Q: So, while scouting the stat line is never recommended, it just so happens that some of the best prospects happen to do very well in the minor leagues. With that said, I’ve noticed Ian Rice is off to a very nice start, but as a 29th rounder, there is little to nothing to find on him. Is he merely off to a hot streak, or is this a significant bat who was drafted late for other reasons? – Jack C.
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Scouting a pitcher who has a shelved pitch, and some notes on Touki Toussaint.
Q: From an evaluation standpoint, when an organization is limiting a pitcher, to say, using his fastball and changeup (the night you’re at the stadium), does your evaluation method change at all, knowing the pitcher couldn’t use his whole pitch set? – Andrew E.
This week's mailbag covers how run-environment affects scouting and Tyler O'Neill's breakout.
Q: How much do you discount hitters if they play in a high run scoring environment? Do value extra base hit totals at a lower scale than on-base percentage? It seems to me that high elevation has more of an impact on extra bases (distance, hang time) but it doesn’t help a guy get on base or just base hits at a statistically significant rate. – OJ C.
Questions on Corey Ray, Edwin Diaz's big move, and a trio of struggling youngsters highlight this week's mailbag.
Q: When is the last time we have seen a college hitter like Corey Ray have over 30 SBs, flirt with a .300 ISO and K less than 12% of the time? That package might be unprecedented. Who’s the best MLB comp? Where is his most likely landing spot; still Braves? – Imari L.
Mark looks at the pitchers on display in the NYPL All-Star game.
After looking at the New York-Penn League position players in Part 1 of this series, I take a step back and provide my scouting notes on many of the arms on display in last week’s All-Star contest. Scouting arms in an exhibition setting can be difficult as most pitchers amp up and show max stuff in a one-inning burst, but there is still valuable information to be obtained.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Detroit Tigers (Connecticut) Looks every bit the part of a first rounder; strong durable frame despite being just 6-foot-1; attacked with everything; FB sat 93-94; had 96-98 when he wanted/needed it; FB was explosive and nearly unhittable; SL 85-88 and best secondary pitch of the night; SL was very sharp with incredibly hard two-plane break; two easy plus pitches that both flashed in 7 range; didn’t show CH; a little effort to delivery; arm slot and landing foot were inconsistent; control was spotty; mid-rotation potential but FB-SL will play in late innings as backup.
In-person reviews of a dozen very young prospects.
Last week the Connecticut Tigers hosted the New York-Penn League All-Star Game with a host of talented young players moving out of the complex leagues and making their professional debuts. Twelve position players garnered most of my attention throughout the evening. While it is always risky placing too much weight on a one-game sample, the following are my notes on the position players who stood out last week.
Oscar Hernandez, C, Tampa Bay Rays (Hudson Valley) Very good body; good height for a catcher; strong, lean upper body; thicker lower half; has strength to catch and projects for durability; hands work well at the plate; extremely quick to the ball; handled velo and secondary pitches well in this contest; plus bat speed; defense will play; lightning fast hands behind the plate; showed good footwork and quick transfer; plus arm; popped 1.88, 1.94, 2.02; throws consistently on target; throws down to the bag; solid all-around potential; high risk; potential everyday backstop.
The players who had legitimately elite tools in 2012, and why we should truly appreciate their talent.
Even as baseball fans and those within the industry gain a deeper understanding of statistics, one number remains largely misinterpreted and misunderstood. The elite post atop the traditional 2-8 (or 20-80) scouting scale, the 8 represents the territory so far to the right on the scouting bell curve that few scouts dare to tread there. It represents only the most elite of tools and should always be respected.
As a young scout learning the ropes in the mid-2000s, I didn’t immediately understand the significance of this extreme end of the scouting scale. But gradually, my respect for it grew as I began to understand its scarcity. In 2012, I watched countless games from high school to the pros. I spoke to scouts and industry insiders at all levels of baseball. And only very rarely did I hear mention of an elite-level tool.
What you need to know about today's Rule 5 picks, with scouting info on each player selected.
Every year teams protect their own players from the Rule 5 Draft and search for a diamond in the rough among the unprotected players in other organizations. While there are historical Rule 5 success stories like George Bell, Johan Santana, and Dan Uggla, those occurrences are few and far between. Many players selected in the annual draft have intriguing tools or the overall potential to contribute at the major-league level, most fade into obscurity and are rarely heard from again. This year’s draft, which took place this morning in Nashville and in which 15 players were picked, will likely be no different in that respect, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting storylines to watch as the 2013 season approaches.
Favorite Pick:Josh Fields (RHP, Houston Astros) – Many in the industry were surprised when Fields was not protected by the Red Sox. The 27-year-old right-hander finished the season strong by not allowing a run in 10 appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket and then continued to show well in the Arizona Fall League. His fastball-curveball combination is big-league ready and his command has improved to the point that he can hang with the big boys. He has a setup reliever ceiling and could pitch in that role by the end of the season.
Mark has come to expect some surprises on his trips to Instructs, though that doesn't always mean "future big-league starter."
As I noted last week, there are some things I come to expect during scouting trips. And while last time I mentioned schedule changes and climate challenges, expectations can also include organizations: every time I head south for Instructs, I expect the Phillies to have a roster loaded with raw athletes, and I expect the Braves to surprise me with a few guys I like more than I did before I got there. That was no different on this trip: the Phillies had a lot of youth and athleticism on their roster, while the Braves roster, admittedly lacking a lot of upside, did feature some players with big league futures. Just as a reminder, in the following reports, remember that “BLUF” stands for “Bottom Line Up Front,” which is the quick summary before we get to the more detailed reasoning.
Jose Pujols, OF, Philadelphia Phillies BLUF: Enormous raw potential that comes with an incredible gap between present and future. Setting the Stage: Pujols was signed at the outset of the 2012 international signing period, agreeing to a reported $540,000 bonus. The 16-year-old Dominican did not play in any affiliated leagues after signing and made his unofficial professional debut at Instructs. Scouting Report: Raw doesn’t begin to describe this kid. He has unreal amounts of physical projection and he stands out on the field despite his age. With long limbs and good natural strength in his body, Pujols has the potential to develop into a complete physical monster. He has a right field profile that takes a little dreaming to see, though he is a good athlete with surprising coordination for his age. His movements are fluid and he could eventually be a quality defender. During workouts and warmups he showed an above-average arm, but occasionally unleashed a throw worthy of a 6 score, which gets closer to having a plus arm. Offensively, Pujols was two completely different hitters between batting practice and games. In batting practice he showed a focus on establishing a consistent swing plane with good loft. His swings were deliberate and both his contact ability and pop actually suffered because of it. In games, though, his natural, more uppercut swing took over and while there was still swing-and-miss, the ball exploded off his bat, including a monster home run to the pull side. The power is evident, and he has huge home run potential if the swing alterations take and his contact rates can improve. Projection: You could project just about anything for Pujols and it would be hard to argue. For me, the present physicality and physical projection, the obvious raw power, and the overall tools all stand out and are impossible to ignore. His developmental path is going to be long and arduous, but there is definitely reason to be excited about Pujols’ high-ceiling potential.
Mark Anderson checks in with his first in a series of reports from the Florida Instructional League.
The instructional league is extremely difficult to scout, particularly in Florida. From teams being spread all over the place, to the changing game schedules, to players getting limited appearances, instructs can challenge the most experienced of scouts. I’ve been here many times, and I’ve come to expect certain things. I’ve come to expect schedule changes, which I certainly found on this trip. I’ve come to expect the Toronto Blue Jays to play an incredibly aggressive style of ball, which they certainly did. I’ve come to expect a roasting hot sun and temperatures that make scouts wilt, which I found this time with my stopwatch literally melting in my left hand. I’ve experienced a lot the last few days and it’s time to share my notes with you.
For those of you unfamiliar with my scouting and writing style, I like to lay things out up front. The “Bottom Line Up Front,” or “BLUF,” offers a quick peek at my thoughts, followed by a more in-depth scouting report and observations. I try to paint a complete picture, including uncertainty, each time I present a report.