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.
5'11/185, L/L, 21.14 on Draft Day
Fastball: 60/60+, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 50/50+
Scouting Report: Finnegan threw mostly in the high 80's in high school, then his velo slowly creeped up until a breakout early in his sophomore year when I saw him (video above) sitting 91-95 and hitting 96 with above average life in a showdown with Dodgers 2013 1st rounder Chris Anderson. Finnegan hit 99 mph later that year and the velo held into the summer with Team USA, where he sat 93-96 mph deep into starts. This spring he's been settling a bit lower, sitting 91-94 and hitting 96 most times out. He draws comps to Scott Kazmir for his smallish frame, higher effort delivery and electric stuff. The slider is plus at times, the changeup is above average at times and the command is good despite the less than perfect delivery. Some concerns about his ability to soak up 200 innings given the delivery and frame have been confirmed with shoulder tightness down the stretch, but he pitched a few times in recent weeks with the same 90-95 mph velocity.
Take A Step Back: Smallish lefty with a very live arm, feel to command it and no real injury history, but the shoulder tightness came at the worst possible time and will make teams gun shy. Billy Wagner-esque closer is a solid backup plan if the mid-rotation starter thing doesn't work out.
Projected Role: #3 Starter, 55-60 FV
For more videos, check out a site where his dad compiled some of his best swings from the open-side, including video from events like the East Coast Pro and the State Final 4.
6'0/175, L/R, 18.54 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/55+, Power: 45/45+, Run: 60/60+, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 40/40
Scouting Report: Wall emerged this summer as an advanced bat, with a huge breakout at the East Coast Pro showcase in Syracuse, NY. He hit a couple home runs in games, had a professional BP and was a 60-65 runner (6.5 in the 60) that could fit up the middle. The complicating factor for Wall is that he had shoulder surgery during his junior season and his arm was a 20 or 30 for most of the summer. You can't even put an arm like that in center field (sorry, Johnny Damon), so Wall plays second base for his high school team and that draws some strong reactions from scouts, since there aren't a lot of comps for that in past first rounds. Wall has gotten more confident in his arm and it's gotten stronger throughout the year, showing a solid 40 at the Sebring All-Star Game last week. He'd likely be sent out as a shortstop if the arm played, though he'd eventually play his way to second base or center field long term. Some area scouts still contend if Wall had a 55 arm, they'd prefer him to Nick Gordon.
Take A Step Back: This is the player I most disagree with the industry about, so this section will be longer than the actual report. I get the bias against high school second basemen, but that's because in basically every other situation, that means they aren't great defenders, can't throw, usually can't run that much and generally aren't even the top athlete on their high school team. That has tons of implications for projection and thus makes sense. Wall is only playing second because of one specific reason and he now has enough arm to play center if need be, but he shouldn't since 2B is the 3rd most valuable position statistically, behind only catcher and shortstop. If a scout thinks he compares favorably with Gordon if he's a shortstop, then he shouldn't be that far behind because Gordon isn't even a slam dunk shortstop and the positional adjustment isn't that much. Just look at the tools; they're almost exactly the same at the plate, with Wall is 10 points better of a runner while Gordon has a much better arm and a little better feel for defense. If Wall played centerfield with a 40 arm for the last 12 months, I bet he'd go 5-10 picks higher.
Wall belongs in the 15-25 area with comparable prep bats Michael Chavis and Derek Hill and only one or two teams seem to agree; it sounds like he'll come off the board in the 25-35 area and I think that's very closed-minded of the scouting community. When I ask crosscheckers and VPs where they have Wall, every single one starts their thoughts with, "well, he's a high school second basemen, you can't take that guy in the first round." This is one of the few remaining blind spots in the scouting community, which has generally been more open to the statistical revolution than the media would have you believe.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55-60 FV
5'11/205, R/R, 18.82 on Draft Day
Hit: 55/50+, Power: 60/60, Run: 55/50, Field: 45/50, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Chavis is a well-known product of the East Cobb Baseball program in the Atlanta-area that's produced more big leaguers than I care to list. I was wary of the hype on him entering the summer as he's a squatty guy that is old for the class and I thought he would be getting by on the polish from playing so many games and being a little older than his competition, but he grew on me. At the PG All American Game in the Padres' Petco Park, Chavis hit the ball into the upper deck in left field, the first place where his 60 raw power was fully unleashed. This spring, he's put on displays at his small high school field, depositing dozens of balls on the highway beyond left field. I thought he was a fringy third baseman over the summer, but Chavis cleaned up his body some and improved his actions. He now has a chance to play second base, but fits best at third where his plus arm could help make him solid-average, though his hands are just okay. Chavis is deceptively quick, a 55 runner now, though he'll probably lose a step down the road.
I'm a little concerned that Chavis' mechanics break down at times when he ups the effort to sell out for power, but he's a good athlete that's coachable with an advanced ability to square the ball up, so most scouts think they necessary adjustments can be made. There's also some thought to putting Chavis behind the plate, as his plus arm and frame seem like a more natural fit back there and he's the kind of player that's game for anything. Some scouts said they've seen him catch a bit and his hands aren't great while his arm doesn't really play as well back there, but count on teams working him out back there in pre-draft workouts to see if there's a shot it could work.
Take A Step Back: I'm a little worried about the swing mechanics, the hands aren't great, the age is a little older than I'd prefer and it all comes in an unusual package without a perfect position. That said, Chavis is a surprisingly good athlete that hits everywhere with surprising speed and huge power that profiles anywhere. This could develop a few different ways, but there's a lot to like.
Projected Role: Above Average Regular, 55-60 FV
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