In a relaunch of the Eyewitness Accounts series for 2014, the BP Prospect Staff profiles Jorge Alfaro, Bubba Starling, Josh Hader, Aaron Sanchez, Lucas Sims, Tim Anderson, Brandon Nimmo, and Anthony Kemp.
Back in the fall of 2007, I was sitting with a few scouts and various team officials at an instructional league game, and I was open-eared to some their criticism of the scouting and player development coverage found on the internet. Specific to my work at the time, the Rangers prospect content I was producing offered very little substance to anybody outside of casual minor league fans, and the opinions I put forth on my boutique site weren’t taken seriously by the industry. I always wanted to write scouting reports—the kind of reports that my heroes in the stands would construct and submit, the kind of reports that offered far more significance than the surface player interviews or simple field observations I was producing. But I lacked the necessary skill-set to pull off such a scouting endeavor, so I chose not to fake it and continued with the primitive prospect work I was familiar and comfortable with.
Updates or introductions to Ben Lively, Victor Reyes, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, and more.
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What Mookie Betts' .400-plus batting average has us reconsidering.
I was first introduced to Mookie Betts on a baseball field back in 2012. It was the New York-Penn League, and the setting was pleasant even if most of the talent would eventually need to buy a ticket to participate in a major-league game. Betts was small and thin, and I didn’t pay much attention to him other than to highlight his name because he was drafted relatively high in the 2011 class and that alone is enough to justify a deeper look in the late-round mecca that is short-season ball. That was my first offseason to rank prospects, and Betts didn’t sniff the Red Sox top 10 list, and I don’t recall his name coming up in the discussion for the “On the Rise” candidates either. We ranked Bryce Brentz over Betts, if that gives you any indication how far off our radar Betts was at the time.
Is a tendency to favor fire-breathers a bias, or sound wisdom?
“Doesn’t pitch with enough fire.” He’s soft.” “Doesn’t attack.” “Lacks fortitude on the mound.” “Doesn’t pitch with confidence.” “I question the sack.” “Doesn’t act the part of a number one starter.” These are all descriptions found in various scouting reports on pitcher Mark Appel going back to his amateur days and continuing in the present. Validity of the scouting assessments aside, the number of evaluators questioning the fortitude of a recent 1:1 player is significant for several reasons, but for this particular article, I want to focus on the role fortitude plays in the scouting process, and why some pitchers take a hit based on such a subjective and often biased means of categorizing talent.
Updates on Gregory Polanco, Mark Appel, Dalton Pompey, Joey Gallo and six others.
Dalton Pompey, CF, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
During the offseason, Pompey’s name was in the running for the Jays top 10 list, and after falling short of that distinction he was in the running (but not chosen) to be named a prospect on the rise in that organization. The omission is our mistake—and a foolish one at that—as the 21-year-old outfielder has blossomed into arguably the top position prospect in the Blue Jays organization, a toolsy dream of a player who is finally healthy and putting the pieces together on the field. A relatively unknown 16th-round draft pick in 2010, Pompey has struggled with injuries, most notably a broken hamate bone, but he has always flashed the promise, especially the plus-plus speed (and plus-plus baserunning) and defensive chops in center field. A switch-hitter at present, Pompey is superior from the left side of the plate, with a quick to-the-ball stroke and gap pop. While he’s far from a finished product—the right-side bat can look like a mess, with poor balance and bat control, and the defense in center is still more raw athleticism than crisp reads and routes—the step forward in 2014 is legitimate, and if Pompey can stay healthy, he should reach the Double-A level at some point during the season and emerge as a nationally recognized prospect. –Jason Parks
With their roster low on left-side infielders, the Rangers turn to a top 101 prospect for help.
The Situation: The Rangers need a warm-bodied athlete to fill a temporary void on the 25-man roster, and Sardinas’ left-side-of-the-infield skills, speed—and more importantly—existence on the current 40-man roster make the call-up a simple solution.
The Background: Considered one of the slickest gloves available in the 2009 international amateur class, the Rangers made a sizeable investment in the Venezuelan shortstop with a $1.5 million bonus. Signed in the same class as former top prospect and current disabled list darling Jurickson Profar, Sardinas struggled to carve out his own identity in the early going, logging more time on the shelf than he did on the field, and his stock slipped as a result.
Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell or Javier Baez? We polled front office types and our prospect staff.
The rise of the superstar shortstop prospect prompts preferential inquiries, as my email inbox, Twitter feed, and chat queues are continually maxed out with questions about Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Lindor, and Russell, and if forced to choose, which one would I choose? The five chiseled heads on the modern Mount Rushmore of shortstop prospects (six if you go high on Mondesi) present a daily challenge of preference, a subjective exercise of forced selection tied to the realities of the present and the fantasies of the future, a tug-of-war we play with ropes made of tangible data, scouting memories of on-the-field motions, and the conceptual ideas of value and who will be most likely to achieve it.
Raimel Tapia, Carlos Correa, Julio Urias, Clint Frazier, and other prospects we can't wait to scout this summer.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Internet evaluators have a tendency to overcomplicate the scouting process, focusing too much of their attention on what players will do in the future rather than simplifying the explanations of what they actually can do in the present. We can dream on athletic bodies and cite physical projection to justify our fantasies about future accomplishment, and I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to attaching my name to body-beautiful types regardless of current skill level. But a good rule of thumb—in the particular context of evaluating position players—is that good hitters hit and bad hitters only project to hit.
Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia can hit. He accomplishes this with a combination of balance and bat speed at the plate, allowing him to consistently drive the baseball, but there is an innate component at play here that goes deeper than any breakdown of his setup or swing. He excels at putting the barrel of his bat on the baseball, recognizing the ball early out of the pitcher’s hand and using his excellent hand-eye coordination to finish the connection. This natural ability to hit has been evident at every stop in his professional career, and is likely to continue as he climbs toward the highest level. We can wax poetic—and I have—about his other physical gifts, like plus run, a plus arm, and the potential to stick up the middle with the glove, but the name of the game is bat-to-ball, and Tapia can hit. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. –Jason Parks
The minor leaguers who made a major impression this spring.
LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers)
A 16-year-old pitching in the Midwest League can turn heads, and when that pitcher can pump a fastball in the 91-96 range in each start, backed up by multiple breaking ball looks and a quality changeup, the heads start spinning. I watched two spring starts from the now 17-year-old southpaw, and I came away knowing that this was the most polished young arm I have ever seen.