The mystery of the "4A" hitter
Nelson Cruz used to carry the label, but he was one of the few who was able to shed it
"Bryan LaHair is our first baseman," Epstein said. "I don't believe in the concept of 4A players. The guy can hit."
The "4A hitter" is as old as the minor leagues themselves; it's the idea that some players are just too good for Triple-A but not good enough for the majors. For every guy who figures things out late like Nelson Cruz, or even far less than star-level players like Jorge Cantu, there are plenty of Triple-A sluggers like Kila Ka'aihue, Brad Eldred, or going back more to Calvin Pickering and Sam Horn, who put up crazy numbers but never had big league careers.
Are they 4A hitters? Does such a thing even exist? Are 4A hitters simply players who never got the right shot or got cold at the wrong time and never received the opportunity to un-bury themselves? Or are there some players who simply can't handle the job? I talked to several people in the industry to get their answers.
While not everyone even agrees on the existence of such players, there were three main ways a player can earn that label:
He has to really hit
One National League executive doesn't really believe in the concept of the 4A hitter. "I don't think it's that 4A-type guys can't hit major league pitching so much as it's 4A-type guys have no value besides their bat," he explains. "If you are a bad first baseman, or left fielder, or designated hitter, just being an average big league hitter doesn't really cut it, so you better hit the moment you get an opportunity or the industry moves on to someone else."
To read the complete story from Kevin Goldstein, plus all of our daily MLB content, sign up for ESPN Insider.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Ortiz: Yankees lost 'face of ballclub' in Cano
- Sources: Yankees open to trading Gardner
- Dodgers finalize Wilson deal, eye pen help
- Beard is back: Napoli, Red Sox agree to deal
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Offseason Buyer's Guide
RankingsNov. 3: Law: Top 50 free agents | Tracker
Nov. 4: Bowden: Projected value rankings
ReactionJan. 25: Bowden: How Detroit landed Prince
Jan. 24: Law: Fielder helps now, not later
Jan. 14: Bowden: Grading Yankees-M's deal
Jan. 13: Law: Pineda-Montero deal a win-win
Jan. 11: Law: Madson a steal for Reds
Jan. 6: Law: Cubs win Cashner-Rizzo deal
Dec. 31: Law: Quentin a mediocre fit in S.D
Buyer's GuideNov. 12: Buyers Guide: Catchers
Nov. 11: Buyers Guide: Relief Pitchers
Nov. 10: Buyers Guide: Starting Pitchers
Nov. 9: Buyers Guide: Third basemen
Nov. 8: Buyers Guide: Outfielders
Nov. 7: Buyers Guide: Middle infielders
Nov. 4: Buyers Guide: First basemen/DH
FeaturesFeb. 9: Perry: A case for the Nats
Feb. 7: Szymborski: Ellsbury to fall off
Feb. 6: Cameron: The cost of moving to third
Feb. 3: Meyers: Poor drafts doom Cubs, Mets
Feb. 2: Bowden: How to rebuild the Orioles
Feb. 1: Goldstein: How good is Cespedes?
Jan. 30: Szymborski: Projecting Angels, Tigers
History• Law: 2010 top 50 rankings
• Law: 2009 top 50 rankings
• Law: 2008 top 50 rankings
• Law: 2007 top 50 rankings
• Law: 2006 top 40 rankings