Birdhouse Readers' 30 Questions for McKamey

Deric McKamey, baseball scout, Cardinals consultant and author of the "Minor League Baseball Analyst", answers 30 questions on his rankings and process as posed by supporters of The Birdhouse. While he was at it, McKamey provided additional insight on 16 Cardinals prospects.

Editor's Note: Most of you probably read our recent excerpt from Deric McKamey's second edition of the Minor League Baseball Analyst. Emails, personal messages and traffic on our new Message Board dedicated to our subscribers indicated not only that this one of our most popular articles in recent weeks, but it also stimulated many comments and questions.

Deric McKamey agreed to respond to every one of them. This follow-up article is that reply. Again, on behalf of the staff and readers here at, I want to thank Deric and Shandler Enterprises for sharing their information and time with us.

Deric, how often do you see these prospects in action? 


I see around 20 minor league games a year, in addition to spring training, instructional league (not every year), and the Arizona Fall League.  I also watch tons of college baseball and view scouting video on most of the top amateur players.  I would guess that I have personally seen about 2/3 to 3/4 of the players I write about in some fashion and use contacts in the game of baseball to account for the players I don't see.


To optimize my time, I usually won't go to a minor league game unless both starting pitchers are potential prospects.  Living in NW Ohio, I have four different minor league classifications and ten Division 1 schools within a two hour drive.


What factors in general differentiate your Potential Rating scale? 


Athletic ability, performance, age/level, position, and role at the Major League level. Here is the actual Potential/Probability Rating scale:


Potential Rating

                 10- Hall of Famer                                   5- MLB reserve

                  9- Elite player                                      4- Top minor leaguer

                  8- Solid regular                                    3- Average minor leaguer

                  7- Average regular                                2- Minor league reserve

                  6- Platoon player                                  1- Minor league roster filler


        Probability Rating

A-    90% probability of reaching potential

B-     70% probability of reaching potential

C-    50% probability of reaching potential

D-    30% probability of reaching potential

E-     10% probability of reaching potential


Now an example. Why did you place Nick Stavinoha into a 7 instead of an 8?


From the above, you can see that 7 is an average regular and 8 is a solid regular.  I feel Stavinoha will probably be no more than a platoon player on a good team or a possible regular on a bad team, so in actuality, he is closer to a 6 than he is to an 8.  His power is fairly solid, but not enough to warrant regular playing time in the corner outfield.  He will struggle to hit for batting average, is a below average runner, and fringe-average defender.


What factors in general differentiate your Probability Rating Scale?


Performance, age/level, proximity to the Majors, quality of player development program, and makeup.


Same example. Why is Stavinoha a C, 50% probability vs. 30 or 70?


With the jump from low Class-A to AA, he is at the right level for his age, but didn't have eye-popping numbers for a corner outfielder (.795 OPS).  The Probability Rating is subjective and that is the number I placed on Stavinoha.  As with almost every player, if you drop the Potential Rating, you could assume that the Probability Rating would increase.


You look to be down on Chris Narveson and Stuart Pomeranz. Why is that?


I wouldn't say I was down on Narveson (6B).  I just believe he has limited upside based on his stuff and performance.  None of his pitches would be considered above average, his command is inconsistent, and has undergone shoulder surgery.  He has to be near perfect to be successful.  He's intelligent and maximizes his abilities, but there just isn't a whole lot of upside outside of a #5 starter.


I am down on Pomeranz (7E) more than most.  I see a non-athletic body, mediocre arm action, and a pitcher that doesn't utilize his height very well, throwing from a lower arm angle.  His fastball and knuckle-curve are average pitches at best and his strikeout rate has declined noticeably with each promotion.  I see an inning-eating type pitcher that will have to keep the ball down much more frequently than he has shown.


How much are the impact of injuries/surgeries taken into account when both ranking and projecting?


Injuries/surgeries are taken very seriously, especially those of a severe nature.  I try to understand if there is an underlying cause for an injury that can be traced to mechanics or if it was something that happened naturally or accidently.  I've worked in the medical field (Perfusionist- heart/lung machine operator) for 19 years, so I have access to the expertise of some excellent orthopedic surgeons, which I use frequently.


For example, did Narveson's off-season shoulder surgery in 2005 affect your thinking about him?


Absolutely, and for a couple of reasons.  Shoulder injuries, serious or not, are difficult to come back 100% from.  Narveson has had stamina issues in that he has rarely pitched over six innings in a given start and struggles to maintain his velocity late in the game.


Given his age and experience, will Bryan Anderson's pitch blocking skills improve enough for him to become a major league starter?


I believe so.  Anderson is a hard worker and though his blocking skills are below average at the moment, they aren't terrible, and he has time to improve.  The rest of his defensive game is solid (arm strength, receiving skills, game calling) and we know he can hit, so I don't see any reason why he can't be a Major League starter with normal progression.


I am quite pleased over your review of Josh Kinney. When did he catch your eye?


Unfortunately, it wasn't until he reached the Majors that I was a true believer.  I was really impressed how he stepped into Wainwright's setup role and not only showed tremendous stuff, but was unflappable in critical situations.  I don't think his career will be a long one, but I could see him being very effective for the next couple of years.


Why do you place Jaime Garcia over Blake Hawksworth? Are they close?


Both are excellent pitchers with a plus pitch (Garcia-curveball, Hawksworth-change) and similar performance.  Garcia gets the nod over Hawksworth in that he is nearly three years younger and only one year behind developmentally, and doesn't have the injury history.  They were extremely close while I was ranking them.


Your capsule for Mark Hamilton made me laugh. "Adds little in the way of speed or defense, but power is strong enough to compensate." How can you write so many reports without sounding overly negative about a player?


After writing over 1000 capsules for the book, as well as additional work for Baseball HQ, Street & Smith's, and The Heater, it is very tough to come up with fresh comments, especially when you end-up writing about the same player numerous times.  For players I like, and Hamilton is one of them, I'll often flower the commentary to suppress the negative stuff, but will really hammer on the negative stuff on players I don't like.


Does it bother you to rate players poorly when you might know them or encounter them later?


No one ever likes to write something negative about somebody, but in my line of work, I am expected to be honest and tell it like it is, and that's what I'm going to do.  Last year, Chris Denorfia of the Reds read his capsule in the 2006 book, in which I called him a "tweener outfielder".  I think he would have hoped for something more positive, but he smiled and said I had him pretty well pegged.


What is your take on Terry Evans, the outfielder the Cardinals traded to the Angels for Jeff Weaver? Did your view change from one year ago?


Evans had a tremendous year, and I doubt anyone saw that coming.  I gave Evans an 8D and ranked him #9 in the Angels organization.  I like the fact that he has power, speed, and defensive ability, but I think his marginal strike zone judgment will prevent him from hitting for batting average and he was old for his level of play.  He profiles as a platoon outfielder, but has a lot more going for him than a player like Stavinoha.  


As a fellow Christian, I admire him for never failing to credit God for his success.  If he had remained with the Cardinals, I would have ranked him #9.  That isn't to say that I think the Cardinals system is equal to the Angels system, but after you factor the better high-end talent of the Angels, the talent starts to get very similar.


When you assign an MLB debut year, do you look at the player's development only or also consider the others that might be blocking his way?


I consider everything from personal development, organizational tendencies, talent level above and below, and age.


When ranking, how do you compare a kid ready to contribute in 2007 with one that was just drafted who might not make it until 2011?


That can be a tough call, but subjectively, I weigh upside potential and probability.  Utilizing the Potential Ratings this year has helped tremendously in that regard.  I do place a lot of emphasis on players I believe are close to and can contribute positively in the Majors, which is why I ranked Josh Kinney higher than most.


There is not an 'MLB Debut' year listed for Chris Perez. Does that mean you really think he will see his first big-league action in 2007? If so, why?


Yes, I believe that Perez has a good chance to see some action in 2007, but it may be something as small as a September callup.  His stuff is good enough to get Major League hitters out and I predict he'll have an outstanding minor league season in 2007.  I wouldn't get too overly excited about the debut year, as that doesn't really tell you if the player will be up for good, an injury filler, or a late-season callup.


Several of your dates of MLB Debuts seem optimistic – Ottavino and Hamilton in 2008, for example. Yet you say Garcia, who is higher-ranked and is higher in the system, isn't going to make it until 2009. Please explain your thinking.


As I mentioned in the previous answer, I wouldn't get too excited over what I list as a debut year.  I see Ottavino making a few spot starts in September 2008, maybe throwing in relief.  I agree that Hamilton debuting in 2008 is a bit of a stretch, but if he can reach AA by the end of 2007, I could see him being used off the bench as a pinch hitter late in 2008 with his LH power.  Garcia doesn't have a lot of pitching experience and I think the Cardinals will be much more cautious with him than Ottavino.  My gut feel on Garcia is that the Cardinals won't promote him until he's ready to be a regular in the rotation, and that may not happen until 2009. 


Do you think Mark Hamilton would be able to move to the outfield?


I severely doubt it, as he is much too slow.


Do you really mean that Colby Rasmus has no weaknesses? Makes him sound like a super hero!


I really don't see a weakness or a below average tool, so that's what I wrote.  I haven't done that for too many players.  That isn't to say that he is a super hero, as his ability to hit for average and his speed are the only tools that I would rate as well above average.


Why did you list Rasmus as a right fielder and not in center where he plays now?


I didn't' really list him a rightfielder (he is listed as a centerfielder in the Minor League Baseball Analyst), but the statement comes from the belief that Rasmus will spend the majority of his Major League career in right. While he is an above average runner, has excellent range, and will arrive in center, I see him adding more muscle to improve his power production and thus will lose some of that range.  I hope I'm wrong in that regard.  


None of the top 15 were listed as potential CF's, even though several play there now. Why is that?


I explained with Rasmus in my previous answer, and I assume you are referring to John Jay as the other player that plays centerfield.  Jay's below average arm strength will keep him out of centerfield on a regular basis and though he can track flyballs with his speed, he doesn't always take the best routes or get great jumps.  Though they didn't make my top 15, I project Daryl Jones and Shane Robinson as centerfielders, though I doubt either will hit enough to be everyday starters.


Excluding Latin American teams, the Cardinals have around 70 prospects with possibilities. Do you take the depth of a system into account when ranking the organizations and if so, how do you do it? If not, why not?


Yes, I do factor depth, which really isn't that hard to determine when you're rating over 1000 prospects.  Essentially, I evaluate the players that I believe have a chance to play in the Majors and go from there.  I hate to disagree, but the Cardinals don't have anywhere close to 70 prospects with possibilities.  The number is more around 35.  The best minor league systems in baseball rarely have more than 45.  Of course, I'm sure we disagree about the word "possibilities".


Who is your favorite Cardinal prospect that missed the list?


He wasn't even close to making my top 15, but RHP Eddie Degerman is a definite favorite of mine, and one that I was excited to see the Cardinals draft.  He is not an overpowering pitcher, but I love how he adds and subtracts from his curveball and out-thinks hitters to derive outs.  His fastball is fringe-average and doesn't utilize his change-up as much as I'd like, but his command is solid and gains some deception from his overhand delivery.  I think he'll have a lot of success at the lower levels, but will have to be on top of his game once he reaches AA.


Are there any guys that you have ranked higher based on visual observations as opposed to just looking at stats?


SS Tyler Greene and RHP Mark McCormick would fall under that category.  Greene is an exceptional athlete with speed and good defensive skills.  His batting average and plate discipline have not been good, but has decent power for his size.  McCormick may have the best stuff in the organization, with a 90-97 MPH four-seam fastball and a dynamic curveball.  He gets exceptional movement to both pitches, can miss bats, and has an athletic frame, but severely lacks command and the ability to change speeds.


Are there any players that you feel are overrated within the organization?


RHP Chris Lambert and OF Cody Haerther are two guys that most would rank higher than I would.  Lambert really hasn't established himself after being the Cardinals #1 pick in 2004.  Personally, I'm a little leery of pitchers from northern schools as they typically don't throw as many innings and the level of competition isn't what it is, say in the south.  Lambert has good velocity and his slider is a serviceable pitch, but he lacks command, doesn't repeat his delivery, and is slow to the plate.  I see him more as a reliever.  Haerther has a smooth, LH stroke and can hit for average, but his swing isn't conducive to power, which is a problem for the position he plays.  He lacks secondary skills and is no better than an average defender in LF.  I'd be shocked if he were ever a Major League starter.


Forecasts can seem very reasonable at the time, but the future can turn out differently. Have you tracked your success rate over your years of scouting and if so, what is it?


As far as coming up with a concrete success rate or percentage, no I haven't done that, and I'm not sure how you really would do that.  Prospect analysis, as you mentioned, seems reasonable in the present day, but we all know that a myriad of factors can contribute to the success or decline of a prospect.  John Sickels and I had a discussion about this a couple of years ago and he said that if you came up with a list based solely on stats and another based solely on scouting information, that the success rate would be similar, but would obviously contain a few different players.  I agreed with him. 


I feel I'm very successful with my analysis, meshing scouting and statistical analysis, but I'm never satisfied and am always looking for ways to improve.  Being that the majority of my material has to be purchased by an individual, whether on hard copy or on-line, I've always gone with the premise that if people like my analysis, they'll continue to support my work.  If they don't, they won't.


Why should I get your book instead of Baseball America's Prospect Guide?


Before I answer that, let me set one thing straight.  No prospect analysis gets done by anyone without Baseball America.  Their coverage of minor league baseball is unrivaled.  The respect level is so high on my part that I always make sure that my top 15 organizational lists and top 100 list are published before theirs to rule-out any preconceived notions.


While their Prospect Handbook is an excellent product, I do think there are some differences that set mine apart.  Even though all of their lists are funneled through Jim Callis, who is tremendous at what he does and is a good friend of mine, the work is done by writers, not evaluators.  Their information comes from many reliable sources, but in the end, their work is based on the opinions of what others tell them. 


In contrast, I see myself as an evaluator who just happens to write.  No, I don't get to see each and every player, and I have to fill-in the cracks, just like Baseball America does, but mostly, I'm the one out there with the radar gun and stopwatch, and I'm the one that's at the ballpark three hours ahead of the first pitch taking-in batting/fielding practice and making face-to-face contacts.  I'd much rather be at the park than on the cell phone.


I also feel strongly about my understanding of statistical analysis.  I've worked for Baseball HQ for 12 years and not only have the access to their base of statistics, but get the opportunity to converse with experts in that field.  In the Minor League Baseball Analyst, I go way beyond the traditional stats, but more importantly, I utilize the stats to back-up my scouting evaluations and vice-versa.


The final reason I feel one should purchase my book, is the learning experience.  I wouldn't want anyone to race to the back of the book and just peruse the lists and take those at face value.  I give plenty of scouting and statistical information on a player and offer my methodologies for evaluation, so that the reader can determine their own feel about a player.  


My goal for writing the book is for readers to take it to the ballpark with them and see, for instance, what a low ¾ delivery, a strong outfield arm, a long swing, or a plus slider looks like.  Ultimately, I feel you can learn things from my book that you won't find anywhere else.


You have been a consultant with the Cardinals. What does that role entail and where do you want to take it next?


I have been a consultant to the Cardinals since 2004, reporting to Jeff Luhnow.  I prepare three annual reports (Amateur Draft, six-year free agents, and Rule 5 Draft), and give feedback on minor league players when asked.  I can't really do any baseball-related work on a full-time basis until my three daughters finish college, so I'm very content being part of a Major League organization, even on a small scale.  Eventually, I would like to have a front office role that also allows me to make player development decisions and do some scouting a couple of times a week.


I appreciate all of the questions and the opportunity to answer them.  I know both Brian and Ray, and I know the passion that they have for the Cardinals and the dedication to providing you with the latest and best information.  All of you should be really proud of contributing to the quality of the discussion on the forums.  I do frequent this site and look forward to furthering my relationship with all of you great Cardinals fans.

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