Prospects “graduate” from prospect lists when they exceed the playing time/roster days necessary to retain rookie eligibility. But of course, that doesn’t mean they’re all in the big leagues for good. Several are up for a while but end up getting bounced back and forth from Triple-A for an extended period of time. Others get hurt at an inopportune moment and virtually disappear for years.
Nobody really covers these players in a meaningful way; they slip through the cracks, and exist in a limbo between prospectdom and any kind of relevant big-league sample. Adalberto Mondesi, Jurickson Profar, A.J. Reed, and Tyler Glasnow are recent examples of this. To address this blind spot in coverage, I’ve cherry-picked some of the more interesting players who fall under this umbrella who we didn’t see much of last year, but who we may in 2019. Read the rest of this entry »
UMP: The Untitled McDongenhagen Project, Episode 9
This is the ninth episode — and the season two premiere! — of a mostly weekly program co-hosted by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel about player evaluation in all its forms. The show, which is available through the normal FanGraphs Audio feed, has a working name but barely. The show is not all prospect stuff, but there is plenty of that, as the hosts are Prospect Men.
We used to include timestamps so you could skip around by topic, but this episode has just one topic: Prospects Week. If you’re not into that, we bet you’ll like the new into/outro music.
Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @kileymcd or @longenhagen on Twitter or at email@example.com.
You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.
Audio after the jump. (Approximately 42 min play time.)
Read the rest of this entry »
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In January, the two of us (along with Managing Editor Meg Rowley) had the opportunity to attend Driveline Baseball’s Pro Day in Kent, Washington. We were itching to get out of the house and watch baseball in some form, even if it was just to see dudes in shorts throw live batting practice. But because Driveline is as much a laboratory as it is a training facility, it was unlike any player workout or showcase we’ve been to, and we want to share our experience with readers.
We realize, though, that readers may require some context for the day, as they may not have a great idea of what a “normal” scouting showcase entails. So we’re going to talk about that and then about how Driveline’s pro day was different, touching on the pros and cons of each format along the way.
Finally, we’re going to talk about some of the players we saw, but with a little twist. Dozens of scouts were in attendance for the pro day, and one of Driveline’s stated goals for the event was to make things as easy for them as possible. They circulated a ton of information to aid with player evaluation (more on that shortly), and included us on the distribution list. Kiley, who spent a lot of time during the event schmoozing with baseball folks, was handed the data and asked to provide a preference list of pitchers from the pro day based solely on these numbers. Conversely, Eric sat fidgeting in a chair behind home plate while everyone threw, and took notes by hand. He was not allowed to look at the data, and was required to compile his pref list like our forefathers did, based only on his eyeball evaluations.
A bit of background on player workouts. Most in-person scouting is done during some kind of live baseball game, be it your run-of-the-mill minor league game somewhere in middle America, or a college game on a Friday night. But there are several scenarios where scouting occurs outside of this context. A player might throw a bullpen session for scouts while attempting some kind of comeback, or pro players might participate in a backfield simulated game, where there are no stakes and coaches create artificial scenarios to simulate and instruct players on procedure during certain game situations. Sometimes sim games don’t even utilize an actual pitcher. Scouts are often at these sorts of events, too, trying to learn whatever they can about an individual player’s talent, or get injury updates or pitching probables for the week.
The most common type of workout though, is the kind of showcase one would see for high schoolers or international amateurs. International amateur showcases typically include traditional batting practice for the hitters, outfielders throwing to the various bases, infielders fielding a standard directional sequence of ground balls and throwing to first base, catchers showcasing half a dozen pop times, and everyone running the 60-yard dash. At big events, there are usually a few games after this. At workouts at an individual trainer’s academy, or for free agent hitters, there generally aren’t enough players for that.
At Driveline, some pitchers threw bullpens, but the entire session was being recorded by a TrackMan unit and a Rapsodo camera and radar monitor. In addition to measuring velocity like a handheld radar gun would, TrackMan and Rapsodo measure all sorts of other stuff that teams have found to correlate with pitching success, or that can be used as a player development tool to provide immediate feedback to the player or a coach, which means players can make adjustments in real-time.
After a few pitchers threw unopposed bullpens, the hitters training at Driveline took their version of batting practice against a high-speed pitching machine that was spitting out balls at about 88 mph, at times with cutting action. This is much different than a middle-aged man in a form-fitting baseball uniform chucking balls at hitters from behind a screen at the base of a mound. The logic behind this alteration is that hitters don’t see pitches as slow as traditional BP lobs are in games, and training in a way that replicates in-game conditions more closely will better prepare them. This makes sense, but scouts we spoke with after the event indicated they left with almost no feel for the hitters.
Driveline is limited because their facility is indoors, and while a HitTrax machine helped depict the flight path of batted balls when the hitters faced live pitching later in the day, the number of opportunities they had to really square balls up and show scouts raw power in the way scouts are used to were limited. Onlookers left Kent with more considered opinions on the size of Daniel Comstock’s butt than they did anything else about the hitters, who they also didn’t see run or field.
After hitters got loose against the pitching machine, the rest of the pitchers took turns warming up and facing live hitting, with every piece of technology in the room switched on. Usually a rowdy environment, several of the players and staff commented on the quiet in the building that day, at least before Eric Sim arrived. That’s not to say that it was boring. The event had good pace and energy despite the early silence and the stakes — a potential pro contract if you impressed the right person — were high.
Having set the scene, we’ll turn to our individual pref lists. We’d first like to acknowledge all the athletes who participated in the event, and the work they did to get there. We were made to understand that those who were chosen to throw and hit had to clear a certain talent and work bar, and we believe everyone there has the talent to play highly competitive baseball at some level, professionally or otherwise.
We’ve omitted Albertus Barber and Seth Baugh from these rankings because both players are draft eligible, rather than allowed to sign a pro contract. They’ll be on the 2019 Draft section of The Board before June. We’ve also omitted left-handed pitcher Luke Heimlich, who has been training at Driveline since high school and who, according to Driveline, threw during the event at the request of “a few teams.” Prior to the event, Driveline sent out a roster of scouts and media members expected to be in attendance, and the highest ranking individual on the list was Royals Pro Scouting Director Gene Watson, though none of us saw Watson at the facility and we’re unsure whether he was there. The Royals are the lone team to have an employee (General Manager Dayton Moore) express interest in Heimlich, who pleaded guilty to child molestation as a minor.
Eric’s Eyeball-Based Pref List
1. Tyler Matzek, LHP (28)
2. Robert Robbins, RHP (24)
3. Kevin Kelleher, RHP (25)
4. Luke Hagerty, LHP (37)
5. Lance Simpson, RHP (22)
6. Arturo Reyes, RHP (26)
7. Karsen Lindell, RHP (22)
8. Joe Beimel, LHP (42)
9. Daniel Moskos, LHP (32)
I thought Matzek threw some plus-plus sliders and had enough feel for locating his two breaking balls (I put a 50 on his curveball) that I was less worried about his fastball command. He was a scattershot 89-92 and has had issues locating his heater near the zone in the past, but he’ll be allowed to work more heavily off his breaking stuff now than he was as a prospect because that style of pitching is more widely accepted. He could help a team in a relief role.
Robbins was 92-95 and threw several plus changeups in the mid-80s. They had bat-missing action down-and-in on righties. Hitters were taking big, confident hacks throughout the day but looked most uncomfortable and tentative against Robbins, especially against his slider, which I thought was average in a vacuum.
Hagerty had been out of baseball longer than I’ve been in it and it’s amazing that he’s throwing this hard. He was up to 98 for me and threw a few plus breaking balls, but also sent some pitches into the screen. There’s risk he’s wild like he was when he was in pro ball a decade ago, but I’ll take that fastball. I thought Simpson had a solid four-pitch mix. He was up to 93, his fastball had some tail, I liked the depth of the repertoire, which I thought was mostly average, and he’s one of the younger arm who threw. Kelleher had arguably the best two-pitch mix there as he was up to 96 and had a tight slider with bat-missing, vertical depth. I was put off by how violent his delivery is and didn’t think he had feel for locating the slider in places that were enticing to a hitter. Reyes was also 91-93 with a bunch of 50s, but I thought his fastball’s angle was more hittable, and his age rounded up (he’ll be 27 in April) put him beneath Simpson.
When I saw Karsen Lindell in high school, he was throwing 86-88; now he’s 92-95. He threw some 50 breakers but they were less consistent than Reyes’ or Simpson’s. Beimel was up to 93 and lived right on the edge of the plate to his glove side for almost his entire session. His secondary stuff is fringy but there were some 50 sliders in there, which are fine if you’re locating them, and Beimel was. He is in incredible shape for 42. Moskos had similarly consistent command but he worked down, at or below the knees, with a two seamer. I put 45s on his two-seamer, cutter, and curveball.
Kiley’s Data-Driven Pref List
1. Kevin Kelleher, RHP (25)
2. Tyler Matzek, LHP (28)
3. Karsen Lindell, RHP (22)
4. Arturo Reyes, RHP (26)
5. Luke Hagerty, LHP (37)
6. Robert Robbins, RHP (24)
7. Lance Simpson, RHP (22)
8. Jackson Sigman, RHP (23)
9. Tyler Gillies, RHP (23)
For this pref list, I considered only the TrackMan data from the event, the pitchers’ ages, and their previous stat lines. I’ve disregarded anything I know about them from watching them in a scouting context, which was easy to do when it came to this event because I was at a terrible angle to grade pitches.
Kelleher’s fastball has plus velocity (95.7 average, 96.8 peak), plus-plus rise, and good plane, and he threw 18 of 22 of them for strikes, while operating up in the zone where his heater plays best. His slider averages 3070 rpms, which is about as high as that measure goes (Blue Jays righty Trent Thornton has the highest average breaking ball spin rate among prospects we’ve covered this offseason), and threw 5 of his 7 sliders for strikes. Both pitches grade out as a 60 by use of the rough metric I’ve created using TrackMan, and while it wasn’t a long look, Kelleher’s control would also be plus (I won’t try to grade command on just a couple dozen pitches). Kelleher has essentially no affiliated pro experience, and he’s 25, but there’s a lot of stuff to work with here.
Matzek graded out with a solid-average fastball, slider, curveball, and strike-throwing rate. Given his past struggles with strikes and his major league experience, he seems like a nice gamble to be an upper minors contributor at least. From this very limiting view of this limited event, he and Kelleher both seem to have big league potential.
Lindell had a plus fastball, average slider, below changeup, and threw strikes, so there’s a nice fit as a reliever at the lower levels given his age. Reyes is older but has Triple-A experience and his fastball/curveball combo is fringe-to-average, but his slider graded as plus.
Hagerty’s heater topped at 98.5 and his curveball was about average, but he’s 37, had below strike-throwing at the event, and his career initially fell apart due to the yips, so I’m not optimistic he gets a long big league look. Robbins performed well, threw strikes, and has an above average fastball, but the off-speed stuff didn’t grade out as well. Simpson flashed an average fastball/slider/changeup combo, but the control was lacking. Sigman throws from a low slot, had an average slider, and a good strike-throwing rate, so I rounded up on the fastball grade since the slot excuses the lesser velo (89.7 mph average). Gillies has an average fastball/slider combo and threw strikes with the heater.
Of the pitchers on our preference lists, Hagerty, Kelleher, Matzek, Reyes, and Robbins signed minor league deals following the event, while Simpson was invited to try out for a club. David Carpenter and Sam Selman, who also threw that day, signed MiLB deals as well.
While the idea of the Picks to Click article is to answer the common question Eric and I get of who we think will move up the prospects rankings and appear on the top 100 next year, the 2019 Impact Prospects list is the answer to which prospects will make the biggest impact in the big leagues this season. The standard I’m using is my own personal projected WAR, so position, defense, anticipated health, and opportunity to play all matter. In most cases, my projections and Steamer match pretty closely, but there are instances where a playing time variance, or an in-depth knowledge of a player’s tools, have shaped my projected WAR and caused them to diverge.
This isn’t explicitly for fantasy purposes, though I’m sure some of you will use it for that, as Paul Sporer has already told me he plans to. I like this exercise more as a chance to project which of the prospects Eric and I spend so much time thinking about will do best just in 2019. It also gives me a chance to offer some early insight into how the Rookie of the Year race might shake out. (You’ll be shocked to learn I think Guerrero (AL), and Robles and Senzel (NL) will feature prominently in those conversations.) I’m sure you could drive a truck through the holes this list will have at the end of the season, but that’s never stopped me before.
Others of note: Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW), Luiz Gohara (LHP, ATL), Keston Hiura (2B, MIL), Mitch Keller (RHP, PIT), Andrew Knizer (C, STL), Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP, NYY), Francisco Mejia (C, SDP), Casey Mize (RHP, DET), Sean Murphy (C, OAK), Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD), A.J. Puk (LHP, OAK), Kyle Wright (RHP, ATL)
Vladito continues to lead our rankings. He’s the best prospect in the game, he should spend essentially the whole year in the big leagues, he’s polished, and he offers some defensive value. The top ten or so on my list all appear to be solid, everyday players who have the inside track on an everyday job starting on or around Opening Day, and I think they’ll be able to keep those jobs if they get them.
The next half dozen or so players have a good chance of spending most of the year in the majors (Nate Lowe), only need one injury to get serious playing time (Tucker), or have an uneven enough past that we aren’t sure they’ll be able to stick and stay healthy the whole season. Honeywell, Luzardo, and Reyes all have elbow surgery in their injury history, so even with a great season, they may be on an innings limit; James may be a bullpen fit.
The last group of players are either part-timers (Hampson looks like a utility guy, Toussaint and Sheffield could start and relieve, and Riley may begin the year in Triple-A and wait for an injury on the big league roster), or are top prospects who project to come up for the second half of the season (Tatis, Paddack, and Whitley).
When publishing our lists — in particular, the top 100 — we’re frequently asked who, among the players excluded from this year’s version, might have the best chance of appearing on next year’s version. Whose stock are we buying? This post represents our best attempt to answer all of those questions at once.
This is the second year that we’re doing this, and we have some new rules. First, none of the players you see below will have ever been a 50 FV or better in any of our write-ups or rankings. So while we think Austin Hays might have a bounce back year and be a 50 FV again, we’re not allowed to include him here; you already know about him. We also forbid ourselves from using players who were on last year’s inaugural list. (We were right about 18 of the 63 players last year, a 29% hit rate, though we have no idea if that’s good or not, as it was our first time engaging in the exercise.) At the end of the piece, we have a list of potential high-leverage relievers who might debut this year. They’re unlikely to ever be a 50 FV or better because of their role, but they often have a sizable impact on competitive clubs, and readers seemed to like that we had that category last year.
We’ve separated this year’s players into groups or “types” to make it a little more digestible, and to give you some idea of the demographics we think pop-up guys come from, which could help you identify some of your own with THE BOARD. For players who we’ve already covered this offseason, we included a link to the team lists, where you can find a full scouting report. We touch briefly on the rest of the names in this post. Here are our picks to click:
Torres was young for his draft class, is a plus athlete, throws really hard, and had surprisingly sharp slider command all last summer. White looked excellent in the fall when the Rangers finally allowed their high school draftees to throw. He sat 92-94, and his changeup and breaking ball were both above-average. Pardinho and Woods Richardson are the two advanced guys in this group. Thomas is the most raw but, for a someone who hasn’t been pitching for very long, he’s already come a long way very quickly.
Eric Pardinho, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (full report)
Lenny Torres, Jr., RHP, Cleveland Indians
Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, New York Mets (full report)
Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (full report)
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (full report)
Owen White, RHP, Texas Rangers
Mason Denaburg, RHP, Washington Nationals (full report)
Tahnaj Thomas, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (full report)
The “This is What They Look Like” Group
If you like big, well-made athletes, this list is for you. Rodriguez was physically mature compared to his DSL peers and also seems like a mature person. The Mariners have indicated they’re going to send him right to Low-A this year. He could be a middle-of-the-order, corner outfield power bat. Luciano was the Giants’ big 2018 July 2 signee. He already has huge raw power and looks better at short than he did as an amateur. Canario has elite bat speed. Adams was signed away from college football but is more instinctive than most two-sport athletes. Most of the stuff he needs to work on is related to getting to his power.
Julio Rodriguez, RF, Seattle Mariners
Marco Luciano, SS, San Francisco Giants
Alexander Canario, RF, San Francisco Giants
Jordyn Adams, CF, Los Angeles Angels
Jordan Groshans, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (full report)
Jhon Torres, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (full report)
Shervyen Newton, SS, New York Mets (full report)
Kevin Alcantara, CF, New York Yankees (full report)
Freudis Nova, SS, Houston Astros
Brice Turang, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (full report)
Connor Scott, CF, Miami Marlins (full report)
Advanced Young Bats with Defensive Value
This is the group that produces the likes of Vidal Brujan and Luis Urias. Edwards is a high-effort gamer with 70 speed and feel for line drive contact. Marcano isn’t as stocky and strong as X, but he too has innate feel for contact, and could be a plus middle infield defender. Perez has great all-fields contact ability and might be on an Andres Gimenez-style fast track, where he reaches Double-A at age 19 or 20. Ruiz is the worst defender on this list, but he has all-fields raw power and feel for contact. He draws Alfonso Soriano comps. Palacios is the only college prospect listed here. He had three times as many walks as strikeouts at Towson last year. Rosario controls the zone well, is fast, and is a plus defender in center field.
Xavier Edwards, SS, San Diego Padres
Antoni Flores, SS, Boston Red Sox (full report)
Jose Devers, SS, Miami Marlins (full report)
Tucupita Marcano, SS, San Diego Padres
Wenceel Perez, SS, Detroit Tigers
Esteury Ruiz, 2B, San Diego Padres
Richard Palacios, SS, Cleveland Indians
Antonio Cabello, CF, New York Yankees (full report)
Cole Roederer, LF, Chicago Cubs (full report)
Jeisson Rosario, CF, San Diego Padres
Luis Garcia, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (full report)
Simon Muzziotti, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (full report)
Corner Power Bats
Nevin will probably end up as a contact-over-power first baseman, but he might also end up with a 70 bat. He looked great against Fall League pitching despite having played very little as a pro due to injury. Lavigne had a lot of pre-draft helium and kept hitting after he signed. He has all-fields power. Apostel saw reps at first during instructs but has a good shot to stay at third. He has excellent timing and explosive hands.
Grant Lavigne, 1B, Colorado Rockies
Sherten Apostel, 3B, Texas Rangers
Triston Casas, 1B, Boston Red Sox (full report)
Dylan Carlson, RF, St. Louis Cardinals (full report)
Moises Gomez, RF, Tampa Bay Rays (full report)
Elehuris Montero, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (full report)
Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays (full report)
Tyler Nevin, 1B, Colorado Rockies
It’s hard to imagine any of these guys rocketing into the top 50 overall. Rather, we would anticipate that they end up in the 60-100 range on next year’s list. Gilbert was a workhorse at Stetson and his velo may spike with reshaped usage. Singer should move quickly because of how advanced his command is. Lynch’s pre-draft velocity bump held throughout the summer, and he has command of several solid secondaries. Abreu spent several years in rookie ball and then had a breakout 2018, forcing Houston to 40-man him to protect him from the Rule 5. He’ll tie Dustin May for the second-highest breaking ball spin rate on THE BOARD when the Houston list goes up. We’re intrigued by what Dodgers player dev will do with an athlete like Gray. Phillips throws a ton of strikes and has a good four-pitch mix.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Zac Lowther, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (full report)
Brady Singer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Bryan Abreu, RHP, Houston Astros
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Wil Crowe, RHP, Washington Nationals (full report)
Josiah Gray, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jordan Holloway, RHP, Miami Marlins (full report)
Tyler Phillips, RHP, Texas Rangers
Bounce Back Candidates
The Dodgers have a strong track record of taking severely injured college arms who return with better stuff after a long period of inactivity. That could be Grove, their 2018 second rounder, who missed most of his sophomore and junior seasons at West Virginia. McCarthy was also hurt during his junior season and it may have obscured his true abilities. Burger is coming back from multiple Achilles ruptures, but was a strong college performer with power before his tire blew.
Michael Grove, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jake McCarthy, CF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jake Burger, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Thomas Szapucki, LHP, New York Mets (full report)
We’re very excited about the current crop of minor league catchers. Naylor is athletic enough that he’s likely to improve as a defender and he has rare power for the position.
Ivan Herrera, C, St. Louis Cardinals (full report)
Bo Naylor, C, Cleveland Indians
Payton Henry, C, Milwaukee Brewers (full report)
Potentially Dominant Relievers
These names lean “multi-inning” rather than “closer.” Gonsolin was a two-way player in college who has been the beneficiary of sound pitch design. He started last year but was up to 100 mph out of the bullpen the year before. He now throws a four seamer rather than a sinker and he developed a nasty splitter in 2017. He also has two good breaking balls. He has starter stuff but may break in as a reliever this year.
Trent Thornton, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (full report)
Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Boston Red Sox (full report)
Dakota Hudson, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (full report)
Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (full report)
Colin Poche, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (full report)
Trevor Stephan, RHP, New York Yankees (full report)
Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (full report)
Dakota Mekkes, RHP, Chicago Cubs (full report)
Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mauricio Llovera, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (full report)
Eric A Longenhagen: Hi there, everyone. By now you probably know where the top 130 list is, so let’s get right to this. Kiley will be along shortly.
Jared: Who are some potential high leverage RP’s in the upper minors, with big stuff? Eric (not sure who’s doing the chat) gave me a good list last year at this time that included Jose Alvarado.
Eric A Longenhagen: That list you’re referring to was last year’s Picks to Click article, and this year’s version of it drops tomorrow.
Jackson: Swaggerty: is it his defense that puts him so high? Highest ranking I’ve seen from a publication.
Eric A Longenhagen: CF with speed and power, his tools belong there. You could argue the swing issues should force him down toward the other power/speed CFs with contact issues, but whose bat are you betting on improving, the new guy or someone like Monte Harrison who hasn’t made much progress over several years?
Jim Bob Cooter: Why you guys so down on Franklin Perez? Is a lat injury now considered serious or something?
Below is our list of the top-100 prospects in baseball. The scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data, industry sources, as well as from our own observations.
Note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal rankings. For example, the gap between prospect No. 5 on this list, Victor Robles, and prospect No. 35, Sean Murphy, is 30 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent there. The gap between Travis Swaggerty (No. 56) and Adrian Morejon (No. 86), meanwhile, is also 30 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. You may have noticed that there are more than 100 prospects in the table below, and more than 100 scouting summaries. That’s because we have also included 50 FV prospects who didn’t make the 100; their reports appear below, under the “Other 50 FV Prospects” header. The same comparative principle applies to them.
As a quick explanation, variance means the range of possible outcomes in the big leagues, in terms of peak season. If we feel a prospect could reasonably have a best big league season of anywhere from one to five WAR, that would be “high” variance, whereas someone like Colin Moran, whose range is something like two to three WAR, would be “low” variance. High variance can be read as a good thing, since it allows for lots of ceiling, or a bad thing, since it allows for a lower floor. Your risk tolerance could lead you to sort by variance within a given FV tier if you feel strongly about it. Here is a primer explaining the connection between FV and WAR. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
You’ll also notice that this year, we’ve added probable FV outcome distribution graphs for each prospect on our list. This is our attempt to graphically represent how likely each FV outcome is for each prospect. Using the work of Craig Edwards, we found the base rates for each FV tier of prospect (separately for hitters and pitchers), and the likelihood of each FV of outcome. For example, based on Craig’s research, the average 60 FV hitter on a list becomes a perennial 5+ WAR player over his six controlled years 26% of the time, and a 27% chance of accumulating, at most, a couple WAR during his six controlled years. We started with these base rates for every player, then manually tweaked them to reflect how we think the player differs from the average player in that FV tier, since a player in rookie ball and a player in Triple-A with the same FV grade obviously don’t have exactly the same odds of success. So, these graphs are based on empirical findings, but with the subjectivity of our opinions included to more specifically reflect what we think the odds are of various outcomes. This is just a concept we’ve been kicking around for a while, one we hope to continue to refine to try to better communicate things about prospects.
People in and around baseball used to call international amateur free agency “the Wild West” because in an effort to acquire as much talent as possible, teams bent or broke any number of rules as part of their search for loopholes in the signing rules. MLB has changed its approach in recent years, seemingly tackling issues as soon as they can after those issues arise, rather than trying to anticipate them. Some are actual issues, and some are “issues” — few in baseball thought hard-capping international bonus pools would curb abuses in the market, and instead viewed it as another way of limiting team expenditures.
Right now, the most significant issue in the international market is teams making multi-million dollar verbal agreements with players who often are as young as 14 years old. This has long been a problem; clubs work hard to extract marginal value from every avenue of talent acquisition, and this is especially true when their spending has a hard cap. A young prospect and his trainer will value the security of having a $2 million deal in hand early. Meanwhile, teams trust their scouts and cross their fingers that the player will grow into a $3 million-$5 million talent in the time between when the deal is agreed upon and when the kid actually signs. Read the rest of this entry »
You’ve visited this website and clicked on this article, so chances are, you’re not only familiar with new forms of baseball data, but with the impact that data has had on various branches of the game, including and especially scouting. Kiley and I have each written about some of the ways that new data and technology are transforming player evaluation, but all you really need to know for the purposes of this article is that these developments have funneled in-person scouting resources down to lower levels of baseball, both amateur and professional.
There are several reasons for this. For one, the majors and the upper levels of the minors (Double- and Triple-A) are more stable competitive environments, and thus teams are more comfortable with statistical performance accumulated at those tiers of play. Individuals who reach those heights almost always have sufficient talent, technical proficiency, or some combination of the two, to play competitive baseball there, whereas the on-field competency of lower-level pro baseball talent (think teenagers in the DSL, AZL, Pioneer League, etc.) is more variable player to player.
As a result, statistical performance is much more reliable the further up the pro ladder a player climbs, allowing teams to more confidently incorporate it into their player evaluations. This, combined with the proliferation of TrackMan and Statcast metrics in pro baseball (almost every minor league park in the country has a TrackMan unit now), means that a growing number of teams feel that they have a firm grasp on upper-level players even if those players are not seen as much by scouts, and some organizations have even begun to de-emphasize in-person scouting at these levels. This frees up scouts to sift through the growing bodies and developing athletes at the lower levels, where statistical performance is almost meaningless. Read the rest of this entry »
With the 2019 NCAA Baseball season set to begin on Friday, we have updated our draft prospect rankings for this year, as well as the two drafts that follow. Each class can be found via this link to THE BOARD.
So what has changed since we last updated our rankings in the fall? There were more high school showcases throughout the autumn months, and college teams held fall practices and scrimmages, during which it was clear that some players had changed since the end of the previous season. Some January high school tournaments took place in warmer locales, and the junior college season began several weeks ago. We expect all of these rankings to change as the draft approaches, though our focus will be on the 2019 class for obvious reasons. The 2021 class rankings are mostly comprised of unsigned high school players from the 2018 draft, as well as a handful of high school players who have been identified early.
Does the 2019 class have any overarching themes, and how does it compare to other recent drafts?
It’s hard not to note the lack of exciting college pitching, though it’s also worth remembering that at this time last year, soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize was nowhere near the runaway, best-in-class arm he’d eventually become. We expect to have higher opinions of several college arms come June, but the list of guys who we’d bet on rising up our board is also just shorter than usual.
That’s not to say the entire class is bad. It currently appears well-stocked with college hitters (arguably the most widely-desired demographic by major league clubs), particularly college hitters who have a chance to stay up the middle.
Just how good is Adley Rutschman?
Rutschman, the Oregon State catcher, is currently our top prospect for the 2019 draft. At this point in the process, it’s natural for readers to ask if there’s a generational talent in this class, or if this year’s top prospect is better than past top picks. He’s better right now, for us and the scouts we talk to, than 2018 Georgia Tech catcher/Giants second overall pick Joey Bart, who is obviously an easier direct comparison than Mize, despite Mize going first overall last year. We have Rutschman as the only 55 FV player in this draft class; Bart was a 50 FV on our 2018 draft rankings, with the main difference being Rutschman’s superior hit tool. The rest of the tools are about the same. As you’ll see on our overall rankings later this week, Mize is at the lower end of the 55 FV tier, and we’d have Rutschman slightly above him, but sandwiched between the top catching prospect in the minor leagues (the Dodgers’ Keibert Ruiz) and the second one (Bart), which would slot Rutschman in the 21-40 overall range of a top 100, were he eligible.
Also, because the draft order is totally set, we can officially lay to rest the #PlayBadlyForAdley hashtag.
Will we have another Kyler Murray/Jordyn Adams situation?
It may not be as dramatic as the Murray soap opera has turned out to be, but there’s a good chance that we have two two-sport athletes with signability questions. High schoolers Maurice Hampton (No. 19 overall on THE BOARD, and a 4-star LSU WR recruit) and Jerrion Ealy (No. 38 for us, and a 5-star Ole Miss RB commit) are both premium two-sport talents whose signability major league teams will need to properly gauge and feel comfortable with if they’re going to take them, the way the Angels did with Adams last year and Oakland seemingly did not do with Murray.
Ealy’s narrative has already been quite dramatic, as he was once an Ole Miss commit before de-committing to consider other schools, including Alabama and Clemson. It was thought throughout the industry that if Ealy ended up in Clemson or Tuscaloosa, baseball would have no shot at him. He re-committed to Ole Miss last week; both he and Hampton are considered signable in the first round, at least.
What about two-way players?
Two of the names we find most intriguing as two-way possibilities are SoCal high school LHP/1B Spencer Jones and Houston-area MIF/CF/RHP Sanson Faltine III, also known as Trey Faltine. They’re both plus athletes with terrific breaking balls and presently fringy velocity (lots of 88-92), but they’re different hitters. Jones is a power projection bat while Faltine is more compact and speedy.
What about the next two classes?
2020 looks solid, led by two pitchers from the Georgia Bulldogs (right-handers Cole Wilcox and Emerson Hancock), and we’ve already identified about half of the top tier of talent (50 or better FV) that’s standard for a draft class. This class is also pretty balanced, with a solid mix of hitting and pitching, and prep and college talent, though the college talent leans heavily toward players from the SEC, ACC, and this summer’s collegiate Team USA. It seemed unusual this summer that there were so many 2020, and one 2021, prep pitchers getting into the mid-90s, but perhaps 15- and 16-year-olds hitting 95 mph is just normal now. 2021 is obviously leaning toward college talent at the moment, as many of the high school prospects are 15 years old today, so just a handful have emerged as elite talents (Brady House, Luke Leto, Nick Bitsko, Roc Riggio (!), Braylon Bishop, and Blaze Jordan).
Who has risen since the last rankings?
Missouri center fielder Kameron Misner was in the 90 to 100 area for us in the early fall, as he was a known tools type with injury issues who didn’t play over the summer, then started rising with a loud fall. San Jacinto JC (TX) right-hander Jackson Rutledge transferred from Arkansas and was in the mid-90s, touching 97 in the pen for the Razorbacks, but took a step forward at San Jac. He was solidly in the top 100 for us weeks ago until his season debut, when scouts told us it was a Nate Pearson starter kit, into the high-90s once again with two plus breaking balls and some starter traits, cementing his position further. TCU lefty Nick Lodolo finally had the velo bump in the fall we’ve been waiting years for. Florida righty Tyler Dyson started showing first round stuff in the fall as his rollercoaster is headed back up. Elon righty George Kirby is showing two pluses at times with some starter traits, and Campbell righty Seth Johnson is also in that general area, at another smaller North Carolina college.
On the prep side, Jacksonville-area third baseman Tyler Callihan slimmed down in the fall and got a little more athletic while also not looking bad in a short stint as a catcher, so his power bat is now in day one contention. Pennsylvania prep player, and younger brother of Reds center fielder Mike Siani, Sammy Siani also went from a solid follow to a real prospect with a loud showing in Jupiter in October.
How about all these Diamondbacks picks?
Because the Dbacks did not sign Matt McLain last year, got picks for losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock, and received a pick back from St. Louis in the Paul Goldschmidt deal, they’ll pick 16th, 26th, 33rd, 34th, 57th, 75th, 78th, and 94th in the upcoming draft. Not only does this mean Arizona will likely add eight 40 or better FV prospects to their farm system, it also means they have a ton of financial flexibility because their bonus pool size will be so large. Except for perhaps Atlanta, which also picks twice (at nine because they failed to sign Carter Stewart, and 21 as their normal pick), it could prove virtually impossible for teams to try to move over-slot high schoolers back to their second round picks, because the Dbacks will just be able to take them and meet their asking price if they want.
Will the current labor climate have any impact on the draft?
Amateur players get hosed by CBA negotiations because they don’t have a seat at the bargaining table, and the MLBPA (made up of players who have already been drafted and won’t ever have to be again) has continuously traded amateur players’ rights for its members’ own benefits, albeit insufficient ones. The lack of current free agent movement may begin to impact the decisions of high school athletes choosing between entering pro baseball now or waiting through three years of D-I college baseball before they re-enter the draft. If a college player is drafted at age 21 or 22 and takes two to three years to reach the Majors, their six-year service time clock will start when they’re 23-25 and they’ll hit the open market when they’re 29-31. The current state of free agency signals that those players may never have a big payday.
Mets first baseman Peter Alonso is a great example. He has done nothing but mash since he was a teen, but is the sort of prospect who doesn’t get paid out of high school, with clubs preferring to see less athletic corner types perform in college rather than take their prep versions in the first few rounds. Alonso kept hitting and now will be a 31-year-old R/R first baseman when he becomes a free agent. If 26-year-old superstars are struggling to get a fair shake in free agency, what kind of market can Alonso expect to have? We don’t know if this will impact the decision-making process of elite high school prospects, and perhaps a new CBA will soon make this a moot point. But it’s something we think players might start to consider.
Who could move up this spring?
We both picked a few guys we think will move up. Good luck to all the teams and players this spring.
Eric: J.J. Goss, Faltine, Gunnar Henderson, Kyren Paris, Tanner Morris
Kiley: Jackson Rutledge, Hunter Barco, Jack Kochanowicz, Kirby, Seth Johnson