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Draft Reporting Never, Ever Stops

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One of my first jobs at Baseball America involved the 1996 Draft Report Cards. Instead of jumping in, calling scouting directors and going over their draft lists, at that time I was most involved in finding photos.

In those pre-Internet days, that meant calling the high schools or colleges for every player, often calling the player’s home, and asking them to send photos. I think I still remember our FedEx account number (since discontinued). I distinctly remember Matt Halloran, a Virginia high school shortstop drafted 15th overall by the Padres, sending in a yearbook photo of himself. He was smiling in a tuxedo, and he’d signed the back with the added scroll, “Keep it—it will be worth a lot some day!”

Unfortunately for both of us, it didn’t work out that way. Halloran hit four home runs in nearly 400 pro games before bowing out. I eventually graduated into writing those Draft Report Cards, but they were a bigger deal in 1996 than even I knew. There was no draft on TV, no BA500 draft rankings, and the travel ball/showcase circuit was in its infancy. Teams and BA had much less information to go on before the draft, so often those first months after signing, that Rookie-level or short-season look was a big one.

That’s where Draft Report Cards came in, to break down a class tool by tool, hitters and pitchers, to give an overall sense of the class. Draft Report Cards are easier to do now than in 1996 with more pre-draft information, email and mobile phones, but we have less space in print. Draft Report Cards are so dense with information, they’re hard to really make look good in the magazine, even if they were dressed up with tuxedo-wearing player photos.

While we have more pre-draft information and less room in print for them, Draft Report Cards remain worthwhile and are all online for BA subscribers, one for every club, and they reveal plenty we didn’t know before the June draft.

Take Heliot Ramos of the Giants. The 19th overall pick out of Puerto Rico, Ramos was what scouts refer to as a “split camp” player. Everyone loved his raw tools—speed, good body, raw power, arm strength. Still, he didn’t show up on the BA pre-draft ranking of the Best Tools of the draft class.

Well, after his Rookie-level Arizona League debut, Ramos already has changed some minds. He ranked third in the league’s Top 20 Prospects list because his bat played. While some rawness was evident, his .348 average ranked second in the league, which he led in slugging (.645). Ramos also struck out in nearly 32 percent of his plate appearances.

Draft Report Cards reflect the Giants’ optimism about Ramos. John Barr has run every draft for the club since 2008, when San Francisco plucked Buster Posey with the fifth overall pick. Ramos has the highest ceiling of any Giants player drafted since then, and if he gets off to a strong start in 2018, that might influence how the Giants draft with the No. 2 overall pick next year—the highest pick they’ve had since Posey.

DRCs open our eyes to other players as well, such as Ramos’ fellow Puerto Rican outfielder Nelson Velazquez, a fifth-rounder with equally raw tools but physicality and athleticism of his own. And I’m a fan of Most Intriguing Background, at least when we find good human-interest pieces on players. I learned that Rockies righthander Moise Ceja has an older brother, Nestor, who’s a Double-A umpire, and that Dodgers outfielder Zach Reks spent time working in a Toyota factory after transferring from Air Force to Kentucky.

Then there’s the Cubs’ Chris Singleton, who inspires as he honors the life of his mother Sharonda, who was gunned down in the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C. He’s more than a human interest story; he’s a prospect, with speed and defensive tools that give his bat a chance to develop.

Some of that we knew before the draft; some of it we didn’t. Draft Report Cards brings it all into focus, for us and for readers, and they appear in their uncut glory online now.

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