Prospect Handbook Is A Labor Of Love

By the time you read this, hopefully the 2011 Prospect Handbook is not far from your front door.

This year represents the 10th anniversary edition of the book, and like those before it, it is a thing of beauty

Did I say beauty? Yes I did. The Prospect Handbook is far from perfect, much as we try. But I defy you to find a book that has as much care put into its pages.

If you’ve been reading the Handbook over the years, you know I have tried in various ways to quantify the hours of work and thousands of words that we put into each edition. This time around, let me just say simply that we never cut corners.

When we’re getting down toward deadline, I would love to tell Jim Callis to speed up his editing process so we can get the teams done more quickly. Then I remember how meticulously everything is reviewed, and how that comes through on every page.

Continuing Evolution

And yet, when we’re going back through the pages when we get a proof back from our printer, we find hundreds of things we would like to change. We’re limited by time and expense on the number of changes we can make, because we’d love to polish the book until it was absolutely perfect. Of course, you’d get it in April, so that wouldn’t be such a great idea, and there are so many words that I’m honestly not sure we could ever ferret out every last mistake. But rest assured, we try.

After we finish the book each year, we also go over ideas on how we can do the book better next time, reviewing not only what goes in the book but also the process of how we put it together.

I would hate to say we have it down to a science, because if that were true then my annual night terrors as we approach the print deadline probably wouldn’t be necessary. But we have polished the book and the process up pretty well, to the point that changes we make are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

The evolutionary steps this year are some changes in the statistics we provide for each player, as well as the addition of numerical scouting grades for the top prospect in each organization—which you also find when each organization’s Top 10 runs in our issues.

The scouting grades are the result of feedback from readers, who love the specificity that a numerical grade provides. (For those of you unfamiliar with the grading scale scouts use, it ranges from 20 to 80, with 20 the worst, 80 the best, and 50 major league average.) Of course, some readers wanted us to provide grades for all 900 prospects in the book, and while that isn’t feasible, we thought this was a good start.

On the statistical front, we’ve added caught stealing numbers for hitters, and groundout/airout and WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings) for pitchers. To accommodate those numbers, we eliminated runs and earned runs from pitchers’ stats. We figure ERA relays enough information on that front.

931 Scouting Reports

In short, we think the quality of the Prospect Handbook continues to improve, thanks in large part to the talented writers who provide all the information in this book. We’re fortunate to have much of this talent in-house at Baseball America, and 10 freelancers who round out our dream team of prospect writers.

As always there are players moving around right up until the time we publish the book, so while Brett Lawrie had moved on to the Blue Jays in time for the book deadline, Jake Odorizzi had not and still appears with the Brewers. But 900 of the best prospects in the game are all in there—plus Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Japanese player the Twins signed, who is in the Appendix. And remember, if you buy the book directly from us, not only do you get it earlier—we have it several weeks before it reaches the warehouses of third-party sellers—but you also get a bonus supplement that includes an extra prospect for all 30 teams. And we know you are just crazy enough about prospects to know that’s a valuable premium.

As always, thank you for buying the book and making it so much fun to do every year. Sure it’s a daunting project, but it’s also the culmination of everything we do at Baseball America and probably our most satisfying labor as well.