Phillies Prospect Conversations: Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com)

This will be the final installment of our series of conversations with some of the prospecting industry’s most prominent scribes. It is a discussion I had with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo over lunch last week. Mayo has the unenviable task (ok, maybe I’m a little envious since he gets to talk about prospects for a living and all) of spearheading coverage of both minor league prospects and the draft for MLB.com all on his own. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer volume of work Mayo does over at MLBPipleline.com. He’s a Penn grad, so none of us should be surprised. At this point in my process it didn’t make sense to ask Jonathan about guys we’ve already beaten into the ground here, like Ruf, Brown, Biddle and Morgan (ok, so maybe he brings up Morgan on his own). Instead I asked Jonathan about guys he had ranked in atypical places (Ethan Martin at #2, Sebastian Valle at #8). I didn’t often bring these guys up in previous conversations because I’ve known I was going to ask Jonathan about them the whole time. Aren’t you impressed?

I’m starting on my own top 10, 12, 15….I don’t know how many I’m going to do just yet. Anyway, I’m starting to write up my list this week so you can expect that relatively soon. I’m also continuing chip away at a piece that’s been in the works since the Phillies acquired Delmon Young. I haven’t received an optimal amount of cooperation from people inside the game to this point, but the article is coming along and it’s very strange. Here’s my chat with Jonathan Mayo:

Eric: I’ve been asking this of everyone because I think it’s important. How do you go about gathering information and forming your lists?

Jonathan: I have two different processes. For the Top 100 I put together a master spread sheet and I send it out to executives and front office guys. I ask them to rank the top 50. I take those rankings and consolidate them into one list based on a points system. I’ll mess around with some stuff to weed out outliers and things like that, but I don’t actually install any of my opinions on prospects into my list. I simply compile other people’s opinions. For organizations, I put together a list and run it past someone internally (Eric’s note: So, Jonathan’s list is essentially the list of someone in the Phillies organization) and then find an external source (Eric’s note: probably someone who has coverage of that org if you can find it) to cross examine it. Different guys like upside, some like probability. It’s all factored in.

Eric: One of the things that interests me about your plight is your readership. You’re on MLB.com. If someone is going to Baseball America for info, they’re probably not a casual baseball fan. If someone is going to Baseball Prospectus, they’re probably not a casual baseball fan. Even for Keith (Law), even though it’s ESPN, people need to pay to see most of his work so it’s probably not a casual baseball fan seeking that out since they’re willing to pay for it. You likely have the highest percentage of mainstream, diet baseball fan readership. Does that impact your feedback? Or even the way you write?

Jonathan: I think there’s some of that. Some clearly don’t get it, but for the most part the distinction is not as vast as it once was. I think the internet has people more informed about prospects than they ever were before. I think that means we can have more meaningful discussions on a larger scale and I like to stir that debate when it comes to prospects. If people aren’t arguing and commenting, I’m not doing my job.

Eric: You went to Penn. What was the amateur baseball culture in Philadelphia at the time you were in college?

Jonathan: That’s a tough one because I wasn’t into amateur ball outside of Penn at the time. It was a good time to be a Penn baseball fan, though. We had Doug Glanville there at the time and Mark DeRosa followed shortly thereafter so there was rare talent on campus. I didn’t really pay much attention to draft stuff until I got to MLB.com. I think now that there are so many high school showcase events, kids in Philly will be helped out by those opportunities. Now they can go to scouts instead of scouts coming to them which was, and still is, not always possible and almost never ideal due to travel, weather, schedule length. It’s rough.

Eric: Let’s start talking about some guys here. You’ve got Ethan Martin all the way up at #2. Explain.

Jonathan: Here’s the funny thing about Martin, and this is where my methodology comes in to play, I had him lower on my preliminary Phillies list. But, when I got back my Top 100 spreadsheets from all the teams, he had made the Top 100 easily. The industry really likes him because his stuff is so good. He’s definitely high risk, though. I’m not sure what he’ll end up being.

Eric: Another guy you’re the high man on is someone a lot of people have soured on, Sebastian Valle. What can you tell me there?

Jonathan: He’s very complicated to figure out. Lots are down on him, sure, because the approach has not progressed. He hasn’t done that and his numbers have not only stagnated but in most cases have gone backwards. Now he’s all the way up at Triple-A and Tommy Joseph is ready to pass him. The defense has really become polished. Good arm strength, receiving, it’s all improved. I keep reminding myself that this guys is only 22 years old and is already at Triple-A and maybe he’s been focusing on the glove so much to get there that the bat hasn’t received the attention it needs to develop. I think he might reclaim some of that clout. Worst case scenario is you have a decent backup catcher in your system who’s only 22. You know, while it lacks a star, there are lots of interesting guys in this system. Adam Morgan is really interesting. How often do scouts either incorrectly evaluate a guy’s stuff or a guy’s stuff suddenly improves? (Eric’s note: Like, never) He should be higher on my list. Three potential plus pitches and 6 control? I think he’s a #4 at the very worst.

Eric: You’ve got Austin Wright at #10. Jim Callis mentioned him as a guy that he liked to bust out this year. What are your thoughts?

Jonathan: Depends on what happens with  the changeup and the command. 6’4” 230lb lefties with 6 fastballs are hard to find. I think the guy I like to break out is Carlos Tocci. Apparently he’s put on eight or ten pounds or so this offseason. It doesn’t seem like much but for someone who only weighs 160lbs, that’s a lot. He doesn’t turn 18 until August and he’ll probably be 17 years old playing in Short Season ball which really speaks to his feel and polish. He could move quickly.

(Jonathan and I discuss his plans to see Notre Dame prospect, Eric Jagielo, when the Irish visit Pitt this spring)

Thus concludes the 2013 edition of Phillies Prospect Conversations. Here is a link to the rest of the discussions I’ve had, check those out and say something mean about me in the comments section if you’d like.

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12 comments

  1. Phan analysis

    March 09, 2013 01:49 AM

    Definitely interesting stuff about his process for the top 100 list. Never would have thought that he didn’t put his own opinions into them.

    I got a question for you. Is there a good site that not only has a magnitude of prospect video, but is easy to peruse for the player(s) that you are trying to look at specifically? Seems like I either find sites that have a boatload of video, but the UI is sketchy, or I can easily find a player profile page, yet it only has a 30 second video of the player taking cuts in the on deck circle (true story). If you could point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. Eric Longenhagen

    March 09, 2013 10:19 AM

    I do not. If I want to watch video on guys I just search on youtube and it’s hit and miss as far as quality and helpfulness. MLBProspectPortal has some good videos. It doesn’t hold a candle to in-person evaluation, though.

  3. Bxe1234

    March 09, 2013 11:48 AM

    Eric, kinda seems like Mayo’s list is the least likely to include statistical considerations. Based on how he compiles it, do you think that’s the case. If not for the league, then at least for the Phils, since we know how little they seem to rely on “advanced” metrics like, you know, getting on base, (which might explain Valle being so high).

  4. Seth B.

    March 09, 2013 01:24 PM

    His methodology might not be a good sign of who we should be excited about, but rather an indication of the prospect’s trade value. Though, its probably the big leaguers the phils are more likely to be trading sometime soon.

  5. Free_AEC

    March 09, 2013 01:35 PM

    If anyone who stops here is familiar with Jonathan Pettibone could you please tell me if what you have seen from him in his two appearances this spring are representative of who he is?

    I am shocked at what I have witnessed. He has been a pitch to contact guy in the minors and had an elite ground ball rate last year. I was expecting to see a vicious sinkerball from him and instead I saw high heat and the high heat was the only good offering he exhibited. I cannot imagine how he would ever generate ground balls with that collection of pitches. He certainly has not so far. His low fastballs have been hammered for three HR (though the Dominican game has not been officially recorded).

    Keith Law in a chat question last year seemed to pop on me when I characterized Pettibone as a “stealth prospect” and responded that Pettibone “has a good plan when he takes the mound”. I have not seen anything resembling a plan and the results speak to that.

    Based on what I’ve seen so far I would have to rate him as a dreaded “NP”.

  6. Eric Longenhagen

    March 09, 2013 06:15 PM

    Brad,

    I don’t think anyone I’ve talked to relies heavily on statistical analysis, if at all, for evaluating prospects, especially below Double-A. I know I don’t care too much about them, they’re not indicative of a player’s skill set, good or bad.

    Free_AEC,

    Pettibone is a pitchability righty. Average fastball, changeup flashes plus, breaking balls are just okay. He doesn’t have a sinker but gets groundballs from downhill plane because he’s a bigger dude. Don’t write him off just because he hasn’t looked good in the spring (he’s likely a backend starter). And in the future, don’t make the mistake ofblooking at a minor leaguer’s ground ball rate and assuming it’s meaningful or says anything about his skill set.

  7. Free_AEC

    March 09, 2013 08:14 PM

    In that pair of two inning appearances Pettibone had nothing that you just wrote of. No downhill plane, no changeup. Anything he threw down that didn’t hit the ground went up, and then went far. Pettibone looked like a raw pitcher still trying to develop his secondary pitches.

    I’m astonished at what I saw and also with Baseball America’s placement of Pettibone ahead of Morgan and Martin. Unfortunately, Morgan has not pitched on TV, but Martin looks great. His first appearance his fastball was actually better than Kimbrel’s. Rising, buzzing, twisting. Ethan Martin is ready to pitch out of the pen and produce long strings of shutdown innings. He’ll go down in April to set his arbitration clock for that seventh year, but he’ll be right back. Papelbon, Adams, Aumont, Martin, Bastardo and Diekman. Strong.

  8. Free_AEC

    March 10, 2013 09:25 AM

    I have another question.

    What do you know about 3B Zach Green drafted out of high school. He was a SS there and has been moved to 3B. He hit with some power in GCL and is expected to be good with the glove at 3B, but no one says anything good about him. Is his hit tool flawed so he’s expected to facepalm at Lakewood?

    BTW, I __love__ Drew Ward as the Phillies 1st pick in the draft. Monster bat and if Michael Young is a 3B then 6′ 6″ Drew Ward will have no trouble remaining there. He’s the Phillies third big time 3B talent.

  9. Bxe1234

    March 10, 2013 03:14 PM

    I get that most people are not relying on lower level stats as much more than pass/fail and looking for trends, but with a guy like Valle sticking so high, I was wondering if the Phils and hence Mayo don’t see the flags that everyone looking at bb rates sees with Valle. Maybe it’s just coincidental that concensus has Valle quite low and the only guy who has him this high is stating he relies heavily on info from the organizations.

  10. Eric Longenhagen

    March 10, 2013 04:18 PM

    I haven’t seen Green and he didn’t come up in any discussions I’ve had with evaluators this offseason. I assume I’ll see him in Willimasport at some point this summer and I’ll get back to you.

    As far as Drew Ward goes, he does have soft hands and good feet for someone who is so big. Last I saw him (on video) I didn’t like the way he handled the bat and thought he lacked strength. It’s been too long since I’ve seen him to comment further but it seems like he’s got sandwich round grades on him right now.

  11. Free_AEC

    March 11, 2013 10:46 AM

    I don’t know what you’re looking at in regard to Ward’s hit tool. He has massive power. Adam Dunn is a good comp. Reputation for patience at the plate. Look at some more video. There is at least one where he goes down for a low ball and murders it to the opposite field, clear out of the park and those in the crowd can be heard making awestruck sounds.

    Drew Ward is a monster. If he could divide himself in half the Texas Rangers would use their two 1st round picks to grab both halves of Ward.

    The kid with the weak bat is Austin Meadows. I don’t know where all the hype came from.

  12. AntsinIN

    March 16, 2013 11:24 AM

    So THAT’S why his lists are always so ridiculous. That’s some pretty terrible methodology.

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