We are pleased to announce that Kiley McDaniel will be joining FanGraphs as our lead analyst and writer for all prospect coverage. The full announcement can be found over at InstaGraphs.
Thanks to David Appelman, Dave Cameron and the rest of the FanGraphs team for this opportunity. I’m excited to tackle this challenge and feel like all my past experience working for MLB organizations and writing for various other outlets has led up to this, with each job giving me a specific tool or experience that will be key for what I want to accomplish here.
It works out that baseball prospect writing jobs tend to fill certain roles that scouts fill in a real scouting department. When I wrote for ESPN, I functioned as an area scout or maybe a regional cross-checker (covering mostly amateur players in a couple of states). When I wrote for Scout, I functioned as a national cross-checker (covering mostly amateur players with a national focus). In this new gig for FanGraphs, I will be filling something like the role of a pro scouting director.
I explain this to give you an idea of my aim and posture. A pro scouting director focuses mostly on giving his GM recommendations for acquisitions of professional players, but many of them also will pitch in on the draft and international markets as their backgrounds and specialties dictate. I have experience as a writer and club employee in all three markets, so I’ll be covering all three areas.
As is the focus of this site, I’ll be primarily focusing on minor/major league players, evaluating and ranking those players and finding the best way to communicate their ability and trade value. In this metaphor, that makes the reader the GM.
Another aspect of my job is to help the other FanGraphs prospect writers be in a position to succeed and have us all on the same page, so when their report goes to the GM during the decision making process, I can feel confident in the report without having to rewrite it as my own.
FanGraphs has been great about empowering me with resources and support to make these things a reality and I’m excited about the new ways to evaluate and present talent rankings that we’re working on behind the scenes.
What We’ll Cover
I’ll do plenty of showing and telling in the coming weeks about what my plans are for the prospect end of things here, with some long-term projects already in motion that you won’t hear about for weeks or months. As for the short-term, here are some bullet points to give you an idea of what to expect.
– Free. For the frequency and depth of prospect coverage you expect to pay for at other sites, you will have to fork over a total of $0 to read it here. An overview of the topics I’ll cover:
1) Minor league coverage. This will be the bulk of my focus, which I’ll be getting into right away (more on that below) and we’ll be publishing as much information as you’ll find anywhere else.
2) Draft coverage. I’ll be ranking the 2015, 2016 and 2017 classes in a few weeks. We’ve already had boots on the ground from me and other FG prospect writers at amateur events and you’ll soon see the rankings, reports, videos, rumors and story lines that you’re looking for.
3) Scouting coverage and analysis of big league issues. While FanGraphs is already the top place on the Internet to find timely, poignant analysis of big league news, sometimes there are issues (be it analysis or mechanical changes, etc.) with a foot firmly in the scouting world where I can perhaps contribute.
4) Video, reports and rumors about the July 2nd international signing, coming at least as early as you’ll find it anywhere else. I’ll be visiting the Dominican at least once a year to get eyes on the top players. Here’s some examples of what that looks like from last year (and note the date on each article).
– Expanded. I’m only one man and much of my focus will be going to our first batch of draft rankings later this month and the ongoing organizational prospect lists, which I’ll begin posting later this week, starting at the bottom of the current MLB standings.
I’ve put together a five-man core group of prospect writers that are spread across the country and come with pedigree, scouting ability and industry connections. FanGraphs’ new scouting department is going to be at a lot of pro and amateur games and presenting their reports from these games in an organized, easily searchable way (more on this in the coming weeks).
Ron Shah, Austin Diamond, Nathaniel Stoltz, J.D. Sussman and Mark Smith will be the regular contributors. Hitting mechanics specialist Dan Farnsworth will write from time to time and you already know Carson Cistulli has a niche to fill with our group as well. I want to keep this team from getting too big just because it can, but I’m always interested in talking to writers that are looking for a bigger platform and compensation for their work. Tweet at me @kileymcd if you or someone you know may be a fit and I’ll do my best to get in touch.
– Rankings. As I mentioned above, I’m going to start by immediately (later this week) beginning the prospect rankings for each organization and will go 20-30 deep on each organization with reports and tool grades. If you read my stuff for Scout, you know I like ranking players, and if I had to guess, there’s going to be a ranking of some sort going up every two weeks, if not more often, for the entire year. Only half of them will be listicle slideshows about cat videos.
Righting Some Wrongs
The 20-80 scouting scale is going to get quite a workout around here. One of the things that bugs me most about scouting writing on the internet (and I’m as guilty as anyone) is the lack of context. In some cases that means a writer seeing a start from a pitcher and extrapolating too much from that one outing. Mostly, what I mean is that when a mainstream MLB fan that wants to know who his team might call-up or a fantasy-geared reader wants to know which prospect to pick up can’t decipher what is being said with all the lingo and inside baseball shortcuts/references.
FanGraphs already does a good job of explaining the statistical offerings at the site and making it easy to learn the amount you want to learn about the various stats. Starting very soon, I’ll be writing a long (probably double-digit part) series explaining every part of the 20-80 scale and how to scout each tool with video examples and some jokes, because baseball is supposed to be fun, right?
There’s a shorthand the online baseball writing community uses for scouting purposes that alienates people that want to learn more, so I’m going to make it as easy as possible to catch up as much as you want to. I want every reader to still get that feeling that they’re getting a look inside the industry, knowing that you’re seeing reports from people that have written reports for MLB teams, while also having easy-to-find tools to quickly understand what’s being said if you’re new to the topic.
Once you learn about the scouting scale (if you want to), then content like this is catnip, but that article loses its power if a casual reader has no way to learn how to understand it.
I’ll be doing a weekly podcast with Carson Cistulli, we’ll be building a scouting video library and there’s all kinds of other stuff I could mention, but I’d rather you guys pass judgment as you see it. We’d love to hear your feedback, of course, and make this a collaborative effort. What do you want to see from the FanGraphs prospect coverage? Let us know, and we’ll work on building something you really love.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.