Can teams tell the difference between Bad and Weird?
It’s tough enough to look at a 17-to-22-year-old boy and predict with the certainty appropriate for a multimillion-dollar decision what kind of baseball player he’ll be in five years without also having to determine what kind of man he’ll grow up to be.
The second part is a messy bucket of four-day-old fruit cocktail called makeup. Makeup is useful, because limited though a scout’s interaction with a player might be, it’s better than nothing. Makeup comprises things like work ethic, receptiveness to coaching and ability to respond under pressure, which impact on-field performance directly, as well as other qualities that reflect the truth that teams aren’t just trying to hire ballplayers—they’re hiring employees. Good makeup can also mean that a player will fit in with the corporate culture, that he’ll get along with his co-workers and behave in a manner that reflects well on the company.
While it's entirely likely you'll skip right ahead to the rankings, we wanted to provide some context for the list. As always, prospect lists are a snapshot in time—in this case mid-to-late December, when the list was compiled. It's possible a prospect's situation has changed since then, or that our evaluator's feelings on a prospect have changed, due to new information. Additionally, it's possible that a prospect ranks higher within his team list than he does here, and that's because the team Top 10s are spearheaded by individual authors who are informed by the BP Prospect Team and outside sources. The product below reflects a more rounded team effort, and thus there could be some inconsistencies between the Top 10s and the 101. These are not mistakes, but rather reflections of the different weight of opinions that drove the respective lists. Thank you, and enjoy —Craig Goldstein
It’s dangerous to read too much into a month’s worth of major-league plate appearances, especially when that month is September. Maybe Corey Seager took advantage of 40-man roster fodder and teams with one foot on the golf course to hit .337/.425/.561 as the 2015 season waned, but that’s pretty consistent with what he has done at every other stop in his professional career. He hits for average. He hits for power. He may not be a shortstop forever, as he is a very large human, but the bat is good enough to play anywhere. Regardless, Seager will be the Dodgers shortstop in 2016, and he may very well be the best one in the National League from the moment he steps foot on the field Opening Day.
We have a lot of problems in the United States, and every few years, we get to hear a bunch of people blather on about what those problems are, what causes them, and how to best fix them before the very order of things that we know falls apart. We know of course that most people don’t pay attention to these issues until after the World Series is over (or so the saying goes), but this really is an opportunity to make the American Past Time great again. So on this Super Tuesday, I think it’s time we had a discussion about tax policy.
Breaking down Baseball Prospectus' top 101 prospects list.
Today, the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff released our Top 101 Prospects of 2016. Here is the Top 101 list displayed by position, by organization, by prospect age, and by their means of entering professional baseball. Enjoy!
We have a Play Index! Get ready for Venezuelan Winter League fun facts.
Hello there! I'm writing this guest post from Caracas for all of you guys who never seem to have enough of the baseball world.
You do know where Caracas is, right? You just have to Google "most dangerous city in the world," and you will find "cute little pictures" of my "cute little hometown." But besides that, Caracas—and Venezuela as a whole—are known for many things less negative than violence: Beautiful people, ridiculously cheap gas prices aaaaandddd baseball.
First of all, let me just clarify that Winter Leagues, such as the Venezuelan, are a little a bit more important than foreign fans might think. Granted, they used to be a lot bigger. The Venezuelan League, for example, saw Greg Maddux, Bob Gibson and Rollie Fingers all pitch, and enjoyed the shows that Pete Rose and Rod Carew displayed in their early years. Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout aren't traveling south for the winter these days. But they are still kind of big...
I say all of this because I'm about to show you a couple of toys that we—and when I say "we" I mean journalists who look for numbers in this desert—use to get stats for and from our league, and I don't want you thinking this has no use in your part of the baseball world. That being said, let’s begin.
In winter leagues, I'm afraid to tell you, we don't have PITCHf/x or Trackman. We don't have heatmaps, and we don't have spray charts. Shoot, we consider having splits a freaking luxury! It's a hellhole for sabermetrician wannabes. There are, however, at least three ways you can get basic leaderboards of basic stats (AVG, OBP, SLG /ERA, BB, K).
On the appeal of the guys who make baseball happen.
With the year winding to a close, Baseball Prospectus is revisiting some of our favorite articles of the year. This was originally published on November 13, 2015.
You're there to see someone else. Maybe this time it's one of the biggest arms in the system, who you've heard is finally starting to show some feel and command. Another time it's a young, seven-figure Venezuelan with a physique that elicits head-shakingly sexual quotes from scouts and enough present-day baseball skills to allow you to dream a bit.
Thirty teams left hundreds of players unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and you won't believe what happened next.
Depending on where you land on the spectrum, the Rule 5 draft is either the most overrated or underrated event that occurs in the offseason. Yes, there are the occasional stars, but because of the rules that require teams carry the player on the 25-man roster all season, you typically don’t see a ton of high-ceiling, low-floor players carried. That being said, there are always serviceable players available due to roster constraints, and 2015 was no exception.
Here’s a look at the 16 players who were selected in today’s draft, and how they have a chance to make an impact in their new respective organizations. Skipped numbers indicate that teams passed.
As a reader of this site, you’re inevitably well aware that statistics, biographies, analysis, scouting reports, rankings, and video—whether for pro players or amateurs—are but a mouseclick away. There’s a whole lot of baseball information out there, and while it’s plentiful and easily accessible, increased volume necessarily comes with more noise to filter through. The Baseball Operations sub-department most affected by the information boom of the past decade is of course Analytics, but the degree to which increased information availability has affected Scouting goes overlooked. As we’ll explore in this piece, scouts are tasked with filtering and, in many cases, flatly excluding large batches of available information in the interest of maintaining the originality and validity of their evaluations.
Scouting is a necessarily subjective exercise, but one is nonetheless obligated to transpose those subjective inputs onto the decidedly more objective palate that is the 2-8 scale. Consequently, a formalized methodology for regulating the information sources that are deemed admissible, versus those deemed inadmissible, is necessary to ensure that all scouts within a department are arriving at their grades via the same collection of inputs, and that extraneous information sources don’t corrupt the evaluation process.
Player tools, makeup, and physical traits are the primary sanctioned inputs, while unsanctioned inputs are typically those that reflect the opinions of others; those that convey only circumstantial evidence about the player; and those that might lead to anchoring on quantitative or pseudo-quantitative information. It’s no surprise that these tenets of scouting are so revered. After all, they appeared in the Old Testament and were recited famously by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece, Pulp Fiction.
“The path of the righteous talent evaluator is beset on all sides by the inequities of the industry consensus and the tyranny of misleading statistics. Blessed is he, who in the name of sound talent evaluation methods and the maintenance of originality, bases his grades solely on the tools, physical projection, and makeup he perceives with his eyes and ears, for he is truly a man of conviction and the finder of unrecognized value. And he will eschew, with great discipline and discerning character, those inputs that would threaten to corrupt and diminish the validity of his reports. And they will know his process is sound when he enters his reports and pref lists into the organization’s scouting database!”
And as the orange globe rears up to swallow us too, I see you look at me to figure out what I know about you. Well, I'm not telling. I'm not telling you anything.
“Here’s a theory of mine that may or may not be true: you can get almost anywhere in a ballpark as long as you’re wearing a lanyard. If you want journalistic access to a team, you could work hard for years, turning in clean copy on time and impressing your superiors until somebody sponsors you for season credentials or the BBWAA. Or you could skip all that, put on a good-looking lanyard, and try to look like you know where you’re going. Most people assume that anyone wearing one inside a stadium is supposed to be there.” —Ben Lindbergh
It's all but impossible to fit amateur hit tools to the 20-80 scale, which means teams have to get clever.
The 20-80 (or 2-8) scale functions as a universally agreed-upon language for communicating information about tools and projected performance at the major-league level. As a scout, knowing your club’s iteration of the scale inside and out is arguably just as important as the talent evaluation component of the job.
Scouting is, of course, an inescapably subjective exercise, but one that aspires to formalized methods. For the most part that’s possible, especially in evaluating major-league or high-minors talent. But sometimes the scale as is just can’t handle the demands of the evaluative process. Sometimes the scale must bend. Consider the amateur hit tool.
The scale is calibrated such that 5 is major-league average, with each grade up or down representing a standard deviation from the mean. Consequently, it’s very difficult to produce present hit tool grades for amateur and low-level minor leaguers that actually convey meaningful insight about the current state of the player’s hit tool. If dropped into the major-league talent environment in his draft year, the best high school hitter in the country would be a present 2. I’m a 2; you (the reader) are a 2, unless of course you’re a highly-skilled professional hitter; the best high school hitters in the country are 2s; and all but a handful of the best drafted college hitters are 2s. The preceding statements are all accurate if you’re basing the grade on projected performance over the next three months at the major-league level, but assigning 2s en masse to amateurs doesn’t convey anything meaningful about the current state of the player’s bat and how far he has to go to reach his assigned future grade. Teams approach this issue in a number of different ways and there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. The goal is to maintain consistency and transparency, such that anyone in the organization will understand what you mean if you put a 4/5 on a guy.
The Peer Grade Kiley McDaniel, former BP rival and noted Reggaeton enthusiast, laid out one of the approaches used by teams to grade an amateur’s present hit tool in an early look at the 2015 draft class, then added a bit more in Part 5 of his 83-part treatise on the hit tool.
“The present hit grades for (Brendan) Rodgers and for all amateur players going forward is a peer grade (which I’ll discuss in more detail in a few days in another article about the hit tool), rather than just putting blanket 20s on everyone’s present hit tool. A peer grade means how the player performs currently in games relative to his peers: players the same age and general draft status or skill level. Some teams started using this system to avoid over-projecting a raw hitter; some use the rule that you can’t project over 10 points above the peer grade for the future grade. This helps you avoid saying players that can’t really hit now will become standout big league hitters. Obviously, some will, but it’s not very common and it’s probably smart to not bet millions on the rare one that will.”
The appeal of this approach is that it gives scouts more freedom to use the entirety of the scale, which of course allows for greater differentiation between players, many of whom start blending together, especially in the middle rounds and beyond. The downside is that defining the “peer group” is difficult and somewhat problematic. If you’re evaluating a top-five-round high school center fielder from Florida, are you comparing his hit tool to all top-five-round center fielders? All draft-worthy players? All high school players? Where does the subsetting end? Additionally, using this approach necessarily means splitting the scale in two—one iteration designed specifically for amateur talent and one designed specifically for pro talent. This is fine if the distinction is agreed upon and understood by all within the organization, but it necessarily means that the hit tool a player is given as an amateur cannot be compared directly to the grade he’ll receive once he signs and starts playing in front of pro scouts.