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Prospects Live : Draft Board

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“(Editor’s Note: This is a draft board written and ranked by Nathaniel Plotts. You may know him as @eccentricladdie on Twitter. His primer below explains how this differs from our Top 101 and we’re excited to share his version, which relies heavily on an analytical point of view)

This board is a bit different than your typical board. A lot of teams these days value draft models, and this board--while not an actual model--will be a bit more in alignment with teams who weigh models heavily. Models are unique team-to-team, but most teams’ inputs are filled with TrackMan data, Blast Motion data, Rapsodo data (for prep pitchers mainly), and more modern mechanical traits that are easily identifiable on motion capture devices (for hitters) such as upper/lower body separation, proper kinetic sequencing, arm path, Vertical Bat Angle (a newer one that some of the more progressive teams have begun looking into that I think has real value for evaluation purposes), etc. 

All this is not to say that a traditional type board is without value, as the best scouting departments, in my opinion, are able to look at the traditional scouting reports and the data-centric scouting reports to come up with a singular opinion on a prospect. An organization who weighs one over the other significantly (e.g. Houston not listening to scouts at all under Jeff Luhnhow) is likely leaving potential paths for talent discovery on the table. So while this board might be a bit against the grain in some ways, I would caution you not to view data as the end-all-be-all, and similarly not to view true “eye-test” scouting as the end-all-be-all. There is a place for both, and utilizing both is a way to potentially optimize the talent an organization has in their scouting department.

Scouting Vernacular 

VBA — Vertical Bat Angle, the angle of the bat at contact. For example, a perfectly flat bat would achieve a 0° VBA and a bat that is perpendicular to the ground would achieve a 90° VBA. VBA is positively correlated with BABIP and xwOBA among other metrics as a steeper (normally > 30°) VBA tends to allow the hitter to decrease the batted ball spin thus increasing distance and the consistency of quality contact.

Launch Angle Tightness — How close are a player's batted balls to his average launch angle? A common metric used to measure this is Launch Angle Standard Deviation. Similar to VBA, Launch Angle Tightness allows the evaluator to get a better understanding for how consistently a hitter is able to produce solid contact — if their LA Standard Deviation is lower, they’re hitting more balls closer to their average LA which means they’re minimizing miss hits (extremely high and low LAs).

Spin Efficiency, Transverse Spin, Gyro Spin — All three of these phrases are terms pertaining to movement characteristics on a pitch. A pitch with a high spin efficiency will have more transverse spin which is spin that leads to movement, and a pitch with a low spin efficiency will have a high amount of gyro spin which is spin that doesn’t lead to movement (think football spin) . Normally, FBs and CBs should have higher spin efficiencies to generate more transverse spin resulting in carry/run for a FB and sweep/drop for a CB. SLs, on the other hand, should have lower spin efficiencies as the goal is to stop it from having too much backspin (cutter/fastball movement profile) or too much topspin (curveball profile).

Spin Axis — Another phrase pertaining to pitch design/movement characteristics. Spin axis describes the axis that the pitch spins on. A pitch with pure backspin will be thrown with a 12:00 axis and a pitch with pure topspin will be thrown with a 6:00 axis. Progressive teams tend to value fastballs with vertical axes (12:30 for RHP, 11:30 for LHP) as those axes generate carry up in the zone which leads to swings and misses.

Batted Ball Profile — Generally relates to exit velocity and launch angle data for prospects. A lot of pro teams look at maximum exit velocity when trying to get a grasp on a hitter’s raw power/capacity to hit the ball hard.

Mechanical Terminology — Hip hinge is the movement for pitchers and hitters in which they drop their hips (like one would while doing a deadlift or a squat). Separation is creating a stretch between the upper and lower body, and beneficial for both hitters and pitchers when trying to generate rotational acceleration. Lateral tilt is how the shoulders are lined up at contact for a hitter (lead shoulder should be leveraged above back shoulder). Arm raise/timing relates to a pitcher’s arm when their foot reaches foot strike — ideally the arm is just getting into an upright position; if it’s late or early there are problems re: energy leakage, potential injuries, and other inconsistencies. “

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“One of the most talented bats in this draft, the always hitting Nick Gonzales is a top prospect in 2020. After going on one of the craziest runs in college baseball of the past three years, Gonzales has shown the bat isn’t just boosted by Amateur Coors (Presley Askew Field) as shown in an outstanding summer on the Cape.

Gonzales has excellent bat control and finds the barrel easy with raw power that shines. Although some questions remain for his legitimacy to be more than just a line drive hitter at the professional level. Gonzales has a very good sense of the strike zone, with a 45/30 BB/K last year.

Although he has improved in that area and New Mexico State played him in short stop this year, Gonzales still gives up some defensive errors here and there. The arm isn’t quite strong enough to play elsewhere than second base but the bat more than makes up for it. Some questions still show up about Gonzales’ physical ceiling as he is pretty well built already at 5’10” 190, adding on to the question of if Gonzales is better suited as a gap-to-gap hitter at the next level. Regardless, Gonzales is a very talented player and can become a very useful player at the professional level.””

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I like the position we’re in a lot. I’d be very excited about any of the top 4 guys on that  board. 

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I’d say I’m almost more excited about the next two picks than the first one. Can really add some top end talent this draft.

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