Baseball America

Ask BA: The Ideal 25-Man Prospect Roster

The Baseball Hall of Fame is set to unveil a fascinating exhibit honoring scouts. With the support of the Scout of the Year Foundation, “Diamond Mines” will open on May 4. The exhibit will honor the annual Scout of the Year winners, display scouting artifacts and present an interactive anatomy of a scouting report.

The collection includes more than 14,000 scouting reports covering 4,444 players, all of which will be available in an Internet database at www.baseballhall.org. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson has given a preview of coming attractions through his Twitter account (@HallofFamePrez), showing sample reports for Ernie Banks, Derek Jeter and Juan Marichal.

Banks’ report, filed in 1953 by Hugh Wise, notes that he has all-around ability, no outstanding weakness and recommends a $10,000 bonus. (To put that in perspective, the amateur bonus record at the time was $100,000 by Paul Pettit and Marty Keough.) Of Jeter, Ed Santa notes: “You get excited just watching him warm up.” Dewey Griggs expresses some concern that Marichal might be too easygoing, but also credits him with a very good fastball, changeup and control as well as a good curveball.

I can’t wait to see more of these.

If you had to make a 25-man roster using at most one player from any farm system, what would it look like? To make it more interesting, let’s say that the team doesn’t have to be competitive this year, so far-away prospects are fine if that’s who you want.

Isaiah Leonard
New York

There were a few tough calls along the way, but I found it fairly easy to fill 23 of the 25 spots with only the last two pitchers presenting much of a challenge. I was torn between Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud with the Mets but went with my higher-rated prospect (Wheeler) and found that the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez fit nicely as my No. 2 catcher. It felt odd to exclude Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, but I wasn’t going to pass up Byron Buxton as my center fielder.

In two cases where I had openings for both players, I went away from the order in which I ranked them in their organization coming into the year. Archie Bradley has made major strides with his command and has better stuff than Tyler Skaggs, so Bradley became my Diamondback. I still have faith in Trevor Bauer but I wanted Francisco Lindor’s glove at shortstop and chose him as my Indian.

I may be cheating a bit by putting Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich at first base, but he did play the position in high school. First base is the most barren prospect position right now, and I wasn’t going to sacrifice Carlos Correa to make Jonathan Singleton my Astro.

Here’s my 25-man roster:

C: Mike Zunino, Mariners.
1B: Christian Yelich, Marlins.
2B: Jurickson Profar, Rangers.
3B: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox.
SS: Francisco Lindor, Indians.
LF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers.
CF: Byron Buxton, Twins.
RF: Oscar Taveras, Cardinals.
DH: Wil Myers, Rays.
Reserve C: Gary Sanchez, Yankees.
Reserve INF: Javier Baez, Cubs; Carlos Correa, Astros.
Reserve OF: Billy Hamilton, Reds; Nick Castellanos, Tigers.
No. 1 SP: Dylan Bundy, Orioles.
No. 2 SP: Gerrit Cole, Pirates.
No. 3 SP: Zack Wheeler, Mets.
No. 4 SP: Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks.
No. 5 SP: Kyle Zimmer, Royals.
Reserve P: Max Fried, Padres; Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays; Kyle Crick, Giants; Lucas Giolito, Nationals; Jesse Biddle, Phillies; J.R. Graham, Braves.

How do clubs, prospects and agents assess draft value and signability? Are the prospects and agents honest about asking prices? Do asking prices change depending on the team or on the rankings of independent parties such as Baseball America?

David Sarell
South Gate, Calif.

Teams determine a player’s signability by going straight to the source. With clubs now more restricted than ever by assigned bonus pools, it’s crucial to know the cost of signing a draftee. So teams ask him (or his parents or adviser).

The player’s side generally determines his value by where he’ll go in the draft. Some are set on turning pro and may tell a club they’ll sign for the assigned value wherever they’re selected. A player who thinks he’s an elite talent may put a premium on his skills beyond his pick value. Some families place a great deal of importance on the college experience and expect to be compensated for giving that up, especially if a player is signing out of high school.

There always are a few stories each year of misunderstandings between players and teams, but for the most part, honesty prevails. Clubs expect the truth when they inquire about signability. If they don’t get a straight answer or don’t believe the response they get, it will affect where a player gets chosen.

As for independent rankings, they aren’t going to change what an individual team believes a player to be worth. A player’s value may vary significantly from club to club anyway. Outside evaluations may give a player and his adviser a sense of what he might command, but a truer idea will come from communicating with teams and figuring out where he fits in the draft.

There recently has been discussion among Mets fans that righthander Rainy Lara has been underrated by the prospect community. He posted a 77-12 K-BB ratio in 68 innings at short-season Brooklyn in 2012 and has put up similar numbers in four starts at low Class A Savannah this year. Why was he excluded from the Mets Top 30 Prospects list in the 2013 Prospect Handbook?

Izzy Hechkoff
New York

The strength of the Mets system is righthanded pitching. Their No. 1 prospect is a righty (Zack Wheeler), as were seven members of our Mets Top 10 Prospects list and 13 members of our Top 30. Those lists were compiled before the R.A. Dickey trade, which brought over another blue-chip righthander in Noah Syndergaard.

Lara was the next righty listed on our Mets depth chart in the Handbook. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he stands out most for his command of his 89-92 mph sinker. Scouts aren’t as enthused about his secondary offerings, however, and they aren’t in love with his long arm action.

While Lara is a prospect, New York has several more promising arms in its system. At the lower levels of the minors, tools and stuff matter more than statistics, and his stuff is fairly ordinary. He’s also old for low Class A at 22, and unless he adds velocity or develops a quality second pitch, he’s looking at a ceiling as a middle reliever.

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