Hello, its me. Now that we have spring training games happening, there are more things to talk about. The college baseball season is under way, there will be draft things to discuss, and so I hope to begin writing this notes column on a weekly basis, and then I might also throw in a few other random writings depending on my free time available. I’ll share some thoughts on our prospects and the draft, and some other random stuff. So, lets get started.
* I don’t want to tell you how to watch baseball games or follow the minors. If you’ve been around for a while, you know how I approach things, but I wanted to make a few points before the minor league season starts.
- Sample size – Be patient. One good or bad week/month should not be over magnified. Even one season is a small sample. It is really easy to get swept up in the excitement, and we’ve all done it, including me, but it is important to remember to stay calm
- For hitters, look at indicators – The whole “don’t scout the stat line” one liner made popular by Keith Law is applicable, but there are 2 things I actually look at for hitters: changes in K rate and changes in BB rate. There could be reasons for either to go up/down, but big changes can tell you something might be happening.
- For pitchers, I like to look for changes in the pitcher’s profile. For example, seeing a pitcher who previously had middling groundball rates suddenly start inducing 60% groundballs. You need to see it over a larger sample, but those are good early indicators.
- Read scouting reports – Obviously this is the most important thing. Learn who is giving the report, what their track record is, and then take what they are saying and compare it to the actual numbers the player is putting up.
- Stay calm – Its a long season. The goal for most of our prospects should be solid gains and staying healthy.
* Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera has looked pretty decent early on. He hit a fairly empty .315/.383/.388 last season in AA, but he was only 22, so it isn’t like hes minor league cannon fodder. He was 21 for 31 in stolen bases, not much to get excited about, but obviously we only really care what he can do this year. Given that the Phillies will likely be horrible this year (despite what our esteemed closer says) so there is no harm in keeping him on the roster and seeing what he can do. Its a shame he can’t play shortstop (well, maybe he can, he played 60 games at SS in 2012) because that could be a path to regular at bats. If he can play 2B and all 3 OF positions (or at least LF/CF) then he could be a useful utility player. That’s nothing to get super excited about, but filling out the roster with versatile players making the league minimum is never a bad thing.
* This is obviously an important season for Jesse Biddle. Though I do not think I’d call it make or break, given that he is just 23 and lefthanders can pitch until they are 45. We all know that Biddle has a filthy curveball and that alone will probably allow him to have some kind of major league career, even if he doesn’t develop further. He is one season removed from a decent AA campaign at age 21, and we know last year was a bit of a disaster in every way. I’d actually bet on him getting back on track this year. I think he’s likely going to be a #4 if things work, not a front of the rotation guy, but the tools are still there.
* The early read on this upcoming draft is not good. Every year, it seems that scouts/people who know say that a draft is weak, usually in January or February, and then by April there are a bunch of pop-up guys who suddenly fly up draft boards and the draft starts to look better. This year, the pop-up guy is Dillon Tate, a righthanded pitcher from UC Santa Barbara. Tate has starter stuff, but was used as a reliever for his first 2 seasons and is now starting. He’s got a big time arm and a bit of funk in his delivery. He went from a sandwich round guy to a potential top 10 guy.
* With the Phillies picking 10th, they likely aren’t going to have a shot at Brady Aiken, who I think is the best prospect in the draft. The one guy I’d love to grab at #10 is Dansby Swanson, from Vanderbilt. Keith Law ranked him #9 in the fall, and the big question has been whether he can play SS in the majors. For me, I want him at 2B, where I think he’d be a plus defender. He has excellent bat to ball skills and is a good athlete, and could be a bigger version of peak Dustin Pedroia, playing elite level defense, hitting for average, and racking up tons of extra base hits. He’s played at a big time school in a good conference and has had nothing but success, and those are the guys I like betting on. If teams are convinced he can stick at SS, he will likely go before #10, but if they think he might have to move to 2B, I think he could be there at #10.
I’ll have more thoughts on the draft over the next 6 weeks or so, hopefully we’ll get a few more exciting high school guys popping up over that time. Until the next one…