Jason offers notes from a recent trip to Mississippi, on which he saw J.R. Graham and Taijuan Walker, among other prospects.
Always in search of high-ceiling talent, I recently made the trek to Mississippi to watch two of the Double-A Southern League’s more loaded teams: the Mississippi Braves (Atlanta) and the Jackson Generals (Seattle). The three-game look provided a glimpse of some of the game’s top overall prospects. Without further ado, here are the scouting notes and videos...
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Bone up on the basics of scouting with a primer on evaluating a prospect's running, fielding, and throwing ability.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Revisit the second part of Kevin's scouting vocabulary primer, which covered the qualities that are evaluated when a scout looks at a prospect's running, fielding, and throwing abilities. The piece was originally published as a Future Shock column on March 15, 2006.
A fictionalized take on one scout's day of despair and grasp at redemption.
This cup of coffee was brewed in the early 1970s. It’s my third cup and I can taste the era of its inception on my tongue; it’s vocal and disillusioned, with a bitter aftertaste from the marijuana, cigarettes, and traces of powder in its finish. Since cup number two, I’ve been staring at the peeling soft peach wallpaper that casually blankets my surroundings, pondering the psychological meanings in the selection of the color. The paper itself looks like it smells, like potpourri and human age, not the calming and delicious peaches that the hue suggests. This room is trying to manipulate me. I’d lick the walls (again) to prove my point, but the rogue counter girl is already suspicious of my presence and I doubt I have a long leash at this hour. I’m somewhat over-caffeinated and teetering on a manic episode thanks to the complimentary swill available in the lobby after the standard activities of the lobby have longed ceased. I’ve been up since 8AM for the seventh day in a row. I have to finish this report. The date is June 2005, just days before the 2005 Rule Four Amateur baseball draft. I am more of a number than a name. I work in the scouting department for a major league team. I’ve been tasked with revisionist busy work. I’ve been tasked with my own evaluation, my own execution.
(Notes) Draft Recommendations from 2001-2004 by XxXxXxX
2001: Draft Notes: Crosschecked talent; highest possible tier; must haves; five players with assorted thoughts. Please let me back in.
Shortstop is a huge weakness on many major-league teams, but is there about to be an infusion of talent through the pipeline?
I’m going to curb my desire to craft a cute narrative about the importance of the position. (As is often the case, I’m going to satisfy my desire of cuteness delivery by assembling cute prospect tiers.) If you read Baseball Prospectus, you are already ahead of the baseball knowledge curve, so I don’t need to get didactic about the inherent skill set required to play the position, or the overall value a quality shortstop brings to the table. If you really want to read my take on what it takes, you can always check out my “U Got the Look” series and read 12,000 words of meandering scouting patois presented with a perfectly striped bow of instability.
For this exercise, I turned a blind eye to the substance offered by the middle-class prospects at the position, focusing instead on those with high ceilings, those with flashy leather and questions with the stick, and those who find themselves the targets of positional deficiency whispers. The tiers are self-explanatory, but not comprehensive; it would take three more editions to include all the names in my notes, and frankly, you don’t want to read four articles discussing every shortstop prospect in the minors. Actually, I take that back. You probably do. Let me rephrase: I don’t have the sanity it would take to write four articles breaking down every shortstop in the minors. I have to monitor my sanity reserves; after all, I’m heading back to Arizona for a lengthy scouting trip. Give me strength. Let’s get started.
Asking questions leads to new roles and a new future.
Beginning when I was 12 years old, the Yankees had a pitcher named Bob Shirley in their pen. Shirley was a left-hander of no particular ability, and he had just gone 8-13 (albeit with a league-average ERA) for the Reds, but then as now if you have the letters “FA” before your name, the Yankees wanted to talk to you, so Shirley was signed.
There was no particular plan for Bob. Looking back at the move 28 years later, it seems as if there were just a few big free agents that year, and the Yankees were just trying to collect the set. There were Steve Kemp, Don Baylor--the Yankees got both--and Steve Garvey, at least in the sense of notoriety, though at the time he was 34 and hadn't hit much over the previous two years. The big pitcher was lefty Floyd Bannister, Brian's dad, a hard-throwing lefty who had the misfortune to spend the heart of his 20s with the expansion-era Seattle Mariners. (What came between Brian and inheriting his father's arm is a question that will torture geneticists for years.) Bannister signed with the White Sox, so as they are sometimes wont to do, the Yankees seemingly defaulted to the next guy on the list: Bob Shirley.
Shirley's Yankees career was unremarkable except for the way he was used. He was one of a vanishing breed, the swingman. Most of the time he was in the bullpen, but six or eight times a year he would step into the starting rotation and take a few turns. He wasn't so good a reliever that a manager felt bad about not having him available late, and he wasn't a good enough starter to stick in the rotation and leave him there. His real talent was his ability to pitch often and switch between a 25-pitch role and an 80-pitch role, with no apparent difficulty while doing so. In this way he would pitch 100 or so utility innings a year. This is how often the Yankees used Shirley: one day in 1985, the dugout called the bullpen and told the coach to get Shirley up. The coach could not comply, because Shirley was, at that moment, pitching in the game.
Taking the teams out of the equation to answer who the best talents are in this year's draft.
To be clear, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected, nor is it any kind of mock draft. Instead, this is a pure ranking of talent based on a combination of ultimate ceiling and the probability of reaching it after numerous conversations with scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, and front office officials.
An in-depth discussion about mechanics with the motion analysis coordinator and coach of the National Pitching Association.
Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA's motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.
Though this week's draft will involve over a thousand players taken with all sorts of considerations, Kevin details the 50 best pure talents.
The following rankings are based on discussions with scouts, scouting directors, other team personnel, and agents. They are based purely on projectable pro talent, with no consideration given to actual draft status, which often involves signability and/or perceived bonus demands.