People are generally more interested in the finished product than the steps that create it. Few cinema goers will watch the end credits to see who the "Child Wrangler" is. They want to have the movie make them laugh or cry.They are rarely interested in the sous chef at a new restaurant; they want to know if the Chicken Marsala lives up to the review. The mixing board operator at the music studio doesn't matter to most. Either the song is worth downloading, or it isn't. Similarly, more baseball fans are far less intrigued by a player's progression through the system than they are in his production with the parent club. Such is life. Draft prep tends to look at things the other way.
A couple weeks back, I floated a few questions about the Cubs then-upcoming spring training. Among them were queries about Felix Doubront's and Jacob Turner's future. While we can look at their historic records, those aren't necessarily telling of their futures. A couple readers hazarded guesses, but for the most part, we played it close to the vest. Most of us decided there is too little information to decide conclusively if either belongs among the major league clubs this season. Mind you, the pair have both burned through their minor league options. We still have no idea if they will likely be waived, or possibly be starting pitching options.
But, some of the same people who are still undecided on Turner or Doubront (after relatively lengthy careers) want me to call out as "an ace or not" a guy I've heard against college kids. On the radio. Twice. Sounds like a tough draw. Nonetheless, the answer is generally "No."
Draft prep isn't about me, though. It's about players and scouting. When it comes to scouting players, I have it figured this way. Pro scouts have three scales upon which to grade players. The first is the generic five-tool scale, which is about all most people seem to want to evaluate. How hard does he throw? How quickly can he get from first to third? Will the power develop? Those are the measurables that are fun to talk about. After all, if he throws hard enough, he could be an ace, right?
A second way of evaluating is adjustment ability. It isn't nearly as fun to talk about as power or velocity, but that leg of the triangle is closer to equal to the tools aspect than many people would think. From the time the scouts start watching a player in high school, until well past his arbitration years, he will need to adjust. The pitcher-hitter match-up mandates adjusting. Dealing with new cities, coaches, or pressure amounts requires adjustment. Slumps necessitate adjustments. Players that are better at adjusting will be better than a similar player unable to adjust.
Scouting players in the amateur ranks can give hints about adjustment abilities. However, until that player is in the locker room every day, getting in his weight work, riding the team bus, it's not totally certain. Reading cues on game-day when he's in school is a huge benefit.
The third leg of the triangle is health. Much of the paranoia about health is reserved for pitchers. Obviously, though, hitters can suffer injuries, as well. Teams rarely get any solid medical information until after draft day. Brady Aiken and others have suffered from medical scrutiny post-draft, but few have been more well publicized. To know whether or not a pitcher should be an ace, knowledge on all three fronts is needed. Normally, more than will be available. Therefore, scouts who can accurately discount players ("Don't draft Williams until the 16th round. He has a shaky attitude, and I don't like his delivery. It might well lead to injury.") can be almost as valuable as ones who identify talent. A wasted pick can be otherwise used on a better selection.
Last weekend in college baseball led to more teams fleeing south. The Georgia complex mentioned last week hosted over 100 pro scouts this weekend. It's really difficult to place much value on college games played in below 40 degree temperatures, but scouts are gonna scout.
Dillon Tate was impressive for Santa Barbara against a solid Oregon squad over the weekend. He dragged a no-hitter to the sixth against the Ducks, and is sounding like a 1-1 type of selection early, especially since Michael Matuella seems to being delayed a bit in getting his workload going. (I hope Matuella gets selected early, as I don't see Team Theo biting on that temptation. Leave a better option on the board at nine, and I'll be good with it.)
In Conway, South Carolina, Tyler Jay pitched for the Illini against Coastal Carolina. (I won't be surprised at all if a player from one of these teams is selected by the Cubs in June. Three Chanticleers (cool team nickname, no?) are already in the Cubs system (Tommy La Stella, Will Remillard, and Josh Conway), and the Cubs tend to value the adjustment angle of things. Coastal players seem to do that well through a minor league career.) Despite the announcer's penchant for calling him Jay Tyler, he was very solid through a three-inning stint. He was hitting 96-98, and flashing a quite usable off-speed assortment with a slider and a change or two. The only runner that reached was in the ninth on a passed ball, when the backup catcher came in.
The Illini lost twice to Mid American Conference foes, and I'm not sold on their offense. However, senior Reid Roper is hitting .413 with a homer so far. He'd make for a very adept senior sign. He won't get drafted early, probably. He is, though, the type that could adjust his way most of the way to the majors, like a Tommy La Stella.
You should still be reading the daily recap from Friday nights on the d1 baseball site, and this week is no exception. Friday is when the aces pitch usually, and that's all we care about online, amirght? Maybe the UCLA Bruins deserve a scout on occasion.
To conclude my weather commentary, the Cal-Poly series against TCU was cancelled due to snow. The series was scheduled in Fort Worth, Texas. Hopefully, this weekend provides some good storylines. The amateur scene seems balanced enough that the Cubs should be able to add 20-plus good selections come June. Even if they aren't all aces.