Scouting Report: Harold Martinez

Harold Martinez of Miami’s Braddock High School was the first prospect I saw at the Sarasota Classic and you can find my preliminary thoughts here. His stock is slipping from being in the top 5 among high school players before the season and now he is more of a projection 3B prospect lacking some polish.

Find out the whole story with a full scouting report and video after the jump…

Harold Martinez, 3B, Braddock Bulldogs

Tool – Present/Future Grades

Hitting – 40/45

Power – 50/55

Speed – 45/40

Fielding – 50/55

Arm – 55/55

Physical Description – Wiry strong medium-to-large frame. Thin build throughout, sloped shoulders, athletic look, room for 15 lbs or more of muscle. Long limbs lack definition, skinny calves, strong mid-section drives good hip flexibility. Well-proportioned projectable athlete with striking resemblance to Twins OF Carlos Gomez.

Hitting – Mechanically is sound at the plate, however looks like he’s trying to have a perfect swing, not make solid contact. Has stiff actions at the plate that lack fluidity and feel, doesn’t consistently square the ball up. Shows tendency to drift and swing at bad pitches in this short look. Tries to pull and seems one-dimensional, relying on his good bat speed. Lacks hitability and hits the ball a little too far out front and may have problems identifying spins.

Power – Has hit for power in the past and hit one HR well over the LCF fence later in the tournament. The hip flex in his swing is a little late and lazy and his swing is level enough now that it’s pure bat speed creating this power with aluminum. With some weight training and a more leveraged swing, he could be a big power threat, but the lack of looseness in the swing makes me doubt he’ll tap into the raw power he’ll gain with either a more contact-oriented approach or lots of strikeouts trying to hit the long ball. Inconsistent in applying his power into games.

Speed – The main reason he’s projected at 3B. He’s somewhat slow-footed given his frame and defensive prowess, slower underway, more of a first step type. Not a base-stealing threat and didn’t get a good look at his baserunning ability, but seems to have good instincts in that area.

Fielding – Had buzz early in the season as a potential Gold Glove 3B. I didn’t see that today, but the first step is good, the hands are alright, and the actions work on the left side of the infield. Only had a few ground balls to test him and got ahead of himself and booted one of them. Could very well be that guy, but what I saw was the tools to be above-average to plus at 3B, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Arm – Flashes an effortless arm from in the hole that’s plenty for 3B and just fine for SS with solid on-line carry and accuracy.

Notes – As mentioned in the early report from the tournament, scouts were openly knocking Martinez’s hitability, and one questioned his makeup due to cracking under pressure this season with double-digit scouts at every game. His situation reminds me of Stephen King’s (Winter Park HS, Orlando area) in the 2006 Draft. He was shooting up draft boards with his broad base of skills but come draft time, one team I talked to said they didn’t buy the bat and wouldn’t consider him until the 4th round. Obviously the Nationals believed in the bat and paid him a top 50 pick bonus ($750,000). How many teams would’ve paid $500,000 or higher and how many wouldn’t touch him until the 4th round? No way to know, but I’d guess from the buzz on King that over 1/2 of clubs wouldn’t pay $500,000. I don’t think Martinez will flame out in Rookie League, but I’d rather take a chance on a player I’m more sure about in rounds 2-3. His upside is still high, I just don’t like the indicators I saw in this short look. Come draft time some team will probably do the same with Martinez that Washington did with King, it may even be the Nationals, who focus heavily on upside. Does that mean I, Baseball America, the clubs that like the bat, or the clubs that don’t like the bat are right or wrong? We won’t know for a few years.

Adjusted Overall Future Potential: 53

Present Group: P, Future Group: C

Projected Role: Solid-Average hitting everyday third baseman with above-average defense, 6th hitter profile

Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd round for teams that like the bat, 3rd-5th round for teams that don’t like the bat

Overall Comparison: Upside is taller Adrian Beltre, more conservatively Pedro Feliz.

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News & Notes: Sarasota Classic, Part II

This second Sarasota Classic update will cover the balance of the prospects I saw during my time at the tournament. Harold Martinez was the highest profile guy and hijacked that first update that was meant to cover a few players, so I’ll go rapid fire on the thumbnail sketch of the remaining prospects and have the full scouting reports coming up as soon as I can.

Inside this News & Notes: a scorching hot ‘09 prospect, and possibly the best prep catcher since Joe Mauer. Find out more after the jump…

Bobby Borchering, for me, was the story of the Sarasota Classic. Being a junior on an average team for this field, not many scouts were paying attention to him, putting more attention toward top seniors, such as Sarasota High SS Casey Kelly (pictured above) and Braddock High SS Harold Martinez. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but from what I was able to gather, Borchering hit 4 homeruns in his first 3 games of the tournament against some excellent competition, and I was there taking some video when he hit the 4th one, which will be up with his full scouting report. The main difference in Borchering’s swing was simply a more concerted effort to get his lower half incorporated.

Borchering’s swing isn’t without flaws, but he’s on fire and has a lot of things going for him. One scouting service has the 6′4 switch-hitting 3B from Ft. Myers’ Bishop Verot High as one of the top 15 prep juniors in a deep Florida crop and top 50 in the country, and he’s certainly improved upon that status, moving into the elite category. He pitched on Wednesday and works in the mid-to-upper 80s as a pitcher with a clean arm, strong command, and solid breaking ball. He’s committed to the University of Florida, but I bet his prowess as a hitter will shoot him up draft charts and he’ll have a big dollar figure in front of him next June to make him think about it.

The other top 2009 draft prospect in Sarasota was catcher Austin Maddox from Jacksonville’s Eagle’s View Academy. Maddox had even more buzz entering the tournament, as the same scouting service had him as the 3rd best prep player in state and 8th in the country. Maddox oozes tools from behind the plate with a mature 6′3, 220 pound frame. He’s been up to 96 on the mound, consistently has pop times under 1.90 (2.00 is MLB average), is extremely athletic and active behind the plate, has near flawless technique and hands, and is a vocal leader and excellent teammate with great makeup. I haven’t even gotten to the bat, which is the most special part of this package. He has elite bat speed, a compact power stroke reminiscent of Mark McGwire, and has hit balls over 400 feet with wood all while batting over .500 facing one of the toughest schedules in the state of Florida. Now you can see why I’m not scared to say he may be the best prep catcher since Joe Mauer.

One team official said he’s an easy top 10 overall prospect for the 2009 draft right now and likened him to Mike Piazza with a plus-plus arm. So prospect watchers looking for the next great catching prospect to follow Matt Wieters appear to have their wish with California HS catcher Kyle Skipworth this year and Maddox next year.

The last player of the top prospect cavalcade in Sarasota was the aforementioned hometown SS Casey Kelly. Kelly has been atop prospects lists for the 2008 Draft since he was a sophomore at the powerhouse Sarasota High. Now it’s due-or-die time to convince scouts he is the premium prospect they’ve been saying he will be and he’s succeeding thus far. Projections range from as high as 10th overall down to the sandwich round, but a team somewhere in that range will certainly take an athletic 6′3 shortstop that is close to MLB-ready defensively right now and has a long track record of success hitting against good competition. The team that pops him will be the one that believes most in his bat, which could unlock his star potential.

Full reports on these players and those that I catch on the opening weekend for the Florida State League are all coming shortly.

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Scouting Report: Chris Dominguez

We’ve been talking about a lot of sure fire (if such a prospect exists) players as of late. But, in my opinion, scouting gets even more interesting when you are evaluating wildcard type players. Chris Dominguez, a physically massive slugger from the University of Louisville, is one of those players. Chris has always been a player of great intrigue to me tools wise and I thought I’d share my evaluation of him with you. Check it out after the jump…

(Chris Dominguez photo credit: University of Louisville)

Chris Dominguez, 3B – Harwich Mariners (Louisville)
Tool – Present/Future Grades

Hitting – 40/40

Power – 70/70

Speed – 50/50

Fielding – 45/45

Arm – 70/70

Physical Description – Massive frame, every bit of what he’s listed as. Looks very athletic despite his size. Wide shoulders, highly muscled up and down, thin waist. Tapered frame. True physical specimen. Built similar to Troy Glaus.

Hitting – On anything without a wrinkle in it or that isn’t on the outer half. Hits the ball exceptionally hard, has a special sound in his bat. Crushes the ball. Has a gaping hole on the outer half of the plate and struggles badly with off-speed pitches, breaking balls in particular. Pulls of badly, tries to yank everything. Has yet to learn how to hit the opposite way. Very quick and can turn on any fastball. Extremely prone to the strikeout. BP hitter right now, all or nothing in live action. Does not recognize the breaking ball.

Power – Special power, light tower power. Hits the ball a long way with minimal effort. Needs to put bat on ball more. Power is game-usable but he needs to make more contact. Puts on a spectacle in BP. Plus, plus power guy. Can hit one out in any part of the park in any dimensions. Most power is to center field.

Speed – Just about an average runner. Size limits his agility and mobility. Speed is more than adequate considering his position. Superb athletic skills but just not exceptionally fleet of foot. Speed may decrease over time considering his large frame.

Fielding – Not the quickest feet, decent hands but not a lot of range. Makes the routine plays, not going to be spectacular. Lacks quickness, and as he gets older and thicker he may move to first base, right field or DH. He doesn’t figure to be a real mobile player down the road.

Arm – Plus, plus arm. Threw mid-90’s from the mound in high school. Good throwing mechanics, throws right over the top and makes the throws from the third base with easy. Accurate arm. Likes to show off his arm, can be a bit reckless. If he can maintain some of his mobility, his arm would play perfectly in right field.

Notes – Very raw product but the potential is very visible. Needs a lot of work. Potential to be an impact big league slugger with some refinement. Two plus-plus tools. An interesting project but a big risk, his bat is far from a sure thing.

Adjusted Overall Future Potential: 53
Present Group: P, Future Group: C
Projected Role: 6th to 7th hitter in the order, starting player with low average, big power.
Draft Projection: 3rd-4th round
Overall Comparison: Wily Mo Pena

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The Prospecting Mission Statement, Part II

Catch part one of this series here. I’ve dragged my feet a bit on getting to part two of the series, but all four of you eagerly awaiting more of the site’s methods on ranking prospects, wait no more!

This section will focus on a interesting philosphical debate including Ben Grieve, financial valuation of prospects, breaking down how we grade each tool, and why Drew Stubbs holds to key to the Adjusted OFP treasure chest. If that doesn’t make you want to read more…then read some of the less geeky stuff on the site, maybe you’ll like that more. For those of you wanting to delve further into prospect geekdom, follow us deeper into the rabbit hole after the jump…

I was having dinner with a friend that works in baseball and we somehow got on the topic of what type of prospect you would pick if given the choice by your GM in a trade. If you knew (how you know or if you could is another question to be answered later) a guy would be a quick impact guy then fizzle (where you could then trade him, since you know everything in this hypothetical) or a later-peaking All-Star type. I illustrated the question with recent players to make the question one based in some reality: Ben Grieve or Aramis Ramirez?

Don’t get too worked up about the players themselves, just the type of players they represent. Grieve is the early-peaking player with old man skills in his early 20’s (power, patience, corner position) that peaks in his age-22 rookie season and is a fringe starter by 25 and out of baseball at 29. Ramirez is a quick-to-the-majors type as well, but doesn’t peak until his age-26 season (still the normal time to peak, just later than Grieve for this example) and has one above-average year in his first 4 seasons, then breaks out in years 5 and 6, at the end of his team’s contract control, then will be paid the market rate (translation: over-paid) the rest of his career. Like I said before, forget the exact players to a degree, focus on the profile: early-peaking fringe All-Star, or normal-peaking perennial All-Star. Now, from a trade standpoint, if you know what their career holds, all things being equal, which do you take?

I argued, in a devil’s advocate sense, given that I knew what the other guy would say, for Ben Grieve. He puts up $10 million or more of productivity while making the minimum, and once he hits arbitration, you trade him to a less-savvy team (preferably run by Chuck LaMar) for another fringe-All Star with a better immediate future. Economically, that’s probably the right answer. The team official argued for Aramis Ramirez due to his job description. He said, regardless of knowing the future or not, his job in a trade is to identify the best player to trade for, and Aramis Ramirez became the best player. Looking back 10 years on a trade for the definitive winner and loser, picking Ramirez is more right. Both answers are right in their own way. There are also many more factors in play than the ones discussed, but this is just a hypothetical.

That was assuming that you know the future, which I’d assume many people do not. Is there a way to know, with some certainty, which players will reach their peaks at what time?

You can make some good guesses, based on how much of their value is in performance versus tools when they reach the majors, and what type of skills they have (old man versus young man). But there isn’t really a way to know with enough certainty for it to seriously impact, for instance, a trade negotiation. But I think there are some players that fall into the extremes that do allow you to take it into consideration for prospect ranking. (Pardon me as I beat a dead horse). Franklin Morales will not reach his peak soon. Most people can agree on this, we definitely think this. If he does what most people think he will, the first sign of doing it won’t come probably until his arbitration years (years 4-6) at best. Should this affect how we rank him? Depends on the criteria you’re using for ranking prospects.

Our criteria will take some of this (but not that much) into consideration. There’s a small population of players we can tell that will be early or normal-peakers, let’s say 10-15 of the top 100 prospects. Our criteria will be who is most valuable to a team, and that takes into account (to a small degree) how much financial gain the team can make as a result of owning this player. Many normal-peakers still have great trade value even if they aren’t performing as expected, and having normal-peakers for their first few free agent years is usually a net financial positive (it’s in their decline that you don’t want to pay the market rate), but normally with a trade, some value is lost in translation and all things being equal, you want the now-performer, not the trading chip.

Again, this won’t make a huge difference in our rankings, I just want to point out yet another facet of prospect evaluation.

So what’s the point of this whole section? Mostly to point out that we think about this stuff in more in-depth ways that it appears, and also that this is the type view an economist would take to ranking prospects, and we’ll consider that some in what we do, because we think like that sometimes (however heartless it is) and that opinion is becoming more and more important each day.

As for the technical way this type of thing would manifest itself, take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with our Scouting Tutorial. As an example for this section we’ll go with Reds prospect Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is regarded to have four of the five tools at least above-average (55 on the 20-80 scale), except the most important one, hitting. So how would having every tool except the most important one affect how the raw OFP goes into an adjusted OFP, the number that drives his grouping and prospect ranking? Stubbs’ raw OFP would be in the neighborhood of 60. That would make him one of the top 10-15 prospects in baseball, and if you think the bat plays, then that’s the place he should be (and could be with a huge season in the Florida State League this year—I’ll be keeping a close watch on this). But we currently don’t think the bat plays and Stubbs’ (if we had to project it now) will hit about .250 in the big leagues at his peak (a 40 or 45 future bat grade). Still a useful and everyday player in the big leagues, but not a 60 adjusted OFP player.

So how would we adjust that OFP? We wouldn’t just say we don’t like him and make him a different OFP, we’d essentially do a weighting of the tools (as many already do for the raw OFP to avoid this problem) and then swing it a few points either way to get him where we think he should be. The raw OFP (once weighted) is a guide for where he should be, the adjusted OFP is making your opinion of him into one number, so adjusting this number from the raw is what you’re supposed to do to be more useful than a robot and get your opinion across—it isn’t cheating—but moving it more than 2-3 points without a good reason is probably too extreme.

For the sake of the exercise, the 60 raw number becomes 54.5 with weighting and I’d actually bump that up a notch to 55 or 56, the B- to C+ area, basically slightly above-average everyday to above-average everday player. As is, we think he’s a .250/.340/.450 type center fielder with great defense and speed, that’s slightly-above average. But I’m also taking into account that he’s got the upside to be more, and we’ll denote these types of players in our team prospect lists. An overachieving college center fielder with a 55 grade that’s in AAA and has no upside and Stubbs’ at 55 with huge upside and some downside are different players and we’ll put a flag, or a different color text or something to indicate that difference, although the 55 number already takes some of that into account.

Another way that we’ll try to avoid huge busts aided by inaccurate raw OFPs leading us down the wrong road is an amateur hitting adjustment, and breaking hitting and power into components to pinpoint the type of tool the player has.

For amateurs, the present hitting grade is usually a throw-away for scouts. Is high school hitter X a current 20, 25, or 30 hitter? It’s impossible to know and makes no difference, the mechanical comments that are next to it are much more valuable. So, taking a cue from a team that uses this approach, we’ll use a peer grade for the current hit grade for amateur hitters. Basically, the 20-80 score the hitter’s bat has against his peers (say players of the same age taken in the same round). And the rule is that the future grade can be anywhere below that present grade, but can’t be more than 10 points above it. That way, players that can’t hit in HS (say, a 40 peer grade) can’t be projected to hit in the big leagues for more than average (in this case, no higher than 50 future grade).

Hitting, as many scouts and analysts already do, will be broken down (even if we don’t spell it out as such in the scouting reports) into plate discipline and hitting ability. Power will be broken down into raw power and power frequency. These distinctions are for how far a player can hit the ball, and how often he taps into that ability. This difference would be evident in players like Juan Uribe that can’t hit the ball especially far, but seem to tap into that ability all the time (almost always to their detriment). Or, with players that have plus power but don’t have an approach that taps into it often, like Matt Murton.

This type of component approach is done for other tools, like breaking a fastball down into velocity, movement, and command, but those types of distinctions are more well-known, so we assumed if you’ve read that far you’re aware of it.

And as a special treat for those of you that read this far, I will be at the Tampa Yankees-Lakeland Flying Tigers FSL opener tomorrow night and you can probably guess who’s pitching for Lakeland. There will be a full scouting report and video up from the first ever Porcello Day (yes, it’s a holiday) in the bay area. Stay tuned, Tiger fans and prospect watchers.

Help Saber-Scouting Grow: Submit or Comment on this story at BallHype and BTF.

Posted in Our Opinion, Prospect Lists | 6 Comments
6 Responses to “The Prospecting Mission Statement, Part II”
on April 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm1 Grant
Another thing becoming a little more common, on the economic side, is teams waiting to bring up top prospects to keep from starting their free agent clock. They are, basically, sacrificing a year now, for an extra year later on (when the player will be closer to his peak years).

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News & Notes: Sarasota Classic, Part I

First off, I’d like to apologize for the infrequent posting the last few days. Frankie and I have made some big plans for players to see and report on, various rankings, and story ideas, and we’re moving in that direction. When it comes to laying the groundwork and going to see players, sometimes the posts will be less frequent, but it should pick back up now.

Yesterday, I headed south to Sarasota to see some of the premium ‘08 and ‘09 draft prospects at the Sarasota Classic. The first day was canceled in the middle of the second wave of games due to rain, but I still got a good look at some top prospects. This post will focus on top ‘08 prospect Braddock (Miami) High SS Harold Martinez. I’ll be back to Sarasota later this week to see the end of the tournament, but will be catching another matchup of top ‘08 lefties in the Tampa-area tonight. Check the first dispatch from Sarasota after the jump…

The day started at 1 pm with a matchip of Miami’s Braddock HS and Naples’ Barron Collier HS. The only legitimate prospect in this game was a big one, the pre-season #7 HS prospect in the nation by Baseball America, Braddock senior SS Harold Martinez. BA’s Jim Callis commented earlier this week that Martinez’s stock is “plummeting.” This would certainly be a good time to take a look at him with 15-20 MLB teams represented in the stands at a high-profile tournament.

I can report that Jim Callis’ information did not disappoint. I’ll have a full Harold Martinez scouting report up later with some video I took, but he looked the part of the “hyped prospect that breaks down a bit under further inspection.” There’s a few of these every year and they all have similar stories. For Martinez, it is that he has a near flawless swing mechanically, but lacks feel for the bat head, fluidity in his swing and in his approach. He looks like he’s trying to swing perfectly, not make solid contact. Scouts were openly joking and betting about which part of the infield he’d flyout to when a sidearming, mid 70’s righty came in to face him in his 2nd at-bat, and when he ripped a fastball foul in his 3rd at-bat almost all of them commented in unison that it was his best contact of the year.

Granted, that was scouts joking, but it really supported what I saw in this short look and what Callis had said earlier in the week. You’d be surprised how often scouts tip what they think about a player with subtle reactions and comments—usually to each other and only when they already know they share similar opinions on the player. And that is exactly the case on Martinez, the type of guy they all have set opinions on already and have watched extensively, together. First-round picks don’t elicit jokes about popping out versus mediocre pitching. Check back tomorrow for the full Harold Martinez report with our draft projection.

The only other notable things about the game, other than it being the longest and most boring game I’ve seen in a long time, was the best hidden ball trick execution I’ve seen in awhile, and easily the best name in the tournament (I checked the program). The game was slow due to incessant pick-off moves (at least 2 per baserunner), pitching changes, deep counts, foul balls, 10 runs in the first 4 innings, visits to the mound…and everything seemed worse with a beating sun and 90 degree weather. I suppose there were worse places in the world to be, though.

That name of the tounament was Collier senior 1B Squeeze Maurer. That sounds like a teammate of Lou Gehrig on the ‘27 Yankees, and Squeeze lived up to that expectation by starting a rundown between 1st and 2nd to allow the runner from 3rd to score before he was the 3rd out. That’s the kind of savvy moves I expect from a guy named Squeeze.

The hidden ball trick occurred when Collier had a runner on second in a tie game with 2 out in the 5th, the Braddock pitcher attempted a pickoff move to 2nd base, the 2nd baseman and shortstop (Martinez) moved to cover, simultaneously dove to catch the ball, the centerfielder and rightfielder ran into the gap to track down the allegedly errant throw, and the leftfielder and third baseman got in position for a play at third. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire Braddock dugout started screaming in about four languages as the players started diving and scattering, and the Collier runner dove back into 2nd, looked at the scene, then took off for 3rd. The Braddock pitcher ran towards him as he left 2nd (if you lost me, the pitcher never threw the ball) and tagged him out to end the inning.

Check back soon for more notes on the tournament, tonight’s Tampa-area HS matchup, and full scouting reports on it all.

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Prospect Mythbusting: Put Us On The Case

Every fan that follows prospects will know where I’m coming from with this. There is always some great degree of ambiguity when it comes to prospect tracking but why is that? We feel that the degree of ambiguity should be taken down a notch if not totally eliminated. There should be much less guess work on the part of the fan as to what their team’s number two pitching prospect’s velocity has been this season or how their newly converted first base prospect looks defensively. Obviously, we’ll be scouting a great deal of players from the amateur all the way up through the professional ranks. But, what we’d like to do is take suggestions from our readers on this. Find out what I mean after the jump….

What I mean is this; you, the reader, make a suggestion to us about a prospect that you can’t seem to get any straight answers about elsewhere or just plain can’t find any good information on. Since we’re still a pretty small outfit, we will not get to go out and see everyone you suggest to us. If we do not, we’ll utilize our contacts in the scouting industry to find you those answers.

Outlets that write about prospects are suppose to give answers to those who follow them. That’s what we’re going to try to give you with this suggestion box. And, what we hope to provide in return is cold, hard facts about these prospects that you need answers on.

So, fire away in the comments section and throughout the season we’ll hopefully get to many of your requests.

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PTO At Work: Crowner Of Aces?

Through consultation of some good statistical minds, I believe that I now have a more firm understanding of what our new pitching statistic really is measuring and how it can be applied. Pitches Towards Outs measures a pitchers dominance. Yes, dominance. It sounds bold but that’s what it is I believe.

This is not a measure of best pitchers, although that can often go hand in hand with dominance. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, etc. are all phenomenal but you are not going to see them go through a lineup without setting up hitters or battling them in deep counts. And, while it’s been suggested that this measurement may work towards indicating a pitcher’s stuff, well it doesn’t quite do that either. A perfect example of why not is if a pitcher is walking hitters and laboring deep into counts to get them out, great stuff or not, they would not do well in this formula.

So, yes, this formula is about ease of outs. The optimal performances are first pitch outs and three pitch strikeouts. If a pitcher went through a game like that, I think you’d call that the essence of “ease of outs” or dominance. Dominance is a little bit up for interpretation so if ease of outs works for you, we can call that this formula’s application. Find out more after the jump…
With all that being said, are we not all curious to see which pitchers get their outs the easiest? Well, I was at least. In running an organization, the goal is to search for new forms and outlets of analytical information and I think this would be a good way of reviewing my team’s upside as a pitching staff. But, to get a better frame of reference, I thought it would be wise to examine some of baseball best pitchers, regardless of style to see what we might discover about how they stack up in terms of dominating a game compared to what their reputation is. Check out some of the results based on 2007 statistics.

First, I took a look at starting pitchers who got votes for the Cy Young awards in each league in 2007 to see how they stacked up.

The Best Of The Starters
Johan Santana – 33.8%

Erik Bedard – 33.6%

John Smoltz – 33.1%

Cole Hamels – 32.4%

Josh Beckett – 32.1%

C.C. Sabathia – 32.0%

Brandon Webb – 32.0%

Jake Peavy – 31.9%

Aaron Harang – 31.6%

John Lackey – 30.4%

Fausto Carmona – 29.4%

Justin Verlander – 28.9%

Roy Halladay – 28.7%

Jeff Francis – 28.0%

Brad Penny – 27.8%

Carlos Zambrano – 27.2%
I don’t like the term “Ace” in all situations, but I’m going to look at the perceived “aces” of each team. This will be incredibly interesting though. Now, we’ll really find out how dominant each team’s ace is and maybe crash down some stereotypes at the same time. Let’s take a look. Some of these are redundant from the first category but hang with me.

“Aces” Around The League (2007) – Rankings
Minnesota Twins: Johan Santana – 33.8%

Baltimore Orioles: Erik Bedard – 33.6%

Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz – 33.1%

Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels – 32.4%

Boston Red Sox: Josh Beckett – 32.1%

Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb – 32.0%

Cleveland Indians: C.C. Sabathia – 32.0%

San Diego Padres: Jake Peavy – 31.9%

Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang – 31.6%

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ian Snell – 31.4%

Chicago White Sox: Javier Vazquez – 31.1%

Tampa Bay Rays: Scott Kazmir – 30.5%

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: John Lackey – 30.4%

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez – 30.1%

Washington Nationals: Shawn Hill – 29.2%

Oakland Athletics: Dan Haren – 29.0%

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander – 28.9%

Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay – 28.7%

Houston Astros: Roy Oswalt – 28.6%

New York Mets: John Maine – 28.6%

Milwaukee Brewers: Ben Sheets – 28.4%

New York Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang – 28.2%

Colorado Rockies: Jeff Francis – 28.0%

Los Angeles Dodgers: Brad Penny – 27.8%

St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright – 27.8%

San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain – 27.7%

Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano – 27.2%

Kansas City Royals: Gil Meche – 26.8%

Florida Marlins: Dontrelle Willis – 26.1%

Texas Rangers: Kevin Millwood – 25.6%

Call me crazy but this truly seems to me to be measure of “ace-hood”. The rankings are very interesting to see who used the most of their pitchers towards outs. Who is rolling through the lineups on easy strikeouts and quick outs? The guys who scored high on this are. The highest percentage for a starter I’ve found yet is Pedro Martinez in his amazing 1999 season. He had a score of 38.2%. I’d like everyone’s feedback on this, but I think we may really have a way to measure who our most dominant pitchers are. I repeat though, it’s not that pitchers who don’t score high on this aren’t good pitchers. They just aren’t guys who roll through a lineup like a steamroller. And, it doesn’t just cater to strikeout pitchers because pitchers who rack up walks and labor will fair terribly

Note: I’ve revised the formula to be easier. Here it is: PTO%=(((IP*3)-SO)+(SO*3))/Pitches

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Mechanical Analysis: Aaron Crow

Aaron Crow is widely considered one of the top two pitchers available for the 2008 Draft, and a strong contender for college player of the year and #1 overall pick in the Draft. He’s certainly an elite talent that has a lot of momentum built up after a coming-out party at the Cape Cod League this summer and has kept that momentum going with a dominant start for a strong Missouri Tigers team this spring.

I would love to say that Crow has picture perfect mechanics and is a near flawless pitching prospect. However, he has a big red flag in his delivery that makes some pause about his ultimate upside. Find out what’s up with this projected top-5 pick after the jump…
I’ll admit that opening was a bit tabloid of me, but I talked to some scouts and some non-scout sources about Crow’s delivery and the scouts (predictably) saw exactly what I noticed, and the non-scouts were told that he simply had a not-perfect delivery. This would make sense because the scouts agreed that the red flag I noticed is basically that just that, a red flag. It’s more a risky thing than a fatal flaw, ticking-time-bomb thing, which would explain why the non-scouts haven’t heard about it specifically, just some “funk” as Kevin Goldstein noted today in his Draft Notebook (subscriber only). So, I’d like to cover what the “funk” is and what the good stuff is that minimizes the impact of the funk. I’ll also be putting a score from the traditional 20-80 scale (50 being MLB average) on each element of his delivery. Check the Scouting Tutorial for an explanation. Enough tip-toeing, let’s jump right into it.

Here is that first pitch in GIF form from top of the knee kick to release:

Catch the yellow part in there? Good, file that away until the arm action section.

Crow is 28 frames to the plate. Not bad, not great, but, again, this isn’t an all-telling stat. In the vein of the Matt Garza breakdown, since Crow and Garza are both power pitchers, let’s take a look at the side view and see if the arm is lagging and causing him to slow down his tempo.

And, with a cap tip to YouTube user farmsystem (lots of prospect videos there), he offers a side view Crow in the windup, from warm-ups.

So, what do you see there? It appears in the GIF that there is a kink in the back of the arm action that slows him down a few frames, much like Garza slowing down in the back. This is the same thing I put in yellow in the first GIF, and we’ll address that more in the arm action section. So, tempo is good, could be better, but the tempo itself certainly isn’t a problem.


The weight transfer can be seen in just 7 frames, each with important things happening, so I’ll give you all seven in molasses-slow-motion, with 3 seconds to look at each frame, and tell you what’s happening in each frame as far as the weigh transfer and creating velocity.

Frame 1 -Coming out of the kink in the back and beginning the big torque-build-up for the arm. Front-side is closed, glove is leading, foot is mid-stepover (that last hop in the foot before release, big power-creator) you can tell he’s about to explode to the plate.

Frame 2 – Arm is rising, torque is probably at its greatest, the scapula is fully loaded (shoulder stretched back) and the slingshot is engaged (big velocity coming). The lower-half has opened while the top half is still closed (more torque) the glove begins the lead to pulling the elbow laterally through, the foot is coming down from the stepover.

Frame 3 – The arm is coming out of being fully loaded and still rising, letting the body load up. The lower-half has opened more (use the belt buckle as a guide). The elbow is leading (but not dropping, that’s a no-no), and the upper-half has now opened, the foot is about to hit the ground to stabilize.

Frame 4 -The arm is still moving into position–see why people say velocity comes from the legs? They’re doing all the work in these 7 frames. The lower-half is half-open (45 degrees) and the foot has finished the stepover and hit the ground. The upper-half is mid-explosion and the elbow is leading it nicely.

Frame 5 -The arm is fully up and on it’s way home (and sending a thank you letter to the legs). The lower half (look at the belt buckle) is basically all the way open (90 degrees) and pointed right at the plate, while the upper-half is still about 45 degrees–this is torque, and while this is obviously a little risky, he’s throwing 85-88 without it. The glove is done leading the body, has settled into its spot out front (didn’t over-rotate or cause him to fly open) and the body is now catching up.

Frame 6 – Now the arm is still on the way; it’s sounding borderline lazy so far, every part of the body is leading it. The lower-half is now set and stable because the upper half is now fully-rotated to 90 degrees. And notice how the glove didn’t move from frame 5 to 6. That is how it is done.

Frame 7 – The arm has finally caught up and is releasing the ball, the upper and lower halves are both still at 90 degrees rotated and the glove is stationary after leading the way through. If a GIF could go in a textbook, I’m pretty sure this would be in there.


Here we will address the elephant in the room, the wrist-wrap I highlighted in the back. Here’s a still-frame of what I’m talking about

That’s your funk, right there. So what does this mean?

Basically, Crow is firing the muscles from his elbow to his wrist when he’s not supposed to be, to create this cocking of the wrist. That might not sound like a big deal, but using more muscles than you need to not only outputs less power (relaxed muscles more powerful than firing ones, hence preferred effortless mechanics) but is stressing that area of the arm. It stresses the arm because you want as little wasted motion and muscle use as possible, and this makes an unnatural motion have more effort in it—like pitchers aren’t injured enough.

So what are the side effects of this type of move? Elbow soreness and eventually, most likely, Tommy John surgery. This is by no means a death sentence (as mentioned above) because TJ has a a great track record of full recovery and many young pitchers get it and come back throwing harder, like the elbow joint was tightened up like a rubber band (granted the full process takes at least 2 years). Given the rest of his mechanics and stuff, this basically makes him A.J. Burnett, and if A.J. Burnett was available in the draft, he’d go top 5 easily. And there’s always a chance that Crow is Lincecum-like in his ability to not get injured when most people think he should, and won’t have any real problems.

Can he correct it? He can, but like most pitchers that have come this far, to the verge of the major leagues, with a certain arm motion, it might cause more problems to change his arm stroke than to just leave it how it is and hope he doesn’t run into injury problems. Plus, in general it isn’t very smart to alter pitching motions that are “working.” So this is, like I said before, a red flag, some funk, whatever you want to call it, and not much more.

As for the rest of the arm action:

Well, it’s just great. Aggressive, no pauses (just slows down a bit with the wrap), elbow picks up the ball, high torque, good scap load, all the elements are there.

So, the conventional wisdom is that Crow has an okay delivery, clean arm action. I would say great delivery, okay arm action. It’s more a semantic difference, but I wanted to clarify. What that means 20-80 scale with is that he’s great arm action with a red flag, still a little better than a totally clean arm with no aggression, as he may never get hurt and it works for him. Call it 55.


Here’s a GIF focused just on these two elements:

As discussed above in the 7 frame weight shift breakdown, the front side mechanics are exactly what I’m looking for. They’re actually so good that they are exactly what people that disagree with me on front-side mechanics (Carlos Gomez, Tom House, etc.) are looking for (static glove the body flows into, usually without a leading elbow)—Crow molds the two seemingly different styles together.

As for the follow-through, you can see that he follows through so completely that his arm bumps his left hip as it’s finishing and he minimizes the recoil. Outstanding.


Not only have I not seen Crow in person, but you can’t really tell the quality of his stuff from the video. If you’re a BP subscriber, you can get a quick rundown from Goldstein’s Draft Notebook he posted today, but for a more comprehensive look, Frankie has a full report on Crow from the Cape that will be up on Monday, so stay tuned for that companion piece.


We could just skip the sabermetric part here and just say he’s really good.

‘07 Cape Stats (6 starts, 2 in relief): 0.67 ERA, 40.1 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 9 BB, 36 K

‘08 Missouri Stats (5 starts): 1.03 ERA, 35 IP, 26 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 51 K (HR stat not reported by MU)

Not a whole lot to analyze there. I took a quick 2 start sample against solid competition (Cal, Baylor) and his GO/FO ratio was 11/2 v Baylor (dominating CG), and 2/2 v Cal (5 IP, 8 H, 3 R). Looks like he’s a GB machine when on and struggles when he elevates, but that still averages out to an 3.25 ratio, borderline inhuman for the college game.


If we’re taking an OFP approach (see Scouting Tutorial for explanation) to the summary, the unadjusted OFP number would be 65. But the only reason I gave two 75s and not 80s is because I don’t like saying “that’s the best that’s possible,” although Crow very well may be doing as well as he possibly could, or as well as anyone could; I just don’t like the precedent that creates. So, if you want to say Crow has plus-plus mechanics (70), be my guest.

As far as projecting Mr. Crow and tying this marathon together, I’d say given what I’m told his stuff is like, and what his mechanics are like, A.J. Burnett isn’t a bad comparison at all, and if possible arm problems (or team preference) lead him to the bullpen, J.J. Putz is the kind of pitcher he could be at the back-end of a game. So, unless teams are convinced (and it sure sounds like they aren’t, neither am I) that he’s going to have chronic elbow problems or multiple TJ surgeries, it’ll be pretty hard to put another pitcher ahead of him in this draft, and I can’t see him out of the top 3 overall unless there is a serious injury, serious drop in performance, or serious makeup revelations, none of which anyone sees happening.

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Batter Breakdown: Reese Havens

We’ve had a mechanical analysis of a pitcher, now it’s time to look at a hitter. To best introduce our hitter breakdowns, I wanted to use a particularly impressive hitter in terms of swing mechanics. That hitter is University of South Carolina infielder, Reese Havens. A lefty swinger, Havens has really impressed me on every opportunity I’ve had to see him. Check out our first “Batter Breakdown” after the jump…

Setup: Nothing fancy here, which I have to say I generally like from a hitter. Some guys will have their odd approaches that work, but a quiet, standard approach works just fine. Havens is slightly open at the dish, but closes it up aggressively as he he loads up. He holds his hands back and below the ear, where he can simply drop the hammer. When you watch the video, you’ll see a very relaxed, well schooled hitter. A batting stance is a matter of preference but you can quite often see a lot about a hitter’s feel for hitting and swagger just by how they set up. But, overall, there’s nothing that out of the ordinary to take note of here.

Plate Discipline: Reese Havens likes to swing the bat, but if you’re a pitcher trying to get him to leave the strike zone, you might have a long wait. And, since he’s a well respected hitter in the college game, he’s been drawing quite a glut of base on balls. As a pro, you’ll likely see the walk totals drop a bit because he’ll jump on a good fastball in the zone. But, it’s very rare to see him leave the strike zone. He’s got a short stroke, which we’ll touch on, so he can decide late what he’d like to take a hack at.

Head Movement: It isn’t a prerequisite for being a good hitter, but one philosophy you’ll see me employ a lot is in regard to head movement. I’d like to see a hitter’s head stay fairly still and on the ball. Moving it toward the pitch as it comes in only makes hitting a 90 MPH fastball harder than it should. As I said though, it’s one school of thought. Havens has a great deal of head movement, more specifically toward the pitcher, than I would prefer. And, if you look closely toward the end of his swing, it comes up. That is a directly result of a lot of the upper body that he uses in hitting the ball. There’s lots of shoulder and upper body torque going on there. It may cost him a little power with his upper body drifting at the ball but he’s very good at getting to the ball and making contact simply using his hands.

Check out these still images. I broke Havens swing down into 11 phases.

Reese Havens Frame By Frame

Balance: I love what Havens has going on in terms of balance. The weight transfers beautifully from the back to front leg and he finishes his swing just as balanced as when he began. He really drives his hips at the ball rather than just spinning himself onto his heels. He swings very athletically and not off his heels.

Lower Half: You can tell a lot about a hitter by looking at his front side. And, the key here, which you’ll see in the video clip, is the kind of resistance Havens gets off his front (right) leg. He plants it firmly and really plows his hips through the zone, creating room for his hands to explode. Havens also has a very interesting technique that I really found impressive. If you take a look at his right hip movement just before his hands come through the zone you’ll notice it dips slightly. That is because, if you watch his right knee, it buckles just a bit to allow room for the hips to release. But, as soon as the hands start to come through, the leg locks back up as it should. It is a small movement such as that that allows Havens to do what he does. There is also a huge separation between where his hips come forward against the front leg and his hands, which remain completely back. Torque is the key word, and with those hips clearing, the weight staying against that front leg is ideal for creating the big time bat speed that Havens produces.

Stride: The common trend with hitters of late in regards to strides has been less is more, and I agree. The less moving parts the better is optimal I believe. With that being said, what Reese Havens does with his stride is about perfect. Very simple; he lifts his up and he puts it back down no more than and inch or so from where it began. It’s an extremely small mechanism but it keeps any of the weight he has stored on his back leg from leaking forward. And, all of that stored weight equals power when he releases his hands.

Hands: You’re learning a lot about what I like in this first hitter breakdown so why stop now. I’m far from alone on this but give me a hitter with quick hands at the plate that can control the bat and a good hitting coach to work with him and there’s a good chance you can mold him. Think Johnny Damon on this, minus his frequent one handed swing. Havens is a very “handsy” hitter and he controls the bat extraordinarily well. When he goes into his load, and subsequently his stride, his hands drop slightly and move back, where they are unloaded. Another key word with Havens is drag. Yes, it sounds like something bad for a hitter, but in this case it’s not. Havens’ hands at the plate are extremely strong, which allows him to hold the barrel of the bat back, and the knob of the bat and his hands are the leading the barrel through the hitting zone. That is where we get the term drag. The longer the barrel stays in the zone, the better chance you have of having a very good hitter on your hands. I really, really like what I see here overall.

Swing Path: One of the first things scouts look for in a young hitter is his swing path, or swing length. The term “long swing” is slapped on hitters quite a bit, but don’t let it’s overuse fool you. It is a hugely important part of evaluating hitters. Obviously, a short swing is what we look for. And, that is yet another check mark in Havens favor. You may be able to see it with the naked eye in the video, but check out the still images for a better look. That is one very straight line to the baseball. He’s very top hand oriented, which keeps him from falling into any sort of negative sloped loop. You really won’t find many straighter paths to the baseball than Havens’. But, most importantly of all, as I touched on, earlier, his swing and bat is being lead by his hands and he only begins to roll the wrists right at the point of contact. This is not a swing that I feel will produce big time thumping power. There just isn’t much lift in this swing path. This is the swing path of a tremendous pure hitter, however.

Extension: This isn’t Havens’ strongest area in terms of swing mechanics but I can’t call it a flaw. He cuts his swing off just a bit more than I’d like. It’s something that could suppress his power somewhat, but enough where I’d change the other outstanding swing mechanics he’s got going on. His quick bat and hands make up for the lack of extension somewhat.

Summation: Swing mechanics and theories towards what makes up “the best swing” are very diverse. But, there are many standards that I like to think are pretty constant when it comes to making a good stroke. That is why I chose to examine Reese Havens first. What you see in the video, and in the photos is a very refined hitter with a polished swing. He has some small flaws here and there and other things go into make a good hitter besides mechanics of his swing, but it is a good place to start. Havens’ stroke is built to spray line drives to the gaps and to all parts of the field. I’d be quite surprised if that polish doesn’t easily carry him to a big league career.

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The Prospecting Mission Statement (Part One)

When it comes to ranking prospects, these days it seems everyone has a philosophy they’d like to share, but more importantly a list they want you to read and a book for you to buy (and probably a timeshare presentation). And I’d bet these lists look a lot like Baseball America’s Top 100 List or Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein’s Top 100 list, with a few surprises sprinkled in. Even if a list is put out before these two, it is inevitably made up of the intermittent updates these two insiders give on a daily basis, in an effort to appear like an original work.

Now, to a degree, there is no original work when it comes to prospect lists because there are a finite number of players and many things about them—stats, age, signing bonus, etc.—are objectively measured. That being said, I can’t help but think the baseball community is in need of a list formed from a different process. Is Saber-Scouting the site to accomplish this mission, even just a part of it?
A common refrain heard from close watchers of the prospect landscape is that the mainstream sources for prospect information–essentially BA and BP, along with flashes from other places–is that the information and the process is still behind the curtain. The more honest of the third-party list-making crowd regret certain rankings or just change them as information from these two heavyweights is reported. Both sources have become more open with their process, BA even explaining their process in depth and including a “just missed” list and several supplements to their standard Top 100. Both sites have essentially a daily upload of the buzz they’re hearing into article form, some in near real-time, others with a delay until the relevant topic is discussed.

In our view, the information isn’t behind the curtain at all, people just want the information given in a different way.

Saber-Scouting is not a substitute for these essential sources (especially not right now), but we feel our different style of content (mechanical breakdowns, first-hand scouting reports, etc.) will make us a necessary supplement. We feel that we are in a unique position having team-side experience, scouting experience, statistical inclinations, industry contacts, and having followed the prospect landscape closely for years.

We have some ambitious plans for content that we’re not yet ready to unveil as we prepare to take the site to another level. So, rather than make grand pronouncements and promises we probably can’t keep, we’ll spend the rest of this article (and the spillover that will make a second article) breaking down our process for ranking prospects. This is a good time to mention that the subtitle for this article is “Why Franklin Morales Is What’s Wrong With The Internet.”

I can’t help but think four things (in this order) when I look over the historical BA Top 100 Lists.

1. Seriously, they ranked him there?

2. If I was in their position would I have done that, too?

3. This is pretty unfair in general, breaking apart an old prospect list.

4. But is there a better way to do this?

Personally, I’ve thought about these four things a whole lot more than a human should. And the answer to the most important question of this group, number four, is “I think so.”

That isn’t quite as powerful as a resounding “YES WE CAN,” but I prefer to under-perform and over-deliver.

So how do we propose the “better way” of ranking prospects? First of all, we don’t think it’s better, we just think it’s our way, but it will consist of more than just “trying harder” or an amorphous “do it better.”

There is a section of Malcolm Gladwell’s masterpiece “Blink” (widely read in front offices and coaching staffs, by the way) where a hospital that has a poor rate of correctly identifying and treating heart conditions wanted to improve their diagnosis success rate. What would you do to accomplish this? Bring in experts and complicated machinery and computer programs? This hospital brought in the heaviest of hitters: the spreadsheet.

They took information on each patient and their symptoms, then recorded them and figured out which three symptoms occurred most often in patients with actual heart issues. If you didn’t have at least two of these three symptoms, you weren’t a priority to treat, or were just sent home, told you were fine (because you probably were). They became the best in the world in this field, at quickly diagnosing heart conditions, with this spreadsheet and ensuing checklist the only changes made from when they were among the worst. Essentially, they solved a complex problem by breaking it down into it’s components and simplifying the decision process so that a monkey could do it. Should analyzing baseball really be more complicated than diagnosing a heart condition?

We don’t technically have prospect list “secret sauce” (although we’re working on it) to rival BP writer Nate Silver’s Playoff Secret Sauce, but if there was one example I could give to describe our method, it would be that of Franklin Morales.

Let me start by saying that Morales is a fine prospect and has already contributed to winning a pennant—he’s already a fine MLB player and has a huge ceiling and nasty stuff. But if we were to, off the top of our heads, make a reverse-Secret Sauce for pitching prospects, he has the top 3 in spades.

1. He doesn’t have command of his pitches, and not in an effectively wild way, in a “make sure your affairs are in order before you come to the plate” way—granted half of that is a function of how hard he throws. The indications from scouts I’ve talked to and the video I’ve seen is that this is a fundamental problem that will never be completely fixed.

2. He doesn’t have a third pitch. For relievers, this doesn’t really matter at all, but Morales is a starter, is valued as such by the Rockies and is ranked as such by those who do the rankings. Some say he doesn’t need it because his first two pitches are that good, some say it will come in time. I say he’s destined for the bullpen sooner rather than later, and he’ll never have the feel to be an elite closer. Goldstein says he, “is still coming around to the fact that 94 mph with command and sink is a better pitch than 98 and wild.” Many pitchers never figure that out. Low-end projections include Alan Embree, high end as a left-handed Brad Lidge. As said above (and again below), that’s nothing to sneeze at, but I’m not describing why Morales is worthless, but how he’s a classic example of our method differing from other methods.

3. He doesn’t consistently repeat his mechanics or arm slot for multiple innings. This problem can come in different flavors and each have different consequences. A big side effect of this is problem is lack of command (stated above) but can go as far as injury problems (doesn’t appear Morales’ is that flavor, though). His spring his velocity was down, and while this could be due to any number of factors or even just starting to stretch his arm out, it’s the type of thing that will always happen in conjunction with these problems.

To sum it up, he lacks command, consistent mechanics, feel and a third pitch. All the other stuff is fantastic (two 70 pitches, left-handed, tall, some MLB success), endangered species rare, but if I’m betting on a guy reaching his ceiling, Morales is probably the last.

Now, I’ve never seen Morales in person, and am not too familiar with his makeup. More goes into our assessment of a player than just those factors mentioned. This isn’t meant to replace a scouting report, but as a case study in our method, using an extreme example.

Baseball America ranks him 8th and Kevin Goldstein has him at 13th. Having not gone through the proper process to rank a bunch of prospects yet, but just eyeballing comparables in the lists, I’d probably have Morales between 50 and 75.

As the last in the cavalcade of caveats, Morales could “figure it out,” with his mechanics, feel, command, changeup, consistency, approach, etc. and take off into the stratosphere as a starter and be everything everyone thinks he’ll be and more. And I’ll be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time. I’ll also be happy for him. He also would be securely in our top 100 prospects, so were we really that wrong? Knee-jerk groupthink prospecting would tell you yes, but that’s not what were trying to do here.

We aim to give you a fresh insight and methods and make you think a little differently about baseball.

Coming soon (tomorrow?) the probably-not-at-all-anticipated part two of The Prospecting Mission Statement, featuring Ben Grieve and a bunch of capital letters (!).

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