A more accurate title for this post would have been “interpreting scouting reports of prospects for the purposes of fantasy baseball” but that’s a bit too much. I did a similar primer on fantasy prospects last year, and while some of this info will be the same, it’s always good to take a deep breath and look at the big picture before diving into the heart of the prospect season. This year’s minor league previews will (hopefully) be even more useful for fantasy players than last year’s. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve likely seen a traditional scouting report and have a general idea of how the 20-80 (or 2-8) scouting grades work. You’ve also probably heard of the “five tools”, which are hit, hit for power, run, field, and throw. Baseball reality is concerned with all of those tools, but fantasy players probably don’t care much about the last two on that list. There’s a ton of scouting information out there for the public now. So the question becomes how we can get down to brass tax and glean a quick fantasy profile from a traditional scouting report. Here’s a few thoughts on that…

Who wrote it?

Before we even get started, know whose reports you’re reading. Is this person a reliable source? Are they getting multiple looks throughout a season or did they see four total at bats? I’m not a scout, but I could probably BS a scouting report if I really tried because I have just enough information to be dangerous. My point is to be careful where the scouting information is coming from in the first place, that way the rest of this process isn’t all for nothing. The major outlets are the major outlets for a reason, and are usually a safe bet. Picking individuals to follow within those outlets is a matter of personal preference, but I like to get a few different points of view to compare and contrast.

How the grades work

Sometimes you’ll see single-digit grades (2-8), but most outlets use a double-digit scale that goes from 20-80. 50 is considered average, and the scale goes up and down from there. OFP (overall future potential) is a way of summing up the player and is a good way to weed out the guys you don’t even want to mess with in most leagues. A player whose OFP is 40 or lower doesn’t project as an everyday option and likely isn’t worth your time. After that, you’ll see grades for every tool, including grades on each of the pitches in a pitcher’s arsenal, their command, and their control. The yummy players are the ones with 60-grade, or “plus” tools. Really special tools get the 70, or “double-plus” grade. Elite tools are considered an 80, and are rarely thrown around. On the double-digit scales, you’ll sometimes see “55” or “65”. It’s basically common sense. The tool is kind of “in between” two grades. Single-digit grades make you pick one number or the other, and some folks like that better.

Game power vs. raw power

While it’s fun to dream on guys who hit light tower shots in batting practice, there’s a difference between what a guy does there and what he does in a game. That’s why most good reports will list these as separate grades or at least mention the difference in the report itself. Just being aware of this difference between the two types of power is half the battle. Power, in general, tends to develop later. In terms of converting the scouting grades for power into possible statistics – “average” or 50 power is in the ballpark of 15 homers. “Plus” (60) would look more like 25. “Double-plus” (70) is going to eclipse the 30-homer mark, and elite power is your 40-dinger guys. Giancarlo Stanton is the go-to as an example of 80 power. The hit tool can be looked at similarly, with a 50 grade equating to about a .260 average, and then going up about 20 points with each grade. That means 80 is roughly a .320 average, or Miguel Cabrera.

Speed

It’s a little harder to predict stolen bases. The reason is that your scouting grade for speed isn’t based on “how many steals you might get”. It’s just a raw home-to-first time. In fact, anybody reading this can take a stopwatch to a game and get a home-to-first time. Most scouting sites have a scale they use to then convert that time into a scouting grade for left-handed and right-handed hitters. So us fantasy players have to take that raw speed and then look for other factors listed in the report. Do they have good baserunning instincts? Are they aggressive? Coachable? These are things that may, down the road, turn raw speed into steals. Not every burner can steal bases in the majors, just like not every good basestealer has to necessarily be an “80” runner.

TORPs, MORPs, and BORPs

Pitchers are people too, so let’s talk about them real quick. Top-of-the-rotation pitchers (TORPs) are your studs. Middle-of-the-rotation pitchers (MORPs) are just fine too. BORPs (bottom-of-the-rotation pitchers) are the ones we probably won’t be building our fantasy rotations around any time soon. You can get a sense of where a pitcher might end up by how their tools are graded. Fastball velocity and life, break on the breaking balls, command, control…they’re all important. A good starter needs an arsenal, not just one plus pitch. He’ll also need control to be able to throw strikes. Command develops a little later for most arms, and that’s a little different from control. Command is hitting my spot, and that’s not necessarily always in the strike zone. We get wrapped up sometimes in trying to predict which arms will be “aces”. My advice would be to worry less about finding an ace and instead focus on finding players with good arsenals, projectability, and early signs of good command. Another way to look at pitchers is #1/#2 starters, #3 starters, and #4/#5 starters.

All of this is fluid

Scouting reports are tricky because the ones you read in April can be obsolete by the time you turn the calendar to June. So when it comes to prospects, I take everything with a grain of salt and focus more on “updates” and new first-hand reports as they come out. That way I don’t miss out on a guy who has made an adjustment or figured something out. If you read a lot of the updated reports you can sometimes see breakouts starting to happen. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, when reading the latest scouting reports is like the death diary of a once-loved prospect.

I’m not reading all that shizz Mike, so just give me the gist…

Sure thing. I look for a “pair of 6’s” for offensive players – a 6 hit grade and a 6 power grade. They’re usually good bets. After that, I tend to gravitate towards positions up the middle – where the best athletes on the field are usually playing – and I take more factors into account. For example, a player might have below average power and just an average hit tool, but he plays a good enough shortstop to stick at the position and he’s got double-plus speed. That can still turn into a useful fantasy piece down the road.

Basically, once you get comfortable with the grading scale and some of the lingo of various scouting reports, a lot of this is common sense. Read a ton of reports. Go to games. Don’t get sucked into just statistics. A good scout’s eyes will tell you things that the numbers can’t, and that’s how you get an edge when it comes to fantasy prospects.

  1. Packers says:
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    Very nice. Thanks

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      anytime…thanks for reading

  2. J-FOH says:
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    Mike = Danger

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      stranger danger!

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Mike: I would post a video of danger seeker from the Kentucky Fried Movie but that may rub some people the wrong way. You can look it up on your own but please not at school

  3. Gray's Sports Almanac says:
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    Thanks Mike! While I think I go the gist of most scouting reports and generally understood the lingo and ratings scale, having this detailed descriptions is very cool!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      awesome…glad it was helpful!

  4. STEVE B says:
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    maybe I’m missing something but where is the list

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      not sure what list you mean

    • Baezaworldseries says:
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      @STEVE B:
      Eggs
      milk
      noodles(gluten free)
      ketchup
      instant potatoes
      and bourbon. lots of bourbon

  5. Baezaworldseries says:
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    Do scouts put there #s out for anyone to see?
    Fangraphs is my go to site. On a 1-10 scale(10 being Lucadello). Where would you rank their analysis and future value predictions?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      McDaniel is awesome, but now he’s heading to the Braves. Problem with the reallly good scouts/writers that are out there is they go and get hired by actual baseball teams! Pretty sure he actually worked for teams prior to going to Fangraphs as well.

      John Sickels’ reports over at Minorleagueball are free…pay sites like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have scouting reports as well.

      As far as actual scouting reports from scouts working for organizations, you probably won’t find anything published. You might find anonymous quotes on players though, and those can be gold.

      • Baezaworldseries says:
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        @Mike:
        Love Kylie! ATL is like the big leagues of the big leagues when you’re talking about scouting.

        I hate to admit that it never crossed my mind this morning that a scout would NOT work for an MLB team. I imagine it was the combo of cold weather and codeine.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          for sure

          slurp that purp!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      solid resource

      thanks! me too :(

  6. Grey

    Grey says:
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    You are a total TORP

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      haha…thanks bud! you too!

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Mike: I have to agree with Grey there……I, on the other hand am a total MORP. I good location and some upside on my out-pitch but my biggest issue is the occasional blow ups that inflate my final ERA

  7. claw dog says:
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    Thanks for this Mike. I have 2 questions for you.

    1. When will you release an end of season top prospect list? Or are you only going to do the top 10 of every team?

    2. I have Addison Russell as one of my minor league keepers along with Yoan Moncada and I’m deciding on whether or not to drop him as a minor leaguer and pick up somebody new. We are allowed 3 minor leaguers, so I already have 1 pick and not keeping him would make 2 picks. Do you think a breakout is coming next year because it would be convenient for me to basically have a free extra keeper since he is already a starter in the major. Would be nice to not have to worry about drafting a SS next year if I can just plug in Russell.

    Thanks!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      no problem

      1) Negative on the end of season rankings. I’ll just head straight into the top tens….ranked worst MLB record to first, so following the same order as the 2016 draft

      2) I would plug Russell in as your shortstop. I wouldn’t drop him

    • James says:
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      @claw dog:

      A lot of the blue chip guys have really warped the way a lot of fans think that prospects come in these days. I am really saying that since I just go Byron Buxton for a song and dance in a dynasty league, and this makes me fear that you are doing the same.

      Russell is a former top 10 prospect, While they do not all pan out, roughly 25% will be All star level players for a reasonable chunk of their career, 50% are solid MLB players that will flux between standard league ownable and not, and the other 25% barely reach the show. It looks like he has already passed that bottom 25% (barring major injury), so worst case he is what he is, and that is still a boaderline top 12 fantasy SS.

      I would take that floor and assume if I were taking just “prospects”, and threw him into the mix, I would be putting him in the top 15 or so I would take. If you cannot do better than that with the pick you would be getting, I would hold onto him (That would be roughly where I would be taking moncada too)

      • DisEnfranchised says:
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        @James: I get what you are saying James; but SS is a position that is weaker. So why not hang onto a prospect with good potential? Then draft depth at the position in case he doesn’t pan out. That will allow you to go after an upgrade/key player at a more important position. Basically, similar to waiting to draft a SS in a redraft league.

        Mike, great stuff. I was just eyeing Jim Abbott scouting reports on diamond mines (for a sim game I play). It helps shed light on some of the stuff I was uncertain of. Thanks. I look forward to your top 10s.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          thanks Dis! those old scouting reports are so much fun to dig through.

          You may have already, but if not…check out Dollar Sign on the Muscle this offseason. Awesome book that follows the Phillies early 80’s scouting department through a full season. Great stuff

          • DisEnfranchised says:
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            @Mike: thanks Mike. I will have to read it.

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              anytime

      • claw dog says:
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        @James: Yup I completely agree with your point on Blue chip prospects warping the way people think about prospects in general. I was almost definitely going to hold onto him because he was brought up earlier than expected and made major improvements over the season. Just looking for an agreement on the opinion I had already haha

  8. ray suzuki says:
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    BP should be the go to for everyone, baseball America is a shell of what it was before callis left. the name of the game is tools, there’s a lot of guys like swihart (10-15 hr potential at best?) and Austin hedges, that will be ranked highly by most sources, because they could be tremendous baseball players, but necessarily tremendous fantasy players.
    i’ll take gary sanchez, Alfaro and maybe even Stephenson and meija above those guys because of their offensive upside.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      agreed…name of the the game in fantasy is offense, and traditional prospect rankings (even BP’s) take the arm and defense into account. I would also agree that BP is a fantastic source of scouting info if you’re going to tread behind a paywall

      • ray suzuki says:
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        @Mike:

        if you can’t afford the paltry $3? a month for BP (first, get a better job), there’ also http://thedynastyguru.com/ which is basically the fantasy guys from BP. so basically the best access to scouting around filtered through a fantasy angle.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          right on…I used to write for TDG

    • james says:
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      @claw dog:

      BA is still the place I cite when people are up in arms in leagues where prospects are an afterthought (even though they shouldnt be). It is still a generally trusted name, but not really tilted at all for fantasy.

      Also do not forget they do not do any park factors. So Jonathan Gray was a top 25 prospect last year. (or whomever the hot shot rockies pitching prospects are right now. not that I would tough anyone but their closer)

  9. jack florida says:
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    nice work–great for dynasty leagues—thanks Mike

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      thanks Jack! anytime

  10. NickfromtheRoc says:
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    Hey Mike –

    Thanks for the info. Pretty sure it will come in handy, as I’m pretty sure I’m out of contention in my football league already.

    I’m in a keeper league where our last keeper had to have made their debut this year. I have a choice of A. Russell, Severino or Deshields. In a vacuum, who would you keep? Also, around what round pick would you look to get for the other two guys (8 keepers total, and I am pretty stacked for keepers)?

    Thanks as always!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      hey Nic

      sorry to hear about the football squad. I’d keep Russell. Probably get a 3rd or 4th rounder for the other two? That would be like 11th/12th round when you include the 8 kept?

      • NickfromtheRoc says:
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        @Mike: Thanks for the quick response Mike. Can’t complain too much about the football league – finished my baseball leagues in 2nd and 4th (thanks guys!). 11th/12th is correct, and I was definitely leaning towards Russell. That will leave me with a left side of Russell, Machado and Frazier to start the season.

        Thanks for all the help – I’ll let you know how the trade negotiations end up…

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          anytime…nice trio there

  11. Yescheese says:
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    Now we have your secret sauce formula!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      lol…it’s just Russian dressing and Pitzman’s mustard!

  12. Packers says:
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    Mike, is my Rendon for his D. Norris fair, or even close? It’s a keep all dynasty league,and I’m short on SP.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      nah, I ‘d much rather have Rendon

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