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 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.
10. Brad Zimmer, RF, San Francisco
6'5/205, L/R, 21.52 on Draft Day
Hit: 60/60, Power: 45/55, Run: 60/55, Field: 55/55, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Brad is the younger brother of Royals prospect and 5th overall pick in 2012, RHP Kyle Zimmer. Like Kyle, Brad is a big athletic late-rising athlete at San Francisco that figures to go in the first round after a strong junior campaign. Zimmer really stood out on a Team USA squad this summer that had some trouble making contact, with Trea Turner, Matt Chapman, Michael Conforto, Taylor Sparks, Grayson Greiner and Sam Travis all struggling to varying degrees. With his Team USA showing and a quick trip out the to Cape afterwards, Zimmer showed the work ethic scouts love to see and also the approach and contact skills for the top pure bat in the class
Zimmer is a legit 6'5 and is still a little awkward physically, but grows on you in multiple viewings, with deceptive plus speed, good defensive instincts and a plus arm to go with the coordination to corral his long limbs at the plate. Zimmer has many similarities to Marlins OF Christian Yelich in that both are big athletes that are tweeners defensively and lack the huge present raw power to make you confident they'll be stars at a corner outfield spot.
Zimmer flashes average raw power in BP that should improve a grade as he fills out, but it plays down a notch in games with his line drive approach, which can be tweaked a bit. In that sense, he's similar to another Marlins pick, last year's #6 overall pick, 3B Colin Moran. Since Zimmer likely loses a step and moves to right field at maturity, you'd like to see more raw power, but you've got a big projectable, advanced athlete with five above average tools, so why are you being so greedy?
Take A Step Back: Athlete with good bloodlines, a broad set of above average tools and probably the best bat in the class. Don't get hung up on regular vs. star upside because this guy never stops raking and could be a monster with some added muscle.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55 FV
6'1/205, R/R, 18.20 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/60+, Curveball: 55/60+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: Holmes was a known player to Carolinas scouts in his junior season, when some of them ran into him and say a compact-framed, quick-armed righty bumping 96 with a devastating hammer at age 17. He was one of the most consistent arms last summer/fall, showing up at nearly every big event and throwing 90-94, hitting 95 or 96 mph in almost every outing (top video is from June, second one is from August when Holmes struck out my #3 draft prospect Alex Jackson in the PG All American Game).
This spring, Holmes got out of the gate fast, hitting 98 mph in a couple early starts, but eventually settling in at the typical 91-94 mph, hitting the mid 90's when he needed it, like in the lowest video, an outing from this April. His curveball is very hard at 79-82 mph and is above average nearly every time he throws it, regularly flashing plus and earning 65 grades every now and then.
He didn't throw a changeup on the showcase circuit, but late in outing this spring he would bring it out to give lefties a different look and the pitch was above average, as well. Holmes' arm action is a little long, but the arm is quick, he's a good athlete that repeats his delivery very well and projects for solid average command. His landing can vary and is a little ugly at times, but Holmes makes it work for him and teams will be cautious about tweaking what already works.
Take A Step Back: Elite arm does everything you can ask at this age, has no injury history and has the feel and competitiveness you look for. You can understandably be wary of shorter, maxed-out prep righties, but everything is here for a quick-moving, mid-rotation starter.
Projected Role: #3 Starter, 60 FV
6'4/190, L/L, 21.06 on Draft Day
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 50/55
Scouting Report: Freeland had his breakout on the Cape (top video) where national scouts were introduced to a projectable lefty that flashed two plus pitches, a usable changeup and a workable delivery and command. There were whispers soon after the Cape about medical concerns on his elbow from a procedure back when Freeland was at a Denver-area high school, from which the Phillies drafted him and offered Freeland a low six figure bonus. These whispers intensified as Freeland caught fire this spring and before the draft, his camp sent out updated information to quell those concerns, with his performance starting that process. It was quite a rise for the lanky lefty that was throwing in the mid 80's and hitting 88 mph when he showed up at Evansville.
One scouting director told me this spring that White Sox lefty Chris Sale has made Freeland a lot of money because both are big lefties with plus stuff and advanced feel but do it in a slightly unusual way. Sale hadn't been hurt, but in college had a delivery many called gruesome (and some still do), but he hasn't had any trouble with health in the big leagues while carving up hitters after jumping to the show almost directly from Florida Gulf Coast. Along the same lines, no club can feel 100% certain about any pitcher's future health these days, especially with Freeland's history and imperfect delivery. Freeland's elbow gets a little high in back, his slot often wanders down to low 3/4 when fatigued and there's some recoil, spin-off and effort in an arm-heavy delivery with an inconsistent landing.
All that said, everything is here for a mid-rotation starter and maybe a little more. The lower video is from one of Freeland's worst starts of the spring, the only one I saw, against Northwestern in Winter Springs, FL at a tournament. Scouts that saw him there with me and later in the spring said he looked like a different pitcher up north. When he's right, Freeland sits 90-93, hitting 95 mph with above average to plus life on the pitch. His breaking ball varies from a curveball at 78-80 to a true slider at 82-85, with the slider flashing plus most times out this spring. Freeland's 83-85 mph changeup has improved this spring, flashing solid-average potential.
Take A Step Back: There's lots of yellow flags for future arm health with a narrow frame that may not add much more strength, but Freeland had above average stuff and command when it counted this year and he makes it work for him. He hasn't had any medical issues since high school, so you have to treat him as fully healthy and there's mid-rotation upside that could come quickly.
Projected Role: #3 starter, 60 FV
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