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.
6'4/185, R/R, 21.41 on Draft Day
Fastball: 70/70, Curveball: 55/65, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 50/55
Scouting Report: Hoffman had some interest from clubs after being undrafted out of high school as a projectable righty that sat 88-90 mph from upstate New York, but ended up heading to ECU. His velocity increased as he added strength and he was a potential first round pick during his sophomore year, getting up to 95 mph with a curveball that was above average at times, but still more of a thrower than pitcher. Hoffman's breakout was on the Cape after his sophomore year, when he attracted big scouting crowds with each of his starts. The top video above is from his masterful outing with about 100 scouts crammed in behind the plate that they still rave about.
In that outing, Hoffman was 94-97, hitting 98 mph with plus life, a curveball that was regularly plus and flashed 70 a few times, a changeup that he had just learned and was already above average along with a near ideal frame, a fluid delivery, flashes of above average command and a feel for sequence you don't often see in college. Hoffman was a legit 1-1 candidate entering the spring and while the same velocity was there early on, the curveball and feel were very inconsistent. In the below video from late in March, Hoffman was up to 97 mph but only threw one or two 60 curveballs, mostly 50s and 55s.
His changeup had improved, flashing plus now and the core abilities were still there, but the feel wasn't the same. The interesting part from the outing I saw this spring is that Hoffman snapped off the sharp curveball from the Cape on flat ground, but couldn't do it on the mound. After a slight tweak to simplify his delivery, Hoffman was back to dominating in April, with 3-5 outings in front of GMs, VPs and scouting directors from clubs with most of the top 10 picks until some elbow soreness shut him down.
It turned out the soreness came from a UCL tear and Hoffman had Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago. Hoffman should be back on the mound about 12 months from now and with the 85%+ success rate of the surgery, he could still jump back on the fast track at that point. In a way of thinking, the injury puts Hoffman's timetable and risk for future injury on the same level of a polished prep arm that goes in the top 10-15 overall picks, but with even more upside than most of the examples. Some scouts are hesitant to pick a guy so recently tainted by injury that they can't see throw in the weeks leading up to the draft, for understandable reasons.
Take A Step Back: This is an Adam Wainwright or Justin Verlander level talent that is tainted by the injury, but the upside is the same, just with different odds and timetable to reach it. Depending on a club's tolerance for risk and the research they have about recovering from Tommy John, Hoffman fits somewhere from 3rd to 20th on boards, with more than a few teams already admitting he's on the high end of that range.
Projected Role: #2 Starter, 65-70 FV
8. Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
6'1/190, R/R, 21.24 on Draft Day
Hit: 60/55+, Power: 45/50, Run: 55/50+, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55+
Scouting Report: Pentecost had a verbal deal with the Texas Rangers out of an Atlanta-area high school for a mid-six figure bonus, but it fell apart after a physical revealed some issues that could become problems in the future. It was a subjective call in the interpretation of the physical and the Rangers regret it now, as Pentecost blossomed in the past year to be a potential top 10 pick. Pentecost was still under the radar last summer until he went to the Cape and won the MVP, hitting .346 with 6 homers in 130 ABs with a tight strike zone and the athleticism to stick behind the plate.
After watching Pentecost this spring, I tabbed him as a guy that would rise leading up to the draft because he was crosschecker/VP/GM friendly. He's an excellent defender with a 55 or 60 arm, 55 speed, an athletic frame and makeup that you can tell is way above average from just watching him, as he sometimes beats runners to first base in his catching gear, backing up throws. After he took infield, I watched Pentecost stand at the edge of the dugout and stare at the plate, waiting like a puppy to get back on the field when it was going to be another 30 minutes before the game started and two scouts told me he had 80 makeup, just as it appeared from how he carried himself.
Pentecost scuffled a bit early in the season but has caught fire at the plate down the stretch with heavy hitters coming in to see him. I tweeted this two weeks ago:
Since 4/6, Max Pentecost has gone 46/87, hitting .529/.577/.722 w/5 HR, 6/7 SB, 10/5 BB/K in 97 PA. The last game I saw him? 4/5.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 19, 2014
Pentecost's loose swing is geared for line drivse, but he has solid average raw power, if he could make some swing tweaks to get to it more in games. His upper half is near perfect in his swing, but the lower half can get a little lazy, though it's been better during his hot streak, hence the increased power numbers. The concern with smaller school hitters is that they can't hit high-end pitching but Pentecost's Cape performance is quelling those fears. Another issue is the sometimes odd development paths that young catchers can take, stalling out and/or regressing when they accumulate the wear and tear from playing a couple seasons with 100+ games behind the dish. Pentecost's makeup, work ethic, athleticism and defensive prowess all limit this concern as well. The main issue is how much his bat and power will play in the big leagues when he's catching everyday, but there seems to be less of that with each passing day.
Take A Step Back: Near-ideal catcher checks almost every box except for plus power, but with every intangible you could ask for. Anything can happen, but all the indicators here are positive and he belongs safely in the top 10.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55-60 FV
6'2/175, R/R, 20.93 on Draft Day
Hit: 60/55, Power: 40/40, Run: 70/70, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Turner was a late-rising prep prospect from South Florida that nearly signed with the Pirates out of high school, but turned down a mid six figure offer as a late round pick. Turner wanted to go to Florida State, but the coaches wouldn't give him the time of day and he's proven them wrong as a college superstar who should go in the top 10 picks of the draft. Turner, like teammate Carlos Rodon, made a leap from solid prospect to elite prospect during his freshman year in Raleigh. Turner's hitting and base-stealing numbers have been outstanding all three years and, after playing third base as a freshman, he's come into his own as a shortstop.
Scouts have come around on Turner, now calling him a definite future shortstop that can stick at the position, with an above average arm, true actions and good range helped by his game-changing plus-plus speed. Turner has turned in some 80 run times in the 60 yard dash and earlier in his career, but some leg injuries has slowed him just a bit to where the 80 times at much more rare, or when he gets out of the box particularly quickly. Turner has hit his fair share of homers in college, but has just 40 raw power and most of his bombs are down the left field line. He may hit 10 per year in pro ball, but more likely is a doubles type gap power guy with single-digit homers.
The concern with Turner, despite his gaudy numbers, is the bat. He hit very well his first two years and, in the above video from his sophomore year, is more balanced at the plate with a narrower base and more leverage than in the lower video from this spring. Turner had some leg injuries late in his sophomore year that carried over to a less-than-stellar Team USA campaign that summer and early this spring. He was getting too spread out and loading his hands to far from contact, trying to create the leverage for more power but collapsing his backside and softening his front side.
Turner is talented enough to still make contact in college doing this, but he's made some adjustments to his mechanics down the stretch when he, like Pentecost, has caught fire at the plate at the right time. Clubs that had him in the 2nd half of the first round now think he will go in the top 15 picks, with Toronto at 9 or the Mets at 10 his likely landing spots. Even if he's only a 50 hitter with 40 power, an everyday shortstop with 70 speed is clearly an everyday player and Turner and Gordon are the only two shortstops in this draft that scouts have any confidence can perform at that level.
Take A Step Back: The three year trend here is more instructive than just looking at Team USA and the spring, which is all most national scouts have seen of him. 75% of what most scouts saw in this last year was his worst run in three seasons, playing through injuries for most of it. Very few players in the big leagues have these kinds of tools at shortstop and the performance is excellent, despite some high-profile recent hiccups.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55-60 FV
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