Here's one perspective: Russ Canzler is 25. He spent last season in triple-A. It was his first season in triple-A. He batted .314/.401/.530 and was named the International League MVP. Russ Canzler is probably capable of doing some damage in the bigs.
Here's another perspective: the Tampa Bay Rays were in the market for a first baseman. Russ Canzler has spent most of his time as a first baseman. The Rays are thought by many to be geniuses, or the next-best thing behind geniuses. The Rays operate on a skinny budget. The Rays poured millions into free agent Carlos Pena, and just allowed Canzler to go to Cleveland for nothing. In the Rays' estimation, Russ Canzler is probably not capable of doing some damage in the bigs.
As Kevin Goldstein pointed out earlier this winter, there are some convincing reasons to believe that Quad-A players do exist. Some players may have the tools necessary to destroy Triple-A pitching, but due to their skill sets — poor defenders, unathletic, slow swings — they have a difficult time succeeding in the majors. When you think about it in the abstract, prospects fail in the minor leagues all the time; at some point, everyone hits their ceiling. Some players can succeed in Single-A, but then can’t make the jump to Double-A. Others can thrive in college, but can’t make the adjustment to pro ball. When looked at through this lens, it’s unrealistic to imagine that Quad-A players don’t exist at all. The trick is sorting out which prospects have hit their ceiling, and which ones need to be given more time to adjust.
What does this have to do with Russ Canzler, and Dan Johnson, who the post is also about? Canzler and Johnson are thought to be Quad-A hitters. The Rays wouldn't have let Canzler go for so cheap if they believed him to be valuable. Is he a Quad-A hitter? There are reasons to believe so, but there are also reasons not to believe so, and ultimately we'll never know unless he gets sufficient time in the major leagues.
It's an interesting subject. You'd think, based on their actions, that the Rays are pretty down on Canzler. The Rays need to know more about this kind of stuff than almost everyone else. Are they right? Maybe we'll find out. Maybe we won't.
Let me speak first of Russ’s character, which I feel will be something severely neglected (as it always is when we start evaluating players in terms of numbers) You will not find a finer individual in the game of baseball today. A total class act who speaks from humility if he speaks at all. I wish I possessed some of the admirable character traits that he does, both on and off the field.
And what a bat Russ has, too. He swings an absolute log—one of the heaviest I’ve seen used by hitters in my career. But that is part of his game. What I was so impressed by when watching Russ play is that his swing is really a compact, effortless thing. He never tries to do too much with the ball, no extra moving parts that jerk the bat from its path in the trade off of control for power. He trust his swing and his hands and lets that bat supply the pop. He also has good plate coverage and his swing allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field.
If Hayhurst is right about Canzler, that means a lot of scouts (and Baseball America) are wrong. And so Hayhurst might have a long future in baseball, even after he finishes his world travels.