Q. If a hitter is a solid-average player at 21, in full-season A or high A, is he a plus prospect?
A. The rule of thumb is that a glory pheenom, let's say Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin, should be a MOTO in A+ at 20.
But MLB engines don't run on the fuel of superstar prospects, any more than your roto team runs on the fuel of Albert Pujolses and Jon Lesters. Your roto team is concerned with the rank-and-file. So are MLB teams concerned with non-Smoak minor leaguers. The Smoak scenarios play themselves.
Don't get too used to the career arcs that apply to the very best prospects in baseball. It's not like you have to be a freak to have a good shot.
If a player is real good at 21 in the low minors, he certainly is on the radar. He's well on pace, at that moment, to be an ML regular if he continues to progress.
Rivers wasn't old at all to lead his league in OPS. He did not put up a Dustin Ackley season, but he put up a Legit Prospect season.
Q. Does it count against him that he had such a retarded high school and college career?
A. Sure it does. It's case closed, we'd say, that Rivers is not gifted physically. Not like a Nick Franklin is gifted physically.
There are plenty of freaks roaming pro sports, real freaks, and Rivers ain't one of 'em.
Non-freaks can do well also. Edgar wasn't a freak.
Retarded in the literal sense of the word, not the pejorative sense. But apply your own interpretation. ;- )
As we'll note later, his small-college background actually provides a very convincing explanation for why he didn't mash earlier than he did. On the face of it, it looks like his swing was well-and-truly fouled up before the Mariners got ahold of it. And that once he started using a pro swing, he immediately assumed his role as a thumper.
It's possible, at least.
Q. Just for fun, can you name some late-bloomers du jour? Players who were nowhere at 20 or 21?
A. Aaron Hill was drafted high, was more physically gifted than a Rivers type, but his progress was not at all special. At 21 in A+, he hit zero (0) homers. He wasn't terrible, but you could argue that Rivers was as good as Hill when both were 21.
Hill OPS+'ed 84 at age 26 in the bigs, but hit 34 homers the next season.
Some hitters don't show their quality until later.
Mark Reynolds had a pretty poor year, if you ask me, at age 21 in full-season (not high) A. He had 107 strikeouts, only 37 walks, and the slash line was .250/.320/.455. Probably Rivers was at least as good a hitter at 21 as Reynolds was at 21.