Gleeman: Albert Pujols, from 0 to 600

From SABR member Aaron Gleeman at Baseball Prospectus on June 7, 2017:

As a teenager, I took an annual trip to Arizona with my uncle to watch baseball. It started with going to spring training in March, but later we opted for the Arizona Fall League in November and I came to enjoy those trips even more. There were rarely more than a few hundred people in the stands, and the game results themselves mattered little; it was all about prospects furthering their development. As a young baseball fan who had begun down the path to baseball obsessive, I spent weeks before every trip reading up on prospects so that I’d know who to look for, and could impress my uncle with tidbits about players.

Our last trip to Arizona was in 2000. I was 17 years old and had started reading Baseball Prospectus, Rob Neyer, Baseball America, and old-school Bill James, so I was fully prepared for serious prospect spotting. Three times during our week-long stay we saw Albert Pujols‘ team. We sat a couple of rows behind the first-base dugout, which gave us an excellent view of the 20-year-old third baseman. I remember my uncle immediately making note of how huge Pujols was for the position. I dumped my prospect notebook, telling him that Pujols was a former 13th-round pick who crushed Single-A to get on the prospect map.

That was the extent of my knowledge. Pujols was a good prospect at the time—Baseball America ranked him as the Cardinals’ second-best, behind left-hander Bud Smith, and later included him on their annual top-100 list—but because he’d played just a handful of games above Single-A, one year removed from being a mid-round draft pick, the hype train hadn’t left the station yet. Right-hander Chad Hutchinson, the Cardinals’ third-ranked prospect, started for Pujols’ team in one of the three games we saw, and that was a big deal at the time. He was 24, with a huge signing bonus and a mid-90s fastball. He also got rocked.

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Originally published: June 7, 2017. Last Updated: June 7, 2017.