Prospect or Not a Prospect?
"How can you tell which guys are prospects and
which are not?" There are plenty of number crunchers out there that will
tell you they have a mathematical equation that will predict which players
will make it and which ones won't. Don't believe all the hype. There may be
numbers or stats that give you an idea about a player's ability, but they
don't tell the whole story.
Drafting prospects in this league is very important.
Finding that Alex Rodriquez or a Kerry Wood is what itís all about. My own
method is to try to listen to what other people in the league say, ask
opinions and read all I can about players to make my decisions. I make notes
on players from time to time so I donít forget a fact or a name during the
year. On draft day, when Iíve made my pick and Iím reading the names of
the previous picks to next person up in the draft and I say who I picked, I
love hearing ďman I was going to take him with this pickĒ. That makeís
me believe that my research has paid off and I have made a good pick.
Most baseball people will tell you that the
difference between the guys who make it and the guys who don't is upstairs. In
other words, find out what the kid is made of. How does he think? How does he
handle pressure? Has he ever dealt with adversity and if so, how well? Does he
do things instinctually or does he have to think things out? These are all
more important than minor league stats and they're things you can only find
out by seeing them in person, talking to scouts or reading a lot of material.
Scanning the internet or the various baseball magazines published periodically
will tell you who's putting up numbers, but do you really find out what the
team's think of them? .
So, getting back to my original question, how can you
find the "real" prospects? Without connections or access to scouts
and such, what can you possibly do? Let me offer some suggestions that the
average Strato person can follow and at least give themselves a better chance
at recognizing talent. First of all, know which stats to look at. Home runs
and RBI are nice, but bad hitters can put up big power numbers despite
weaknesses that will keep them from hitting in the Majors. Batting average is
important, but don't forget to look at walks, strikeouts and extra-base hits
other than home runs.
Many young power hitters pile up a huge number of
doubles while they're still maturing physically. When they get older those
doubles start going out of the park. If a young hitter has the ability to draw
a lot of walks, he will make more consistent contact and later on that will
translate into All-Star type performance. When I look for speed prospects,
stolen bases are an obvious key, but don't forget stolen base percentage as
pitchers, wins and losses are useless. Saves mean virtually nothing. ERA is
always indicative of future success because that is often affected by
the quality of the defense behind a pitcher. Look at his strikeouts and walks.
Be wary of pitchers that have high strikeout totals but give up a lot of hits,
they're not always hard-throwers, but smart pitchers that can fool young
hitters. A young pitcher with high strikeout and walk numbers is usually a
that needs refining.
Secondly, learn something about their physical
ability. Before every season there are a number of books that come out that
deal strictly with prospects. Look for books by Stats, Inc. and John Benson.
They rely heavily on numbers, so be wary of that, but they also provide
scouting info as well as the vitals like height, weight and age.
These books are excellent references that you can use
all season long to back-check on players that catch your eye. You can almost
always find stuff on the internet as well. I think the thing you should pay
attention to the most is the age of the player. If a 19 year-old is playing
very well at a high level, chances are he's got some talent. Also, compare
players to other people in their league. Some leagues are hitters' leagues and
others are pitchers' leagues.
If you compare a player to others in his league, you
can tell a lot about how good he is. If you have a player hitting .350,
compare that to others in the league with a similar number of at-bats. If you
see a lot of hitters above .320, you can bet that it's a league made up of
small ballparks or bad pitchers. Comparisons to the rest of the league are
generally pretty solid ways to double check a player.
The bottom line is simple - when in doubt, listen to
the people that do the scouting. They get paid to evaluate and find talent,
therefore they probably know which players are worth paying attention to. Yes,
scouts tend to get a little too excited about "tools" players, but
they're more reliable than any mathematical formula I've ever found. None of
us have all the time we wish we had to devote to this hobby. Trusting the
scouting books and using the ratings is the best way to judge the talent when
time is a factor.
You can be even smarter than many scouts, and I think
there are some in this league that are. When you hear of a "5-tool
player," always ask why he's not a "6-tool player." In my
opinion, scouts often leave out the most important tool - a players'
intelligence. If you can find a player with the five traditional tools plus
intelligence, you've got a gem.