Mailbag Monday: Questions For Days!

Hi, I was wondering in terms of fantasy where would you rank Peter Alonso versus Tyler O’Neill of St. Louis. I know that once Alonso wins the 1st base job (assuming he does) he will probably get more at bats than O’Neill unless there is an injury or a trade to other St. Louis outfielders.
— Scott R.

You’ve come to the right place, Scott, as these are two of my favorite follows over the past few seasons in the minors. While Alonso could present more value in re-draft in 2019, it’s by no means a certainty. There’s several options in New York, and as much as we might want to see Alonso, he might spend the first month in Syracuse before getting his first taste of the big leagues. Still his path to playing time seems clearer. I expect him to strikeout at the rate we saw in the PCL, possibly worse, pushing 30 percent. This is obviously an issue for both players, but Alonso is not without risk of struggles or even failure.

As for the King In The North, O’Neill is a player that’s obviously scraping for playing time and some of his flaws were on full display in his MLB debut. The swing and miss issues mean it’s not clear that he’s one of the three most talented outfielders in St. Louis. The contract the Cards doled out to Fowler likely means he gets first crack at the third outfield spot behind Harrison Bader and Marcell Ozuna. That said, I still love the skills, and this is a player that’s improved each season as he’s moved throughout the minors.  However his 2018 contact rate of 56.3 percent is gross. I’m hoping the decline in his strikeout rate over the last three seasons continues, and he can figure out major league pitching the way he did the PCL. Luckily he has supporting skills and a plus defensive profile, highlighted by surprising speed and a rocket for an arm. There’s value even if he’s not hitting and this will eventually get him playing time in St. Louis or elsewhere. His upside still lies as a potential 30+ homer bat with 10-15 steals a possibility.

All this to say the bet for now is Alonso but, three years from now I believe O’Neill will be the better player. So Alonso higher in redraft, but O’Neill in dynasty. - Ralph Lifshitz

Both of these situations are messy with three or four guys fighting for at-bats, but I’m going to echo what Ralph said. The Cardinals hired a very highly regarded hitting coach in Jeff Albert from the Astros organization this winter. Albert relies on a lot of Trackman data as well as a contact-oriented approach which could do wonders for a player like O’Neill. O’Neill is more athletic and a better defender in the outfield than people give him credit for and a jump in contact rate (much easier said than done, but bear with me!) can be a game changer for O’Neill. If O’Neill were still prospect eligible he would slide into my top twenty.

As far as Alonso goes, the Mets have a lot of internal options fighting for at-bats with guys like Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, Robinson Cano and the much-slimmer Dom Smith battling with Alonso for playing time at first base. It makes the most sense for the Mets to give Alonso the job, but he might not carry as much re-raft value for 2019 as people think, and like Ralph I prefer O’Neill in a dynasty format. - Matt Thompson

Do you have or do you know of a list of prospects by their estimated arrival time in the Big Leagues?
— Bud B.

Our Interactive Top 100 Prospect Tracker allows you to sort by ETA. - PL Staff

Thanks for all the info and I love your podcasts on the top prospects in each system. I was just listening to your podcast on the Jays and you guys mentioned that Nate Pearson has the stuff to be a SP1. Are there any other prospects you see with that type of stuff to be projected as an SP1?
— Sanka J.

Sanka, if we remove risk from the equation (of which Pearson has plenty as well), I’d argue Forrest Whitley, Sixto Sanchez and Alex Reyes have legitimate SP1 upside because of their plus arsenal and ability to command it all. Of course, the last two have injury concerns and the first has just 137.1 professional innings under his belt. But if you want to dream big, those are the guys. - Eddy Almaguer

I agree with the three names Eddy threw out, and I agree those three (and Pearson) have a chance to be a number one. I’ll add a few more names that are even longer shots but Touki Toussaint and even someone like an Ethan Hankins have a chance to reach that mark as well. - Matt Thompson

Hey Guys, humble fantasy baseball dude here that loves the content on your site. I signed up for twitter years ago and thought it was the most useless thing in the world, until I realized the baseball knowledge and content that could be accessed from people like you and now follow all of you. Have 3 questions for you:

In the Minor Graphs, do you have any upcoming additional stats that will be available in the graphs? I think it would be really cool if barrels were available, though, admittedly I have zero idea how much effort that would take, the difficulty it would be to accomplish or if its even possible.
I know you are all passionate about what you do, but besides the t-shirts is there a way for those of us that appreciate your site and all of the content you provide us via twitter to donate to you?
In a Dynasty H2H Points league where power hitters and starting pitching are most valuable (steals aren’t worth much), I over enthusiastically acquired 2 more prospects than I should have recently and need to drop 2 (from the list below). Any advice on who to drop would be very much appreciated!
Miguel Amaya
William Contreras
Luis Garcia (PHI)
Freudis Nova
Tirso Ornelas
Evan White
Jahmai Jones
Sam Carlson
Josiah Gray
Osiel Rodriguez
Simeon Woods-Richardson
Jose Castillo
— Trevor L.

Trevor, thanks for the kind words and for being a Prospects Live fan. Smada will answer below on your Minors Graphs question. As for your dynasty one, league size would help but at a glance the two guys I’d cut are Jose Castillo (RP can be found pretty easily in season) and Miguel Amaya. I don’t think Amaya’ s upside is enough to warrant rostering him for another 2-3 years, especially if you have Contreras already. I wrote a catcher article that explains why I’m down on rostering them in a farm system. However if your league is big enough that there are 24+ catchers being started at all times, I’d tell you to lose Sam Carlson. I like Carlson and think he’s going to move up boards this year but a deep catcher league is the exception. - Eddy Almaguer

Minor Graphs is certainly an evolving tool and the goal is for it to become a centralized hub for Minor League stats. Pitchers will be given a little bit more of an emphasis in the short term. New stats will be available soon like GB/FB/LD% and Pull/Cent/Oppo%, and distribution and spray charts will also be added as tabs. A bit further down the road we hope to add stats like SwStr%, Contact%, F-Strike% and Swing% for both hitters and pitchers. Other enhancements to look forward to are a new player profile tab with yearly stats, a new section for splits data and a dynamic leaderboard. As for your specific question about barrels; Statcast has yet to create these type of metrics for minor leaguers so it’s currently not possible. - Smada

I learned several years ago that Ralph is way ahead of the curve when predicting which prospects will slide up the charts in future lists. That is a major advantage in our version of a dynasty league, where we can carry and keep at least 8 minor league players and stash them there for extended periods.

The question I have for you is, where would you rank Julio Urias if he was still prospect-eligible?
— Jeff P.

Thanks Jeff, I once viewed Urias as a top 10 prospect. I’m now older and wiser (I think), and I tend to fade pitching and injured pitching especially. The questions about Urias’ not only returning but returning to form would drop him into the 50-75 range for me. We know how talented the lefty is, but what will his role be ultimately? Is he a multi-inning Hader type, a five inning starter, or a one inning reliever? That question leads me to be skeptical, but not prepared to write him off. - Ralph Lifshitz

With the Mets having prospect Gimenez probably a year away from being ready for MLB, where could he play? I figured SS or 2nd, but with Amed Rosario and Robinson Cano taking those spots can Gimenez play OF or elsewhere? Not sure if Cano could maybe shift to 3rd or elsewhere ? Seems like Mets created unnecessary logjams with Cano, Lowrie, and their trade with Houston possibly blocking Gimenez and Jeff McNeill.
— Scott R

Depth at the major league level is a good thing. Gimenez just turned 20 and has yet to play a full season in AA. I don’t think these deals signal anything regarding how the Mets view him. Rather, it allows him to continue to develop without the need to rush him to the bigs. I personally love the moves the Mets made to strengthen the big league club.

As far as versatility for Gimenez, he can play 2B and profiles as a plus-plus defender at the keystone. A move to CF could also be in the cards if Cano’s defense holds up over the next few years. For now, he will continue to develop as a SS where his defense is plus. - Jason Woodell

Which pair of prospects would you prefer in a dynasty league...Kiriloff and Bichette or Eloy and Madrigal? Thanks for everything you guys do!
— Jacob R.

Oh, this is a good one. I’ll take the Kirilloff and Bichette side. They are both inside the top 15 in our Fantasy Top 100. Eloy is #2 overall, Madrigal is #76 and while he’s one of the safest prospects around, I don’t think the upside is anything to write home about. You’re better served getting great-to-elite bats with the Kirilloff side. - Eddy Almaguer

Hi, Prospects Live team, I’m Kieran, a 17 year old HS student, with what I’d consider a passion for baseball and especially for prospects. I’m also an avid football fan, and there I love looking at the potential draftees. I think I love learning about who might be the “next big thing” or who could end up being something great. I wanted to email y’all to ask if you had any advice for a young kid looking to break into baseball scouting. I feel like I have some knowledge of the game, but I wanted to know what ways, if any, some nobody like me could start working on learning more not only about what goes into a real scouting report, but also what ways I could break into doing baseball analysis, like I said, especially on the prospect end. I do my own little top-100, although it’s mostly aggregation and numbers, so I know that isn’t anything really real.

So basically all this rambling to say: is there some program or place I could learn more about formal baseball scouting, and also (although less importantly) how to break into it as a medium.

Thank you all so much,
— Kieran B

Hi Kieran,

Thanks for reaching out. I think it's great you have found something like this you are passionate about at a young age. Some of the better scouts in the business started young. I am thinking specifically of Chris Kusiolek who scouts complex-level ball in AZ for the San Diego Padres. Complex-level ball meaning spring training, extended spring training, AZL and instructs which are all based around AZ spring training complexes.

There is no specific road map to breaking into scouting. People break into it from an array of different backgrounds. There are a few things that helped me when I first started. 

1) The Up and In Baseball Prospectus podcast. The podcast ended in 2012 but is shockingly still topical. Both hosts now work with teams: Kevin Goldstein - Houston Astros and Jason Parks - Arizona Diamondbacks, and formerly the Chicago Cubs. They were brilliant. You can learn a lot from this pod. However, I noticed recently it is no longer streamable online. I would recommend joining the Up and In Facebook group and asking if anyone has episodes saved on an external drive that they can send to you. Digging up these episodes may be a pain in the ass, but it will 100% be worth your time.

2) Read these Doug Thornburn articles on pitching mechanics:
You should also consider listening to Doug's podcast, Baseballhollics Anonymous. He often discusses pitching mechanics on there. It is still live.

3) Read this article on hitting mechanics by Ryan Parker: Parker recently got a job with the Angels in some sort of hitting coordinator role. 

The most important thing you NEED to do is go to as many games as humanly possible (and as is reasonable). It does not have to be minor leagues. It could be high school, college, junior college, etc. You will start to notice things. Don't just watch the ball. Watch the players and see how they move. For pitchers and hitters alike break their bodies into parts. How does the lower half move? The hips? The torso? The hands? Take notes on what you see. If you can buy a stopwatch. The model you want is the Accusplit AX 725. It is what scouts use and they are about 25 bucks on Amazon. Start timing runners and catcher pop times. If there's a scout around, he may just ask you what you had on a time. That is your in to making contacts. Consider saving up for/buying a video camera. Mine is a Canon Vixia HRF 700 (or something like that). Watching the video after the fact will help you see mechanical trends you may have missed live. It is very helpful for getting started. There is no substitute for going to as many games as you can. You'll be shocked what you start to see. It is almost a completely different game. 

Make sure you view things from different angles. Behind home is great for grading individual pitches, getting a feel for a hitter's strikezone awareness/ability to see spin. The open face angles will help you analyze mechanics. How short is a hitter to the ball? How good is his bat speed? Does this pitcher have good extension? How easy is his delivery? 

In terms of what goes into a scouting report I would direct you to several reports Jason (Woodell) has written on Prospects live and this one I wrote on Alek Thomas. I also wrote these on my old blog

These reports were what got me an opportunity to scout Indy Ball for the Milwaukee Brewers so they can't be half bad. Try to mimic this format or at least the sort content that is on here. 

There is so much more that goes into scouting in terms of body projection, makeup etc. You just need to go to as many games as you can. There's no elevator to the top. You have to take the stairs. Let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

Good Luck,

Jason Pennini