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It’s been a while, but I’m back. I did my best to do some amateur baseball detoxing only to admit defeat after a few hours away from thinking about, following along on Twitter with, and watching college and high school baseball. I’m a weak man. In my time away from the site I’ve been doing some self-scouting, some actual scouting (or, more appropriately, “scouting” since, you know, I’m not a scout) in Florida and North Carolina (with three more big trips planned this summer), and some 2015 draft review prep work. Those things are all well and good, but clearly they aren’t getting my fired up enough to churn out the daily content that I’d prefer to keep up with throughout the draft season. I really don’t enjoy going as long as I have without publishing anything — some of the self-scouting stuff may or may not eventually get published, but I’m not sure how interesting it’ll be to read because, while very helpful to me personally, it skews self-indulgent when actually written out — but I’m genuinely at a loss as to where to go to from here. It’s not quite writer’s block, but instead something closer to an inability to figure out where to begin…or, in this case, begin again.
I’m leaning three directions at the moment and could very well wind up combining the three in a jumbled mess of content over the next few weeks, but am open to any and all suggestions. First, I’d like to do some draft reviews that will tie up as many loose ends on the 2015 MLB Draft as possible. I’d wait until the signing deadline to get too invested into those, and I’m not sure how much depth I should go into each review. If you search the site you’ll find some older draft reviews from past years. Those pieces rank among my favorites that I’ve ever done, but they take a really long time to do right. If I can think of a clever way of getting my info and opinions out there without taking a week to write up each time, I’ll move that to the top of my list. Along with that, I’d like to obviously get some 2016 MLB Draft takes out there. I’ve got some good stuff coming there, but, again, I’m not quite sure where to begin. Part of me wants to focus more on the top of the class than ever before, but a larger part of me knows that’s just not who I am. Finally, if those two things don’t grab me as I hope, I could always do another thing I vow to do every stretch when I have more free time to actual write and take a look back at some of the good/bad/inane ramblings that I’ve put into print over the years. Some of that could actually fall under the self-scouting umbrella mentioned above, so the same worries mentioned there — e.g., what’s interesting to me personally may not be even remotely readable to anybody else on the planet — apply. It could work in small doses. We’ll see.
So that’s the current plan, but, again, it’s very flexible. Right now I’ll try to stick with content that aligns with the three main categories discussed above unless somebody volunteers something better until the start of September. At that point, who knows where we’ll be. Posting probably won’t be on the same daily schedule as the spring — I know for sure I’ll have minimal computer time next week when I take a rare, non-baseball trip to Vegas — but I’d like to get enough good stuff up and ready so that there is a fairly steady stream of content starting Monday for the seven weeks of summer that follow.
As always, thanks for commenting, emailing, and reading. I’d keep the site active with an audience of one, but it’s pretty cool it hasn’t come to that.
I’ve been putting this off for too long because it isn’t something I necessarily want to do, but something I feel I have to do. Consider it a good news, bad news, good news situation. Since I’m Mr. Optimism, let’s start with the bad news.
The bad news is my need for a brief yet indefinite “hiatus” from the site. It ties in with the good in the next paragraph, but, for a variety of reasons, I’m no longer confident I can devote the necessary time and energy to put forth my best, most consistent effort here. I’ve never been one to half-ass anything, so when other time commitments began to eat into the hours I’d normally spend on a given piece for the site, I knew my whole ass was no longer getting the job done. Time to step back.
I feel a little bad about sharing the good news because it’s good for pretty much me alone. If I’m a reader who liked checking this site — there has to be at least one out there, right? — then I’m bummed the site is changing and indifferent about some internet stranger’s good news. Maybe I’m just a bad person, though. So what other time commitments began to eat into the time I’d usually spend on the site? I can’t say a whole lot, but it involves baseball (the draft specifically), it’s part-time, and it’s a short-term assignment. I’ve always said I have no long-term ambitions in baseball and it’s true — I like my day job quite a bit — but this opportunity was too intriguing to pass up in the here and now.
The second bit of good news I feel a whole heck of a lot less bad about sharing. It goes back to the scare quotes around hiatus. I’m not really going anywhere. The site will still be around — in fact tomorrow, May 28th, is the last day for me to renew the domain, something I did without hesitation just seconds ago — but it won’t exist in quite the same way it has previously. That isn’t to say it won’t someday get back to the comprehensive coverage of years past, but don’t expect the same crazy breadth of rankings (like going 500 deep with just pitchers last year) any time soon. I’m really, really going to miss that aspect of the site, as I always felt the fact that I went deeper than the top fifty or so names that are on EVERY SINGLE MOCK DRAFT made this place stand out. If I can find a way to get back to that, I will.
For now, however, I’ll just stick to a more informal, meandering style of posting. This may shock you, but I have some fairly strong opinions about a whole bunch of guys in this year’s class. I’ll share them over the course of the next week. I’ll also be trying to do more in the way of draft recaps and reviews once the big day comes and goes. Finally, I’ll also be incredibly self-indulgent and do a few retrospective pieces as I look back and see what in my evaluations worked and what didn’t. I find myself getting so attached to certain prospects during the draft process, but then losing touch with them as they enter pro ball. I’d like to rectify that a bit this summer. As much as I’ll miss the obsessive pre-draft coverage that’s been a huge part of my life the past few years, I’m looking forward to the other features I’ll be able to focus on instead.
I do have one little parting gift to share before I start cutting back. I’ve put together a mock draft matrix for the best-sourced industry leaders (Jim Callis, Keith Law, Kiley McDaniel) that shows which teams have been linked to which players. I’ll keep updating it within reason up until next Thursday night. There are two tabs at the bottom; the first is the master list that includes all source material and the second is the Jim Callis only tab because, really, all other experts are fighting for second when it comes to matching his sources. It’s not pretty, but I think it’s a handy little feature that gives an idea how certain boards are stacked up around the league. Enter the MATRIX.
Thanks for reading.
This is more for me to have all this information in one place than what I’d consider to be super interesting content, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to make my tentative schedule known as we get this year’s season of college baseball rolling. My travel is limited by work, lack of funds, life stuff (you see such a spike of wedding invites once you hit your late-20s), and, last but not least, being blessed with the hip of a 65-year old. I do the best I can with what I’ve got, though. Here’s the early schedule I mapped out this morning…
Teams I’ll definitely be seeing in 2013:
- St. Joseph’s
- La Salle
- Rhode Island
Northeast baseball, catch the fever! Bummed I’m missing Notre Dame, but thrilled beyond words to see Louisville. Also pleased that the Villanova/Louisville series isn’t until May 3-5…gives the northeast plenty of time to warm up between now and then.
Teams I’m very likely to see in 2013:
- North Carolina
- North Carolina State
- Indiana State
I’m contemplating double dipping with Vandy this year, so that I can also hit up the Mississippi State series. We’ll see. My only dilemma on the local schedule is about what game I want to see on my personal version of 2013 opening day (3/16). My choices are George Washington (@Penn), Marist (@Villanova), or Penn State (@Temple). Leaning Marist right now, but could be convinced to go to any of the three. The most convenient would be GW/Penn, so perhaps that’ll win out by default. I might swap out Temple/Charlotte for West Chester/Millersville, especially if the pitching matchup (Joe Gunkel/Tim Mayza) works out. Doing either game would eliminate any chance of seeing Vanderbilt a second time, so, again, we’ll see. Tentative schedules be tentative, y’all. Oh yeah, for the record, I checked the three schools in the research triangle (UNC, NC State, Duke) to see if they were all home at once during the season. They are not. The idea of seeing six teams play in three stadiums over three days is awesome to me, but I’ll settle seeing UNC/UVA and NC State/Duke. If I get stir crazy without live baseball to watch between now and my northeast version of opening day (3/16!), I might move my trip to Carolina up and see UNC/Miami and Duke/Virginia Tech, substituting a Boston College/NC State series up in Chestnut Hill later on in the spring to make up for missing the Wolfpack down south. So many moving parts!
Teams I’m really hoping to see in 2013, but can’t yet fully commit to seeing:
- San Diego
- Oregon State
- the rest of the ACC during the conference tournament in Durham
The biggest bummer of a scheduling conflict for me this year has to be Fresno State @ UNLV happening the same weekend as Louisville @ Villanova. As much as I love both Vegas and Aaron Judge, it is really hard to justify the travel, expense, and potential work week hangover when I have arguably the most talented team in the country visiting a hometown school. I’m not sure how or when I’ll pull together a trip to Southern California this spring, but it is very high on the priority list. Seeing San Diego is my top preference (USD/OSU in late March would cost me Rutgers, a trade I’m just fine with), but UCLA would work as well. I have to do some thinking there.
I also want to see this high school game with these two Georgia outfield prospects you may have heard of in March, but the logistics on that still need to be finalized. They’ll also be plenty of other opportunities (day trip!) to see the top prep players in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England. Should be a fun few months.
Boston College/VCU and BYU/Northern Colorado kick both get started in a little bit less than two hours. Whichever game gets the first pitch off first will have the honor of officially opening the 2013 Division I baseball schedule. To honor this most wonderful of baseball days, let’s take a quick spin around what you (yes, you!) need to know about the internet’s best ways to ingest college ball this year.
I’ve said it before and I’m happy to say it again: the most indispensable site for what I do here on the site is the data page at College Splits. I can’t say enough about how much that site has helped me in my goal to have a strong quantitative counter to the overwhelming amount of scouting notes I’ve accrued over the years. The mix of stats and scouting is so important to what I do, and I’d go crazy running around from site to site looking for the former without the searchable database that only College Splits offers. The park/schedule adjusted stats make it darn near perfect.
A close second in the race for most valuable site is D1 Baseball. Every team, every game, every schedule, every box score. Once the season starts, this site might as well act as my unofficial home page. I’m a fairly normal guy in most respects — steady job, wrapping up grad school, good relationship, leading man smile — but the amount of time I’ve spent on College Splits and D1 Baseball (with no rooting interest in the sport, by the way) over the past few years is enough to get me committed. I purposely didn’t plan a trip to see a game tonight — tomorrow is a different story, stay tuned for that — just so I could be around to read every single box score I can as today’s set of games unfold. Here are the links for this weekend’s games:
If all you do this year is check in on those two sites on a daily basis, you’re good to go. But why limit yourself? Another thing I’ve said time and time again, but don’t mind repeating is my admiration for the work Aaron Fitt puts in at Baseball America. He’s a hard guy to link to because he doesn’t have a specific author’s page or anything — here’s the college preview, written by various members of the staff but Fitt’s stuff is clearly noticeable as a step above — so my suggestion is to just cruise around the BA site and read everything you can with his byline. His first weekend preview of the year is a good starting point. The two high school guys, Nathan Rode and Conor Glassey, are very, very good as well, especially Rode.
A notch below is where you’ll find Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers. Rogers is really good at what he does — all college ball, all the time — but he’s not a great fit for what I do here, simply because I’m more of a pro prospect guy than a straight up fan of college baseball. Like Fitt, the man has an outstanding network of sources and is at the top of the charts when it comes to breaking news. He’s also an undeniably great follow on Twitter – very informative, limited personal mumbo jumbo. All of the guys dedicated to prospects at Perfect Game — off the top of my head I’ll single out Patrick Ebert, Frankie Piliere, David Rawnsley, Todd Gold, Jeff Dahn, and, when we’re lucky, Jerry Ford — are excellent evaluators and writers. You have to take much of what they say about high school talent with a grain of salt — they are in the business of promoting guys who play at their showcases, after all — but when one of those guys writes something, I read it.
A guy I link with Rogers in my mind is College Baseball Today’s Eric Sorenson. You don’t read Sorenson for prospect information, but you can always count on him for funny, insightful, and comprehensive (to say the least) views on the game. Like Rogers, the guy clearly has a passion for college baseball and it comes across beautifully in his writing. As the two primary college ball only guy (non-prospect division), Rogers gets the edge in breaking news and appears to have more resources to work with at his disposal, but Sorenson writes so damn well that you can’t help but read and enjoy.
I owe a great deal to Baseball Prospectus for turning me into the baseball fan I am today. The golden years of that site — I’d put it around my time in college, so ’04-’08ish — provided content that taught me something new on a daily basis. I don’t check in these days as often as I did then — they’ve lost a lot of good men and women, there’s more competition, there’s less work to be done fighting the good fight — but whenever I do, there’s something there that will either make me think…or make me laugh. Can’t ask for much more than that, right? The bad news is that I’ve never been a huge fan of their brand of prospect coverage. I’m happy to get into why at a later date — today is a happy day, so I won’t dwell too much on negatives if I can help it — but I’m encouraged by the idea of their new “scouting staff.” In theory it’s a great thought and I think Jason Parks is a fine choice to lead the team, but I have my doubts about actual names brought in to do the “scouting.” Say what you will about the departed Kevin Goldstein, but the man knew how to take a step back and let his sources do the talking, especially when it came to the amateur draft. Consider this entire paragraph one great big “wait and see” with respect to their upcoming draft coverage. It always bummed me out that they would ignore amateur ball until late-May and then swoop in as experts on the subject, so hopefully, if nothing else, the increased year-round emphasis will create a more creditable final product.
The number one thing I love about Baseball America’s draft coverage is their reliance on contacts within the game. There’s very little “scouting” done by their staff, and I consider that a good thing. They watch the games and report on what they see, but don’t base their opinions solely on their personal views. I guess this doubles as my indirect criticism of ESPN’s Keith Law. I like Law enough, but too often get the impression he thinks what he sees in one game supersedes the information that professional scouts have literally been gathering for years. I also think it’s a shame that ESPN no longer has a writer dedicated solely to amateur baseball. I get that you need context when evaluating prospects — it’s good that Law sees a variety of ball, from the bigs to the minors to the college/HS ranks — but at some point you have to believe the content is just stretched too thin. The loss of rising star Kiley McDaniel (now at Fox Sports) hurts in this regard. I’m excited to follow McDaniel at Fox Sports this spring, by the way. He’s another guy with a highly recommended Twitter feed.
I can’t finish up without mentioning one of my favorite indy sites, Big League Futures. I don’t check in on the site as often as I should, but the guys over there, especially Matt Grabusky, have done a great job of doing what I had originally sought out to do: aggregating the best in amateur prospect coverage on a daily basis and linking it all in one spot. In a sense, it’s almost like MLB Trade Rumors but for college and high school prospects. Much of the original content doesn’t thrill me, but the value of that aggregation makes it a quality site worth bookmarking.
The last full work week before some time off for the holidays (always a crazy time) coincides with the impending due date of a grad school project or three, so I’m loading up on some relatively easy to produce content this week. I want to finish off the First Round “Locks” thing, but going through all the pitchers is such a daunting task that I think it ought to wait until I have a little more time/patience. Quick spoiler on that, just because: Sean Manaea is officially my endorsed candidate for first overall pick this year. His picture on the sidebar was a bit of a giveaway — thanks to my pals at ISU for providing the great shot — and I think he’s in store for a junior season that will have us all wondering why he wasn’t the consensus top guy six months before the draft to begin with. More to come on that, obviously, but let’s get back to sweet, sweet schedule talk for now. Everybody loves chatting about logistics, right?
I have always loved doing college prospect previews and never seem to get to nearly as many teams as I’d like, so this year I’m making a point to highlight some of the more interesting non-traditional baseball schools across the country. These schools may not have quite the depth of talent as some of the big boys in the college scene, but, if following the draft over the years has taught me anything, there are good prospects to be found scattered across the land. If you’re a fan of a a big-time program and/or just want to hear about the best and the brightest prospects out there (really can’t blame you for that, by the way), then don’t worry: the Vanderbilts, Floridas, North Carolinas, Stanfords, UCLAs, and, yeah, Louisvilles will be profiled before long. Until then, however, we’ll shine the light on some of the players that too often are ignored by the “eh, I’m a prospect expert who feels like covering the draft from mid-May to early June” types who can’t be bothered with any non-first round pick caliber players.
The schools I picked were completely random. Normally I scan down my Word document and just go from Page 1 until I run out of time — long-time readers might now realize that my Word doc starts with the ACC schools, hence the heavy exposure of those lucky schools over the years — but this year it made sense to spread the love a little bit. As always, requests are welcomed…the ability to honor reader requests is one of the perks of the no pay, no boss setup. Here’s the current exciting schedule that I’m printing publicly in an attempt to force myself to honor my commitment:
Georgetown West Virginia
Cal Poly Cal State Northridge
(EDIT: I hate having to edit this just a few hours after originally publishing, but my inability to save as frequently as I should + a possessed computer that is compelled to restart for pointless updates every seemingly every other day = a few days worth of lost data. Not sure what happened to the autosave feature, but what’s done is done. All of the work I did on the four schools above is gone, as is the work done on next week’s schools (Northwestern, Portland, UNLV, Louisiana Tech, and Wright State). Since I’m venting anyway, I’m also pissed that my down arrow key snapped off a few weeks ago. That was a pain, but this morning the nub that let me still use the key popped off as well. You never realize how often you use that damn key until you no longer have the ability to do so. The minor setbacks may led to a change in schedule…I’ll try to stick with a team a day throughout the week, but I may mix up the teams. Going back and writing about teams I’ve already covered doesn’t sit well with me right now…eventually we’ll get back to the teams listed above, but I may need a few weeks to forget what I wrote about them originally so I can subsequently go back and enjoy writing about them again. I think I’ll just swap out new teams based on conferences. Schedule will be updated shortly to reflect the changes. Apologies to anybody who had their heart set on hearing about Georgetown’s prospects!)
I’ve been thinking long and hard — note my general absence of late, and the lack of quality posts over the past few weeks — about the best way to share the information that I’ve accrued over the past 18 months on 2012 MLB Draft prospects, and, with less than four full weeks until the draft’s first day, I’m finally ready to submit my plan for the next month with my beautiful, adoring public. I’m feeling as much pressure as somebody who runs a free, infrequently read, one-man operation of a baseball draft website can feel because all kinds of pesky life commitments keep getting in the way of me getting some quality time working on the site. I don’t want the hard work of the last year and a half to go to waste simply because I don’t have a few extra hours each day to do exactly what I want to do with the site, so it is time to improvise.
At some point this week, a new page will go up on the site. The page will serve as an index of all of the 2012 Draft rankings that I’ve put together (largely behind the scenes) thus far. It will look a little something like this…
(Ongoing) 2012 MLB Draft Catcher Prospect Rankings
(Ongoing) 2012 MLB Draft First Base Prospect Rankings
(Ongoing) 2012 MLB Draft Second Base Prospect Rankings
…but with two major differences: 1) the titles above will all be hyperlinked to the pages that actually contain the rankings, and 2) there will be rankings for every position on the diamond. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to differentiate between college and high school lists, but at this point I’m inclined to throw every player together and let the chips fall where they may. This may be hard to imagine for now, but it will make a lot more sense by the end of the week.
For the first few days after the links go live, the rankings will look like a total mess. That’s by design, believe it or not. I really liked the way Rotoworld’s Josh Norris organized his 2012 NFL Draft coverage using a constantly evolving public Google document, and I think this site could use some of that same forward thinking. Rankings are fluid, and it is silly to continue to pretend otherwise. Note the word “Ongoing” at the start of each ranking. By adding names and information as I have the time, the site should be continuously refreshed with new information each and every day between now and the day before the draft. It may not appear that much is going on, as “new” posts won’t be popping up on the main page like before, but the links in the index will be constantly updated as new players are added.
One last important consideration that I can’t believe has taken me this long to get to: the rankings won’t just be a name and a number. This rankings will have a little more meat than previous lists on this site. That’s one of the things that makes me happiest about this plan. Instead of writing up paragraphs on each player in the top twenty (like last year), I can now go deeper with ranking guys by focusing on far easier to write and organize random player notes. In addition to the basic biographical information about each player, I’ll include as much from my personal scouting database — I don’t mean for that to sound fancy in any way; it’s just a Word doc that I use to jot down any random player note that comes to mind — as necessary along the way. Statistical information will also be provided whenever possible. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about (stats are current as of 5/2):
Florida JR C Mike Zunino: legitimate plus raw power, but expected to be above-average in-game professionally as length in swing could cause some issues on high velocity arms; plus arm strength; good athlete for his height and weight; plus defensive tools behind plate, surprisingly mobile; calling card is his power, but underrated as a natural hitter; value comes on field, obviously, but added bonus of being a take charge leader is nice for the position; more than just a flashy strong arm, also really accurate; swing can get too long at times which could expose him against good breaking balls going forward; also gets bonus points for calling own pitches; 6-2, 220 pounds
2011: .398/.469/.720 – 34 BB/49 K – 264 AB
2012: .365/.418/.713 – 17 BB/25 K – 167 AB
That quick blurb on Zunino may be all I wind up writing about the guy between now and draft day. Or maybe something will come up that will make me want to go back and add something new. Again, we’re stressing the ever-evolving idea of player evaluation here. The idea behind including notes on each player is to quickly sum up a prospect’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as (hopefully) sharing a general view of what kind of player we’re talking about. I’ll be sure to send out updates when player information is revised or rankings are changed. Updates will also be provided after I go through and get the most current statistics for each player.
In all honesty, I’m not 100% sure this is going to work. I do, however, think the opportunity to approach draft coverage in a slightly different manner is worth the risk. I suppose in that way, I’m confident this will “work.” Sure, it won’t work in an increased traffic to the site kind of way — I’m 99.99% sure this approach will submarine any chance I had of increasing the number of eyeballs who come here, but I’ve come to accept and appreciate that covering the draft like I do only appeals to a very small subset of the baseball loving world — but if I can get as much information out as humanly possible between now and June 4, then this will have worked.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the site, but I’ve shifted focus away from 2011 draft reviews in favor of 2012 college/high school preview stuff. The realization that college ball is so close hit me last week, so I’ve been in a scramble to pull as much data off of College Splits (word count is currently at 34,848 in my 2012 “College Follow List” Word document…how cool am I?) as I can before they roll their database into 2012. Expect to see some good stuff in the near future – I’m thinking quick conference previews for college ball are in order, as is a badly needed update to the Big Board. I also have notes on some of the summer/fall/winter showcase events I’ve seen, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
In the immediate future, however, all I can offer is a far too long for a grad program supposedly designed with working professionals in mind (yeah, I’m a little bitter) term paper on fetal alcohol syndrome. Should I post that? Any interest? Anybody? No? Cool. Paper is due Thursday night, so expect something new on Friday (if I’m feeling frisky as I enjoy the brief post-deadline submission high) or, at the latest, Monday.