Once again, Jason and his team begin an enormous journey. Here's what you'll get, and how best to enjoy it.
It’s that time of year again, when the failures of all but one team are forgiven and the dreams of a better tomorrow supplant the stinging agony of defeat. Please allow me to sell you hope, packaged in promise, tied with a bow of unlimited possibilities. I know of a player who can solve all your problems and keep your sleep patterns regulated, and if you buy a subscription to Baseball Prospectus you can read about that player. I’m a prospect prognosticator: the Zoloft salesmen of baseball. How may I comfort you?
In all seriousness, prospect rankings aren’t about selling hope or compartmentalizing a future joy to lessen the ennui of the offseason months; rather, prospect rankings are pop-up art shows, galleries of photographs that capture a particular moment in time. Not to lessen the appeal or diminish the importance of the work, but snapshots don’t have lungs and they don’t crawl to land and evolve over time. Rankings throw a net over a designated slice of the calendar, and then shine a bright light on the apprehended prospects. But the ebb and flow of player development has a chance to wash away any static snapshot when the mood sees fit, and the player who was cast in a starring role is quickly reduced to the fringes of the spectrum. The hope that was sold in the fall often confronts the reality that exists in the spring, and by the following fall, hope has officially transformed to helplessness.
It is my privilege to announce the long-awaited launch of the official Baseball Prospectus merchandise store, an online repository of BP-related products. The initial product launch, in recognition of our hash-tag lunatic fringe, offers shirts in all 30 team colors, in which you can select your choice of #want, #rig, #sparkle, #wet, and #slack to wear across your chest—a telling descriptor of a personal approach to life or your particular team’s current standing.
As the 2013 offseason creeps towards us, our eyes start to turn to projects and productions yet unaccomplished, and the personnel necessary to not only execute those resplendent tasks but to elevate the bar previously set. Our goals and ambitions going forward will require an expansion in coverage, and as a result, we are looking to add talent evaluators to the prospect staff.
The scouting team rolls out a new feature just in time for the postseason.
When we started the eyewitness scouting series at Baseball Prospectus, which focused on our in-person evaluations of minor league talent, it was quite common to receive questions about the scope of the series, specifically if we any intention of expanding it to include major-league talent. At the time, I wanted to keep the focus on the minor-league side, maturing that series in the hopes of creating a product delicious enough to satisfy the prospect appetite of our target audience. As the summer rolled on, I started exploring a more comprehensive scouting experience for the site, and with the help of several industry contacts, started to build a construct of a new series, one focused on major-league players.
Using the basic framework of a major-league advance report, we wanted to take a recent seven- to 10-game sample—or around 30-50 at-bats—and break down what a hitter is doing, why a hitter is doing it, who a hitter is doing it against, and the means to exploit the weaknesses in the offensive profile versus both left-handed pitching and right-handed pitching. It’s a very labor-intensive exercise, and requires that we form a legally recognized union with MLB.tv, complete with rings and a precious ceremony, but the process has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a baseball writer. Breaking down every pitch thrown to a player over the course of the sample has taught me more about tendencies and ticks of a hitter than ever before, and even though it’s a different form of scouting that what I’m familiar with, it has made me a better evaluator as a result. I’m really proud of the process and the finished product, and it’s my sincere hope that you feel the same. Today we introduce the series with reports on Andrew McCutchen and Shin-Soo Choo.
The prospects team recounts seeing achievers and disappointments this year, among them Addison Russell, Todd McDonald, Henry Owens, and Miguel Sano.
Todd McDonald, OF, Rangers (AZL Rangers)
McDonald is the strangest player I have ever had the privilege to scout; he’s the prospect poster child for the post-minimalist movement. The 17-year-old Australian of Aboriginal descent plays the game with the kind of physical effort than is hard to see and appreciate with the human eye. At the plate, McDonald stands upright, rarely wasting the energy necessary to complete a practice swing or to secure proper footing in the box; rather, McDonald just walks [stress the word: walk] into the box, looks at the pitcher, and practices his ability to remain completely still. Without any lower-half movement, he can square plus velocity by firing his hands and striking the ball. Of course, this assumes he actually decides to remove the bat from his shoulder. McDonald has a very interesting approach at the plate, as his 80-grade #slack might suggest, but it’s the pitch recognitions skills that intrigue me; rarely will McDonald chase a pitch out of the zone, as he would rather not swing and strikeout looking than actually swing the bat and miss the ball. In the field, McDonald plays with the intensity of Quaalude addict watching paint dry in an empty room, but the raw tools suggest he could be an above-average runner if he ever decided to actually run. I have no idea how McDonald will develop on the field, but I guarantee that I will never lose my fascination with his unique blend of bat-to-ball instincts and #slack. –Jason Parks
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Sano brutalized the Florida State League before reality slowed his prospect flow in Double-A, which is where I had the chance to watch him over a four-game series. His raw power is unbelievable, as the 20-year-old is strong enough to launch balls over the fence without the benefit of sweet-spot contact. The swing is leveraged and long, and despite ball/strike recognition skills, he will look for big extension in most counts and will expand his zone and chase. His hit tool could play to average at the end of the day, which would make him a ~.260 type, but enough that the big boy raw can play in games, which could make him a 40-plus home run type. The defensive profile has been a subject of debate since his professional debut, but I thought he showed more than enough at third to project at the position. For his size, he’s a very good athlete with good balance and coordination, and he is at his best coming in on balls. He struggled with some lateral movements, especially when he failed to center himself to the ball and would opt for a more casual Roger Dorn approach to fielding grounders. But I think he possesses the necessary athleticism to handle the demands of the position, and the arm is more than strong enough to bail him out of a few initial mistakes. The total package could be one of the best power hitters in the game, one with enough holes to exploit if you have a plan and can execute it, but also one who will punish you severely if you make a mistake over the plate. He’s a middle-of-the-order threat that can stick at third if he makes it a priority, and given the fact that he’s only 20, he has plenty of time to refine his game before reaching his potential. –Jason Parks
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How to make IHOP pancakes from "Top Secret Recipes"
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cooking oil
pinch of salt
1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a pan with a nonstick surface or apply a little nonstick spray.
2. In a blender or with a mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients until smooth.
3. Laddle approximately 1/3 cup of the batter into the hot skillet, forming 5-inch circles.
4. When the edges appear to harden, after a minute or two, flip the pancakes. They should be golden brown.
5. Cook pancakes on the other side for same amount of time, until golden brown.
Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.
Kansas City reportedly calls up a flamethrower who could be a back-of-the-bullpen force or a top-of-the-rotation starter.
The Situation: The Royals find themselves in the playoff hunt for the first time since the advent of manned flight, and adding a potent weapon to an already potent bullpen could help propel the team toward October baseball. With the grind of a long season wearing heavily on the legs and the hands of hitters, a high-octane flamethrower capable of hitting over 100 mph on the gun can be a devastating force, even more so when you consider that the league is unacquainted with the young arm.
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, shortstop, Royals (Low-A Lexington) Coming into the season, Mondesi the Younger was an invisible prospect to many, having failed to capture more national attention despite being ranked third on the Baseball Prospectus Royals’ Top 10 list and 58th overall in baseball on the pre-season 101. His most familiar quality at the time was a bloodline and a short-season resume, but after the then-17-year-old jumped to the full-season level and flashed his high-ceiling tools, he became a featured player on prospects lists all over the internet. The equivalent of a junior in high school, Mondesi had 27 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in the Sally League, while showing off his legit left-side chops on defense. Mondesi has a chance to blossom into one of the best prospects in the game, as the hit tool has projection (clean stroke; can make hard contact and drive velocity) and the glove is more than capable of sticking at shortstop. Factor in his extreme youth, natural ease and feel for the game, and tool-based ceiling, and Mondesi might be one of the most exciting prospects in the minors. He exceeded all my expectations in 2013 and my expectations were high, and with another step forward, the aforementioned prospect prophecy might be a truth and not just a tease. –Jason Parks
Lucas Sims, pitcher, Braves (Low-A Rome)
Sims is a stud, but I didn’t see him developing into this level of stud this early in the developmental process. A first-round pick in 2012, Sims has been on the prospect radar for a while, but the 19-year-old righty really blossomed in 2013, logging over 116 innings in the Sally League and missing 134 bats. He’s not an imposing figure on the mound, but the stuff casts a bigger shadow than his 6’2’’ frame. He’s comfortable working his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s with late tailing action, dropping a true upper-70s hammer with heavy vertical action, and a 82-86 mph changeup with late sink. Because of his impressive performance in 2013, Sims is sailing up prospect lists, and if his final six starts of the season are a harbinger of his next step forward (34 IP, 46 K, 23 H, 5 ER), the Braves might have something special on their hands. –Jason Parks
Reviewing our performance in identifying each AL organization's preseason sleeper.
One of the truisms of baseball is that everybody loves a good sleeper prospect, a player standing in the shadows of an organization’s top 10 just waiting to take a step forward into a brighter light. Whether or not we accept participation in one of the basic tenets of our social construct—that coolness is best served before the taint of ubiquity expands and dilutes the original item or action originally classified as cool—jumping on the bandwagon before that bandwagon becomes a city bus is the class signifier of sports fandom.
Going into the 2013 season, each individual team list featured an “On the Rise” section where these under-the-radar types were profiled and projected. Scouting introspection is an important part of the evaluation process, and looking back on the hits and misses of the 2013 sleeper class could encourage more debate and discussion about our process and methods of evaluation. I stress that it’s not about the pompous desire to be right, or the sententious stance against being wrong; rather, it’s about the [individual] player finding production on the field in the midst of a schizophrenic developmental process, and about our investigative approach to finding the prospects that are ready for those positive developmental steps. Anybody can pick three young names out of a system and sell the dreams of their sunny tomorrow. But dart throwing isn’t a process, it’s a parlor trick, one made more remarkable through the magic of alcohol and casual lighting. When the goal is depth, it’s important to understand where to dig and why to dig rather than just using Google searches and stat lines to unearth the dirt.