August 4, 2017
Jordan Sheffield: A Slider in Three Parts
Back when I was someone who only read reports and didn’t have to write them, I had a misguided belief in the precision of the 20-80 scale. Baseball Prospectus has always preached that development isn’t necessarily linear, but it’s much easier to understand that in theory than to account for it in practice. In my mind, a guy’s stuff was his stuff and his tools were his tools, and those were the bedrock of his prospect profile. The feel for a pitch might progress or he might add more power as he bulks up, but the change was always built on what was there before.
In reality, the process isn’t that black and white, and players can look completely different from night to night. One of the challenges of evaluating prospects is trying to reconcile conflicting information about a player. Many take the “it’s in there” approach, with the idea being that if a guy flashes a tool or a pitch, that represents his ceiling for that tool or pitch, and the rest of the work is projecting the likelihood of him reaching it. How many times have you read about a prospect with “some feel for the change” that the evaluator projects to average?
Others are more conservative with their grades, preferring to “write what you see.” Sometimes a guy doesn’t show what everyone else says he does, so you become the low guy. However, as Jeffrey Paternostro wrote last week, the job of an evaluator in the public sphere is different than that of a professional scout. I’ve seen Dodgers prospect Jordan Sheffield three times this year. Each time I’ve seen something different, and I don’t quite know what to do.