To Be or Not to Be Accurate, That Is The Question
Scouts and talent evaluators have pretty big egos. We perpetually claim to be experts in our craft, yet we so often refuse to investigate how accurate (or inaccurate) our assessments might be.
Most scouts seem to have a phobia of accountability. Perhaps this is due to the fact that their failures are outnumbered by their successes? After all, baseball is a sport where only 0.5% of high school players and 10.5% of college players will be drafted by an MLB team.
When compiling The Spitter’s 2016 MLB Draft Watch List in June, I had every intention of writing a follow-up review of each prospect once the season ended. I didn’t wannabe the guy who bombards fans with a list of names, but then leaves everyone hanging post-draft. Rather, I wanted my initial draft piece to set the tone for all future expectations.
I could’ve played it safe last June by contributing to the pre-draft hype surrounding Corey Ray, but I just couldn’t see why so many scouts had anointed him as the best player available in 2016. Experience has taught me that it’s better to be courageous and disagree when you think that the general consensus is blind to what you’re seeing.
So, instead of agreeing with ESPN’s Keith Law and the omnipotent scouting community, I wrote my feeling that at best Corey Ray will develop“into a 240-.245 Major League hitter posting 20-22 homers with strikeout numbers in the 150+ range”. Well, Corey Ray just finished his first season of Single-A with a .239/.309/.370 slash line, whiffing once every 4.19 at-bats, and homering once every 48.6 at-bats — well within the rate of minor leaguers that typically develop into 20+ HR hitters.
Some people would say that it’s too early for me to claim that I was right about Corey Ray, but I don’t think so. Why?
Because when evaluating talent over the years, I’ve noticed that blue-chip prospects who end up panning out usually don’t struggle in their first taste of Single-A baseball. Yes, it happens, but it’s a rare occurrence — especially among players that were drafted out of a four-year college/university. With this precedent in mind, let’s take a moment to evaluate how the ten players on my 2016 draft watch list performed in the minors this season.
Zack Burdi has justified all the pre-draft hype that I made around him. Since going 26th overall to the Chicago White Sox, he’s been on a ridiculously fast track to the majors, advancing from Single-A rookie ball to Triple-A in only a few months. Along the way, Burdi has flat-out overwhelmed hitters, posting a combined 1.13 WHIP with an eye-popping 12.08 K/9 rate in 26 relief appearances.
Eric Lauer, The Spitter’s 2016 College Pitcher of the Year, is showing exactly why he was my #2 pitching prospect entering the draft. After being selected 25th overall by the San Diego Padres, Lauer logged 37 strikeouts in just 31 innings of Single-A and recorded a nice 2.03 ERA over 10 starts. At this rate, he should receive an invite to Spring Training very soon and could cement himself in the Opening Day rotation.
Kyle Lewis, The Spitter’s 2016 College Player of the Year, was chosen 11th overall by the Seattle Mariners and was absolutely mashing the ball at Single-A Everett before tearing his ACL, medial meniscus, and lateral meniscus in a home plate collision. Lewis isn’t expected to return until late 2017, but there is much to be excited about a guy that was slashing .299/.388/.530 with .231 Isolated Power over 117 at-bats prior to injury.
Jason Groome, my top-rated 2016 high school pitching prospect, somehow slid to Boston at the 12th overall pick because teams questioned his maturity and signability. He then held out and signed for a $3.65 million bonus at the MLB deadline. Thus, Groome only pitched a combined 7 innings this year in 3 starts between the Gulf Coast League and Single-A Lowell.
Delvin Perez failed a drug test just days before the draft, but the St. Louis Cardinals nevertheless selected him 23rd overall. In 43 Gulf Coast League games, Delvin slashed .294/.352/.393 and was a terror on the base paths with 12 stolen bases.
Mickey Moniak was my top-rated high school hitting prospect for 2016, but just being honest — I was hella surprised that he ended up being the 1st overall pick, especially with all the buzz surrounding guys like A.J. Puk and Blake Rutherford. It only took 194 plate appearances for Moniak to show why the Philadelphia Phillies made him the future of their franchise. He logged a .284/.344/.409 slash line with 16 extra-base hits and 10 steals in 46 games of rookie ball.
Forrest Whitley had originally planned to bolster FSU’s pitching staff, but opted to pitch for a home state squad when the Houston Astros selected him 17th overall. Whitley then went onto make 7 appearances (6 starts) in Single-A rookie ball where he posted 19 strikeouts in 16 innings, but finished with an 0-2 record and 5.06 ERA. Expect him to dominate in 2017.
Justin Dunn, the New York Mets 2016 first-round selection and 19th pick overall, is already showing the Pedro-like stuff that I mentioned last June. Through 11 appearances (8 starts) at Single-A Brooklyn, Dunn had 35 strikeouts in 30 innings with a microscopic 1.50 ERA and 1-1 record. Hopefully, Mets fans will get a chance to see him at Citi Field sooner than later.
Carlos Cortes (Round 20, pick #610 to the Mets) and Fred Villarreal (Round 22, pick #660 to the Rays) both made my list, but ultimately decided to attend college at the University of South Carolina and the University of Houston respectively. Neither will be eligible for selection again until the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft, but don’t be surprised if you see them selected to a few college baseball All-American teams while we wait.