TDG Roubdtable: Evaluating Prospects for 2021
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s roundtable topic is a strategy question instead of our usual analysis question, how are you evaluating prospects for 2021?
Over the last five years, I have enjoyed searching the names of my prospects on Twitter to see how they performed each day. I know that I am not the only one who misses this. During the season I could evaluate how prospects were doing in their minor league level and make decisions on their future with my fantasy team. For instance, if a prospect was struggling in Double-A, and the year before they weren’t exactly lighting it up in High-A, then there could be the temptation to move that prospect in a trade that made sense. I can’t do this evaluating now!
The primary way that I will be evaluating minor league prospects will be through international prospects. We all know how much MLB talent comes from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and other places around the world. For the prospects signed by major league teams out of these countries, I will place them higher on my draft list. There is also something to say of MLB teams having 60 man player pools. This allowed teams to have a close eye on the best prospects in their system. We don’t have eyes on all the development in these leagues. We also don’t have daily Twitter stats. What we do have is many prospects who have been promoted out of these player pools. Let’s all hope we have the Arizona Fall League. Then we would remember how great we had it in 2019.
Having no minor league season has thrown a real wrench into my dynasty leagues this year. Not only is it great fun to watch your favorite players improve and excel, I’ve been successful over the years dealing from my minor league depth for major league talent, and picking up the next up and comer with the vacated minor league roster spot.
As far as evaluating prospects, or how I anticipate “Ranking SZN” to go, I’ll probably be giving a push to players who did well in High-A and Double-A ball in 2019, and downgrade the rookie leagues and Low-A ball guys who ‘need more seasoning’. There are guys out there who were considered elite athletes but need more game reps, and simply are not getting the game reps in 2020. Jasson Dominguez and Erick Pena are perfect examples of players I’ll have others passing in my rankings, if even just a little. Both have incredible athleticism, but a full year off could really slow their development.
A great example of how time away from the game can affect a player is Victor Victor Mesa. I’ll admit most of his poor production in 2019 was because he was simply over-scouted and over-hyped coming in. But… he also had a year off from professional baseball while he waited to be cleared to sign, and then had an entire offseason to wait before he saw an American field.
Now I’m not dropping these types of players far, but if I have a tier of 4 or 5 prospects I’m undecided who to put first, I might drop the development player down to the bottom of that tier in spite of the upside. I was tempted to add other players like Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, CJ Abrams to this bias, but these guys were invited to the summer camp and are playing at the alternate site. The reverse could be possible here, as facing older and more experienced competition with better coaching could actually accelerate their development.
On a final note, I’m going to be keeping any news I do hear about prospects in perspective. With very little news on how prospects are developing, anything I hear gets me excited and tempted to bump said player up. I’m doing my best to take things in stride, and ask if the news is just a reporter doing their job and publishing what they learn, or if there’s an actual improvement in the players’ game.
Hopefully, we’ll find out the answers to all this next April if things can return to some semblance of normal.
One of the few pluses of no minor league season is we no longer have to hear, “don’t scout the stat line,” exclaimed—a banal-at-best cliché. On the downside, people like me who go through great pains to try and “scout the stat line” in a responsible and contextualized way, without ignoring scouting, literally have nothing to go off of in 2021. There will be no top stats-only pitching and hitting prospects lists this year, obviously. I, along with everyone else, will be relying on scouting exclusively to update our analyses from the 2019 off-season. In a world increasingly obsessed with big data and analytics, it is a kind of delicious irony, where we “Moneyball” enthusiasts are forced to embrace traditional scouting. For me, someone unskilled in scouting, this means consuming a lot of primary accounts from trusted sources—people like The Dynasty Guru’s Shelly Verougstraete, Jesse Roche and the rest of the Baseball Prospectus team, James Anderson at Rotowire, and the teams at Prospects Live, MLB.com, Baseball America, FanGraphs, Razzball, Prospects1500, Prospects365, Pitcher List, Prospect One Podcast, Imaginary Brick Wall, etc. I’m just sharing the first names that come to mind and don’t mean to exclude anybody– I certainly consume a lot more than just these sources. As someone who loves analyzing statistics, embracing scouting for an off-season is an experiment I’m looking forward to–a fun forced a change of pace. I’m also hoping it’ll be a learning experience, allowing me to better incorporate scouting information into my evaluations when the minor leagues do eventually return.
Like many things in 2020, I expect evaluating prospects for 2021 to be frustrating and full of misinformation. Yet, it needs to be done. The biggest piece of advice I have, for myself and for everyone reading, is to pay specific attention to people who have actually had eyes on players, whether during the 2020 season or right before. Those first-hand accounts are going to be gold. I fully expect “Ranking Season” to turn into “Rampaging Speculation Season” at some point in the next few months, and it’s going to be extremely hard not to overreact to even the smallest bit of news. That being said, just like any other year, I do plan to make some (hopefully) low-risk, high-reward trades and off-season pickups in the hopes that I strike some fantasy gold along the way. Still have to find a way to make this offseason enjoyable, right!?
Have fun with it, keep a level head, read reputable scouting reports when you can find them, and heed the wisdom of Shelly Verougstrate, Jesse Roche, James Anderson (Rotowire), Rich Wilson and Tim McLeod at Prospect361, etc. Oh, and pray that we never see another season like this.
Follow us on Twitter!
The Dynasty Guru: @DynastyGuru
Jordan Rosenblum: @RosenJordanBlum
Brett Cyphers: @BeautyOfGrace32
Ken Balderston: @KenInToronto
Taylor Case: @TCasesLoaded
And follow the podcasts on twitter @DynastysChild
Join The Dynasty Guru Facebook group!
Tons of posts, debates, and many replies from writers here at TDG!
If you love what we do here and want to help us keep making it, or if you want downloadable access to a whole ton of content, you can donate a minimum of $5 to receive exclusive downloadable access to the entirety of our ultra-deep dynasty rankings. That includes TDG’s Top 500 for standard leagues, TDG’s Top 500 for OBP leagues, TDG’s Top 150 prospects, and our entire rankings series in the downloadable form.