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.