Today we talk with Baseball Prospectus writer Ron Shah, a part of Jason Parks' team of writers who cover amateur and minor league baseball talent.
While some of Shah's work is under the subscriber pay-wall, a recent feature entitled "Eyewitness Reports" is free content. The first report you will find there is for prep left-hander and potential Number One overall draft pick Brady Aiken by Ron Shah. These reports cover both potential draft picks and recent/current minor-league players.
Shah started to pursue his goal of working in baseball last year when he was a writer at True Blue LA. Currently attending UC Riverside, Shah has been watching high school and college games as well as the Area Code Games and Perfect Game's draft showcases in the Southern California area. Shah started writing for Baseball Prospectus during the latter part of the 2013 season.
When looking at potential bats in the draft, Shah says "high school and even college hitters are hard to evaluate, starting with high school guys, stats are unreliable because you don't what kind of competition he is facing." So instead Shah says "you are just looking for tools, tools for hitting. You are looking for bat speed because you can't teach bat speed. You look for a good clean swing, if someone has an uppercut, you're probably not going to fix that, If someone gets their front foot down early, you can get to that in player development."
Shah said that in order to judge a skill like bat speed, you need the repetition of seeing many players in order to be able to grade it. And results don't always mean a batter has this skill, as an example Shah said "A.J. Reed [college infielder] has a ton of home runs and he has 70 [on 20-80 scale] raw power but that is because of how strong he is, he doesn't have premium bat speed."
Shah said one reason you see a lot of high school shortstops and center fielders mentioned as early draft picks is because tools that relate to overall speed and arm strength are easier to grade and project.
Shah addressed the idea that a scouting report is based on a "small sample size" and he said you don't really want to file a report on a hitter unless you have seen him play a series or on a pitcher that hasn't gone through a lineup a few times.
As an example, Shah was at Rancho Cucamonga's opening night game and saw Dodger pitching prospect Chris Anderson have a poor first inning, Anderson would only get two outs. Shah said he didn't write that up because it was obviously a bad night and he would wait until he saw him again to grade his progress.
Shah added even if a batter has a good series, you still are looking at tools and trying not to get locked into results, "if I am at a college game and the number 9 hitter is hitting .210 but goes 4 for 4 on assorted grounders and bloops," that isn't going to stand out to him.
Looking at today's draft, Shah is right in line with the projection that high school left-hand pitcher Brady Aiken will be the first player taken in the draft. Shah first saw Aiken pitch last year in the Area Code Games adding that in Aiken, you have "a clean delivery, good fastball [92-93], deception, and the second best curve ball of all prep pitchers." One other thing Shah added is that his high school program really watched Aiken's pitch count and innings knowing that Alken was going to be a high draft pick.
High school outfielder Derek Hill out of Northern California is someone that has been connected to the Dodgers, noting his father is a Dodger area scout. Shah said that Hill has top tools in running speed and defense. "He's a center fielder with a 70 right now, he puts the bat on the ball and he knows what kind of hitter he will be."
Shah said that though he expects a few college relievers to go early like Nick Burdi and Nick Howard, most teams will at least want to try them as starters first though someone like Burdi could pitch just a few weeks in AA and then join the major league club.
Shah also said that the second best player he has seen this year is prep catcher Alex Jackson, right now it is hard to project if he stays at catcher, Shah said that he thinks he will play outfield.
Shah says the one thing he was a little surprised to learn during the past year or so of watching lots of games more closely is how important a player's make up is for his development. Shah says he sees players with a lot of tools but you can see they are not working hard or not taking instruction. Shah adds that for him, make up is the "6th tool" and "you really want to make sure your players have that so you don't have to worry about it during their development for the next 5-6 or more years."
You can follow Ron on Twitter at
@Rontrarian and you can read his "Eyewitness Reports" on BaseballProspectus.com