, it’s wrong for the game, and it definitely hurts a league. Why you ask? Well, right now, when we start out we have the Griffey’s, & A-Rod’s, & Randy’s, & Pedro’s. Eventually, those guys are going to get old and retire. We need guys with the same potential coming along to replace them, so a league always has some super stars. I like a league with Griffey’s and Pedro’s, I enjoy watching them set records. It is one of the things that make a league exciting. If we rush the next generation of super stars and they burn out when they should be hitting their prime, eventually we don’t have any super stars in our league anymore. Remember, in a league, over the course of a real year, you go through about 5 seasons game time. If Pedro is 30 when you start your league, he’s 35 and starting to decline after one real year. When Pedro starts to decline, I certainly hope the next Pedro is just starting to reach his prime. Then there is a smooth transition and your league has another super-star. This is a wonderful game, and it’s fun to watch the Pedro’s and A-Rod’s, even when they’re not on your team. These guys make the game great & exciting, we need them to keep coming along.
Here are some other things you can consider doing.
With an older rookie, it’s possible to give him less time at the lower echelons of your farm system. I don’t recommend this be done too often, but for the older guy, it’s OK. 1 full year at A-Ball, 1 full year at AA, and 2 at AAA. This puts a 21 year old rookie in the majors at 25. I said earlier a player should reach the majors around 24 or 25 yrs old, with 24 being ideal. 23 & 26 are acceptable, but are the extremes. If you plan carefully, you can get any player to the ML level at 24 or 25 and still give them proper development time in your minor league system.
Now here is something I strongly recommend you do. Teach a player at least one more position, and 2 if you have the full 5 years to work with. Take a guy who is a natural 2B, play him there his first year. In his second year, play him at SS. Let him be your starting SS for 2 seasons. What do I do with my regular SS you ask? Play him at second. Both players develop skills at 2 positions. In the 3rd and 4th years of development, alternate them, one year at natural position, one year at the new position. When they get to the ML club, you now have a player that can play an even bigger role for you. The list of interchangeable positions that I use goes like this.
1B – 3B – LF
2B – SS
3B – 1B – C
SS – 2B
C – 3B – RF
Outfield – Outfield (Should spend a year at each outfield position) However, a slow guy, a guy with little outfield range, or a guy with a wet noodle for an arm is only useful in LF. Your CF and RF need speed and range, plus a strong arm.
These are basic development guides to the positions a player should be able to learn. You can try your own as well. Remember, the more talents and abilities a player has, the more valuable he is to your big league club.
Don’t hesitate to develop your bench players either, they play a very important role on your club. If I have an outfielder that can only hit around .250, but has very good hands and great speed, I’ll teach him every outfield position and 1B while he’s in the minors. When he gets to the big leagues he won’t impress anybody with his hitting, but he will be invaluable off the bench as a pinch-runner or defensive substitution in close games. Many owners look at a guys numbers and make their decision then and there if a guy is good or not. Something I always do is look at player’s strengths & weaknesses, then determine if he can fill a role on my team.
To me, a baseball team is made up of role players. A player that hits .265 and can play any outfield position, plus has speed and good hands, is just as valuable to me as my 40 hr, .315 BA, clean-up hitter. They both play an important role on my team. I honestly don’t believe any team can win a world series with just 9 solid starters and a bunch of tag alongs. If you don’t have those bench players developed properly, you won’t win.
Well, that covers the basics of developing your players properly, I hope that this guide helps you in some small way, or that some of my tips are helpful to you in developing your own system. Should you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to pass them along.