There are a lot of reasons prospects fail. Sometimes, a mechanical flaw limits their progress. Other times, they hit a wall between Single-A and Double-A. And some just lose their love of the game and retire before their careers even begin to take hold.
That’s what appears to have happened to D’Vontrey Richardson, according to the Albany (Ga.) Herald:
“Sometimes, you just have to give it up whenever it’s not as fun as it used to be,” said Richardson, who was progressing through the Brewers’ minor-league system and was listed as a Top 15 prospect when he informed Milwaukee before spring training earlier this year that he was hanging up his cleats. “It’s a game we’ve played our whole life, and we should just be able to go out and have fun doing it. Practice was fun, the games were fun, but all the traveling and being away from my family and friends (took its toll).”
Richardson, an incredible all-around athlete that played both football and baseball at Florida State, hit .284/.327/.384 for High-A Brevard County last season. He either would have started 2012 back in Brevard County or with Double-A Huntsville — if he had shown up for spring training. After being listed as away for personal reasons to start the year, the Brewers were scheduled to have a conference call with Richardson last week to try to convince him to return, but that call ended up not happening.
Richardson hasn’t given up all hope on baseball, but right now it’s far from the first thing on his mind:
“If there was a way I could play baseball for the Brewers and work on my degree at the same time, I’d be interested, I guess,” Richardson said. “I’m just going to play it by ear. But my guess is it wouldn’t be until (spring training) next March when (the opportunity would present itself) again, and that’s a long ways off. I don’t know how I’ll feel then. I’ve been working out every day and staying in good shape, just in case.”
Disciples of Uecker had Richardson listed as the Brewers’ 15th-best prospect at the start of the year, based mostly on his ceiling and some encouraging signs at the plate last season. Baseball America rated him outside of their Top 10 Brewers prospects, but had him listed as the best athlete in the system in both 2010 and 2011, in addition to naming him their best outfield arm in 2011. Even if the power bat never developed, “D’Vo” could have had a chance at the majors based on his glovework and speed alone.
Even if Richardson does return to the organization someday, it will be extremely hard for him to regain his luster as a prospect. As a draftee out of college, Richardson turns 23 this year. Even if he returns for next season, you’re looking at an age-24 player who’s never reached Double-A and has only had 392 plate appearances at High-A. He’d be more than a couple steps behind everyone else in terms of development.
Richardson’s decision to walk away from the game is another blow for a 2009 draft class that’s on the verge of being a disaster. First-round pick Eric Arnett has had immense control issues, and is attempting to completely rework his mechanics at age 24 in High-A. Supplemental first-rounders Kentrail Davis and Kyle Heckathorn got off to hot starts with the Timber Rattlers in 2010, but have fizzled since. Second-rounders Max Walla (yet to have raw power show in games) and Cameron Garfield (unable to stay healthy) are also still stuck in the low minors. Third- and fourth-rounders Josh Prince and Brooks Hall have at least a couple things going for them, but also have some serious flaws that could stunt their growth. At this point, the only player in the 2009 class that looks like he could be more than a bench/bullpen type is Scooter Gennett. If you’re looking for a reason as to why Doug Melvin & Co. are leery of simply collecting compensation picks for pending free agents, this class (the Sabathia compensation draft) could be a part of it.
Losing Richardson will hurt the Brewers’ organizational depth, but it’s hard to fault someone for wanting to finish school. While he’s sacrificing baseball development at the moment, playing another few years without finishing his degree and gaining “real” work experience could have stunted his professional growth outside of the game. If his heart truly wasn’t into baseball anymore, it’s a good thing he’s walking away now instead of wasting a few years of everyone’s time — his own included.