Somewhere along the line, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided they didn't believe in Michael Busch, their Minor-League Player of the Year (per Baseball America) and the 2023 Pacific Coast League MVP.
Their lack of belief might be justified. They're absorbing the data. They're in the room. We're just on the sidelines, watching a star-studded offense give away a pair of feckless games in the postseason spotlight.
But, at this moment in time, with the Dodgers trudging towards the door in what appears to be another lost October, it certainly doesn't feel good that Busch isn't just home alone, but was barely considered for a prominent role after being demoted in early September.
Instead, the Dodgers placed their faith in complete shot-in-the-dark Kolten Wong, who made the NLDS over Busch and midseason trade acquisition Amed Rosario, and found himself sent up to the plate to clean up James Outman's bases-loaded mess in the pivot point at-bat of the entire 2023 season. Don't blame Wong. He should have never been there. Did Busch deserve the opportunity instead? We have no real idea, and that's the issue.
Dodgers chose veterans over rookie Michael Busch in 2023
It has always been difficult, if not impossible, for rookies to earn the regular reps necessary to establish their footing on a star-studded team like the Dodgers. Goodness knows Gavin Lux had to wade through several disappointing partial years before being handed the shortstop keys in 2023, which were so rudely ripped away from him by the fates.
The Dodgers' farm system is an eternal double-edged sword. It's always top-tier. The franchise has been long lauded for their scouting and development. Most top names (at least on offense) are eventually packaged in trades, as younger models slide in behind them and reset the system-wide development timeline.
Often, though, the prospects who are shunted aside are stuck behind big-league mega-stars like Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Trea Turner. Why would a team, with the resources to pursue a Shohei Ohtani signing or Juan Soto trade, opt to turn the keys over to James Outman unless they were sure he was about to become a superstar?
But Busch -- and Outman in 2022 -- were stuck in different situations. Outman lost out to Joey Gallo, who was benched all five games of October and posted an anemic .162 average/86 OPS+ in Dodger Blue. Gallo had the potential to "run into one" at any given moment, but almost never did.
And, this season, Busch lost out to Wong -- or, more specifically, he lost out to "the idea of anyone else." The Dodgers didn't plot out their 2023 season around Wong's contributions. They just nabbed whoever showed up on the waiver wire, rather than hand the keys to the man with a 1.049 PCL OPS, 27 bombs and a .323 average.
"Whoever showed up" might've ended the Dodgers' season in Game 2. Busch? We'll never know.