“Baseball is my stereo, and the deplorable mania of doubt exhausts me, and I doubt about everything, even my doubts.” — Gustave Flaubert
When promising physical tools and on-the-field production arrive on the scene at the same time, documenting the events and making an evaluation is relatively painless; when I see a pitcher throwing an angular fastball at 94 mph and it cruises by a swinging barrel with explosive life, my hand doesn’t strain when it puts a plus sign next to the velocity reading in my notebook. When I watch Kyle Hendricks locate a deep arsenal for eight innings, or Nick Tepesch carry the bulk of the weight of a no-hitter by showing a plus fastball/cutter combo, I get to sit comfortably in my seat, secure in my knowledge that what I’m seeing is legit, as the scouting and the production are kissing on the lips and I’m a creepy voyeur armed with a stopwatch and a smile. But what happens when the performance and the scouting aren’t compatible?
This is when it gets tougher, especially when the statistical line suggests promise and the scouting notes produce more questions than answers. An example: last Friday, Rangers prospect Roman Mendez took to the hill, allowed two hits in five innings while striking out four, touching as high as 95 mph on the gun. What’s not to like, right? As it turns out, I found quite a bit that I didn’t like, although that wording seems to suggest the evaluation is personal and that my pleasure takes precedence in the process. That’s far from accurate. The long-winded point is that when the two means of evaluation aren’t in sync, you find yourself digging deeper than you normally would, struggling to produce an accurate picture of a player only to find the canvas rejecting the paint. This is true when a pitcher has a respectable stat line but the scouting isn’t all that sexy, or when a hitter’s slash line is repugnant, yet you finding yourself saying with the scout side of your brain that the individual characteristics of the swing will make everything okay at some point down the line. In my previous article, I offered up scouting notes on prospects that made it quite easy to offer up positive scouting notes; they shoved it on the field and it showed up on the stat sheet. In part two, I’m going to look at some of the players that made the process of evaluation more challenging, either by disappointing in the face of positive production or falling flat on the field despite owning the physical gifts to perform at a higher level.
Player: Cheslor Cuthbert
Acquired: FA; 2009; Nicaragua
HT/WT: 5’11’’ 194 lbs.
Game(s): 05/18-20; previously scouted on 04/10/12
Result: 10 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Notes: Poor body language all series, both in the box and in the field; slumped shoulders, lethargic; movements were slower; body looked heavy; footwork at third was clumsy; lacked athleticism/grace; range was fall-down at best; effort was limited; still showed decent leather; made routine play(s); arm is quite strong (easy 6); looked lost at the plate; upper-body swing; lots of pre-swing movement/noise; trigger was slow; bat speed wasn’t impressive; was late on fringe velocity; inside and high (regardless of velo) chewed him up; poor bat control when fooled with pitch; contact was soft; clocks to first base in the 4.75-4.9 range; didn’t always appear physically sound; not a positive viewing; flashed six potential on numerous occasions before; did not show major league potential in recent viewing; still very young; still very promising.
Player: Jake Skole
Acquired: 1st round; 2010 draft
HT/WT: 6’1’’ 190 lbs.
Result: 7 AB, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Notes: Physical and athletic; looks the part; glove looked good; limited opportunities in game action; range is average at best; arm is solid-average; shows quick movements; lacks plus straight-line speed; routinely clocked in the ~4.35 range to first from left side; doesn’t profile as average center fielder; very exploitable at the plate; stayed on fastballs pretty well; bat speed wasn’t impressive, but battled; very susceptible to soft and spinning stuff; chased out of the zone; swing wasn’t direct to the ball; lengthy; lacked fluidity; obvious athlete with strength and some quickness; lacks front-line up-the-middle skills; tweener profile; hit tool is fringy at best; pitch recognition skills are suspect; holes in approach/swing; currently overmatched at the plate; looks like a four player at the major league level.
Player: Roman Mendez
Acquired: Trade; Boston; 7/31/2010
HT/WT: 6’2’’ 180 lbs.
Result: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Notes: Lean, athletic frame; long arms/legs; fingers are insanely long; pitches from low arm slot; delivery is very arm-heavy; whippy; not much push from legs; lost his delivery at times; tempo/pace fluctuated; arm speed is near-elite; lighting fast; created good angle despite lower slot; fastball was 90-95 mph; velocity was very easy; good explosion; not overly impressed with low-90s velo; in bursts, pitch is a 7+; changeup worked well at 82-84 mph, paired with fastball at 90-92; good deception; some sink; good projection; 5+ offering; overthrown at 85-87; too firm; paired with fastball at 94-95 mph; lacked movement; lacked much feel; limited slider usage (developmental/physical); dropped a few 78-79 mph two-plane breaking balls; forced bad swings with pitch; delivery slowed, but the break of the pitch was sharp; started middle-out and dove out of the zone; didn’t throw any splitters (might be his best secondary); command was loose all game; no clear feel for spotting pitches; heavy changeup in the sequence (developmental); 1.15-1.2 to the plate with runners on; I continue to see a reliever profile; fastball has well above-average properties; can show several playable secondary offerings; slider/split/change that could step forward in bursts; delivery has improved in the last year; can throw strikes, but command at present is fringy; fastball is ticket to the majors; could develop into frontline setup role.
Player: Brett Eibner
Acquired: 2nd round; 2010 draft
HT/WT: 6’3’’ 193
Game(s): 05-19-20; previously scouted on 4/20/12
Result: 6 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 1BB, 3 K
Notes: Excellent athlete; looks the part; sometimes plays the part; batting practice power is legit; shows pop to all fields; strong; swing shows loft; makes loud contact; in game action, swing appeared long; hitchy; lots of miss in his game; struggled against inside velocity and off-speed offerings; limited contact ability; when he did make contact, it was loud; had walk-off hit in 5/20 game; limited looks in the field; shows strong arm (6); range isn’t special, but covers his area; 5 defensive package at position (center); good power in the bat; High-5/Low-6 projection; hit tool is below-average; don’t see average potential; speed is solid-average; becoming harder to see 5 player at the major league level, but raw tools and gamer approach make it possible.