Author Archive

Board Update: International Professional Players

Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for another cycle of prospect lists, and as I’ve become accustomed to doing for the last few seasons, I’m starting with scouting reports on pro players in foreign leagues, with a focus on players available for MLB free agency this offseason. On The Board, you can see a fresh batch of scouting reports and evaluations of relevant players from Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization, and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, as well as reports on some young players I’ve identified as potentially impactful long-term prospects. I’ll update the amateur portion of this list prior to signing day in January, but any player from the upcoming 2024 class who I had already written up for this year’s Prospect Week remains on there. For those who need a crash course on the age- and pro experience-driven lines of demarcation that dictate how MLB teams sign international players, I’d point you to a number of glossary entries, including those on international free agency for those in Asian pro leagues, international amateur free agency and bonus pool restrictions, the Japanese posting system, and the Korean posting system.

It can be overwhelming to sift through so many different types of players on that section of The Board — it’s a real apples and oranges situation when we’re talking about some guys who are 30 and others who are still teenagers — so I’m going to break most of them up into more digestible subgroups below. You’ll notice that some players appear across multiple categories. The Board has each player’s full scouting report and tool grades — think of this as more of a table of contents. Read the rest of this entry »

40-Man Roster Deadline Reaction and Analysis: National League

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I covered the American League half of the flurry of transactional activity that occurred as a result of the 40-man roster and non-tender deadlines. Is any one move here as impactful as signing a Yoshinobu Yamamoto or a Matt Chapman? No, but when your favorite team experiences a rash of injuries in June, whether or not they have the depth to scrap and compete is often dictated by the people and processes that surround this day. Below are my thoughts on the National League, with some quick scouting snippets on most of the added players and thoughts about roster construction where I had something to say.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks lone addition was lefty Blake Walston, a former $2.5 million high school signee who, despite being young for his class and physically projectable as an amateur, has seen his fastball velocity plateau and slightly decline since he signed. He’s had fits and starts where he’s thrown harder, but for the most part, Walston’s fastball still sits 89-92 mph and his performance peripherals took a nosedive in 2023, though part of that was likely because of the PCL hitting environment. The lanky 22-year-old is still a fair long-term prospect because of his age and what one could reasonably hope will still be late-arriving physicality, but for now, I’d consider him at the very back of Arizona’s 40-man starting pitching depth chart. Read the rest of this entry »

In Bummer Move, Braves Land Lefty Reliever for Pile of Ex-Prospects

Aaron Bummer
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Late Thursday night, after the final horn had sounded on the last West Coast NHL game, new White Sox general manager Chris Getz consummated his first trade in his new role, sending sinker-balling lefty reliever Aaron Bummer to Atlanta for a five-player variety pack of “second division” players and reclamation projects. The new White Sox are headlined by 26-year-old 2019 All-Star righty Michael Soroka, 28-year-old infielder Nicky Lopez, and 25-year-old lefty starter Jared Shuster, all of whom can be reasonably expected to impact the 2024 squad. Chicago also acquired 25-year-old infielder Braden Shewmake, who is also on the 40-man roster, and 2023 undrafted free agent starter Riley Gowens, who is more of a developmental project from the University of Illinois. Read the rest of this entry »

40-Man Roster Deadline Reaction and Analysis: American League

© Angela Piazza/Caller-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

This week’s 40-man roster deadline was less eventful than usual (we only had one trade on deadline day), but as always, a number of young players became big leaguers in a certain sense, and teams had no choice but to indicate what they think of lots of fringe prospects who they either did or did not choose to roster. This day of clerical activity is the culmination of the efforts of the players themselves, the people in player development who have helped turn them into big leaguers, and the scouting and decision-making portions of each org that put their stamp of approval on the prospects. Is any one move here as impactful as signing a Yoshinobu Yamamoto or a Matt Chapman? No, but when your favorite team experiences a rash of injuries in June, whether or not they have the depth to scrap and compete is often dictated by the people and processes that surround this day. I’m more focused on analyzing roster depth, fit and flexibility in this space than on scouting players (especially when they’re star prospects you already know well). I’ll have a separate post on the National League. Read the rest of this entry »

Brewers Add to 2024 Infield Mix With Oliver Dunn Trade

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers made a swap ahead of this year’s 40-man roster deadline, the last day teams have to either add eligible minor league players to their 40-man roster or expose them to December’s Rule 5 Draft. In this trade, the Brewers acquired 26-year-old second baseman Oliver Dunn and added him to their 40-man roster, while the Phillies received two prospects in return, 21-year-old infielder Robert Moore and 20-year-old outfielder Hendry Mendez.

Let’s start with Milwaukee’s end of this, as we’re most likely to see 2024 big league impact from Dunn, who is coming off an Arizona Fall League stint in which he won the league’s Breakout Prospect award. Dunn, whose brother Ross is in the Twins system, was a Yankees 2019 11th round pick out of Utah. He hit .196 coming out of the lost 2020 season, and spent a significant portion of both 2021 and 2022 on the IL dealing with multiple injuries, including a fractured jaw, an abdomen strain, and a hamstring strain.

The Phillies drafted him in the minor league phase of the 2022 Rule 5 Draft and Dunn had a huge power breakout in 2023 at Double-A Reading, where he hit .271/.396/.506 and slugged 21 homers, more than he had hit throughout his entire career entering 2023. Reading is a hitter’s haven and Dunn was in his age-25 season, so there are good reasons to be skeptical of his sudden change in output, but his underlying power metrics also took a leap, with his average and peak exit velocities (92 mph and 112 mph, respectively) cresting above the big league average. This isn’t gigantic, impact power, but it’s meaningful pop for a second baseman. Dunn swings and misses quite a bit, especially within the strike zone (you can see him struggling with velo up and away from him, a Fall League theme for Dunn, in the video below), but he’s a dangerous all-fields hitter because of his power and ability to catch some fastballs deep in the hitting zone and punish them the other way. Read the rest of this entry »

Kelly Carves Rangers in Diamondbacks’ Game 2 Rout as Snakes Even Series

Merrill Kelly
Arizona Republic

One sleepless night after Game 1 was ripped from them in heartbreaking fashion, the Diamondbacks arose from the canvas in Arlington and swung back at the Rangers en route to a dominant 9–1 victory, evening the World Series at a game apiece as the series heads to Phoenix. Arizona’s effort was led by a masterful performance from Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School and Arizona State alum Merrill Kelly, who struck out nine across seven surgical innings en route to the win. The Diamondbacks maintained a modest lead until the final three frames, when the bottom third of their order, which combined to reach base eight times on the night, piled up six runs.

Kelly is a prodigal son of sorts, a former Rays draft pick who left affiliated ball in the U.S. for four seasons in Korea before returning to MLB and his hometown Diamondbacks in 2019. Ironically, the particulars of the postseason schedule and of Arizona’s run to the Fall Classic have prevented Kelly from making a (literal) home start during this postseason, but he looked right at home in Texas on Saturday evening as he carved up one of the season’s most potent offenses. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Get Small: Hundreds of Minor Leaguers Have Shrunk

Bryon Houlgrave/The Register/USA TODAY NETWORK

Once all the blurbs for a prospect list have been written, I comb back through the giant spreadsheet that populates what readers see on The Board and double check its many fields for errors and inconsistencies. Two data points I’ve kept manually since 2017 are the heights and weights of the prospects who have passed through that space. At times, this has felt nonsensical — there are heights and weights on our player pages, and they could easily be pulled into the machinery that pumps out the tables that accompany the write-ups you see on our lists. But players’ measurables, especially in the minors, are often obviously wrong, and so for a little over a half decade, I’ve used my own judgment to make manual adjustments in cases when what is listed is clearly incorrect.

This has mostly meant manually adjusting players’ weights as they’ve gotten older and bigger, because even when players are on big league rosters, there is sometimes radical imprecision around their actual specs. When it comes to heights, however, I’ve overwhelmingly deferred to those on minor league player pages unless there was an egregious under-reporting (I think Oneil Cruz was the last one I manually fudged). Once the 2023 minor league season began, my pre-publication checks revealed a strange pattern: Many minor league players, mostly hitters, were suddenly listed on minor league player pages as being one or two inches shorter than my previous records indicated, and some of them had shrunk by as many as four inches.

While incorrect heights and weights are prevalent, widespread change to them across the entire player population was strange and struck me as probably having a cause. I’m going to show you the list of changes to players’ heights and go over potential explanations for how and why this has happened (and why so many heights were wrong in the first place), but first let’s talk about why this is an important detail. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Watch Some Shortstop Prospects Play Defense

Lauren Roberts/Salisbury Daily Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

With Instructional League underway in Arizona (casts look of disappointment toward Florida) and Fall League rosters likely about two weeks out, the time has come to line the coffers with data and re-worked scouting reports in preparation for another round of farm system audits. Especially at the up-the-middle positions, defense is both very important and also a bit of a black box for readers, as there aren’t many publicly available minor league defensive stats and so much of evaluating defense is visual. I’ve recently been working on a video deep dive on the position players currently graded as 50 FV prospects or better, specifically to evaluate their defense in detail. Here I’ve taken a pass at the shortstops, providing video supplements for the prospects who I’ve evaluated in the 55 FV tier and above. I’ve made changes to their defense and arm tool grades over on The Board as a result of this exercise, and highlight the instances where this has caused a change to the player’s overall FV grade in the analysis below.

I’ve cut the videos in such a way that you can see each shortstop making similar plays one right after another. The videos feature plays to their left where I want to see them flip their hips and throw, plays that show the extreme end of their range, backhand plays in the hole to their right, plays coming in on the grass, and double play attempts. The fewest balls in play I watched for an individual player was 36 (Colson Montgomery and Dyan Jorge) and the most was closer to 70 (Jackson Holliday, Carson Williams and Marcelo Mayer). Read the rest of this entry »

How the Draft and the Trade Deadline Affected Our Farm System Rankings

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

A large portion of every season’s prospect-related transaction activity takes place between the draft and the trade deadline, a window that, since the draft was moved to July, spans just a few weeks. We can use the way the FanGraphs farm system rankings are calculated to track movement during this period on the baseball calendar and hopefully come to more fully understand how successful rebuilds are born. Over time, we can better contextualize trade and draft hauls by using this methodology to build a historical understanding of prospect movement. Mostly though, these rankings track the depth and impact of talent in each farm system at a specific moment in time. Or, in the case of the below links and tables, four moments in time. There are some methodological caveats to pass along (I’ll get to those momentarily), as well as some very specific examples where the movement communicated in the tables below does not properly capture team activity during the last month of trades and draft signings (which I get into throughout this post).

Let’s start with some basic disclaimers. Remember that while the Craig Edwards research that facilitates this approach is empirical, my subjective player evaluations (and their resulting Future Values) feed the formula that spits out the farm rankings. Just one significant over- or under-evaluation of a player can shift the way a team lines up in these rankings pretty dramatically, especially if you’re focused on the ordinal rankings. The monetary values, in addition to providing an approximate measure and reminder of how the draft and international amateur processes suppress what these guys might earn on an open market, illustrate the ways systems are spaced and clustered with more nuance. If I’m way too light or way too heavy on any single impact prospect, I’m basically infecting a list with half a standard deviation’s worth of error in this regard because Craig’s math favors top-heavy systems rather than ones with depth. Read the rest of this entry »

Ranking the Prospects Traded During the 2023 Deadline

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Ranked and briefly analyzed below are the prospects who have been traded during the loosely defined “2023 deadline season,” which for simplicity’s sake I consider all of July. Most of the deals these prospects were part of have been analyzed at length on this site. An index of those pieces can be found here, or by clicking the hyperlink in the “Trade” column below, which will take you to the relevant article. I’ve moved all of the 35+ FV and above players listed here to their new orgs over on The Board, so you can click through to see where they rank among their new teammates and read their full scouting reports. Our Farm System Rankings, which update live, also reflect these changes, so you can see where teams’ systems stack up following the draft and the deadline. Read the rest of this entry »