These struggling rookies can still become stars

Byron Buxton has hit .220 with 12 homers in 138 games over two seasons with the Twins. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

We've all been there: Your favorite team encounters tough times and your focus turns from the misfortunes of the big club to that group of "can't miss" prospects down on the farm.

For me, when I was young, it was the early 1970s Philadelphia Phillies. In 1971, they finished last in the NL East, 4½ games behind a third-year expansion team from Montreal that had lost 110 games its first season. Instead of focusing on the travails of Joe Lis and Bobby Pfeil, I read the newspaper references to youngsters such as Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Mike Anderson and dreamed of better days to come.

Trouble is, those guys don't always pan out (see also, Mike Anderson). Even among those who go on to have successful major league careers, the payoff at the major league level isn't always immediate. Hall of Famer Schmidt had a cup of coffee in the bigs in '72, and then batted .196 in his first full year as a regular in 1973 before lifting off from there.

Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of young prospects who have not paid immediate dividends. These range from high-end prospects such as Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo and Orlando Arcia, to accomplished Cuban veteran Yulieski Gurriel, to under-the-radar breakthrough Mallex Smith. Ultimately, their ability to handle adversity and make the necessary adjustments under the glare of MLB-level pressure will determine their respective places in the game.

But what do the numbers tell us? Looking at some granular ball-in-play data for these players, let's compare some of those markers to some current upper-end major leaguers who struggled at first before rising to their current station in the game.