It was a little over a year ago that I was handed the operational reins of Baseball Prospectus’ prospect coverage, a move that resulted in a pronounced spike of psychoanalysis-related expenses for the decision makers of the company, specifically BP President and CEO Joe Hamrahi. Normally I would apologize to the powers that be for such an occupational vexation, but it’s healthy and rewarding to talk about our feelings to unprejudiced sources in calming environments in exchange for money and often-extreme emotional vulnerability. You’re welcome.
To move away from the previously established coverage on the site, my goal was to bring on a team of talent evaluators strategically placed in fruitful, prospect-rich environments around the country, stressing the fact that our eyes would actually be on the minor league players we pontificate and prognosticate about on the site. With the team in place, we set out to attack the coverage with the firsthand vigor of an adolescent male left alone for a weekend with a stack of smut. The results proved to be even better than I had initially envisioned, thanks in large part to the hard work and dedication of my financially malnourished staff. Two vital members of that scouting collective were Jason Cole and Zach “Mort” Mortimer. Two vital members whom I now have the distinct pleasure to announce have accepted scouting positions with major league teams.
I first became aware of Jason Cole around 2007, as he was already making a name for himself in the Rangers blogosphere for his in-depth minor league coverage despite being the same age as (or younger than) some of the prospects he was writing about. Jason’s reports lacked pretention or pomp and were delivered in a straightforward manner from an eyewitness perspective that bypassed the need for narrative in exchange for the realities of the scouting profiles. He offered player interviews that asked more than the internet-prevalent paper-thin questions that can lead only to equally paper-thin answers, the kind that leave the reader unattached, uninformed, and wondering if the athletes we study have any depth or knowledge of their own craft.
Jason pulled open the eyes of Rangers fans and helped encourage a broader conversation about the intricacies of prospects and player development. When he joined Baseball Prospectus, he continued to show the same diligence and thoughtfulness of approach, and it didn’t take long until his scouting reports and prospect videos became must-reads for fans and the industry alike. Over the years, I’ve watched more games with Jason Cole than any other person, and our symbiotic scouting relationship has been a highly rewarding experience, one that I hope will continue despite his new role as a pro scout for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Even though I don’t have the same background with Mort, it didn’t take long for his unfortunate New Jersey charm to overwhelm my sensibilities and carve a permanent home as a member of my family. Mort is a gamer in the scouting sense, and this form of unmitigated hustle propelled him from relatively unknown blogger, to king of the Minor League Update, to an amateur scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in less than a calendar year. Mort’s passion for scouting is as intense as I’ve ever seen, and despite putting a role three grade (organizational player) on former first-round pick Courtney Hawkins, I know his drive and overall feel for the game are going to continue to propel him up the professional ladder and onto highly significant platforms in the baseball industry. Really, Mort? Three?
Needless to say, I’m genuinely proud of both Jason and Mort, although I’m aware that saying goodbye to such talented and motivated contributors is a sword that comes with a sharp edge on both sides of the blade. Replacing two major league quality evaluators won’t be an easy task, as their methods and production have set the bar for success at a nearly unattainable level for most to achieve. We will be re-stocking the personnel tank with quality prospects—just like the farm systems we analyze that are forced to reload after they graduate talent to the majors—but their achievements will forever be a baseline for potential on this site.
This is the point of the article when I could channel David Foster Wallace and deliver an articulate and thought-provoking “This is Water” commencement sermon about the challenges Cole and Mort will face in their upcoming adventures in the private sector of the game. But the reality is that they will be the ones in a better position to offer such advice about this new world, and I will be the one who remains in front of the industry pay wall, no doubt calling them to gain their keen insight and intelligence on players and process. Come to think of it, not much is going to change after all. They were always two of my most respected sources.
To Jason Cole and Zach Mortimer—two good friends and esteemed colleagues—it was an honor to work with you. Don’t put a role three grade on a young first-round prospect with plus power potential. You do us all very proud. Go get it.