I only link it because that’s what I’m using as a jumping off point for these thoughts…
*** I feel a lot better about Buxton being an elite draft prospect (rather than just the best of an otherwise lackluster top half of the first round group) now that more information about his spring progress has been made publicly available, most notably with the reports filed by ESPN and the guys at Baseball America. Maybe that makes me a stupid dumb wannabe who has no business claiming to be a “scout” (good thing I’ve never once done that!), but I’m alright with that.
*** One fair criticism that I heard a lot of via email over the last week is my reliance on “old” scouting reports for high school prospects. I understand and appreciate the feedback, but there’s a method to my madness there. Anecdotally, it seems that prep players who struggle during the spring, for whatever reason, are continuously downgraded by pro teams. I’m not saying these pro teams are wrong per se; I’m merely suggesting that the recency effect is real and potentially detrimental to the larger goal of adding talent on draft day. I’m a big proponent of the simple idea that once a young player shows a tool, he owns it forever. (Usual caveats apply when it comes to “forever,” e.g. injury, age, sudden preference for professional cribbage, whatever). Additionally, so much of the information found online comes from a one time viewing of a prospect. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that — and it is something that I’ve done in the past, and will continue to do into the future — but it is worth keeping in mind when reading something written with absolute stone cold 100% authority. One game does not a scouting consensus make. It’s great to be have conviction, but greater to keep an open mind.
*** I also mentioned this on the actual big board post, but it bears repeating: by and large, injuries to draft prospects don’t really mean a whole heck of a lot to me. Sure, there’s some lost developmental time, and, yeah, it is nice to get those last looks at a player you might still be on the fence about, but the vast majority of first day caliber players have been on the scouting radar for years. A few weeks or months of lost time really shouldn’t shift anybody’s draft board too drastically. I suppose that’s a long way of saying that Lucas Giolito was the top prospect in this year’s draft for me before his injury, and he remains in the top spot today. Barring something unforeseen, Giolito would be my recommendation as this draft’s top player. Just wanted to get that out here in writing sooner rather than later.
*** “If Swihart could run, he’d be Stryker Trahan” – a smarter baseball man than I, who has seen both prospects a number of times in the last calendar year, shared that with me recently. He could have also probably have said something like “if Swihart was seen as signable, he’d be Stryker Trahan,” but that’s not as fun. The comparison between the two athletic prep catchers is only natural, but I give the edge to the Trahan, the shiny new toy. In comparing the two, I think Trahan’s swing works better, has more power upside, and, though it ought to go without saying, possesses a vastly superior baseball name. I have a terrible memory, so it took looking up the last few big boards done for each draft here on the site to remember the “original” (note: baseball existed well before 2009) version of this prospect: 2010 draft prospect Justin O’Conner. Well, even that is probably a lie now that I’ve taken the extra step of going back to 2009 to see all of the ridiculous high school catching prospects who fit this profile (Wil Myers, Luke Bailey, 2012 prospect Jonathan Walsh). I feel a tangent coming on…
*** The previous bullet point got me thinking about what a combined 2009-2012 (as long as I’ve been doing this site) big board might look like. Below is my best shot. Keep in mind the following things: players are ranked as they were seen as prospects heading into the draft only, players are listed at the position they were expected to play professionally, and, most importantly, my memory is pretty terrible so my views on certain guys might be off, especially the 2009 prospects. In other words, my awful ranking of Manny Machado sticks with me (to say nothing of my infamous — to me, anyway — Mike Trout whiff), Dustin Ackley is viewed as a prospective outfielder and Grant Green a shortstop, and, outside of the top few names, it is really, really hard to figure out who the better draft prospect was from years ago when you can barely remember what you ate for breakfast five hours ago.
- Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper
- Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
- North Carolina JR CF Dustin Ackley
- OF Bubba Starling (Gardner-Edgerton HS, Kansas)
- Florida JR C Mike Zunino
- OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia)
- Harvard Westlake HS (CA) OF Austin Wilson
- SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
- Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) 3B Nick Castellanos
- C Stryker Trahan (Acadiana HS, Louisiana)
- C Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, New Mexico)
- 3B Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS, Florida)
- Southern California SS Grant Green
- CF Donavan Tate (Cartersville HS, Georgia)
- C Justin O’Conner (Cowan HS, Indiana)
- SS Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, Florida)
- OF Josh Bell (Jesuit College Prep School, Texas)
- OF Everett Williams (McCallum HS, Texas)
- SS Manny Machado (Brito Private HS, Florida)
- SS CJ Hinojosa (Klein Collins HS, Texas)
- Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac
- OF Brandon Nimmo (Cheyenne East HS, Wyoming)
- OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Florida)
- Connecticut JR OF George Springer
- Clemson JR 3B Richie Shaffer
- SS Trevor Story (Irving HS, Texas)
- 3B Javier Baez (Arlington County Day HS, Florida)
- Georgia Southern JR OF Victor Roache
- Bishop Blanchet HS (WA) OF Josh Sale
- LSU JR OF Jared Mitchell
*** If I had to re-rank based on present prospect value, Harper would remain the slam dunk number one. After that, chaos. Well, probably Machado, and maybe Ackley – I could be wrong, but I feel like a swap of those two players would be turned down by each team. Anyway, we have Harper, Machado, Ackley…then chaos! I like looking back and comparing somewhat similar prospects. In the battle for top four-year college bat, Rendon and Ackley remains a huge toss-up (give me Ackley by a hair, but he’s an all-time personal favorite going back to his freshman year). Choosing between recent top prep outfielders Starling and Buxton is a matter of personal taste (more power for Bubba, Buxton’s speed and athleticism gives him the higher floor…with similar, but different, upsides, I’d give Buxton a slight edge). The only name that truly makes me cringe is probably Everett Williams – he’s a long way away from being a “bust,” but the word disappointment certainly comes to mind. Guys like Borchering (debatable, I guess), Green, Tate, O’Conner, and Sale don’t look great now, but were all perfectly defensible at the time. What this list lacks is the collection of names that didn’t rank highly on my personal pre-draft lists, for better or worse. For worse, we definitely have the aforementioned Trout. The absence of prospects like Tony Sanchez, Jiovanni Mier, Zack Cox (debatable), and Christian Colon is the best, I think.
A few other general thoughts from my earliest lists and then I swear I’m done patting myself on the back/admitting how dumb I was/am. Back in 2009 I liked Scooter Gennett more than most, Mier far less. There were many nasty emails (fine, just one) who said I should just give this whole thing up because I had Sanchez, who I saw play 80% of his college games, far too low (54th best prospect in 2009). I stuck with Jonathan Singleton despite his down senior year (again, once you show those tools then you own them forever – Singleton’s big bat was not forgotten). In 2010, I was all-in on Kolbrin Vitek and Rob Segedin, preferring both to the more acclaimed Cox. Outfielders with range and patience like Tyler Holt and Trent Mummey were also gigantic favorites. My low ranking of Colon (45th) garned a similar nasty email to the one I got the year before about Tony Sanchez. Last year I was so much in my own personal bubble that I have no clue which players I had ranked higher or lower than most. I consider that progress.