September 26, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Fall Instructional League Notes, Part I
Every fall, I board a plane, drink myself into tranquility, and dream of my upcoming arrival in the morbidly warm state of Arizona. Since 2007, I’ve spent a few weeks each September watching underdeveloped talent on the backfields of the instructional league, an awesome hoard of projection so satisfying to the scouting process that I look forward to the adventure 11 months out of the year. But I really dislike this state. I really dislike standing in triple-digit heat. I really dislike fast-food consensus. I really dislike being away from my selfish and overweight cat Mr. Drummond. I really dislike subjecting my sanity to the toxic environment of a hotel lifestyle. I really dislike feeling this isolated. I would trade this experience for anything in the world. I dislike not being able to like this with greater intensity.
My head is on a swivel and water is escaping my pores like my insides are an oppressive fascist regime. I’m taking notes and I’m making conversion, all in the name of information procurement. My job is to learn, and I’m surrounded by teachers in multiple forms, from scouts, to front office personnel, to coaches, to players, to the play on the field. I’m in love with the intellectual overload; I’m dizzy from the lesson plans. It might also be a heat stroke.
Instead of crafting a narrative or shaping the raw material into a clever form, I’d rather let the data stand on its own; we can chisel a representational structure after we collect enough supply. The point of the instructional league is to see what you have, dream about what it could be, and start to script how to go about getting it there. In these notes—recreated from the sweat-stained pages of my daily backfield observations—are the initial sketches of a prospect on his journey to becoming a player. I write about what I see, and these notes were compiled over the last three days. In that span of time, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Dodgers, Rangers, Yaquis de Obregon (Mexican Pacific League), and the White Sox. I have another week to go on my journey, so stay tuned for upcoming reports on the Royals, Reds, Indians, and Brewers.
Courtney Hawkins (White Sox): Thicker body than I expected; Kevin Mitchell thighs; obvious athlete; multiple 4.25 times to first; strength is just as obvious as athleticism; ball screams off bat when contact is made; top-heavy swing; bat speed generated by tremendous raw strength; lacks impressive bat control; fooled by off-speed stuff; front foot contact; left field profile for me; clocked with plus velo off the mound in high school, but arm in the field is only okay; power is only loud tool, but it has the potential to be very loud; doesn’t have star-level projection; if power translates, has first-division potential, but role 5 player more realistic; how long does present athleticism keep profile from being worse?; how big does the body get?; major league strength, but does he have a major league swing?; I need to see a lot more, but I was expecting to see a more electric profile and a little less body.
The Chicago White Sox Instructional League Roster: Lots of thickness; not fat, but mature bodies with linebacker builds; they look extremely strong; what the team saves in Latin American bonuses they must spend on weights and comestibles; they can probably squat more than most major league teams; the team must love Dayan Viciedo’s body type because they filled a roster with the physical clone; I would hate to wrestle the roster; I’m not sure I’d target physically mature teenagers without projection that don’t play premium positions early on in drafts, but I’m a big fan of toolsy players who disappoint, so what do I know?