Remember that horrifying scene in The Conjuring where the kids are all playing that stupid “hide and clap” game together in the house? This poor little girl is wandering around her family’s demon-possessed hell-hole of a home, blindfolded and completely unable to see, playing a sick, vintage version of hide-and-seek that was apparently popular in New England in the early 1970s. Later in the film, their mom joins in on this foolishness and problems only escalate from there. I was forever scarred.
Why would anyone ruin something as classic and pure as hide-and-seek, or baseball for that matter, by throwing a blindfold into the equation? I can only imagine what that would have resulted in during my childhood. One second you’re walking around blindfolded looking for your friends, the next second one of them is punching you in the face. Great prank, guys. Thanks.
For baseball, however, the blindfold tactic can actually prove to be useful, though I recommend removing it prior to draft day to avoid assembling a roster similar to that of some of my league-mates. If we take an in-depth look at players without knowing their names, compare the numbers and trends side-by-side, formulate opinions and then restore their identities, we might actually be better off. It goes without saying that it’s always a good idea to revisit video after one of these exercises. No matter what the numbers say, I will never put stock in a guy whose swing makes me barf. Think exhilarating but gut-wrenching like chaw mixed with fair rides.
In this piece, I will be breaking down three different prospects who are almost undoubtedly owned in any dynasty league: Prospect A, Prospect B and Prospect C. Some may even be owned in mid-to-deep keeper formats. As we go through this exercise, I urge you to draw tempered conclusions about each prospect without looking elsewhere to determine who they might be. Don’t ruin the fun – I’m going to reveal the names of each at the very end anyway.
All three of these players reached the Double-A level in 2019 and played a minimum of 60 games at the Minor Leagues’ penultimate level. They are also quite similar in age, as each prospect is either 22 or 23 years old. Seeing as Prospects A, B and C were all primed for MLB debuts sometime in 2020, the number of variables influencing the attractiveness of these blind resumes have been carefully thought through and minimized. As a result, your blind evaluations of these players should be tied solely to their scouting grades, statistical output and measured improvements throughout their time in the Minors. That and any other tidbits I sprinkle in along the way.
After reading all three, ask yourself: which guy would I rather have? Then, revisit this question upon their names being revealed. Most likely, your true evaluation lies somewhere in between. You might even realize that you actually value one prospect over another, despite having put significant fantasy capital into the latter. My goal is to assist you in building unbiased evaluations of these three players as to leave unreliable factors out of the equation, such as name familiarity, hype, prospect ranking, team preference, good looks, status as a potential love interest, etc. The eye test does not fall into that category.
Let’s begin with Prospect A, a truly creative starting point by any measure.
As the oldest of the bunch, Prospect A will turn 24 years old this upcoming August. 2019 represented his first full season in the Minor Leagues, which he used to rise smoothly from Single-A, to High-A, to Double-A. All told, Prospect A posted a .305/.378/.475 slash in 2019, including 21 home runs (55 XBH), 80 RBI, 76 runs and six steals across a 125 game/475 at bat sample size. That line largely reflects his scouting grades of a 60-hit tool, 55-power and 35-legs. Some scouts even have the power maxing out at a future value of 70.
Prospect A struck out 73 times last year across the aforementioned three levels, contrasted with 57 walks. That translated to a 13.5 K% and 10.6 BB%, highly encouraging signs for a hitter in his first full professional season. This profile is backed by what scouts saw out of Prospect A coming into the MLB Draft in ????, as he was tabbed with a mature approach at the plate, plus-bat speed and above average zone coverage. People appear to love the intangibles with Prospect A, who is lauded for his work ethic and overall character. I actually don’t care a ton about the latter, but knowing won’t kill you. Unless you get so excited about it that you run outside, embrace your DoorDash deliveryman in celebration and contract COVID-19. Remember, being blindfolded doesn’t give anyone the excuse to act stupid. Stay inside and help make the world a safer place.
Let’s begin to narrow our focus, like 12-year-old me at a nude section of South Beach. Looking solely at Prospect A’s Double-A numbers, we see roughly the same player in regard to his swing-and-miss tendencies and idea of the strike zone: a 14.1 K%, up just 0.6% from his collective 2019 mark, paired with a nearly identical 10.4 BB%. Even if the strikeout numbers were up a little bit more, I wouldn’t be concerned, since a rate in the low-to-mid teens is great for anyone (Mike Trout posted an even 20.0 K% in 2019), let alone a young player still refining his swing and adapting to the strength of opposing pitching at each stop along the way. Plus, Prospect A actually performed worse in each of those categories at rookie level and Low-A in 2018, in which he struck out at a 14.6% clip and walked in only 7.6% of plate appearances.
As for the rest of his Double-A output, we do see reduced on-base ability and slightly improved slugging, although the dip in average and OBP could possibly be chalked up to the learning curve, as these were Prospect A’s first 63 games (238 AB) at Double-A. Over those 63 games, Prospect A slashed .269/.344/.500 with 14 home runs (26 XBH), 42 RBI, 38 runs and two steals. In the process, he produced a .377 wOBA and 146 wRC+. Prorated to a full season of 600 plate appearances (feel free to let out a groan for every time that exercise has let you down), that equates to 31 homers, 93 RBI, 84 runs and four stolen bases for a prospect in his first full pro season and first taste of Double-A action. Those projections also come with an underlying .265 BABIP at Double-A for a prospect who is known to spray the ball with relative ease.
Judged by the overall hitting profile of Prospect A and his 60-hit tool, don’t assume this is a .269 hitter at the Major League level – although I do love a guy who goes above and beyond to post an average ending in .69. Also worth mentioning, Prospect A raked in Arizona Fall League action this past offseason: .361/.397/.528 with two home runs and six doubles across 72 at bats, although his strikeouts did rise to a 20.5% clip in that small sample size. His combined numbers in the Minors don’t provide much beyond his 2019 resume, as he logged just 40 games/139 at bats at rookie level and Low-A in 2018 – and it took him until his first full pro season to leave the yard. With that, here’s the Minor League totals: .293/.368/.474, 21 homers (63 XBH), 97 RBI, 93 runs, 13.8 K% and 9.9 BB%
I’m not going to include the year or overall number this player came off the board in the MLB Draft just yet, as that will likely reveal the true identity – which some of the savvier readers may already have figured out. However, I will tell you that this right-handed hitting corner infielder is considered by many to be a future middle-of-the-lineup bat. The swing is purty for the most part, with potential to drive the ball out of the park to all fields, although I do see a slight bat lag in the swing between the load and explosion of the hips – nothing a few minutes in the cage with Pop Fisher can’t fix.
Hey B! What up, B? Just one of many sayings I often use to feel hip. For Prospect B, 94 games and 375 at bats at the Double-A level in 2019 is what’s up, or at least why he’s a part of this conversation. Here’s my man B’s prospect grades: 60-hit, 55-60 power and 45-50 legs. Unlike Prospects A and C, this is a left-handed hitter, known for his ability to drive the ball to all fields throughout his time in the Minors. Personally, when I watch this swing, I see a controlled bat head and efficient swing path, and the head (as in his actual head, like one with a face) stays pretty steady with minimal movement. This is a corner outfield bat with versatility to also play first base.
Prospect B made his Double-A debut in 2019, his second full Minor League season, where he spent the entirety of the campaign from beginning to end. Here’s how he fared over those 94 games: .283/.343/.413 with nine home runs (29 XBH), 43 RBI, 47 runs and seven steals, including a .347 wOBA and 121 wRC+. Alongside this production, Prospect B struck out at an 18.5% clip and drew walks at a 7.1% rate. That K% signaled a 3.2% upward spike from his 15.3 K% in 2018, which Prospect B spent at Single-A and High-A, although the walks stayed more-or-less constant (up 0.3%). Truthfully, the 2019 numbers aren’t bad, in fact they’re above average, but they don’t jump off the page.
In 2018, however, Prospect B mashed to the tune of a .348/.392/.578 line with 20 homers (71 XBH), 101 RBI, 75 runs and four steals while appearing in 130 games (561 PA/512 AB). In 65 games at High-A, he churned out a .424 wOBA and 168 wRC+, significantly better than his 2019 Double-A production. We’ve seen this before, right? A prospect performs exceedingly well in the lower minors and then begins to run into a little more trouble in Double-A, where some of the game’s more talented players are challenged for the first time in their lives. Except Prospect B’s 2019 stats don’t exactly scream struggle bus. In fact, he wrestled with the injury bug a little last season, which could also explain why the slugging was down more than .160 points.
For the complete picture, here’s Prospect B’s career Minor League numbers: .317/.365/.498, 36 home runs (117 XBH), 177 RBI, 155 runs, 11 stolen bases, 16.1 K% and 6.5 BB% across 279 games. Sometimes complete pictures are nice, other times they leave you feeling like you should have stopped that conversation with your parents about how they met thirty minutes ago. To me, full Minor League stat lines are only helpful if I know the individual samples at each level along the way. So you’re welcome.
If we prorate Prospect B’s 2019 Double-A stat line the same way we did with Prospect A, you get a player contributing 13 home runs, 62 RBI, 68 runs and 10 steals across a full season. Still, I don’t think that is a fair assessment in terms of the power production, as Prospect B projected to slug 23 long balls over a 600 PA season in 2018 and a big part of that can be attributed to the injury component. The steals can be taken for what they are. With 45-50 legs, this player will never be a huge SB contributor, but he could make strides in that department if he’s able to mature into a more efficient base stealer, seeing as he’s been successful on just 52.4% of attempts in the Minors. I won’t get too into what I really think, as that somewhat destroys the purpose of a blind resume and I’ve already gotten my feet wet in that regard. Plus, I’m hungry and really need a break.
The four C’s of effective communication are said to be conciseness, clarity, completeness and correctness. In this breakdown of Prospect C, I will attempt to incorporate all of those characteristics while delivering you a beautifully gift-wrapped prospect resume that you cannot see, being blindfolded and all.
Prospect C, a true first baseman by trade, also reached and spent all of 2019 at the Double-A level. While making the jump, he remained pretty much the same hitter he has been collectively through Minors from 2017-19. Last year, Prospect C slashed .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs (33 XBH), 55 RBI, 61 runs and two stolen bases. The advanced metrics also handed him a .371 wOBA and 132 wRC+. One could argue that line may have been boosted by a .346 BABIP, although Prospect C also batted .303/.375/.458 in 120 High-A games in 2018 with an even higher .363 BABIP. This player has 55-60 legs, which is fast but not blazing, so the speed explains some of that but not all.
Although Prospect C finished with a 23.0 K% in 2019 and owns a career MiLB mark of 20.4%, he makes incredibly hard contact on the balls he does connect with. This was widely known about Prospect C when he was evaluated as a draft prospect and this trend has continued throughout his Minor League career. With that hard contact calling card comes a mature ability to hit to all fields and an advanced approach that should allow him to be a .290-.300+ hitter at the Big League level. As mentioned, Prospect C does possess above-average speed but he’s not much of a stolen base threat, evidenced by seven career steals over 230 games in the Minors.
In those 230 games, Prospect C amassed 1,011 plate appearances and 906 at bats. He performed at a .296/.361/.471 clip during that time and blasted 32 homers (85 XBH) with 133 RBI and 139 runs. Coupled with his career 20.4 K% is a 8.6 BB%, as Prospect C owns 206 Minor League punch-outs juxtaposed with 87 walks. The strikeout rates have risen steadily during his professional journey: 10.9 K% at Low-A, 19.1% at High-A and 23.0% at Double-A. The walks have also decreased steadily alongside that trend.
That said, there’s a good chance Prospect C is closer to the type of player that his projected 600 PA output at Double-A depicts: 27 homers, 82 RBI, 91 runs and three steals to go with a .293 AVG/.350 OBP depending on your league rules. Knowing the trend we have seen with power at the Major League level, I think there’s clear potential for 30+ homers in this bat and the steals could also creep closer to double digits with maturity and the proper coaching. There’s also no question as to where he’ll be defensively, as he’s solid with the leather. In an attempt to incorporate a joke here, I looked up what you call people who work with leather. Come to find out, the answer is leatherworkers. Lame!
Removing the Blindfolds
So, not knowing the names or physical attributes such as height and weight, who are you taking? How would you rank these three and, given the information provided, where do you think these players would fall in the minds of industry experts?
What you know: all are 22-23 years of age. All played at least 60 games at Double-A in 2019. All looked to be, at minimum, on the cusp of MLB debuts in 2020. All have some pretty attractive fantasy tools. What you don’t know: all three are top 60 prospects that various readers recently requested detailed breakdowns for in the comments section.
You likely know all three of these prospects very well and may have even uncovered one or more of their identities along the way. If you did, you sly devil you, feel free to pipe up in the comments section and proclaim your sheer and utter brilliance.
Prospect A was drafted third overall in the 2018 MLB Draft out of college. Wichita State, in fact. Shocker? Brutal crack, I know. He has a 6’ 5” frame and weighs 225 lbs. Prospect A is Alec Bohm of the Phillies organization.
Prospect B was the lone member of this group to be drafted out of high school, when he was selected No. 15 overall in 2016. He is the pride and joy of Plum High School in Pennsylvania and stands at 6’ 2” and 195 lbs. Yep – it’s Twins prized prospect Alex Kirilloff.
Prospect C was the lowest draft pick of the bunch, but the quickest to haul in the riches. Drafted No. 17 overall out of Kentucky in 2017, he recently inked a six-year contract extension. He is 6’ 3” and 205 lbs. He is the presumed starter for the Seattle Mariners at first base, Evan White. In White’s profile, I didn’t get too much into his plus-plus defense at first base, as that would have given him away – but if you haven’t watched the tape, this guy can seriously pick it. I hear they even call him “The Wedgie.”
Two final points before I sign off. One: under no circumstance do I recommend using partial season Minor League sample sizes to project full-season output in a vacuum. That is stupid. That is also why I did my best to include as much data, both raw and metric-based, to paint a well-rounded picture of each player. I believe all of these tools are most useful when utilized in unison. That’s right – by U & I, son!
Two: often times with blind resumes, the overarching purpose is to show that valuing one player significantly more than another is a mistake, and that the two are actually closer in production than we think. That is not exactly what this aimed to accomplish. With prospects, we tend to fall in love quickly and remain in love, discard struggles and write them off as growing pains, and many of us get screwed by holding onto the wrong ones for too long when our resources could have been allocated more efficiently. I inadvertently just described every relationship of my life from the sixth grade to high school graduation.
That said, the goal was to help you evaluate three highly-touted prospects without the name awareness or anyone instantly gravitating to one player because they already own them and want them to succeed. Maybe, you’re an avid Alex Kirilloff owner, have had him since your first-year player draft in 2017, and now realize you like Alec Bohm a whole heck of a lot more. If that’s so, mission accomplished.