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The first book of its kind to fully integrate sabermetrics and scouting, the 2017 Minor League Baseball Analyst provides a distinctive brand of analysis for more than 1,000 minor league baseball players. Features include scouting reports for all players, batter skills ratings, pitch repertoires, performance trends, major league equivalents, and expected major league debuts. A complete sabermetric glossary is also included. This one-of-a-kind reference is ideally suited for baseball analysts and those who play in fantasy leagues with farm systems.
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 10.60(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Jeremy Deloney is in his seventh year with Baseball HQ. He appears daily during the season with the minor league callup reports. Jeremy lives in Lebanon, Ohio and works in compliance for a securities firm. Rob Gordon has been a minor league analyst for Baseball HQ since 2003. He writes the weekly Minor League News and Scouting Column and lives in Detroit. Brent Hershey is the managing editor of www.BaseballHQ.com. He was honored in 2009 by the Fantasy Sports Writer Association for the Best Fantasy Baseball Article in a Print Publication. He lives in Philadelphia.
Read an Excerpt
Minor League Baseball Analyst
By Rob Gordon, Jeremy Deloney, Brent Hershey
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2017 USA TODAY Sports Media Group LLC.
All rights reserved.
The Question of Prospect Readiness
by Chris Blessing
Show of hands: How many fantasy owners relied on a rookie starting pitcher last season? Did it work out?
Hopefully, you pinned your hopes on Michael Fulmer and/or Junior Guerra. Both pitchers performed like veterans. Unlike, say, Aaron Blair and/or Jose Berrios, who each was ranked in the HQ100 coming into the season, but whose lackluster performance hurt plenty of fantasy teams in 2016. While projection services, such as BaseballHQ.com and the Baseball Forecaster, are great tools to project veteran performance, no metric can project how a rookie pitcher responds to the challenge of MLB hitters.
Last June, BaseballHQ.com co-General Manager and Minor League Baseball Analyst editor Brent Hershey challenged the BHQ staff to ponder prospect "readiness." Specifically, he wanted us to discuss the possiblity of creating a "readiness" metric similar to the grading scale we use here in the Minor League Baseball Analyst and in the BHQ Organization Report player bios. The responses were varied. An excerpt from one of my responses:
Without our scouting writers putting eyes on guys, we can't do our due diligence to put together an effective measure to a pitcher's readiness. We'd have a better shot at hitters, but it would still be poor. I don't see how we can come up with a measurement without first person quantitative research and extensive qualitative research.
I believe a readiness metric could be done. My friend Mike Newman and I discussed the validity of creating such a metric at RotoScouting.com several years ago. We concluded that creating a reliable metric would be too staff- and time-intensive for the site to handle. Fast-forward two years, and finding qualified individuals to do the quantitative research is a challenge. As you may know, the prospect media has taken a hit with many qualified evaluators either going to work for organizations or quitting the industry entirely. Without quality researchers, a scouting-based metric is likely to fail.
This doesn't mean there isn't help out there for fantasy owners. Take the Zach Eflin "Callups" blurb published by BaseballHQ.com in June by Nick Richards. The blurb noted Eflin's minor league success — through 11 Triple-A games, Eflin pitched to a 2.90 ERA, with a 5.0 Cmd and .199 opp BA. But Nick also noted his success in the majors would depend on improving his breaking ball. In 11 MLB starts, Eflin never flashed an out pitch, and his K/9 ratio ended up at just over 4. A young MLB starter cannot maintain success without eliciting swing and misses; Nick's comments were spot on. Eflin's secondary pitches need to improve before getting MLB hitters out consistently.
But back to the rookie starter who had the most success this season: AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer. In the "Top 75 Impact Prospects for 2016" ranking in last year's Forecaster, we ranked Fulmer 22nd among rookie-qualified pitchers, 54th overall. Hindsight being 20/20, we should have ranked him first. How did we miss so big on Michael Fulmer? Here is my rationale.
Want to quickly enrage a fan base? Call their recently selected first-round pick a future mid-rotation starter. I identified Fulmer as such in a scouting report for Bullpen Banter in 2012. Why is it relevant revisiting Fulmer's 2012 projection today? Because many prospect evaluators labeled his ceiling as such going into the season. This may have caused evaluators and fantasy writers to sleep on Fulmer.
The stigma associated with projecting a prospect as a mid-rotation starter is ridiculous. There are so few top-line pitching available to fantasy owners. Owners, like MLB General Managers, covet mid-rotation starters. They don't dominate hitters like frontline starters, but they do contribute solid returns. Since his debut, Fulmer's performance lines up more with a frontline starter than the mid-rotation starter many projected. This could be an anomaly or the scouting community collectively missed something vital about Fulmer, like the dominance of his changeup and his advanced command.
The 19-year-old Fulmer I scouted lived around the strike zone. Even his command was beyond his level and years. Fulmer is the rare prospect where his stuff needed to catch up to his control and command. By the time he debuted, hitting the catcher's mitt was old habit.
Solid command enabled Fulmer to succeed quickly in the major leagues. A pitcher sporting solid-or-better command in the minors is more likely to succeed initially in the big leagues than a pitcher relying on stuff to get big league hitters out, regardless of minor league success. It's something to keep in mind as you read the pitcher profiles in this book.
But what about the hitters?
Is (insert name) ready to contribute? I'm asked this question almost daily during the baseball season. Whether injuries have devastated a lineup or the product you've drafted is hard to stomach, fantasy owners are always looking for a jolt of electricity to revive their season.
Truthfully, most hitting prospects aren't ready for the big leagues. Fundamentally, most aren't ready to transition to a major league batter's box yet. Some were never given the chance to develop early in their careers. Why? Organizations saw something they craved and wanted to push it. Like a prospect with big power but a two-part swing, or an 80-grade defender at short with no plate discipline. To understand hitter readiness, we must study the development path.
Former Atlanta Braves catching prospect Christian Bethancourt was a mainstay on prospect lists from 2012 through 2015. I scouted Bethancourt as an 18- and 19-year-old with Single-A Rome in the Braves organization. Now 25 and a member of the San Diego Padres organization, he's being groomed for a catcher/pitcher/outfield hybrid utility player (say what?). Still several years away from his prime, Bethancourt faces an uphill battle to reach his full potential. Despite phenomenal hand/eye coordination, Bethancourt doesn't have the plate discipline needed to be an everyday performer. Let's go back to the point in development where things went wrong.
Bethancourt limped through his full season with Rome in 2010. His offensive skills were incredibly raw, but his hand/eye coordination allowed him to slash .251/.276/.331. Unless a pitcher buried a breaking ball in the dirt, Bethancourt would put bat to ball, usually resulting in weak contact. Bethancourt even struggled defensively. He was raw behind home plate, but everyone was consumed with his 80-grade arm.
Bethancourt looked better his second go-around in Rome in 2011. He was taking pitches, laying off pitches he couldn't drive and barreling fastballs up the middle for base hits. His defense even improved. After slashing .303/.323/.385 in 54 games, Atlanta did the unthinkable and promoted Bethancourt to High-A Lynchburg, where his approach reverted back to 2010. He slashed .271/.277/.325 with Lynchburg and .243/.275/.291 the next season with Double-A Mississippi. Repeating Double-A in 2013, Bethancourt fared better, but still struggled to lay off unhittable pitches. Then, the Braves called Bethancourt up. He has struggled mightily with the bat since making his debut in 2013. Remarkably, he has walked only 18 times in 482 plate appearances (4%). Unless his hits find holes, he's never on base enough to factor in fantasy.
One player that didn't have many flaws was Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. When I wrote my Buxton scouting report in 2015, I anticipated his big league debut to come sometime during the 2016 season. He wasn't ready when the Twins called him up in June 2015 and it showed. For starters, Buxton only appeared in 31 games the previous season and was dusting off some rust from the inactivity. He also struggled identifying spins on off-speed pitches. After some injuries to the big league outfielder and a great Double-A series in front of the visiting Twins front office, Buxton packed his bags for the Twin Cities with only 240 AA at-bats under his belt.
His debut was awful. He slashed a miserable .209/.250/.326. MLB struggles continued until a call up in September 2016. In his final 29 games, Buxton slashed .287/.357/.653 and hit 9 HR. Can he keep it going? Skeptics worry the 34% strikeout rate may be a sign for more struggles to come for the Twins outfielder.
A lack of baseball maturity, not a skill deficiency, led to Buxton's struggles. Recently, we've been blessed by the debuts of Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, who each debuted hitting close to All-Star levels. However, most hitting prospects struggle, even elite guys like Buxton. Hopefully, you didn't sell low on the 23-year-old at his lowest point.
What does this all mean? As a MLBA reader, you have this incredible tool of experienced prospect writers compiling player reports for fantasy consumption. Our team has experienced eyes at the ballpark considering the risks of prospect ownership first-hand. J.P. Crawford may be the top all-around SS prospect; but is he the best fantasy option? Maybe it's Dansby Swanson, Brendan Rodgers, Amed Rosario or Gleyber Torres. That's what we're here for.
In sum, be leery of quick minor league promotions. Quick promotions usually lead to unresolved issues. Once a prospect debuts in the major leagues, it is hard to correct swing deficiencies.
One final shortcut: stay clear of players already displaying poor walk rates or high strikeout rates in the minors, especially if organizations won't allow these prospects to correct issues against lesser competition. Your final fantasy standings might depend on it.
Top 20 International Prospects for 2017
by Jeremy Deloney
Over the last few years, MLB has implemented changes (with more to come in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) to the process of signing of international players. There will not be an international draft for now, but MLB teams have been scouring the globe to help add talent to their clubs. And the astute fantasy owners should be following suit.
Listed below are various international prospects who inked contracts during the international signing period in 2016 or players who could make the jump to the U.S. in the next two seasons. Because of the uncertainty of defections and eligibility, some top Cuban prospects may not be profiled below.
Please note that some players eligible for this list who have already signed contracts with major league organizations have player boxes in this book. For the purposes of space, those players aren't profiled here. Such prospects include: Kevin Maitan (SS, ATL), Lazaro Armenteros (OF, OAK), Yanio Perez (INF, TEX), Adrian Morejon (LHP, SD), Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP, CIN), Alfredo Rodriguez (SS, CIN), and Jorge Ona (OF, SD).
In alphabetical order:
Luis Almanzar (SS, SD)
The 17-year-old has a clean, quick right-handed stroke and likes to use the entire field in his professional and mature approach. Though he doesn't exhibit much over-the-wall pop now, he has natural strength and should develop at least average power. Almanzar has the talent to stick at shortstop, though could slide over to either 2B or 3B given his nimble footwork and range. He also runs quite well.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $4 million
MLB Debut: 2022
Yasal Antuna (SS, WAS)
The 17-year-old switch-hitter may not be the most athletic infielder in this international class, but he is polished for his age. He brings a mature approach to the plate and uses a clean, short stroke to make easy contact. By spraying the ball to all fields, he should hit for a nice BA, but it may take him a while to reach his power potential, however, as he has a level swing path and current lack of strength. He doesn't run particularly well and may end up at 3B where his strong arm would be an asset.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $3.9 million
MLB Debut: 2022
Gabriel Arias (SS, SD)
Because of his lean, projectable frame, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the 16-year-old moved to 3B in short order. He has the potential to add significant strength and he could develop into a power hitter in the future. He offers a clean swing and a level bat path while showing the ability to put bat to ball. Arias runs well, though is expected to slow down as he grows. Defensively, he has a cannon for an arm and ranges well to both sides. He could use improvement with his footwork and release, but the tools are there for him to eventually become an above average defender.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $1.9 million
MLB Debut: 2023
Juan Contreras (RHP, ATL)
The pitching depth was thin in this international class, but the 17-year-old stood out for his pure arm strength and speed. He's more of a thrower than pitcher at this point and he exhibits crude mechanics. However, Contreras could eventually register velocity in the high-90s once he cleans up his delivery and arm action. He currently throws in the 89-94 mph range and he throws downhill from his over-the-top release. He needs to significantly improve his control as well as his raw secondary offerings. Because of his arm speed, his change-up has plus potential.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $1.2 million
MLB Debut: 2023
Jose Miguel Fernandez (2B, Cuba)
As a 28-year-old, Fernandez has a mature game with a high floor, but lacks the upside and electricity of other international signees. The left-handed hitter certainly knows how to put the bat on the ball as he rarely strikes out and gets on base at a healthy clip. The rest of his game is rather uninspiring. He doesn't hit for much power, his speed is fringe-average at best, and his defense is suspect. Despite the negativity, he is a polished hitter who has — and will — hit for a high BA. He doesn't hit many HR, but he hits hard line drives to the gaps.
Signing bonus/status: Defected from Cuba; declared a free agent
MLB Debut: 2018
David Garcia (C, TEX)
The 16-year-old switch-hitter has the skill set to develop into a solid all-around catcher. Garcia is already a sound defender with fundamental skills. He receives the ball well and has agility and mobility to block balls. His clean footwork helps his quick release and the hope is he adds more strength to his throwing. As a hitter, the power potential is fringy at best, but he understands the strike zone and has a compact stroke to make easy contact.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $800,000
MLB Debut: 2023
Jose Adolis Garcia (OF, Cuba)
The 24-year-old has an impressive tools arsenal; he is a good hitter, but tends to be a free swinger who rarely walks. His pitch recognition needs improvement, but he has plus bat speed and average power from the right side. He is very fast, with the range and instincts to play CF. His incredible arm strength is a definite asset; he could play RF if needed. Though he may not become a superstar, he has everyday player skills.
Signing bonus/status: Defected from Cuba; declared a free agent
MLB Debut: 2018
Luis Garcia (SS, WAS)
The strength in the July international class was the shortstop position and the 16-year-old is one of the best. He is extremely athletic and has a great chance to stick at the position over the long-term. Garcia has quick, clean hands and above average range to both sides. As a hitter, he makes easy contact with a fast bat and should be able to hit for more power as he grows in his lean frame. His overall skill set is enhanced by his instincts and poise.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $1.3 million
MLB Debut: 2023
Victor Garcia (OF, STL)
Already blessed with a strong, powerful frame, the 17-year-old may have the best power potential of any international signee. He stands 62, 225, and swings a very fast bat. He can hit the ball a long way to all fields and he runs well underway. Contact is the big question — his long stroke leads to high strikeout totals and his uppercut can be exploited. There is also concern about his body as he gets older. Garcia may eventually have to move to 1B, but he should be able to showcase enough power to make it worthwhile.
Signing bonus/status: Signed for $1.5 million
MLB Debut: 2023
Lourdes Gurriel (INF/OF, TOR)
The 23-year-old defected with his brother Yulieski from Cuba, and signed with the Blue Jays in November 2016. Much like other Cubans, his stint in the minors could be a short one. He is a bit of a free-swinger at present, though has the tools to be a middle-of-the-order run producer. He offers above average pop from the right side and has enough athleticism to be an asset on the bases as well as in the middle of the diamond. He could get to the majors in short order.
Excerpted from Minor League Baseball Analyst by Rob Gordon, Jeremy Deloney, Brent Hershey. Copyright © 2017 USA TODAY Sports Media Group LLC.. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The 2017 HQ100,
Major League Equivalents,
Blatant Advertisements for Other Products,