Aaron Judge has long arms. Hitters with long arms have swing-and-miss issues. Do two sentences make a destiny?
Few things scare scouts off a hitter more than high strikeout totals. We’re trained to look past the numbers and to see just the player, rather than be swayed by, for example, gaudy numbers in an extreme hitting environment or against inferior competition—or the reverse. But high strikeout totals are one number that can set off scouts’ alarms. Even the most successful minor-league hitters can, and usually will, struggle when they get to the majors if they have extreme swing-and-miss issues. As George Springer showed this year, a hitter with extreme strikeout tendencies can still be productive; that production might just come with a painfully low batting average.
A few weeks ago, I talked about how predetermined biases about a player can affect the evaluation process, especially with prospects for whom expectations play a large part. In the case of Yankees outfield prospect Aaron Judge, however, even if we can strip away all of the background information, forget about his success in college and forget that he was selected in the Yankees in the first round, we can’t ignore that he is a tremendously large human being. I mean, he’s just massive.
We know certain things that are generally pretty true about tall hitters. They typically hit for more power than their shorter counterparts, and at the same time, they generally swing and miss more. Part of that is due to the aforementioned propensity for power (as powerful swings tend to bring whiffs), but part is due to physics. Taller hitters have longer arms, and long arms make for long swings. The longer a swing, the more holes in it.
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What are we talking about when we talk about disappointment?
"(A box score) doesn't tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day." –Branch Rickey
If only it were still that simple. Back when Rickey was making personnel decisions for major-league organizations, and those last three traits were actually factors in how people were judged, it was a lot easier to evaluate a ballplayer without knowing too much about him. But with phones and tablets now as essential to the scouting toolbox as a stopwatch, with three different prospect rankings appearing on players’ Baseball-Reference pages, with signing bonuses public (and publicy debated), with the conversation about some players’ draft stock now rivaling the lifespan and intrigue of a presidential primary, that’s no longer the case.
Colin Moran is not a bad baseball player. The University of North Carolina doesn’t recruit bad baseball players. Bad baseball players don’t get popped sixth overall in the major-league draft. And bad baseball players don’t hit .296 between High- and Double-A, as Moran did in 2014, his first full year among the professional ranks.
Yet to hear many evaluators talk—to hear me at certain points during this season—you might think Moran is just terrible. Throughout a season of sitting behind home plate, I saw no player inspire more head shakes, shoulder shrugs and eye rolling than Moran. "How was this guy the sixth-best amateur player in the country last year,” I heard from more than one scout. I wasn't terribly kind in my initial write-up of Moran, saying "I came away feeling very underwhelmed with the player."
The prospect team tackles the year's disappointments, including Aaron Sanchez, Mark Appel, and Luke Jackson.
Alberto Tirado, RHP, Blue Jays (Short-season Vancouver)
Tirado entered 2014 the no. 3 prospect in Toronto's system and no. 76 on our Top 101, fueled by strong reports on his stuff. It was noted, though that his command needed work and the delivery was inconsistent. Fast forward to the end of this season and those highlighted areas are exactly what came to the surface. We need to remember Tirado is only 19 and developmental paths are often jagged when isolating short-term sections. I’m labeling Tirado's 2014 a “disappointment” more because his present weaknesses were too much for the strengths to overcome than due to a long-term decline in forecast. Still, some of the initial shine has diminished and warts were exposed. We now have concrete areas of focus when evaluating Tirado next season. –Chris Mellen
Austin Hedges, C, Padres (Double A San Antonio)
Hedges was the top-ranked catcher in the minors entering 2014, and he maintained that title when the midseason Top 50 rolled out in July. While the Junipero Serra (San Juan Capistrano, CA) prep product continues to outstrip his contemporaries on the defensive side of the ball, Hedges ran into a buzzsaw on the offensive side in the form of Texas League pitching.
The Dodgers, and Kershaw, put some space between them and their competition; the Cardinals are building a cushion; a Twin struck out more than 10 batters; and baseball happened in all other corners of this great nation of ours.
The Dodgers came to AT&T Park for a three-game showdown with a two-game lead in the West. A sweep would bump Los Angeles from the top of the standings. Any other outcome would keep the Giants in second place.
Ten prospects who surprised the scouting staff in 2014.
The Monday Morning Ten Pack is brought to you by Sidsgraphs.com. SidsGraphs specializes in memorabilia and game-used items from baseball's top prospects! Visit Sidsgraphs.com today or visit their retail store in the south suburbs of Chicago.
The author remembers 'a Hall of Fame scout if there ever was one.'
This past week my friend Bruce Seid, the Milwaukee Brewers scouting director, passed away. This is not the first time I lost a friend who was a scout. Rolando Casanova of the Detorit Tigers passed away earlier this year, as well. Bruce and Caz were both under 60 and passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. We work in show business, and death rarely creeps into our thoughts, but when it comes it hits like a sledgehammer. I want to use this column to talk about my friend and give the world a behind-the-scenes look at what a failed draft situation looks like.
The prospect team checks in on Noah Syndergaard's struggles and a slew of baby-faced killers, including Orlando Arcia, Keone Kela, and Alex Verdugo.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas)
When a player experiences adversity, we experience doubts and second guessing of our projections. We want to see progress on a definitive upward trend, but the path followed by prospects is rarely linear. There is no doubt that this season has been bumpy for Syndergaard. The 22-year-old blitzed through two levels last year, causing the main question this off-season to be, "When will he be facing big-league hitters full-time?" Syndergaard’s growing pains are a good reminder that even when it seems like players are close, there are still nuances to be mastered. Even the most highly regarded prospects are works in progress and growing pains can appear without warning. My view on Syndergaard is that the 6-foot-6 Texan bounces back and makes the necessary refinements to fulfill his projection. Reports from the second half of the year have been strong and indications were that the issues were more along the lines of fine-tuning his command than any regression of his stuff. –Chris Mellen
Derek Fisher, OF, Astros (Short-season Tri-City)
After failing to sign the first overall selection in the 2014 draft, Brady Aiken (LHP, Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)), and potential over-slot fifth rounder Jacob Nix (RHP, Los Alamitos HS (Calif.)), due to a messy set of negotiations surrounding some unexpected findings in Aiken’s medicals, the Astros will look to former University of Virginia standout and 37th overall selection Derek Fisher to anchor their 2014 draft class. Fisher missed six weeks of his junior year thanks to a broken hamate bone and is just now starting to get back to the point where his double-plus raw power is playing in-game.
In Steven Moya's first big test, he showed massive raw power and a terrifying K:BB ratio. Which indicator will win out?
Some prospects inspire a strong consensus among scouts. The tools and projection are easy to see; we know a player is going to be good, so it’s only a matter of how good. With other prospects, however, there can be a much wider range of opinions. Two scouts can see the same thing from the same player and come up with two totally different sets of opinions. It happens in the seats behind the plate, in meeting rooms before the draft, and in many of the discussions behind the scenes here at BP. To me, this is one of the best parts about scouting. Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, or at least not ones we’ll know for a few years.
Scouting and fantasy takes on this week's second-tier, but still intriguing, call-ups.
We’ve devoted full articles to the most promising prospects promoted to the majors late this season, but we're offering scouting and fantasy takes on the best of the rest here.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Phillies
Scouting Take: The Cuban import entered 2014 having not thrown a competitive pitch since he left his home country. Gonzalez’s medicals revealed some injury concerns that prompted the Phillies to rework his deal and turn him into a reliever this year. He worked in the low 90s as a starter but can work in the mid-90s as a reliever. He also has a splitter and a spotty breaking ball. The Phillies still have plans to convert him back into a starter next year but he’ll have to tighten up the command and work on the breaking ball. —Mauricio Rubio