Player development can be a tricky thing once you reach the highest level. Particularly for a team perennially contending for a playoff spot and more, it is difficult to find the appropriate leeway for prospects looking to establish themselves;
The early success of one youngster may cause a distortion in terms of what fans can expect out of a prospect in his early days in the majors, regardless of his pedigree and minor league success.
The Dodgers have shown themselves more than apt enough not to burn through young talent completely. With that being said, 2023 saw them relying on the farm way more than in previous campaigns.
Still, even as a boatload of prospects received real opportunities, the leeway to struggle and adapt wasn’t that big, not with the team in the middle of a playoff push.
All of this is an introduction to elaborate on a couple of young players, neither of whom received much of a sample size in the bigs, after not doing all that well with the chances they did receive. We’re talking about Michael Busch and Gavin Stone.
Michael Busch received 81 plate appearances in the majors, spanning across multiple call-ups. Gavin Stone pitched a total of 31 innings, across four starts and eight appearances.
Neither of those are particularly meaningful samples, yet the feeling of a failed mission is there, at least it was with me when thinking about these two.
Maybe this is the direct result of seeing other names, such as James Outman and Bobby Miller, absolutely flourish from the get-go. Both finished the season well-established as major pieces of this team moving forward.
Perhaps it is just that both Busch and Stone did rather poorly in the playing time they received.
Whatever it was, the point is that we mustn’t be too hard on them. It is perfectly normal for talented youngsters, no matter their prospect ranking coming up, to struggle in their first cup of tea.
Look no further than Gavin Lux. The Dodgers’ top prospect across a few years back, it took a long time for him to truly find his footing, and I’d venture a guess we’ve yet to see his best version. May he be healthy and rearing to go in 2024.
Their year in the bigs weren’t all that great, but both Busch and Stone absolutely looked the part in the much bigger sample they had in Triple-A.
Busch absolutely torched through Triple-A pitching, slugging a whopping .618 in OKC, homering 27 times in fewer than 300 at-bats, and won Pacific Coast League MVP.
Stone’s numbers with Oklahoma City weren’t that great, but after getting sent down in early July, across four outings from July, he had a 2.53 ERA and 31.4-percent strikeout rate over his final 10 Triple-A starts.
No matter what the Dodgers end up doing in this off-season, both Stone and Busch will see plenty of opportunities in 2024. There aren’t many exciting options for second base, and Busch could see time at third base or designated hitter. And we know the adage that one can’t ever have too much pitching,
It’s important to look at the whole picture. These guys hardly failed, given the amount of leeway they got. It was more of an early bump on the road. The recent production in the minors matched with their prospect evaluations. Well, it creates a very promising picture.
Patience is key. Maybe they won’t get a full season’s worth of struggles to figure things out, but Busch and Stone still deserve every opportunity to claim their roles, as integral parts of this team.