Putting A Spin On Traditional Reports
I wanted to put a twist on the traditional scouting reports you can now find all over the internet. I've seen well over 75% of my top 150 players, so I'll provide video of each of them, grade their tools/pitches, give the pertinent biographical info, but also give you the multi-year perspective of what their talent tells us. In talking to lots of data types around the game about what scouts are missing most in the pre-draft evaluations, I keep hearing that the recency bias in draft rooms is maddening. "Forget that Brandon Finnegan has had three above average to plus pitches and good command for two years, his shoulder was tender two weeks ago, move him down 10 spots!" Maybe that reactionary response is instructive in some circumstances of the momentum arrow changing directions right before the draft, but it's incredibly unlikely that fate is lining things up for you that neatly.
One instructive example: the Orioles #5 overall pick in 2009, husky NorCal prep RHP Matt Hobgood threw 88-92 for over a year, then 90-94 in the middle of the season, then 94-98 for the weeks before the draft, then was 88-92 or injured the rest of his career. Zack Wheeler, Mike Minor and Mike Leake were the next three picks and Shelby Miller would've signed for near slot. This pre-draft mirage (positive or negative) happens much more often than a new level of performance or slight stiffness leading to a major injury happening as you're entering the draft room. So, along with the standard scouting report stuff, I've expanded the reports for the top players in the draft to address the multi-year history that we now can have (thanks to showcase baseball) even on high school players, then denote a specific section to view the player in light of the 30,000 foot view of their career's trajectory.
Things To Keep In Mind
Something to know when looking at the biographical data is the importance of age, as popularized by Rany Jazayerli in two articles back in 2011. Nearly every team in baseball discusses age in their draft room now, when it previously would only be brought up occasionally in even the most stats-inclined draft rooms before the article. The average age for high school players is about 18.1 or 18.2, while for college players it's right around 21.0.
A useful concept I've been using for doing my rankings this year is, instead of projecting what a player could be at maturity (age 25 or so), projecting what I think he'll be like in 2-3 years. It's industry practice to grade tools for what they'll be at maturity, but having such a long time horizon often leads to discussions getting sidetracked by "well, yeah, technically he may never get to AA, maybe the #1 overall pick never gets out of A-Ball, maybe everyone gets hurt in rookie ball and quits" rather than focusing on things that could reasonably happen in a medium time frame. With scouts doing pro coverage of minor league teams every summer, they're very aware of what works and what they like in A-Ball and AA prospects, while they often don't scout the big leagues at all, so this frame of reference is much more relatable to their knowledge base, as well.
This helped me in the recent shuffle in the top 10 of my rankings. I realized that I think Aaron Nola could be a #4 starter next April while Tyler Kolek has at least a 50/50 chance of his elbow blowing out and isn't as advanced as most top 10 pick prep arms of recent years. That 2-3 year horizon made it clear that Nola was more valuable to me, while looking at "peak" performance in peak years made Kolek's size and velocity seem impossible for Nola to match in the long-term. I could continue working out why I shuffled the players like I did, but it basically came from looking at them slightly differently that I was trained to and talking to more scouts to fill in holes on things I didn't get to see this spring. Hopefully the reports give you the information to understand the rankings and also maybe tweak them to make your own.
The 20-80 Scale
Another thing to note is that the 20-80 scouting grades for each player are presented as present/future, with only the only exception being the hit grade. Since every amateur hitter is a present 20 hitter in the big leagues, I (along with many MLB organizations) use a peer grade for the present hit tool. What that means is you grade the player's hitting performance (not the tools) against his peers (similarly talented players of similar age against similar competition).
The use of this is 1) to think of players in terms of production and not just raw ability, as a means to be more accurate for 2) projecting players to be good big league hitters due to big league hitting tools (bat speed, mechanics, strength, etc) along with approach and results. One of the MLB organizations that was first to use this system said the scout couldn't give a future hit grade over 10 points above the present peer grade, as a way to keep a scout from projecting a hitter essentially learning how to hit after signing for a large bonus. This, along with years of history on prep players thanks to showcase baseball, is why studies have shown that teams are getting better at drafting the best players in the highest slots of the draft over time.
Some other things to know so you can fully understand the reports, include the 20-80 scale. I assume regular readers of the site are well-versed in this but the casual draft reader that wants to know who his team drafted may not, so here's a quick rundown in chart form:
This table shows the kind of player inferred by various 20-80 grades (used in 5 point increments) as Future Values (FV) to sum up a player's potential (i.e a 55 FV hitter is "above average regular"), along with the term that is used on the 20-80 scale for specific tool grades (i.e. 60 raw power is called "plus"). The WAR value means that, for example, a player with a FV of 70 is expected to have a peak WAR at maturity of 5.0 WAR. It also leaves out some numbers to be concise in some places (75, 65 are little used and obvious by their surroundings) and because they aren't used in other places (20, 25, 30, 35 aren't used for prospect ranking purposes and aren't often used for grading tools for prospects, either). Since 50 is the most common grade when dealing with prospects, I and other scouts will often use solid-average (52.5) and fringe-average or fringy (47.5) to further sort out many tools that would otherwise be tough to separate.
6'2/220, R/R, 18.70 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: Ortiz was very consistent over the summer showcase circuit, sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph almost every time out with a slider that was a 55 or 60 almost every time he threw, at least average command and the occasional average changeup. He's old for the class but has mature bulldog build and aggressive approach to pitching that seemed likely to land him in the middle of the first round. Then midway through this spring he missed weeks with the mysterious "forearm tightness" that often leads to Tommy John surgery, then was used in 3 games over 4 days in his return to the mound with velocity that was a bit below his summer performances. His stock was all over the place, but he finished strong, showing that old form and maybe only dropping 5-10 spots in the process.
Take A Step Back: Before the forearm tightness, he was about as easy of a prep pitcher to pick in recent memory, but now there's some real concern this one could blow up on the launchpad. I won't act like I know the future, but you know the risks with prep arms.
Projected Role: #3/4 starter, 55 FV
6'3/210, L/R, 20.79 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/55, Power: 50/60, Run: 60/60, Field: 45/45+, Throw: 40/40+
Scouting Report: Fisher went in the 6th round out of a PA high school to the Rangers and didn't sign after a rough spring led teams to lower their projections below Fisher's seven figure demands. He had an okay freshman year, then broke out as a sophomore and had a nice showing on the Cape, but with 0 home runs despite plus raw power. Fisher then had another nice run to start the spring, but with 0 homers again before breaking the hamate bone in his hand. This injury usually saps power for a year or more, so many worried Fisher wouldn't be himself until after the draft and, if his demands were still in the 7 figures, could end up returning to school. Fortunately, Fisher has done well since his return and ironically has hit 3 homers after the hamate injury. Fisher is a rare athlete with a silky smooth left-handed stroke with a professional BP, plus raw power and plus speed, but his awful defensive and base running instincts along with a slow first step out of the box and a below average arm frustrate scouts. He fits in left field professionally and if the power doesn't start showing up in games, he could be more of a low-end starter or platoon guy, but most scouts think Fisher is just a contact first guy that will eventually grow into his game power.
Take A Step Back: Huge raw tools that, for the right scout could be three 60's with the smooth stroke you dream about, but there's been a problem getting these tools to show up in games. Could be a monster, but we said that four years ago, too.
Projected Role: Solid Average Regular, 50-55 FV
6'2/220, L/L, 17.96 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/55, Power: 55/60, Run: 40/40, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Davidson was a known name as a prep underclassman, hailing from the Asheville-area powerhouse that produced Cameron Maybin among numerous other top picks. Davidson is young for the class, has an advanced feel for the strike zone, hits in games and has plus raw power. He also isn't a pull-only hacker like many prep power bats and has enough foot speed along with an above average arm that some scouts may try him in right field, where he plays for his high school team. I don't think that will last long as he's fringy at best out there and should only get slower as he'll likely add a little more weight with maturity. Davidson is good around the bag and has solid hands, so he could be an above average defensive first baseman. The problem is that scouts don't love the prep 1B profile and he's so patient at the plate, you need to see 40-50 plate appearances to see solid contact. At the heavily-scouted tournament in Jupiter, FL last October, Davidson had over a dozen scouts camped out for every at-bat over 4 days, hitting with wood bats against solid prep pitching; in his 15 PA, he drew 8 walks, had 3 K's, 2 singles and 2 fly/ground outs. Similar things happened at the highly-scouted NHSI tournament the last two years (videos above), but scouts still talk about Davidson's two mammoth in-game homers in the stadium at the USA Baseball complex at the Tournament of Stars last summer.
Take A Step Back: He checks every box for a prep first baseman, but it isn't easy to sell to your crosschecker/director if they caught him on a true three outcomes stretch and no one is in love with the idea of drafting a prep first baseman in the first place. Teams could have him anywhere from 15-50 on their boards and there's little margin for error in his development, but I believe in this kid's ability.
Projected Role: Solid Average Regular, 50-55 FV
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