I was a bit taken aback when Steve Moyer handed me my copy of The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, by Joseph Werner, which I promised to read and review.
It is not so much that I feared Werner's--who has written for ESPN, Beyond the Box Score, and Baseball Info Solutions--approach or verbiage.
It was more the book, which is sort of coffee table sized, looked like a major tome, and I feared the drag of "Moby Dick" within the 400 plus pages, and that I could never wade through it all in a timely fashion, and that meant a speedy review might well be a pipe dream.
Lucky me, for I was wrong.
In reality, Werner has essentially used his space in a fairly agreeable (and spread out fashion) to simply map out the Top 20 prospects for each team, donating 10-15 pages for each franchise, both summarizing the organization's 2014 draft picks and moves, an analysis of the Minors in general, and then simply rating those players top-to-bottom, giving each player the better part of a page of scrutiny and opinion. Then following the review of the relative Top 20, there is another list of additional prospects who could be worthy of tracking.
The author does give us an introductory chapter in which he introduces his "Comparison and Likeness" (CAL) player classification system, which contextualizes "Weighed Runs Created Plus," measuring a "player's contributions scaled to 100, which is league average."
Truth is I have my own rating system, which I both like, and which similarly ranks hitters and pitchers with a common baseline focusing on age, level of play and ability to overpower coupled with command of the strike zone.
So, Mr. Werner has his means of comparison, and I have mine. In fact, Werner also lists a Top 250 in his book, which coincidentally, is the number of prospects who appear on my list that Mastersball publishes after each season.
What I was more curious about, was how closely--or not--Werner and I assessed prospects and their potential impact, and whether or not we were on the same page.
In writing this, I was not so much looking for validation of my own methodology (although such confirmation at least makes me a little less insecure, at least for a moment) but rather to see how others might indeed determine potential skill set, viability, and impact of a young player in an objective manner.
The truth is, Werner's results are pretty convincing, at least to me. I say this because on the whole, he likes young players I like, and though a rank might be a little different player to player, essentially we have the same Jengo blocks in the same package, just stacked a little differently.
Since there are prospects my list gave me I had not noticed prior to running my algorithms, I wanted to see what Werner thought of those guys, if they even hit his radar as well.
Lucas Giolito (CAL #5/MB # 13): We clearly both love the 6'6", 255 pound 20-year-old who killed it in the SALLY League last year (10-2, 2.20 with 110 whiffs over 98 frames).
Aaron Blair (CAL #71/MB #60): Joseph noted the Arizona pick logged 171 whiffs over three levels last year over 154.3 frames, something I also spotted, and we both liked that the 23-year-old is a big (6'5", 230 lb.) right-hander.
Kyle Freeland (CAL #75/MB #70): Ranked as #3 in the Rockies chain, by Werner, we both liked that after being selected eighth in 2014, Freeland signed, went to work, and blasted through Rookie and Low-A ball (30-0, 1.15 over 33.3 frames).
Dilson Herrera (CAL #60/MB #1): 21-year-old potential shortstop actually spent time in the Majors whom Werner ranked second in the Mets organization, while Herrera was my #1 overall prospect. Again, in such a context (4,000-plus play in the Minors each year) the difference between #1 and #60 is small. Essentially, we are on the same page.
Franmil Reyes (CAL ?/MB #152): The Padres man-child rated #11 within the San Diego chain, while I gave the 6'5", 240-pound 19-year-old a higher nod, that could be due to age issues. Per MLB and Baseball Reference, I had Reyes' age as 17 (he played in the MidWest League last year, producing a .248-11-58 line. It now seems Reyes was actually 18, hence variation, but obviously he intrigues both of us (we both alluded to his linebacker-based body).
Clearly, our methodologies are pretty much in sync, so I could simply say he is right and leave it at that.
But, Werner does go more in-depth than I do, giving three-quarters of a page of pretty good narrative to each of his selections.
If you do love tracking prospects, and trying to stay ahead of the "Who is the next Mike Trout?" curve, the book, which is far more accessbile than intimidating, despite the size, is a must (of course so is my Top 250 list!).