Author Archive

Finding Prospects from Smaller Conferences & Colleges

Despite not having a 1st round pick again in 2013 due to signing Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee keeps adding players I was fond of as amateurs. The bad news is that the Brewers still remain one of the weakest farm systems in the game. The cupboard isn’t as bare as it looked the last couple of years. I think the overall level of tools and raw talent has noticeably increased. In particular I think Milwaukee did a good job this year in scooping up a couple players who dropped in the Draft in Devin Williams and Tucker Neuhaus. Both those players were high school draftees, as was the team’s top pick in 2012 – Washington State prep catcher Clint Coulter. Yet one thing that struck me about this org. is how many of their top prospects are from “off the beaten path” kind of backgrounds. Three of the most exciting players in this system are Victor Roache, Mitch Haniger and John Hellweg. Roache came from Georgia Southern University. Haniger was taken from Cal Poly while Hellweg went to junior college in Florida. Sure, some of their top players came from traditional big schools and that’s to be expected. Jimmy Nelson played for the Alabama Crimson Tide and a few years back Milwaukee took two college pitchers in the first – Texas’s Taylor Jungmann and Georgia Tech lefty Jed Bradley. As someone who watches a whole lot of amateur and college baseball my curiosity was piqued: How often do 1st rounders come from smaller schools? Also, how often do these players succeed?
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The Long and Winding Road to Anaheim

As I scoured the Angels farm system looking for a player or theme to write about I kept coming up empty. I don’t think it’s any great secret that the Halos have a fairly barren minor league system right now. That shouldn’t be interpreted as an aspersion on their scouting or front office – their job is always hard and it becomes that much harder when you’re giving up your first pick year after year to sign premium free agents. We should also remember that although it was under a different scouting director, drafting and signing Mike Trout might be the best piece of scouting business since Tony Lucadello. Yet when you look around the Angels minor leagues right now you just don’t see much that resembles major league impact talent.

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The Myth of The Golden Generation

In Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano the Minnesota Twins have two of the very best prospects in baseball. It’s probably no surprise that they then also arguably have the best prospect in the game at two different positions. Buxton is the best prospect in the game – full stop. So he’s obviously the best outfield prospect in the game. For my money, there’s no better third baseman than Sano in the minors either. This got me curious about how often this sort of thing happens, and more importantly how often this situation leads to success.

Fans often have this ideal in their mind of a group of talented young prospects coming along, developing into homegrown stars and leading their team to glory. It’s a common theme to pretty much every sport. People all over the World share this sentiment. In soccer, when supporters see a strong group of youth players coming through the junior national ranks they often term that group a “Golden Generation.” That’s where the name of this article comes from. There’s more than one way to build a champion of course, but the path of homegrown stars rising to glory is probably the most satisfying from a fan (and baseball ops!) point of view. After all, drafting, signing and developing amateur talent is to many people the “right way” to run a baseball team. It’s certainly not the only way. Teams have succeeded through free agency and trades as well. Yet, the most popular players in baseball ever seem to be the homegrown heroes. I wanted to see just generally how often this scenario plays out successfully in recent history. How often does a golden generation of prospects develop and lead a team to a title – or at least some success?

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Draft Locally, Act Globally

I watch a lot of amateur baseball. You can maybe tell from my articles and tweets that the origin of prospects and how they enter professional baseball is of great interest to me. While brainstorming ideas for this article I was looking over the San Francisco Giants farm system and I got to looking at where their prospects originated from. I don’t only mean high school or college… I mean where geographically.

Teams can’t draft entirely locally of course – even those in California. Yet, teams do often like to snag talent from their own backyard when they can. Among the Giants top prospects the only California natives are outfielder Gary Brown, catcher Andrew Susac and pitchers Martin Agosta and Chase Johnson. Brown and Johnson are SoCal guys, while Susac and Agosta come from the Sacramento area originally. Only Susac and Agosta would arguably be “local” kids for the Giants and even that may be a bit of a stretch. In terms of schools, Brown went to Cal State Fullerton, Johnson attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Augusta went to St. Mary’s up in the Bay Area. Among the team’s 2013 draftees, Brian Ragira and Garrett Hughes went to Stanford, Johnson we already covered and Nick Vander Tuig was a UCLA Bruin. Of the high school draftees catcher John Riley was taken out of high school in San Joe in the 31st round and Jonah Arenado came from the Los Angeles area.

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If Marcus Stroman Is A Reliever, Was He Worth Where He Was Drafted?

With the 22nd pick in the 2012 Rule 4 draft the Jays selected Duke University right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman. Listed at only 5-foot-9 Stroman would be one of the shortest starting pitchers in the majors in recent memory. Is he a starting pitcher, though? He was a starter in college and made 20 starts for Double-A New Hampshire in 2013. Yet, questions remain about whether his future lies in the rotation or the bullpen.

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DJ Peterson & the Wisdom of First Round First Basemen

In June the Seattle Mariners took the University of New Mexico’s D.J. Peterson with the twelth overall pick in the Rule 4 Amateur Draft. Peterson represented one of the safest, most easily projectable bats in the draft class. He had mashed the ball all Spring for the Lobos and led the team to a Super Regional berth. His 18 home runs were good for third most in Division 1 – although he did play his home games in a very homer-friendly park. His short, explosive swing and quick hands excited scouts and appealed to scouting directors looking for a bat that could help relatively quickly. With a strong pro debut Peterson finished 2013 looking like a player every team would be glad to have in their farm system. There remains some questions as to whether Peterson can stay at third base in the long term though, and where he plays could swing his value pretty drastically.

As someone who covers amateurs and the draft fairly extensively I often see fans that prefer their team avoid a player like Peterson if there is some question of him moving to first base. After all, the defensive spectrum and conventional baseball wisdom tells us that good teams are built up the middle, with players on the right side of the defensive spectrum. Talking to amateur scouts I encounter a different attitude. They find it more than difficult enough to “hit” on a player and are quite often happy to find a safer choice like Peterson than they can project as a major league bat. After all, the general success rate of any first rounder making the majors isn’t great, so for many it’s very enticing to find a player you’re reasonably confident will hit in the big leagues. Both viewpoints have merit, of course. Personally, I have to be really convinced a player has a special bat for me to endorse him as a top of the first round pick. The offensive threshold expected at first base is just so lofty that it troubles me some to spend early picks on players with uncertain profiles. A prospect can develop into an above average major league hitter and still be only the 16th best first baseman in the majors (as in the case of  Nick Swisher this season with a .336 wOBA). When calculating WAR the positional adjustment for third base is +2.5, which is the same as that for second base and center field. The adjustment for first base is -12.5. Given the broad range of available quality hitters in free agency at first base and the extreme developmental demands on a first base prospect’s bat the question that then comes to mind is whether it makes sense for teams to draft a first baseman in the 1st round.

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