Re: BA Red Sox prospect rankings.
posted at 12/27/2013 10:09 PM EST
In response to hill55's comment:
Here is a FanGraphs analysis of players whom Baseball America never named on its Top 100 prospect rankings:
Great article. Here's the ending summary...
Perhaps it’s not Baseball America, it’s the scouting community as a whole that is undervaluing these types of players. After all, Baseball America relies heavily on talking to outside sources when writing reports and creating top prospect lists. Another thing to consider would be that I only looked at players who made it, I didn’t try and find all the similar players who didn’t.
But, if I could condense what I’ve learned from this lengthy exercise into a few rules for thinking about prospects, they would be as follows . . .
1) Ignore draft status. This is tough for me, since I covered the draft for Baseball America for the past five years. I love the draft. Even before I worked at BA, I would play hookey from my old jobs to stay home and keep tabs on the event. But it’s true, and that’s what is great about baseball—there are big leaguers drafted in every round of the draft. Mike Piazza was famously a 62nd-round favor, but there’s also Travis Hafner (31), Raul Ibanez (36), Rajai Davis (38), Orlando Hudson (43), Julio Lugo (43), Brad Ausmus (48), Marcus Giles (53), Gabe Kapler (57), Jeff Conine (58) and many more. In fact, players drafted in the 30th round or later since 1984 have combined for 119,465 big league at-bats and 33,289 innings pitched. The best pitchers in the group are Buehrle (38), Scott Erickson (31), Brian Anderson (49), Jason Bere (36), Jason Isringhausen (44), Kyle Farnsworth (47), Robb Nen (32), Heath Bell (69), Chad Gaudin (34) and Scot Shields (38), among others.
2) Age is just a number. Too often players get pumped up because they’re young for the level or too harshly criticized because they’re a little bit older than the league average age. First of all, it’s not the player’s fault. More importantly, as one of my favorite scouts likes to say, “They don’t check IDs in the batter’s box.”
3) Size is just a number. Or, rather, a couple numbers. But that’s one of the best things about baseball—it takes all shapes and sizes. Yogi Berra was 5-foot-7 and Randy Johnson was 6-foot-10. Willie Mays was 5-foot-10 and Mickey Mantle was 5-foot-11. Babe Ruth is listed at 215 pounds, but he likely weighed more. Pedro Martinez was 5-foot-11, 170-pounds and can compete against someone like Frank Thomas, who was 6-foot-5, 240 pounds.
4) Profiles aren’t the be-all, end-all / Believe in the bat. These two go hand-in-hand. Another recurring trend with many of the players listed above is that they could hit, but other question marks somewhere in their game—whether it be defensive skills, or a lack of power, or a lack of speed—held them back from being ranked higher. Evaluators can sometimes be too dismissive of players who don’t perfectly fit the standard positional profiles. But hitting ability is the most important attribute for a position player. “If you can hit, you can play,” as the saying goes.
5) Control is more important than stuff. This is another tough one for me. I love stuff. Who doesn’t? Stuff is sexy. Everybody loves a 97 mph fastball, a knee-buckling curveball or a Bugs Bunny changeup. Stuff gets you seen, stuff gets you paid, stuff gets outs and stuff has value. Ideally you want both, but stuff only has value if you can control it. You can find plenty of big leaguers with average or below-average stuff, but they succeed because they can command the strike zone and change speeds. On the flipside, stuff is worthless without control. Just ask Jason Neighborgall. That’s an extreme example, of course, but no more extreme than Jamie Moyer on the other end of the spectrum.