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A Guide to Baseball America's Top Jays Prospect List

For those of us who got drawn into the Fantasy Baseball world, Baseball America (BA) is one of the most respected and prime sources of information that a team owner can use to get a better sense of a player’s makeup and whether he is worth a roster spot or a certain level of investment. Every year, since 2005, I’ve ordered their Prospect Handbook and credit it with giving me a net profit of over 50 times the value of my league fees, a pretty awesome investment in today’s economy!! However, as much as I have grown to love and adhere to much of their advice, both my knowledge of the Blue Jays and my experience with their lists have grown and I’ve noticed some trends that make me wary of using their top 30 list as the only major scouting source. This year’s top 30 list for the Jays is the perfect example of what I mean, and I’ll explain why below, and exemplifies that BA should be added to other sources when making up top prospect lists in order to get a more refined and accurate list. Here’s what I mean:

  • First of all, in terms of scouting and player evaluations, BA is looking at the entire player makeup and include his defensive play, which doesn’t show up in fantasy at all. Therefore, if your main focus in getting their book is to help you with fantasy, you have to separate those who are ranked highly due to their defensive makeup from those who are ranked highly due to their offensive skills. Looking at key stats helps you do this, along with the age of the player for his level. There are tons of other sources to help you do this, so I won’t list them all, but combining fantasy related sites with the BA Prospect Handbook is your best bet.
  • Another point of contention I have with the BA ratings is that they tend, I emphasize tend, to be top heavy. What do I mean by top heavy? Well, they rate guys who have reached higher levels more highly than guys who are in the lower levels on many occasions. Of course this makes sense, since the younger players carry more risk and may not develop as intended. This obviously depends on the scout doing the rating, as they all have different opinions and criteria, but they do tend to overlook the DSL and a lot of the Rookie leagues and wait to have player prove their value in the GCL or LoA and above before giving them a top ranking.
  • The point just made is usually true unless the player had a phenomenal high school or college experience, where the player could actually become hyper inflated by the hype that surrounds him. So, you have to make sure to understand that the guys with no pro experience can either rocket to success or flop like a pancake. BA is putting him on their list to make sure you know about him and take notice of his potential.
  • Jim Callis admits to giving more credit to the guys who he is currently scouting over guys that are getting established as pros or young MLB players. An example would be his hype over Clayton Kershaw as the best ever young SP prospect, followed by his hyping of David Price as the same, and now Stephen Strasburg has taken the crown. In each case, of course, the talent was phenomenal, so no harm done, but you sometimes have to be a little wary of the “man crush” phenomenon that sometimes gets the analyzers.

Do I believe that there are better sources of information out there to get to know prospects and their potential? The easy answer to that question is a flat out no, not even close. Do I think they are right the majority of the time? Another easy one, yes. Do I think you need to filter some of their content for Fantasy purposes? Yes. Do they sometimes get it wrong? Unfortunately, yes. Here are a few examples for this year’s Jays edition of their top 30 prospects (the top 10 are at the link if you subscribe).

  1. They omitted CF Darin Matroianni from the top 30 despite his stealing 70 bases between HiA and AA. He had an OBP of .398 overall and walked almost as often as he struck out (76/83). I understand that Darin is a little older than most other prospects on the list at 24, but looking at their list he belongs in the top 20, if not 25.
  2. They, just like most other scouts, still believe in David Cooper and don’t give Micheal McDade his due as a result. Their ranking of Cooper as the #4 guy is outrageous in my opinion since his mental makeup and attitude point to a lack of focus and problem child. McDade hit 16 HRs with a .277 average as a 19-20 year old in LoA while Cooper hit 10 Hrs in AA as a 22 yr old with a .258 average. McDade should easily outproduce Cooper‘s stats twofold by the time he gets to AA. The ranking of Cooper so highly is an example of the draft hype over the player’s performance. Cooper belongs in the 21-30 range until he proves he can play up to his talents (which he definitely has, the issue is between the ears).
  3. My third, and last, major disagreement with their top 30 list is the inclusion of Eric Thames over many others (including Darin Mastroianni). He doesn’t belong anywhere near this list as he hit 3 HRs as a 23 year old in HiA. Come on now, let’s not get out of hand!

Overall, the list is quite well done and does identify the majority of the major impact prospects the Jays intend on developing this season (less the guys acquired int he trade, which was completed too late to include). My last bone of contention with the list is as follows. I actually got to ask a question in the chat (which was chosen by their staff, who I give credit to for doing so) where I asked about prospect Santiago Nessy, who the Jays put a ton of money into as an international FA signing in 2009. Nathan Rode, the scout who made up the Blue Jays list, had to defer to another scout to respond because he did not have the knowledge to answer the question himself. This really made me think hard about how deep these guys really go when they make up the list and made me question whether they get an appropriate amount of time to make them, or whether they’re generally too busy to look as deep as they should. Nobody could know all prospects of a team, it’s just impossible. But, if I was given the task of writing a top prospect list for BA for 1 team, not 2 to 5 teams, just 1, I can guarantee you that I would have in-depth knowledge about someone like Nessy, whose power potential is compared to a young Jesus Montero.Therefore, I do criticize the author of the list a little for not doing all of the research (which also explains Nessy‘s omission from the list).

I absolutely love the depth of baseball knowledge that BA provides and intend on getting their Prospect Handbook indefinitely (you can purchase it online here). Any baseball fan can see the value of getting to know the young guys, so it doesn’t have to be for Fantasy purposes, so I highly recommend it to all baseball fans. You can read the considerations I provided above if you want and agree or disagree with them, but they are simply observations I’ve made after following a ton of their listed prospects through to The Show. Their accuracy of analysis is uncanny, the number of Fantasy wins they get me is even more uncanny, and their performance as THE best scouting resource available to fans is unquestioned. If you read their stuff, enjoy! If not, you’re definitely missing out!

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Tags: Baseball America Darin Mastroianni David Cooper Michael McDade Santiago Nessy

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