For all but a few rare prospects, every player has ups and downs developing. Baseball is a difficult game that requires consistent adjustments, and asking 17- to 23-year-old players to make them on the fly is asking a lot.
And while teams are (mostly) patient, many prospects face a make-or-break season, a season where we find out if that player is going to make those adjustments and contribute to a big league roster, or find the flaws too much to overcome.
"Giving up on a prospect is one of the hardest things to do," said an AL front-office member. "We spend so much time with these players, sometimes we refuse to move these players in trades, and we want these kids to succeed. Sooner or later, however, we have to see them make the necessary adjustments, and if they can't, we have to move on. It's a lot easier said than done, but it has to happen."
Here's a look at five prospects who are facing make-or-break seasons in 2017, with help from two scouts who saw these players in action in 2016.
D.J. Peterson, 1B, Seattle Mariners
2016: Ranked No. 5 in Keith Law's Mariners Top 10
The Mariners took Peterson in the middle of the first round in 2013, and many thought that because of his advanced offensive profile he'd rise quickly through the Seattle system. After a strong 2014 season, however, Peterson has regressed, and he no longer appears to be the future at first base in Seattle.
"I think the approach has caught up to him," an NL Central scout said. "At the lower levels he could take advantage of the mistakes because of natural talent. At the higher levels, teams can exploit the lack of patience and are willing to throw secondary stuff early in counts. If he doesn't make adjustments, he's going to be no more than a bench bat. It's too bad, because he looked like a middle-of-the-order hitter not too long ago."