Draft Retrospective: Scouting is Really Hard

Scouting and developing is one of the hardest things to do in sports, regardless of the game being played.  Much like everything else in baseball the normal outcome is failure.  So here are some failures and successes in their original scouting reports by Baseball America*.  Their names and other relevant information has been removed to surround them with more mystery.  The list of players used is at the very bottom, some of them may be very obvious, others not so much (answers will be up in a couple of days).  Either way, enjoy the limitless potential while it is still in front of you.

*Baseball America has been covering the draft longer than any other publication out there, much like scouts they have their own hits and misses, but for the most part they are reporting what they are hearing from talent evaluators who are watching the players

Player A:

Player A is the spitting image of Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy, a lefthanded-hitting middle infielder who was a first-round pick out of Cal State Northridge in 1997. Kennedy was a hitting machine in college, twice leading the nation in hits. Player A, a .394-18-61 hitter, has similar hitting skills, though his tendency to be pull-conscious has resulted in teams effectively using a Ted Williams shift on him a number of times this spring. He has excellent hands to hit, enabling him to wait on balls until the last moment to make adjustments. Like Kennedy, Player A lacks a true position. He was drafted in the second round out of high school as a shortstop, but he lacks the range, hands and ability to read hops to be a true middle infielder–even as he switched to second base.

Player B:

Player B has been a known commodity nationally for most of his high school career, and scouts have compare him to a young Kerry Wood. He has No. 1 starter stuff and command of three pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and has touched 97 this spring. His power curve is the equal of almost any pitcher in the amateur ranks. His arm action is clean and effective. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, his body is long and lanky–ideal for a pitcher. If anything, he has gotten stronger this year in the lower half of his body. The intangibles are all there as well. Player B has excellent makeup and is focused in his approach to pitching. High school arms are normally the riskiest commodity in the draft, but scouts say Player B is as safe as a high school pitcher can be.

Player C:

Player C’s two showdowns against fellow Southern California signee [Redacted] were among the most heavily scouted games of the spring. [Redacted] has better feel for pitching presently, but Player C has higher upside, and he elevated his stock into sandwich round territory during his strong first half. Player C pitches with an 89-93 mph fastball and can reach back for 94-96 even in the late innings. When he’s on (as he was for most of the spring), his 77-80 mph curveball is has tight rotation and sharp bite, and most scouts project it as a second plus pitch. His stuff wasn’t quite as crisp in his second matchup against [Redacted], when he pitched more in the 88-90 range and bumped 92, while his curveball has less power in the 73-78 range. Still, he has shown quality stuff often enough this spring, and scouts like his prototypical 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and his competitiveness. He has some feel for a changeup that shows decent tumble at times, though he tends to throw it too hard at 84 mph. He has tinkered with a cutter at times as well, but the curveball is his bread and butter. While he has decent control, he needs to fine-tune his command. But his delivery and arm action work, suggesting his command will improve over time.

Player D:

Player D is the epitome of high-risk, high-reward. The risk starts with his signability: Any team that drafts Player D must be prepared to open its wallet and buy the academic-minded [Somewhere] native-turned-[Somewhere else] boarding school star out of a commitment to Vanderbilt. There’s also a huge risk that he simply won’t hit in professional ball: his raw bat was overmatched against quality pitching on the showcase circuit last summer, and though he dominated vastly inferior prep competition this spring, he still struggles to recognize breaking balls and can get locked up at times by ordinary fastballs. But then he’ll crush a ball 450 feet and give scouts a glimpse of his prodigious upside. Several scouts said he was second to [the #1 overall pick] as the best athlete at the East Coast showcase last summer, and he has three legitimate above-average tools in his raw power, speed and arm strength. His muscular 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame evokes Ron Gant, and his work ethic and charisma stand out. Player D plays shortstop for [Somewhere else], but his poor footwork, stiff actions and lack of instincts will dictate a shift to third base or more likely the outfield, where he has enough speed and arm strength for center or right. Player D has generated mountains of buzz in the Northeast and could sneak into the supplemental round or even the back of the first round if a club falls in love with his potential enough to overlook his crudeness.

Player E:

Area scouts have projected Player E as a [year] first-rounder since he came out of Lamar High in [Texas] three years ago. He was the top two-way player in the state, but it would have taken a $1 million bonus to dissuade him from following [someone else]’s path from Lamar to [college]. As with [someone else] in [different year], Player E hasn’t been 100 percent in his draft year following offseason surgery. He didn’t pitch for the [team] last June, then had minor surgery to shave down a bone growth in the back of his shoulder that was causing some fraying in his labrum. Player E has taken a regular turn in the [college] rotation this spring, but he has been less than dominant, as his 44-30 K-BB ratio through 68 innings would attest. Player E’s velocity was improving in early May, as he was showing a 90-94 mph fastball for a couple of innings and still touched 90 after 100 pitches. In his initial starts this season, he worked more often at 85-89 mph. His changeup is a plus pitch, and his hard, slurvy curveball can get strikeouts when it’s on, though he hasn’t used it as much as in the past. Savery has continued to pull double duty for the [team], playing first base and leading the club with a .353 average and 43 RBIs through 52 games. Once he regains full health, he could take off after he focuses his energy and efforts on pitching. The recent litany of [college] pitching prospects who have needed surgery after turning pro concerns scouts, but Player E could be a steal if he slides into the second half of the first round.

Player F:

Player F qualifies as one of the feel-good stories of the spring. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefthander broke the humerus in his left arm as a sophomore and missed all of last season. It’s not the same injury that ended the careers of major leaguer lefthanders Tom Browning, Dave Dravecky and Tony Saunders; Player F first injured the arm in an off-field accident before aggravating it while he was pitching. He has come back stronger than ever this year, and his performance has rivaled any high school pitcher in the country. He went 6-0, 0.48 with 77 strikeouts in his first 43 innings. He has excellent command of three pitches: an 89-92 mph fastball that has topped out at 94, an outstanding overhand curve and a major league-caliber changeup. He also has a confident mound presence, an easy, mechanically sound delivery and a strong pickoff move. Scouts project even more improvement, and he has shown no fear of a recurrence of his injury. Still, several clubs are wary of investing in a first-round pick with Player F’s medical history. The hometown [team] have a strong interest, as do teams with extra picks. [team]’s team doctor helped treat Player F and says his arm is stronger than before the accident. The circumstances of the injury remain a bit of a mystery, and Player F will be one of the most scrutinized picks in the draft in recent years. His selection will be based as much on medical judgments as on ability.

Player G:

While Kevin Gausman came into the year as the more highly touted prospect from Colorado, some scouts believe Player G will end up being the better of the two. He’s a giant at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. Because of his size he sometimes has timing problems in his delivery, but he’s a good athlete with clean mechanics for the most part. He hasn’t shown the same velocity as Gausman, pitching at 88-90 mph with some sink and touching 92, but scouts believe it’s in there. Player G has shown the ability to spin two different breaking balls, in a power curveball and a hard slider. They’re distinctly different pitches and both show the potential to be above-average. He doesn’t throw many changeups at this point, but that’s not uncommon.

Player H:

While many college hitters have had trouble adjusting to less lively bats this spring, Player H has thrived. After totaling 19 doubles and 12 homers in his first two years at [college], he drilled 27 and 12 during the [year] regular season. His season almost was derailed before it started, as he missed fall practice with stretched ligaments in the arch of his foot, but the injury responded to rest and rehabilitation. Player H’s best tool is his lefthanded power, which rates a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has good hand-eye coordination and a sound approach, so he should hit for a solid average as well. Six-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Player H is a decent runner once he gets going. He also has average arm strength, but lacks soft hands and quick feet, so he’ll probably have to move off [position] in pro ball. He’s athletic enough to try [position], and some scouts wonder if his tools might translate well [to another position].

Player I:

As an outfielder, Player I broke Jay Buhner‘s Clear Creek High record for batting average this spring, hitting .506 to Buhner’s .480. But pro teams are more interested in Player I as a loose, athletic 6-foot-3, 180-pound righthander. He reached 96 mph with his fastball in the fall, but he topped out at 92 this spring. He’s more of a project as a pitcher than he is as a hitter, as he has an awkward pause in the middle of his delivery that compromises his ability to throw strikes or refine his secondary pitches. He wanted top-three-rounds money to sign, which means he’ll likely attend [college], where he’ll play both ways.

Player J:

There may not be a more gifted player than Player J in this draft, but he also comes with makeup concerns. On the mound, he shows better stuff than his father, [Redacted]. Though he’s 5-foot-11, he has the arm speed to deliver 94-95 mph fastballs and top out at 97. His best pitch may be his 78-82 mph spike curveball, which is all but unhittable. The lone knock on the pitch is that he relies on it too much. “He has as good an arm as anyone,” an American League scouting director said. “When his fastball and curve are on, he has the best two-pitch combination in the draft.” Player J has a decent slider and feel for a changeup, though he rarely needs to use either at this point. He finishes a bit upright in his delivery, but his mechanics are otherwise sound and the ball comes out of his hand easily. He could also make a case for being the best high school position player in the draft, as he’s a comparable hitter to [someone else] and would have a better shot at playing shortstop as a pro. Yet some teams are backing away from Player J. He’s high-strung on the field, and there are off-field issues as well, but he’ll still go in the middle of the first round.

Player K:

Player K’s stock climbed along with his fastball velocity as the spring progressed. In his first outing of the season against [another team’s] ace [someone], Player K worked at 88-91 mph, but by the end of April he was sitting at 90-92 and touching 93-94 at times, with sinking and cutting action. Biddle’s best assets are his arm strength and size; his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is both physical and projectable, and his upside is significant. But Player K lacks polish and must do a better job staying on top of his secondary stuff. Scouts widely agree that his slider is more promising than his soft curveball, but he seldom deploys the slider in games, relying instead on the curve. His slider has a chance to be above-average in time. Some scouts say Player K has shown feel for a tumbling changeup in bullpens and between innings, but he does not throw it in games. Player K is an [college] recruit who is regarded as a difficult sign, but he is a top-three-rounds talent with a chance to land a high six-figure bonus.

Player L:

Player L isn’t quite one-dimensional, but it’s close. He’s a physical beast at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, and one evaluator compared his power to that of Russell Branyan, another south [state] lefthanded hitter. Player L was dominating and putting on huge power displays against modest pitching, pushing himself into first-round consideration. However, scouts who saw him last summer recall he struggled mightily with velocity at the East Coast Pro Showcase. Player L is somewhat stiff but is an average runner, which should give him a chance to play left field, but some scouts think he’ll wind up as more of a first base/DH type. Player L’s value is mostly in his bat and well above-average raw power. He’s likely to put on a display in individual workouts for teams prior to the draft.

Player M:

Player M projected as a possible early-round pick as a sophomore, but his stock slipped because of a subpar performance as a junior. A fastball that measured 84-86 mph last year, though, has returned to the low 90s. His 81 mph slider also has been effective pitch. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Player M, also a top-rated quarterback in high school, is one of the state’s best athletes and waited until April to sign with [college] so he could keep open his option of playing both football and baseball in college. Had he signed with the [team] in November in the NCAA’s early signing period for baseball, he could not have played football for two years. Player M’s athletic ability is superior to his arm action and feel for pitching at this point.

Player N:

Player N lacks polish and consistency, but he sure looks like a first-rounder when he’s on top of his game. He has an extremely quick arm that delivers fastballs up to 94 mph, and there’s more velocity remaining in his sculpted 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame. Scouts project that he’ll sit at 92-94 mph and touch 96 once he fills out. Player N’s fastball dances and sinks so much that he has trouble controlling it. His No. 2 pitch is a hard curveball with 11-to-5 break that can be unhittable at times. He’s still developing feel for his changeup. Player N stabs in the back of his delivery and throws across his body, so he’ll need to clean up his mechanics, which should help with his command. His athleticism–he has average speed and power potential as an outfielder–bodes well for his ability to make the necessary adjustments. Focusing all his efforts on pitching will help too. Player N came down with blisters at the end of the season, and he topped out at 92 mph in a 11-3 rout at the hands of Byrd High in a [state] 5-A first-round playoff game. He has committed to [college].

Player O:

Player O’s package of five tools is as attractive as any in the draft, and there’s really nothing he can’t do. His most obvious tool is his top-of-the-line speed, which takes him from the right side of the plate to first base in as quick as 3.8 seconds. He has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to hit for power and average. Defensively, both his range and arm are plus tools. Though Player O missed six games with a strained right hamstring and hasn’t been at 100 percent for much of the spring, he still has performed well. He’ll need to make some offensive adjustments as a pro, as his swing is more choppy than fluid, but scouts believe he’ll be able to do so. He hit .515 this spring. Like [HS Pitcher], Player O has signed with [college] but will forego college after he gets picked in the first round.

Answers:

Kyle Kendrick – Player M
Cole Hamels – Player F
Anthony Hewitt – Player D
Shane Watson – Player C
Chase Utley – Player A
Gavin Floyd – Player B
Kevin Walter – Player G
Jarred Cosart – Player I
Brody Colvin – Player N
Greg Golson – Player O
Cody Asche – Player H
Kyle Drabek – Player J

Larry Greene – Player L
Joe Savery – Player E
Jesse Biddle – Player K

So you made it to the bottom, much like the actual draft I assume it brought both happiness and utter frustration.  No real deep point here, it is just good to go back and look at the raw material and see how it started.  As a bonus here is Aaron Nola to dream on:

The Blue Jays drafted Nola and his older brother Austin in 2011, and they both turned down the Jays to play the 2012 season together at LSU. While Austin is now playing shortstop at Double-A in the Marlins system, Aaron was having one of the best seasons in college baseball in 2014. Athletic and flexible, Nola manages to stay on top of his pitches and command them despite a mid-three-quarters release point that gives his fastball excellent life. His fastball sits 93-94 mph and touches 95 regularly, and he reached back for 96 in a hyped, head-to-head showdown with Vanderbilt and Tyler Beede in March. Nola’s fastball command ranks toward the top of the college class, as he can pitch to both sides of the plate, though his walk rate has increased (1.3 to 2.3 per nine) this season as he has thrown more sliders. His strikeout rate has jumped even more (8.7 to 10.7 per nine). Nola arrived at LSU with a plus changeup with sink that looked like his fastball out of his hand, but he has lost feel for his change while improving his slider, which was once below-average. Scouts give his slider average or better grades as he has added power to the pitch, but they would like to see a return of his plus change. Nola gets swings and misses in the zone with his fastball, the mark of a starting pitcher, and is one of the safest bets in the class. His command should help the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder move quickly.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

5 comments

  1. Jim

    Were these scouting reports actually attached to real players? if so who?

    • Matt Winkelman

      They were all real reports for players the Phillies drafted and signed. I’ll put up the answers tomorrow, but if you click on Player Pool it expands to show you the names

  2. biancs

    You missed a Savery

  3. biancs

    Your best use of a replacement
    “as he’s a comparable hitter to [someone else] “

  4. As I looked at these, I made an attempt to rate how these players have progressed from when this write-up was written to the present. For some players, of course, we have no idea how they will turn out (Watson, Biddle, etc…) But, I was trying to rate them as of now according to their projections: I gave either below expectations (-), at/near expectations (=), above expectations (+). I know in some ways it is a pointless exercise, and the purpose of the article was more to show the difficulty in scouting, but it is fun to do anyway. (Caveat: I am in now way, an expert or even very well versed in all of these players, but here is what I came up with)

    Below Expectations(-): Floyd, Watson, Hewitt, Savery, Drabek, Greene, Colvin, Golson Walter
    At/Near Expectations(=): Asche, Biddle
    Above Expectations: Utley, Hamels, Cosart, Kendrick

    I thought Hamels write was very interesting. As many question marks as he had with injuries, he has been unbelievably durable.