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.
6'3/210, R/R, 18.84 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/60+, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50
Scouting Report: Reid-Foley was good all summer, throwing an above-average to plus fastball and slider, but being more of a thrower than pitcher. This spring, he took off, sitting 92-95 and hitting 97 mph at his best with the slider regularly showing plus and a new changeup showing solid-average with solid command. I saw him twice this spring: once was his worst outing of the season (thought the stuff still hit the grades above) and the second may have been his worst outing ever, a week ago at a high school All-Star Game in Sebring, FL in front of lots of crosscheckers. I don't love Reid-Foley's high elbow in the back, I haven't seen the dominating version he's been much of the spring and he's old for the class, so I'm a little lower than some clubs who are kicking the tires in the top 15 picks.
Take A Step Back: This is the traditional prep power arm that could be a quick-moving #2/3 starter, late-inning reliever or not get out of A-Ball if injuries or command become huge problems (though Reid-Foley has no injury history). It comes down to risk tolerance, but the Sebring outing likely pushes him into the 20's on draft day.
Projected Role: #3 Starter, 60 FV
6'4/215, R/R, 21.03 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/65, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55+, Command: 40/50
Scouting Report: Beede is one of the most polarizing players in the draft. He went in the first round out of high school but turned down a substantial 7 figure offer from the Blue Jays. He was good as a freshman (first part of top video) but had some things to work on. Fast forward to now (below video from this spring) and other than his velo jumping late this spring (sitting 93-95 and hitting 99 mph), Beede hasn't really improved at all. The standout plus changeup from high school is less consistent now while the breaking ball he's been fiddling with for four years is still very inconsistent and sometimes below average for full starts. The biggest bugaboo for Beede has been his command. With his frame, athleticism and delivery, it shouldn't be an issue but it continues to be. On a loaded staff of top-round talents that have all improved this season, some scouts are off Beede completely, with a late advisor switch and coachability/makeup questions popping up in the last month.
Take A Step Back: As a 1st round talent since age 17 that's been up to 99 mph recently with three above average pitches, this shouldn't be a struggle for teams to pull the trigger and pick Beede. There's a disconnect between the physical ability and the aptitude to reach his potential, even with all the advantages he could ask for. We could be looking at a #2 starter or a cautionary tale.
Projected Role: #3/4 Starter, 55 FV
6'4/215, R/R, 21.72 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/60+, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50
Scouting Report: Howard has some serious helium down the stretch, closing for National Championship favorite Virginia and blowing the doors off of hitters (50 K and 31 base runners in 29.1 IP) with a 93-97 mph heater that's hit 98 and a plus hard curveball. Teams are wary of college relievers, but Howard isn't the typical max-effort flamethrower. He has limited miles on his arm as he DHs or plays 3B most games for the Cavaliers, but showed the ability to start in limited opportunities as an underclassman and last summer on the Cape. The explosive fastball should work in a starting role at a lower velocity and the changeup and command should also both be good enough. The big, loose frame has some projection left and some scouts think he may take off when he devotes himself full-time to being a starting pitcher, but he could also contribute quickly in a bullpen for a contender.
Take A Step Back: A riskier college arm given the limited experience in the desired role as a starter, but gives the unique opportunity to take an upside college arm that's proven at the highest amateur levels, hasn't thrown much, has shown he can start and could get big leaguers out tomorrow as a reliever.
Projected Role: #3 Starter, 60 FV
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