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.
6'1/175, R/R, 18.43 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/55, Power: 35/40+, Run: 75/75, Field: 60/70, Throw: 45/45
Scouting Report: Hill's father Orsino went in the first round as an outfielder in 1982 and now he's an area scout for the Dodgers, who have a real chance to take his son in the first round at pick 22. Hill has a solid, simple line drive swing and deceptive raw power for his size that could generate double digit homers at maturity, though his swing plane doesn't help that power show up in games. Hill will post some 80 run times to first and closes ground incredibly well in the outfield, with the speed and defense his two big carrying tools.
Take A Step Back: At age 17, he showed top-end speed, defensive ability and contact ability along with great bloodlines. Hill might not be the sexy power at a premium position prep bat type but he's very likely to give big league value and could be an All-Star.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular 55-60 FV
6'0/240, L/R, 21.25 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/50, Power: 65/70, Run: 40/40, Field: 45/45, Throw: 50/50
Scouting Report: Schwarber put on a power display this summer, hitting balls well up the batter's eye greenery in AAA Durham's park and forcing the Chatham Fire Department to close it's garage doors for the first time due to his mammoth BP shows on the Cape. He's got legit 30 home run power and has the approach and looseness at the plate to be a 50 bat or better and get to that power in games. He isn't a great runner but is a solid athlete for his size, as a D1 middle linebacking prospect in high school. Schwarber catches a lot right now and is fringy back there with an average arm, but makes the most of his tools and is good enough to catch once a week in the big leagues, enhancing his positional value and versatility for the club.
Take A Step Back: The best power in the draft comes from the left side, with enough bat to get to it in games, a track record of production and some defensive value as well. The upside isn't enormous and you'll have to monitor the body, but this is an easy prospect to like.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55 FV
6'0/190, R/R, 21.58 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/55, Power: 50/55+, Run: 50/50, Field: 45/50, Throw: 55/55+
Scouting Report: Blandino had subpar freshman and sophomore campaigns at the plate at Stanford but after each year he had great offensive performances on the Cape the summer after each of those seasons. This caused the age-old gripes about Stanford's unorthodox hitting techniques to crop up again but Blandino broke out this spring, in part because he ignored that instruction and let the power fly in BP and in games, hitting 12 bombs this year. He has a solid approach at the plate that scouts think will translate to above average hit and power tools in the pros, making for a broad base of tools with average speed, good defensive instincts and an above average to plus arm. Blandino plays 3B at Stanford but plays some SS on the Cape and profiles best at 2B, where he could be average (though he'll waste his arm) and the bat stands out even more.
Take A Step Back: With the excuse of the Stanford Swing in the first two springs, you have a guy that's raked for three years, can play up the middle and projects for an above average bat. There isn't a plus tool to get really excited about, but Blandino has no holes in his resume and could be a 10-year big league regular
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55 FV
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