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Throwing prospects into fire becoming the norm

Dodgers, Mets among teams wrestling with decisions on phenoms

Andrew Friedman says the Dodgers are wrestling with whether to fill their hole at shortstop externally or internally.

Allow me to interpret: When will top prospect Corey Seager be ready?

Let's discuss.

Here's the case against having Seager in the 2015 Opening Day lineup:
1. He's 20 years old.
2. He has played 38 games above Class A.

There's some risk there. Even though more and more organizations are challenging their best young players, clubs don't want to overwhelm them.

Every player is different. For instance, Mike Trout hit .220 in his first taste of the big leagues. Just a year later, he was well on his way to establishing himself as the best baseball player on the planet.

The Dodgers don't want to run a tryout camp. They believe they're good enough to win the World Series next season and don't want to be scrambling to find a shortstop on May 15. On the other hand, there's a solid case for throwing Seager right into the mix on Opening Day:
1. He's scary good.
2. He has passed every test.
3. See above.

Seager batted .345 after being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga this season. He got only a taste, 38 games in all, but seemed comfortable. Seager followed that up by hitting .345 in the Arizona Fall League and looked like a guy who'd be wasting everyone's time by being any place other than Dodger Stadium from the get-go in 2015.

Friedman, the Dodgers' new president of baseball operations, also knows that Seager could have an impact on his club beyond his play at shortstop. Veterans sometimes feed off the energy of young players' enthusiasm. They're reminded of how lucky they are to be playing in the big leagues.

The Dodgers have zero questions about Seager's emotional preparedness even though he's 2 1/2 years out of high school. For one thing, the environment is familiar. Two brothers, Kyle and Justin, are in pro ball and have taught him valuable lessons.

It's not a question of money. The Dodgers have money. It's simply a question of deciding if Seager is ready.

Friedman's first priority at the moment is to deal an outfielder or two, preferably for starting pitching help. He would like to upgrade other areas of the club, but after a 94-win season, the Dodgers are in a good place.

Other clubs are having similar discussions. The Mets would like a proven shortstop, but one of their top prospects, Matt Reynolds, could be ready to play there. So Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is wrestling with exactly the same kind of decision as Friedman.

Video: Top Prospects: Matt Reynolds, SS, Mets

If Alderson could acquire a proven guy to play there, he might trade one of his gifted young pitchers. But his four years in New York have been focused on acquiring young talent, and given the depth of his pitching staff, he might have a group that could lead the Mets back to the postseason in 2015.

The Twins have lower expectations, so their decision on two of baseball's top 10 prospects -- outfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano -- is when is the right time to promote them?

Video: Twins prospects prepare in the AFL

At one time, Opening Day 2015 seemed a realistic goal for both players, but injury-shortened 2014 seasons probably mean both will begin the new season in the Minors. But they may not be there long, and as Minnesota outlines a blueprint back to the postseason, Buxton and Sano are huge players.

The Giants are having similar discussions about two of their top pitching prospects, Kyle Crick and Ty Blach. San Francisco must shore up its rotation to contend in 2015, but does that mean bidding for Jon Lester or Max Scherzer?

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants

Or does it mean opening the door in Spring Training to letting young guys compete for spots?

It doesn't always work out. The Red Sox hoped that Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts were ready to become everyday players in 2014. Turns out they weren't, and Boston lost 91 games.

Perhaps more than ever before, young players are the currency of baseball. Those old timetables have been torn up as teams have watched Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Sonny Gray, Andrelton Simmons and others get fast-tracked to the big leagues.

Almost every club has a young player or two being discussed. Are they ready? Will they be ready at midseason?

In this way, the game has changed from a time when only the best of the best -- Willie Mays, Frank Robinson -- were rushed to the big leagues.

Teams now have learned that guys who have talent can figure things out at the highest level rather than go through the traditional progression. This has added a new area of discussion for fans as they consider free agency, trades, etc., in seeing their teams be constructed.

It's a new way of looking at things, and it's here to stay.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
Read More: Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Ty Blach, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Matt Reynolds, Corey Seager, Kyle Crick