The further we get from the '20 season, the greater our understanding of shifts in organizational developmental practices become (I suppose theory does, as well); it however also leaves us in a situation where mum is the word in regard to those same developments, in the name of maintaining competitive advantage in a shifting game state. As a result, we're not likely to get a complete picture any time soon, if ever; that doesn't mean that we can't speculate!
Consider this more of a "community post" than an article, in that there won't be a ton of numbers and it won't be tremendously formatted (let's keep it casual); recent trends have been interesting to say the least and I've been doing more digging than I'd care to admit in efforts to get a better idea of what's going on (particularly in the position player development domain). I'm curious to hear opinions, but to get where I'm trying to go I'll first need to explain a way that I've been trying to categorize prospect profiles to see whose approach is potentially sustainable (obviously a ton of subjectivity to be had there, so feel free to tell me I'm silly).
There are some clear archetypes that are pursued, as we already know that fast (or athletic in general) and intelligent players are particularly prized, and there is some willingness to bet on a high level of game sense; however, what is the contribution of intangibles to the overall profile and where are the intersections with observable traits? Which of those intersections can be most easily adjusted through mechanical/approach tweaks?
To start with, in an attempt to see what "raw" areas players excel in we separate into three attributes: a physical component, a mental component, and an instinctive (or more appropriately, intuitive) component, with each attribute broken up further. The physical component is easy enough, it's arm strength, raw power, and speed (and you could argue for body coordination or general athleticism to be in there). All things that are easy to dream on, and all of which contribute heavily to the player's ceiling. These are all objective and observable realities, but what about the mental component?
Here we break up into another three, this time into aggression, discipline, and situational awareness. It might seem odd to have aggression and discipline separated, but knowing when to hold back and knowing when to go all out are both valuable traits. All three are observable in every phase of the game to some degree with some tendency to permeate across batting/fielding (it's anecdotal, but it seems like everyone with a strong arm tends to be aggressive at the plate), although not all are generally observed to the same degree; all three are closely entwined to build the approach, and thus have an (arguably large) effect on the sustainability of the individual offensive/defensive profiles in conjunction with the instinctive (or intuitive) component. And speaking of that...
It should be no surprise that we have another three, but this time it's consisting of bat control, timing, and pitch recognition (or something more akin to spin recognition, or trajectory recognition; it's just some form of identification); these are all things we'd generally consider as the Hit tool, and I'll explain the absence of that (and other suspicious omissions) momentarily.
All three qualities (or four if we consider athleticism as a separate one) of each attribute are expected to be present at a decent balance for "unique" profiles to be considered capable of producing results, and the same expectation applies to the balance of the: physical, mental, and intuitive attributes. The individual approach and mechanics both exist as means to effectively access/utilize the individual traits that are already present and minimize negatives.
Assuming those last two statements are true (very hypothetical, but stick with me), is it possible that one or two overwhelming qualities in one attribute are capable of offsetting deficiencies in that same attribute provided that there isn't a complete absence of the other qualities and they are all effectively balanced/utilized with efficient mechanics/approach (with the same also being true to an extent for the blend of attributes)? I'd argue yes to an extent, and that extent is provided that everything continues to work in concert and there is little degradation to the relatively poor profile components.
This also makes it much easier for things to fall out of wack due to the lack of overall balance, but it feels like it does go a little way toward explaining why somebody like Javier Baez (with enough arm strength, raw power, speed, athleticism, aggression, situational awareness, and timing to compensate for clearly lacking bat control, pitch recognition, and discipline after considering his offensive/defensive mechanics/approach) could sustain his "unique" profile for so long and why his value just absolutely crumbled at the slightest shift in it.
Now is about as good a time as any to circle back to omissions of traditionally considered tools like Hit, Game Power, and Fielding, which are simply considered later than the others because they look to be combinations of the prior listed in some form or fashion (more akin to results than parts of the process). Hitting would be considered to be the interplay of: bat control, recognition, timing, speed, aggression, discipline, and situational awareness. Game Power would be the interplay of all those qualities and raw power. Fielding requires looser interpretations, but it would look most like the combination of: arm strength, speed, situational awareness, aggression, discipline, timing, and recognition (identification).
If you're buying into that methodology, it also raises questions about where do baserunning and bunts fit into all of this? Baserunning would seem to be something akin to the qualities for Fielding minus arm strength, and bunts are arguably all of the same qualities as Hitting (but with much less emphasis on bat control and more emphasis on the overall approach).
Another question raised is in regard to the approach; is it possible that the organizational focus on working the opposing pitch count as high as possible had unintended consequences for "unique" profiles built around frequent swings and without the aggression to support said profile?
Sorry, have to leave you with one last (familiar) question; to what extent do individual approaches/mechanics have an effect on these qualities and where can the intersections of them be most impacted? I'm not sure that I have a much clearer answer as to how the organization itself evaluates talent, but if they are inclined to view individual profiles more holistically and make less sweeping shifts, they are in a position to make the most of those intelligent individuals that they desired.
P.S. sorry for the poor quality and rampant speculation; this idea spawned while deep diving on the potential sustainability of one particular prospect's individual profile (including a brief mechanical analysis, and I'm trying to find stats suggestive of intangibles to a degree across any given player; that's going about as well as you would imagine), but it got entirely too long and I wanted opinions on how crazy I am, and to see if there's any interest in an analysis of that prospect under these sets of assumptions. I really just needed a brain dump and I greatly anticipate the imminent tar and feathers.