Breakout prospects for 2020 | MLB.com

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Every organization takes pride in its ability to identify and develop talent. We’re the same way at MLB Pipeline, especially when it comes to predicting future breakout prospects.

Looking at last year’s list of breakout candidates, we see many examples of players who realized their potential en route to becoming some of the sport’s premier prospects. White Sox outfielder Luis Robert shot up from No. 44 to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list thanks to a 32-homer, 36-steal campaign across three levels, while Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson, another three-level climber in ‘19, ascended from No. 90 to No. 10.

With the start of the 2020 season around the corner, MLB Pipeline once again is picking one breakout candidate from each organization. And while some of the names on this year’s list might be more recognizable than others, they all have the potential to jump on the scene during the upcoming season and establish themselves as can’t-miss prospects.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 6) — The Mets’ second-round pick from the 2018 Draft pitched better than his numbers suggest he did at Class A Columbia, and he made six impressive starts for Class A Advanced Dunedin after joining the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman Trade Deadline deal to finish his first full season with a 126/24 K/BB and .238 BAA in 106 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old righty is a high-ceiling pitching prospect, armed with a plus fastball-curveball combo, an advanced changeup and a mature overall feel for his craft that could help him move quickly through the Minors.

Orioles: DL Hall, LHP (No. 3, MLB No. 60) — Baltimore’s 2017 first-rounder boasts some of the best pure stuff in the Minors among left-handed pitching prospects, with a plus fastball-breaking ball pairing and a promising changeup. Hall’s overall control, however, leaves much to be desired after the 21-year-old southpaw issued 6.0 BB/9 over 80 2/3 innings last season at Class A Advanced Frederick. The good news is that Hall has never had any issues missing bats (11.1 K/9 across his first 185 1/3 pro frames) and continues to be tough to barrel (.201 BAA), so it’s easy to envision him taking a step forward in 2020 with improved strike-throwing ability.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 7, MLB No. 94) — Acquired from the Pirates as the PTBNL in the lopsided Chris Archer deal, Baz spent all of 2019 at Class A Bowling Green in the Midwest League, pitching to a 2.99 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 37 walks in 81 1/3 innings (17 starts). He was especially good down the stretch, too, posting a 2.22 ERA over his final six regular-season starts for the Hot Rods before turning in an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. With a fastball that can touch triple digits, a devastating slider and a raw but promising changeup, the 20-year-old right-hander could develop into a front-of-the-rotation force if he can improve his control and command.

Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 7) — A $10,000 steal from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez skipped a level last season and led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.359) in his U.S. debut. The best center-field defender and one of the fastest runners in Boston’s system, he’ll make the jump to full-season ball in 2020.

Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP (No. 5) — Schmidt had Tommy John surgery as a South Carolina junior a month before New York made him a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. Though he has been brought back slowly, taking that summer off and totaling 114 innings in 2018-19, he already has reached Double-A and shows the makings of four plus pitches.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Aaron Bracho, 2B (No. 13) — Bracho’s advanced bat earned him a $1.5 million bonus out of Venezuela in 2017, but he didn’t make his pro debut until last season because he fractured his right arm in May 2018. A switch-hitter who possesses deceptive power and precocious command of the strike zone, he hit .296/.416/.593 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer.

Royals: Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 8) — The Royals were excited after Isbel’s exceptional pro debut after they took him in the third round of the 2018 Draft, but his 2019 season was interrupted by injuries and he played in just 59 games. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League and should use his impressive .315/.429/.438 (leading the league in OBP) showing to catapult him to the upper levels of the system

Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 12) — The Tigers knew that Meadows — Rays outfielder Austin Meadows’ younger brother — would need time to develop when they selected the athletic prep outfielder in the second round of the 2017 Draft, and his .221/.296/.312 showing over 126 games at Class A West Michigan in his first full season only confirmed that assessment. However, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder’s five-tool profile offers reason to be optimistic about his future, as all the raw qualities are in place for the 20-year-old to develop into an impact player.

Twins: Wander Javier, SS (No. 7) — While it’s true the Twins didn’t protect Javier on their 40-man roster this offseason, that was a relatively low-risk move given the shortstop hasn’t played above A ball. A torn labrum cost him the 2018 season and he struggled once he got to full-season ball for the first time in late May of 2019 (.177/.278/.323). But he still has tremendous tools, the ones the Twins saw when they gave him $4 million to sign in July 2015.

White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP (No. 13) — Before Chicago selected Thompson 45th overall last June, it had spent just two picks that early on high school pitchers in the previous 17 Drafts (Gio Gonzalez in 2004, Spencer Adams in 2013). Though he was inconsistent as a senior last spring, the White Sox love his athleticism and quick arm, which could result in a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball once he’s fully developed.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Marcus Smith, OF (No. 30) — The Kansas City high schooler was a bit of a surprise third-round pick, one who wasn’t on our Draft Top 200 list in 2019, but he sure made the A’s look smart during his relatively brief pro debut in the Arizona League (.361/.466/.443 in 29 games). That advanced approach should serve him well and let him use his 70-grade speed to his advantage in his first full season of pro ball.

Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS/2B (No. 4) — He’s yet to reach full-season ball, but he set the stage for the jump by leading the Pioneer League in home runs and RBIs in 2019. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts (33 percent rate), but he’ll also only be 20 for all of 2020, so there’s time for him to refine his approach and become a truly impactful middle infielder.

Astros: Jeremy Pena, SS/2B (No. 8) — The son of offensive-minded second baseman Geronimo Pena, Jeremy was one of the best defensive shortstops available in the college class of 2018, when Houston popped him in the third round out of Maine. His glove was as good as advertised in his first full pro season, when he exceeded expectations by batting .303/.385/.440 with 35 extra-base hits and 20 steals between two Class A levels.

Mariners: George Kirby, RHP (No. 6) — Kirby made a name for himself as a control artist at Elon University and parlayed that into being a first-round pick last June. He showed just how good that command was by not walking a single batter in 23 innings during his pro debut. Seen as a safe pick who could ride his pitchability quickly up a ladder, his first full season could show that he’s more than that, with the potential to join others from his class on our Top 100 in 2020.

Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 4) — One of the most polished high school pitchers in the 2018 Draft, Winn went 15th overall but struggled more than expected while being kept on a tight leash in his first full pro season in 2019. But he finished the year with a 2.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings over his final 12 starts, showing signs of a quality four-pitch mix once he dials in his command.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Bryce Ball, 1B — Ball spent two years in junior college before transferring to Dallas Baptist for his junior year. The Braves nabbed him in the 24th round of last June’s Draft after he hit .325/.443/.614 with 18 homers and then he hit 17 more combined in the Appalachian and South Atlantic Leagues during his pro debut. He might have the most power in the system and has already shown the ability to get to it.

Marlins: Braxton Garrett, LHP (No. 7) — The seventh overall pick in 2016, the Alabama high school product required Tommy John surgery after just four pro starts, costing him all of 2018. Garrett looked like his old self last season, pairing a low-90s fastball with a plus curveball in high Class A, and could move quickly in 2020 as he puts elbow reconstruction further behind him.

Mets: Francisco Alvarez, C (No. 5) — Alvarez’s $2.7 million bonus in July 2018 was one of the top totals handed out during the 2018-19 international period, and it wasn’t long thereafter that he began to receive rave reviews from those inside the organization. The Mets challenged Alvarez last summer in his pro debut, assigning him straight to the Rookie Gulf Coast League before a quick promotion to the Appalachian League, and the then-17-year-old backstop responded by slashing .312/.407/.510 with seven homers in 42 games between the two stops. The Venezuela native is already perhaps the best pure hitter in New York’s system, with defensive chops behind the plate that could make him an impactful two-way catcher.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 3) Taken with the No. 17 overall pick in last year’s Draft, Rutledge, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, has some of the best pure stuff among college pitchers from his class with an explosive mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that front his four-pitch mix. Harnessing his stuff to throw more strikes and developing a better changeup will be developmental keys for the 20-year-old in his first full season, though he’s exactly the type of power pitcher the Nats have successfully developed in the past.

Phillies: Francisco Morales, RHP (No. 6) — One of the top pitchers in the 2016-17 international signing class, Morales has tremendous raw stuff. In many ways, it played well during his full-season debut in 2019, as he struck out just over 12 batters per nine innings and held hitters to a .226 batting average. He needs to refine his command to reach his very lofty ceiling, but here’s betting he takes a big step forward in 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Tristen Lutz, OF (No. 2) — Tabbed as the Brewers’ top breakout candidate a year ago, Lutz advanced to Class A Advanced Carolina in 2019 and produced a nearly identical line (.754 OPS, 13 HR, 137/46 K/BB) compared to his first full season (.742 OPS, 13 HR, 139/46 K/BB). The elevated strikeout rates fuel questions about the 21-year-old’s hit tool, but there’s a lot to like in his blend of right-handed power potential and patience at the plate. Lutz has the makings of becoming an everyday corner outfielder if it all clicks for him, and a strong showing at Double-A in 2020 would mark a significant turning point in his development.

Cardinals: Ivan Herrera, C (No. 6) — Signed out of Panama for $200,000 in July 2016, Herrera was pushed up to full-season ball at age 18 in 2019 and responded to the challenge by slashing .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs in 87 games across two levels, including Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Herrera continued to impress on both sides of the ball after the season as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players and will enter 2020 with a big up arrow next to his name.

Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 3) — Though scouts considered Davis one of the better prep athletes in the 2018 Draft, a hamstring injury slowed him as a senior and helped Chicago grab him in the second round. More advanced than expected, he batted .305/.381/.525 and flashed 30-30 upside in low Class A last season — albeit while limited to 50 games by multiple finger injuries.

Pirates: Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11) — A seventh-round pick out of Arizona in 2017, Oliva has had a solid, if unspectacular, first two full seasons of pro ball with a career .274/.348/.403 line, to go along with an impressive 84 steals. He opened a lot of eyes by leading the AFL with 11 steals (in 12 attempts) and hitting .312/.413/.473, setting the stage for a big 2020.

Reds: Tyler Stephenson, C (No. 7) — The 2015 first-round pick got hit by the injury bug quite a bit during the first stages of his career, but he’s going to look back at 2019 as the year it all started to click. After a solid regular season in Double-A, the backstop had a very strong AFL campaign (.347/.372/.410 in 49 at-bats) to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. A big follow-up campaign should vault him onto the top catching prospects list and have him ready for Cincinnati.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 71) — Signed out of the Bahamas for $2.5 million in July 2017, Robinson offered a glimpse of his potential in 2019 as he slashed .282/.386/.514 with 14 homers and 17 steals while ascending from Class A Short-Season Hillsboro to Class A Kane County in his age-18 season. The 6-foot-3 outfielder’s massive right-handed power highlights an all-around exceptional set of tools, and, overall, it gives him one of the higher ceilings in the Minors among teenage prospects.

Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 11) — MLB Pipeline’s top-rated international amateur in the 2018 class, Cartaya signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela. Often compared to Salvador Perez, he has the tools to make a difference offensively and defensively and hit .281/.343/.432 between two Rookie-ball stops in his 2019 pro debut.

Giants: Alexander Canario, OF (No. 7) — Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Canario possesses the quickest bat in San Francisco’s system and batted .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between the Rookie and short-season levels last year. He fits the right-field profile well and could have even more value if he’s able to stick in center.

Padres: Reggie Lawson, RHP (No. 21) — The Padres’ second-round pick in the 2016 Draft, Lawson spent much of the ’19 season on the injured list with a balky right elbow, but he returned late in the season to make six starts for Double-A Amarillo, then dominated while making three impressive outings in the Arizona Fall League (0.82 ERA, 14 K, 11 IP), where he operated with a mid-90s fastball, a sharp, 12-to-6 curveball and a promising changeup. With his blend of size and stuff, Lawson could break out in earnest with a healthy 2020 campaign.

Rockies: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 25) — Olivarez made his United States debut in 2019 and missed a lot of bats in the Pioneer League (11.76 K/9 in 46 2/3 IP), largely with a very lively fastball. He’ll need to improve his command (4.63 BB/9) and tighten up his secondary stuff, but the ingredients are all there for him to take a big step forward, perhaps with a move to full-season ball.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

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Should Netflix and Hulu give you emergency alerts?

news

New York (CNN Business)The federal emergency alert program was designed decades ago to interrupt your TV show or radio station and warn about impending danger from severe weather events to acts of war.

“More and more people are opting out of the traditional television services,” said Gregory Touhill, a cybersecurity expert who served at the Department of Homeland security and was the first-ever Federal Chief Information Security Officer. “There’s a huge population out there that needs to help us rethink how we do this.”

Possible vs. practical

    Adding federal alerts to those platforms might not entirely be a technical issue, at least on the government’s end. The service has already been updated to include smartphones.
    tech
    And FEMA, the agency that manages the system’s technology, told CNN Business that there are “no known technical hurdles involved in transmitting alerts” to devices that are connected to the internet. In fact, the agency has a way to do that, according to a FEMA spokesperson.
    But a new tool would need to be developed to distribute alert information to streaming platforms. FEMA said the “unknown quantity” is figuring out who would develop and install the applications.
    That’s not a simple task, said Touhill, who’s now president of the cybersecurity firm Cyxtera Federal Group. He told CNN Business that the required tool would need to be “exquisitely complex.” It would need to be thoroughly tested and safeguarded to ensure that only authorized parties have access.
    “Is it possible? Yes. Is it practical? Maybe not,” Touhill told CNN Business.
    Another concern is whether devices connected to the internet are reliable indicators of a person’s location. Emergency alerts need to be able to target a specific area so that they only reach people who are at risk.
    People on the internet can be traced through their IP addresses — unique strings of numbers assigned to each device that are also associated with a specific set of geographic coordinates. That’s how companies like Netflix determine which language and content to show its customers.
    But those locations can be unreliable or easily manipulated, Touhill said.
    It’s also not clear that enough information is there in some cases. A source familiar with Netflix’s thinking told CNN Business that the company’s ability to pinpoint a customer’s exact location may vary depending on that person’s internet service provider. That means Netflix might not reliably know a person’s location with enough specificity to provide effective emergency alerts.
    Congress has considered some of these issues. Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, proposed a bill last year that called for authorities to look into the feasibility of adding streaming services to the federal emergency alert system.
    The READI Act received bipartisan support and passed the Senate, but it died in the House. Schatz’s office told CNN Business this week that he plans to refile the bill for the current Congress.

    How to improve

    Adding streaming platforms to the alert system “is not a bad idea,” said National Weather Service senior meteorologist Kevin Laws.
    Laws is based in Birmingham and was part of a team that issued warnings to residents when tornadoes struck Alabama last Sunday. His team watches storms on a radar, and their predictions are automatically routed to FEMA’s alert system.
    But upgrades to the system are expensive and slow. Instead, Laws said he thinks alerts would be better helped through improvements to the type of information that authorities can share when a storm is in the area.
    Why you don't see emergency alerts when you're watching Netflix or playing Fortnite - CNN
    His ideal scenario? A day when storms are tracked automatically and alerts are consistently updated to show residents percentage of the likelihood that they will be affected.
    Such a feature would have helped last Sunday, he said, when some storms were particularly strong and unpredictable. Some parts of Alabama received emergency warnings more than half an hour before they were hit. But when a deadly tornado unexpectedly veered toward Lee County, where the death toll reached 23 people, locals were only notified about nine minutes beforehand.
      “I’ve spent many tearful days out there doing this job. And it kills me a little more every time,” Laws said, adding that disasters like the one that hit the state will happen again.
      “We have to keep improving the system,” he said.

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      Reports: Montgomery, Alabama, elects its first-ever black mayor

      Alabama

      (CNN)Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed has reportedly won the mayoral run-off election and will become the first black mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, since the city was founded in 1819.

      “Let the record show tonight, above all … what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, around opportunity, and all the things that tie us together versus those things that keep us apart,” Reed told supporters at a rally turned victory party.
      Reed’s message was one of unity.
        “Tonight isn’t the end, tonight is the beginning,” he said. “Tonight sent a signal, not just to all of us here in Montgomery, all of us in Alabama, it sent a signal throughout this country about what kind of community we are right now, not what we were.”
        The vote count, according to the Montgomery County Election Center, with 98% of precincts reporting, was:
        • Reed: 32,511 votes; 67.2%
        • Woods: 15,891 votes; 32.8%
        Reed and Woods received the most votes in August in the city’s 12-person primary, leading to Tuesday’s run-off. Reed got 42% of the vote, while Woods earned about 25%, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.
        “We ran a very good race. We worked hard, met with a lot of people, and it just worked out that our opponent had more votes than we did,” Woods told WSFA.
        elects its first-ever black mayor - CNN
        Sixty percent of Montgomery’s roughly 200,000 residents are black or African-American, according to the US Census.
        Longtime resident Diana Stokes Williams told CNN outside a polling station she had marched during the civil rights movement, been through segregation and was “very aware of the prejudice that has existed in her community.”
        “Coming from Montgomery … where there’s been a lot, Alabama’s been full of lot of prejudice , and to go from (former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace to Reed would be a major step.”
        Williams said she voted in every election and it is important to have someone who looks like Reed represent the community.
        She said as a black man, Reed has a greater perspective on life in Montgomery and can see both sides. She added that she hoped Reed would represent all races.
        Alabama’s second-largest city and its capital, Montgomery was also the first capital of the Confederacy early in the Civil War, and many streets and schools still bear Confederate names.
        Montgomery later became the site of Rosa Parks’ famed bus boycott in 1955 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist church, as well as the destination of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery protest marches that met with brutal police violence and led to the Voting Rights Act.
        The nation’s first memorial to the more than 4,000 victims of lynchings, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opened last year in Montgomery.

        Candidate touts role as first black probate judge

        Montgomery
        Reed was elected in 2012 as a probate judge in Montgomery County, becoming the first African-American and youngest person to do so, his website says.
          Woods is the owner and president of Woods Communications, which owns local television station WCOV, a CNN affiliate.
          Todd Strange, Montgomery’s mayor since 2009, was not running for reelection.

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          Planned Parenthood’s political arm to spend $45 million on electing candidates backing reproductive rights

          news

          (CNN)Planned Parenthood‘s super PAC kicked off a $45 million electoral program targeted toward battleground states for the 2020 election, the reproductive rights giant announced on Wednesday.

          The group’s self-identified largest program to date will go toward “large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs,” according to a press release. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will all be focuses of the initiative, per the release.
          “Who we elect will determine our access to birth control, cancer screenings, sex education, abortion access and more,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement.
          “That’s why Planned Parenthood Votes will use every tool at our disposal to hit the pavement, flood the airwaves, and elect reproductive rights champions up and down the ballot,” she added. “We know this is a fight we can win.”
          The super PAC pledged to back reproductive rights candidates “from the White House to the Senate to statehouses and ballot initiatives across the country,” indicating a state-level focus after a year that saw a slew of pre-viability abortion restrictions coming out of conservative state legislatures. Planned Parenthood is among the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging such laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
          Anti-abortion leaders decried Planned Parenthood’s election efforts, accusing the group of looking to protect its own finances and lamenting its federal subsidies. Planned Parenthood received $563.8 million in government funding in 2018, according to its annual report.
          Lila Rose, president of anti-abortion group Live Action, slammed the funding effort as a display of “ruthless prioritization of politics and their bottom line over women’s health care.”
          March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement that the funding effort was unsurprising “because this Administration has implemented a pro-life agenda in many areas, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and new Title X regulations, both of which impacted Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”
          “It is unfair to force Americans to subsidize through their tax dollars this partisan political organization bent on electing pro-abortion politicians,” she added.
          This year, Planned Parenthood rejected some federal funding. The group decided to drop Title X funding in August after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Trump administration rule blocking recipient providers from discussing abortion services with patients. HHS told recipients in July that the rule would go into effect despite several pending challenges.

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          Downton Abbey, like plantation houses, delivers fantasy over brute reality | Michael Henry Adams

          The American south may seem a long way from the estates of England, but in both places a veil of caprice covers harsh truths

          culture

          The son of a Scottish immigrant who worked as a servant, Donald Trump could hardly wait for his banquet at Buckingham Palace. A seat next to Elizabeth II conferred a sense of accomplishment little else could.

          To many, such behavior from an American president appeared downright unseemly. But how could we scoff? How else have so many of us been eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey?

          TV and film can be transporting, giving us glimpses of lives we can only imagine imperfectly. Decades before Julian Fellowes creation came forth to conquer America, PBS offered a steady diet of British clotted cream. Royals, aristocrats, castles, servants, sex. Such is the stuff of which Downton daydreams are made.

          We make our own fantasies too. As a boy, watching Gone With the Wind, I saw plantation houses for which I thought I could sell my soul. It seemed such an alluring way of life.

          No wonder people complain of being lectured about slavery when they visit Savannah or Charleston. They, like me, have imagined themselves in the masters place. No work to be done, fanned on white-pillared porches, sipping cooling drinks, pondering pleasures to come. Is it surprising so many, confronted by the nightmare behind the reverie, recoil in unacknowledged shame?

          I came to this crossroads early, no longer able to overlook the anguish of my ancestors. I saw exquisite architecture and ideas of gracious hospitality but knew both to be built on the worst criminality.

          Fortunately, thanks to green England, I was able to transfer my affections. The Forsyte Saga, Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, The Admirable Crichton. The Shooting Party, The Remains of the Day, Gosford Park. They became my refuge and taught me much. Entranced by an elegant aesthetic, reading countless books, even attending the Attingham Summer School to study famous country houses, I sought an elusive loveliness, untroubled by oppression.

          I know I never escaped. I had only embraced a new quagmire of contradictory caprice.

          At the very lightest level, all this means I know that Downton the whole phenomenon, the TV series, the film, the traveling exhibition, the merchandising is a ludicrous and ahistorical fancy.

          I know, for example, that contrary to what we see on Fellowes screen, non-royal butlers did not wear white waistcoats and that waiters did not wear dinner jackets at all. I know ladies were never gloved while drinking or eating, candles were never used on a luncheon table and candle shades, now found only in royal residences, were in fact universal. For enthusiasts like me, its such esoterica which makes Downton so enjoyable.

          But as in my love affair with the plantations of the American south, there was a wriggling worm in the bud.

          How alike our ruling classes are. How nefarious the sources of their vast wealth, on which such beautiful homes were built.

          In the UK, to take just one example, a house as sublime as Harewood, near Leeds, altered by Robert Adam, was funded by the infamous triangular trade. Even English currency came to be defined by slavery. With abolition by Britain in 1833 came compensation to 46,000 slave owners for 800,000 liberated Africans, until the banks were rescued in 2009 the largest government bailout in history.

          There were other sources of income. Indian opium, imposed on China. Farms in Ireland. The wealth behind many of the estates of England was no less tainted than that which built plantations in Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.

          Fellowes was careful to give his great house a more benign foundation. The Earl of Grantham, we are told, derives his affluence straight from his Yorkshire estates.

          Hit hard by agricultural depressions, he takes an option not available to his tenants: he marries the daughter of an American millionaire. That said millionaire is an untitled Jew, a dry goods merchant from Cincinnati, is among storylines meant to show us what a good egg the earl really is, an unlikely egalitarian in tweeds. But hes an imprudent one too: by investing his wifes millions in a Canadian railway that goes bankrupt, Grantham places all his loved ones in peril.

          Worse occurred in real life, of course. Much worse. Take the brutal, polluting mills and mines, like so many plantation fields, that often lay just outside the gates.

          Of course, Downton isnt real. So, to stay in the realm of art, consider Shipley, the neo-Palladian masterpiece DH Lawrence invented for Lady Chatterleys Lover. There, Squire Leslie Winter talks of the miners who work his pits with all the condescension a planter might have for his slaves.

          Chatting with the Prince of Wales, Winter quips: The miners are perhaps not so ornamental as deer, but they are far more profitable.

          HRH replies: If there were coal under Sandringham, I would open a mine on the lawns and think it first-rate landscape gardening. Oh, I am quite willing to exchange roe-deer for colliers, at the price.

          In the real world, many fine homes have been lost. Their deaths, like their lives, are all about the money.

          In Lawrences book, the squire dies and his heirs tear down his hall to build semi-detached villas for workers. Lady Chatterley is shocked to learn such people are as capable of love as she is. One suspects Fellowes, the author of a novel called Snobs, no less, might feel a similar shock if told us ordinary people who love Downton, his facile but beautiful and seductive creation, are capable of sincere feeling too.

          We are. And while we are equipped to daydream of such luxury for ourselves, or to pick nits with Fellowes staging while we swoon at his stars in their gorgeous firmament, we are also the heirs to those who did all the work, those who built the Downtons and the plantations.

          We know a profound truth behind all their costly beauty and misery. Every stately home, in every land, belongs to us too.

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