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.
You are sitting through a doubleheader, because you're here for the whole series anyway. You make some notes on a 2B/3B type, old for the level, circles his hands as he loads, and with no athletic tools to speak of. He's not unathletic, mind you. He'd be a really good shooting guard on a law firm's pickup basketball team. All pivots and pump fakes with a pretty good jumper from the elbow.
“He was a college shortstop you know.”
“Well. Most of the summer associates were.”
About halfway through the second game you notice that despite the weird hitch, he is getting the barrel to everything. He works hard in the infield, but his best position will inevitably be first base. He has an approach and knows what he can and can't hit and knows the strike zone better than the umpires at this level. Righty spin is going to be a problem, but he sees the ball pretty well against lefties. And he's proven at every level so far…
Then, you are organizing your notes, catching up with another evaluator, and you see it. In the middle of the same infield drills you usually mostly pay attention to, a shortstop with hands fast enough to handle the conveyor belt at Kramer's Kandy Kitchen. Over the next few days, you see him get to more plays than his arm can make, also more plays than the left fielder playing behind him can get to. You see him struggle to hit balls over the shortstop's head. You get 4.3-4.4. home-to-first times from the left side. But then you see him backpick a guy at third in the middle of a rundown across the diamond with a throw across his body.
You are struck by the same thought both times.
“Hey, this guy going to play in the majors.”
Your audience won't care of course. These guys won't be added to their Dynasty League draft board or even inspire a Twitter screed when you place them three spots too high on a team list. They don't make team lists (well, maybe the 2016 Angels list). Your measured report won't inspire your readers like another Petrarchan sonnet about Lucas Giolito (something they could probably write themselves at this point, just remind them the octet has to be abbaabba). Your YouTube video will get 47 views, mostly from the player's family members. Remember, you write about 50s and 60s and 70s. And sure, some of those are high risk and will likely turn into 40s. That's all baked in to the risk factor.
You don't write about 30s.
If you do, it will be a meme.
I'm a couple beers in with a scout buddy at a thoroughly unremarkable chain hotel bar. Talk drifted as it does to players we've seen, and I start to describe the shortstop above. The actions and instincts are elite, but the arm is just average, and he's a 40 runner, not that you'd notice it in the field. I lament that he would have been an ideal dead ball era player, all slashes and bunts, high socks and old-timey facial hair (the organization has relaxed its rules on that this year and the results have been…about what you would expect from a bunch of 20-year-olds with too much free time in the morning). We debate what he might hit against better fastballs, with better fielders positioned by better data. I rave about his work ethic and makeup. He translates for the Latin players. His offseason routine can be summed up as “Work on baseball for 12 hours a day.”
“Can he hit .220?”
I shift on my metal-backed stool, sip my Red Stripe:
“Yeah, I think he can.”
After a beat:
“So he's a three, but he's an acquire three.”
Ooh, I like that phrase.
Hey, threes play in the major leagues every year. They are all around us. Some of them even play for your favorite team (this sounds like a 1970s filmstrip voiceover for “Organizational Soldiers and You”).
Let's try another tact: Maybe this year I will have a radically different opinion on Reese McGuire than the amateur scouts who formed a consensus around him as a first-round pick, or the Prospectus writers who saw him already as a pro and further refined his major league projection. Things change, and recent looks are always, always vital. But let's be honest, much of the hard work has already been done for me. If I am schlepping down I-80, it's specifically to see Reese McGuire. I'm not a big fan of scrapple.
And there will be games, many games where I won't see anyone close to as good a prospect as Reese McGuire. I won't even find an acquire three. But nowadays when I do, very little brings more of a smile to my face. Miguel Sano batting practice session? Sure, I'll give you that one.
We all want to find that unknown future all-star before anyone else. That 18-year-old Dominican in instructs that there's no public reports on since he grew two inches and added five miles per hour. Accolades or at least Twitter favs/heart things will follow. Gus Lobel will nod approvingly when he sees us in the press box picking up team rosters. We will be the tastemakers of the prospect world even while we are still eating rest stop Roy Rogers.
I may not understand the whole topping a cheeseburger with roast beef thing, but I do understand the appeal of the hidden gem. I just don't think it only has to come with loud tools and a range of outcomes best expressed on a logarithmic scale. I suppose there is a certain folksy arrogance in any implication that the true test of an evaluator is the ability to pick out a player that can help a major-league club from among the dozens of perfunctory reports one will write across a three-game series, even if it is for just a 15-day stint here and there.
But here's mine.
|Born: 09/27/1994 (Age: 21)|
|Bats: Left||Throws: Right|
|Height: 5' 10"||Weight: 170|
|Primary Position: SS|
|Shorter than listed height, stocky build and close to physically maxed out. Has added weight/strength since 2014 look.|
|Dates Seen||6/29/15, 6/30/15|
|Affiliate||Savannah Sand Gnats (Low A, Mets)|
|MLB ETA||Risk Factor||OFP||Realistic Role||Video|
|2019||High||35||30; up and down middle infield reserve||No|
Baseball rat with a perpetual motor. Works hard in drills and batting practice. The clear leader in the infield.
|Hit||30||Open stance, steps in to close, short load and short to ball. Sets up to try and slash into left field and run. Good bat control and has an idea at the plate, but was vulnerable to spin at times. Will bunt for a hit when he can.|
|Power||20||Opposite field approach doesn't even allow for gap power. May occasionally dump one into the left field corner for a double, but slugging is not going to be part of his game.|
|Baserunning/Speed||35||4.3 to 4.4 from the left side. Slash and run approach gets him out of the box quickly, but there just isn't much footspeed here. It's less noticeable in the field due to his good instincts and first step. Moves well laterally but lacks straight line speed. Smart, aggressive baserunner that can pick his spots at this level, but unlikely to be a significant basestealing threat in the majors.|
|Glove||60||Elite hands and actions. Preternatural instincts in the field, smooth around the bag. Lacks the overall quickness and arm you expect in a plus shortstop, but everything else is so good it doesn't matter.|
|Arm||55||Only average arm strength and will get to more throws then he can make. Overall accuracy of throws along with his quick transfer and trigger makes this play up.|
Guillorme is a difficult player to evaluate in a traditional five-tool report. He does not show the traditional athleticism or arm that you would assume comes with a 6 shortstop glove, but his instincts in the field make up for his lack of footspeed, and his quick hands cover for an only average arm. The bat is very light and going to limit him to an occasional major league bench role at best, but his defensive abilities up the middle should keep him in employed in the upper minors for a decade.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now