In the comments in last week's edition, BCB reader GrizzledCynicalVeteran asked a very valid series of questions. What they boiled to is, how does a team evaluate a draft? If they are drafting poorly, they need to adjust. Except, if you wait for the entire class to mature, too many years will be wasted in the process. Much of this week's article will revolve around a related question. How can a team scout their scouts?
To be perfectly clear, I've never worked for a pro baseball team at any level. I did keep the score book in high school, though. In my game-makers mind, however, I have many times asked "How would I recreate that?" Creating a baseball team from scratch is one of the concepts I've spent far too many hours contemplating. The draft is one of the main topics I'd think about on those days. While this isn't necessarily how it is done, I'm confident that a wise team should be putting some of these ideas into play.
The draft is a very nice deal for the team. They get to select a guy who, if he's rather good, they have the opportunity to develop and retain for a decade. Not only that, he doesn't count against any serious roster considerations for at least three years. The exceptions to that would be if he is really good (think Kris Bryant or Carlos Rodon), or if he gets traded. While most will "wash out" you have a laboratory of draft research at your employ every day. In other sports, the incubation period is far shorter, and the roster spot becomes almost immediately occupied.
For most of us, to decide if a draft is going well, we go to Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, or a similar type of statistical analysis. "That guy from the fourth round in that year. I thought his numbers would be better." "Yeah, but how about that guy from the sixth round the year before?" "Baseball America has them in the top five, so they must be doing well."
If we have lives, that's about the best we can do. However, if you work for a team, the development of said talent is your 40-hour (or more) a week job. And I'd venture that more than a few of them don't stand by the time clock waiting for five o'clock to roll around.
A major component of talent evaluation is the scouting report. If a string of scouts (If a player is intriguing enough, more than one pair of eyes will check him out.) will take a look at many of the first and second day selections (That would encompass the first ten rounds.). They will turn in scouting reports on the guys they look at, including the basics (velocity for pitchers, time from home-to-first on hitters, "pop times" on catchers), projections on the future ("Not much power yet, but he should grow into better power," for instance), and looks on other things ("Looks disinterested when his team is losing." "Stayed around after the game until his teammates had left.").
The scouting reports are scrutinized before the draft. They help decide which players get selected. However, what gets done with the reports after? I should hope some talented scouts are checking to see if those reports prove valid. If a scout does his job properly, that change-up that he said was adequate, but should develop well, ought to do something like that. If he said the curve ball looked like it should play in Advanced-A Ball already, then it ought to be humiliating players in the Midwest League. If the scout said a kid wore a Stanozolol hat to his interview, and smelled like cheap bourbon and rum, there might be a shot he whiffs a drug screen along the way.
Not only should the players the team selected matter, so should the guys he valued that the team eschewed. For instance, if he was pleading for the pitcher from the Louisiana-hyphen school in the 13th round on, and he ends up being a steal for someone else in the 16th round, that would be a feather in his cap. If he was pushing for a guy in the 18th round from the Carolinas on his great character (make-up in the field), and gets arrested for manslaughter before he signs, he might have had something wrong.
As much as some of us obsess on BCB about the minor leagues, some people on staff in the Cubs system are paying far closer attention than we are. They, also, have far better access. If a scout is spot on with his recommendations, he will move up the ladder. If he promotes a player that gets selected early on his radar-like control, and he has bad walk numbers early-on, that goes on the negative side.
As much attention as gets heaped on the parent club from external sources, internal scouting is likely doing the same on prospects, be it Jake Hannemann, Jeffrey Baez, Carson Sands, or Wladimir Galindo. Whether an international signing, a college kid, or a prep, each player has expectations. If they are as advertised, the scouts did his job.
If layers eventually do better than expected, the coaches and scouts get stars. If he is a lazy player, the person who promoted him as being a hard worker has to explain why what he saw never materialized. With as much "having baseball people watching the baseball people" as it would seem there should be, it's no surprise having the league's smallest front office most of the time might not have worked.
I included this Kiley McDaniel piece in the comments last time. His efforts, and access to sources, really helps those of us who have jobs outside the industry. At some point, before the draft, he'll run a sort of Top 500. And then, so will I. I will probably take a gander at a number of those types of lists, but McDaniel's make his stuff accessible, and has logic behind it. I can't ask for much more.
On his list, he has one name down the line that I find very intriguing. Particularly from a Cubs perspective. Cole Sands is a prep arm, committed to attending Florida State. He sounds like a fifty-fifty guy to go to college or go pro in the summer. And, yes, the name might look a bit familiar. His brother Carson signed with the Cubs after last June's draft.
Part of the scouting is, likely, already done. The Cubs already know the family, and have a hunch for Cole's work ethic (though brothers aren't always the same). I'd guess the younger Sands would probably go in about the same range of the draft; early on day two. Would the Cubs be more interested in Cole, knowing Carson already? Would they be particularly interested in being in the same pipeline? Or, would Cole be interested in signing for, effectively, the highest bidder?
Cole could, effectively, make himself an easy, if expensive (or not) sign for the Cubs. He could tell the other 29 teams his commitment with Florida State is very solid, but tell the Cubs he would be willing to sign with them for the signing bonus as his brother, but only for the Cubs. Carson signed for $1.1 million last year. That could make for an easy negotiation. Or, perhaps, the younger brother wants to go to Tallahassee. Or another organization.
While MLB wants to limit the player's negotiating leverage, the player can easily tip the scales in any direction they want. At interviews, and they have interviews, they can make it perfectly clear if they are comfortable with an organization. Or not. These kinds of things intrigue me. But I'm a nutter.
The 815 has an intriguing high school pitcher. Tyler Lass has pitched in four games this year for Belvidere High School. Three have ended up as no-hitters, the last one being a complete game. Read the article, but he is committed to Northwestern. I think a team would be negligent to not take a look at Lass. He's obviously smart, and if Perfect Game knows about him, he's 'a thing'. I should motivate and get out to watch him pitch. If just to see the radar guns.
Don't be frightened by the velocity numbers. A 6-3 kid can often add velocity after being "coached up," and it appears he has a frame that can add some muscle. It is kind of embarrassing about the Rockford area's limited success in baseball recently, but Jake Smolinski and Lass may be changing that.
As usual, D1 Baseball's Ten Thoughts deserves a look.
The only thing that seems to be able to stop Illinois in baseball is the weather. As I write this, they've won 12 straight. They may well be hosting a regional in baseball. That normally requires a Top 16-ish finish, and they are 'in range', with rankings due on Monday. They are 11th in D1 Baseball's ranking, and that was before another successful week.
Closer Tyler Jay is the story, but their pitching is four deep in the rotation, and they have a catcher in Jason Goldstein who should be a second day selection. Friday starter Kevin Duchene is receiving respect, as well. I expect as many as six players from the team to be drafted, though some might be as senior signs that will be valued for their willingness to play quickly, and sign for low bonus values.
Sometimes, having sources is really nice. One of the ones I will ride rather hard come June is the annual Cubs draft tracker, which you can support easily enough. Yagyu (the handle of the guy who runs it) does a great job of tracking Twitter once the players are selected. He then has a color scheme as to whether they are likely to sign or not. He's not Nate Silver, but he's good. His tracker tells me I should probably have about 90 names on my draft preference sheet (which may or may not look like Kiley McDaniels' cheat sheet).
As my article is getting a bit long, I'll take questions below. I might even do that on places I'm being posted off of Bleed Cubbie Blue. Thanks for reading, as always.