Minor League Stuff

Dave · April 12, 2005 at 8:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I took in a game tonight between the Winston-Salem Warthogs and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Good ol’ Carolina League baseball. MB was sending Jake Stevens, a highly touted left-handed pitching prospect to the hill, and I wanted to get a look at him. So, despite being about 40 degrees and raining, I joined the other eight fans at the park. I’m not kidding. You’ve never seen a professional game with less people.

Tonight was one of those nights that remind me why its wise to discount second hand information. Here’s an excerpt from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook on Jake Stevens:

Scouts drool over Stevens’ projectable body. He’s a good athlete and shows excellent stamina. He has terrific command of three pitches, beginning with an 89-91 mph fastball that has registered as high as 94. He displays excellent feel for an overhand curveball that could become a plus power pitch. Stevens’ changeup could give him a third above-average pitch.

Now, I’ve said enough good things about BA and the work they do that I think anyone who knows me probably realizes that I’m a big fan of their stuff. They’re the reason every other prospect analyst alive has any information to go off of, and if they disappeared, so would every other “independant” minor league expert who is really just repackaging BA’s words and putting their personal spin on his stats.

But that scouting report for Stevens was completely, utterly wrong. It felt like I was reading the wrong bio. Here’s a brief sample of my notes from the game:

Listed at 6’3. Probably 6’0. Maybe not even that. 6’3 is a total joke.

Fastballs early in the count, curve when he gets ahead. 84-86, only
hit 88 once on a FB up in the zone. Never got near reported velocity.
Not much movement on FB. Short armer. Curve 69-72, not a ton of
bite. Very hittable pitch if its in the strike zone. Change is okay,
but nothing special. Had decent command, but no stuff.

Honestly, the closest thing I could compare him to was Craig Anderson. Or maybe if you combined Jamie Moyer’s fastball with Shigetoshi Hasegawa’s curve and Matt Thornton’s changeup, you’d have a decent idea of what I saw tonight. The Jake Stevens that I saw had the stuff of a Double-A reliever.

Now, maybe it was just an off night. Or maybe it was the weather. Maybe he’s hurt. I’m not trying to attack Bill Ballew, the guy who wrote the Braves chapter for BA, but it was a reminder to me just how sketchy some second hand information can be. Even reputable second hand information can be completely off base. It was like the report was written while gathering radar readings from the stadium scoreboard (don’t get me started on that thing…) or something, because the pitcher I saw tonight couldn’t possibly be the guy that Baseball America ranked as the 92nd best prospect in baseball.


11 Responses to “Minor League Stuff”

  1. Jon Helfgott on April 12th, 2005 10:32 pm

    Tangentially related (as in: a question about the minor leagues):

    What’s up with Casey Craig and Shawn Nottingham? Are they injured? Playing in Arizona? On a covert government mission?

    Just curious.

  2. Jim Thomsen on April 12th, 2005 10:54 pm

    Not doubting you in the least, but just curious: Did you have a radar gun? Or see one being employed?

  3. Jim Thomsen on April 12th, 2005 10:56 pm

    I remember last year when you and several others were excited about James Loney, who seems to be disappearing fast as an uber-prospect. Was perhaps the “Stevens Effect” at work there?

  4. Sriram on April 13th, 2005 12:43 am

    It must be terribly lonely to watch a game with only 8 other people.. that too in rain.. are you a part time scout or something 🙂

  5. Dave on April 13th, 2005 5:48 am

    I watched the first few innings of the game with two scouts before they retreated to the warmth of the press box. Scout A’s gun was consistently 83-85, Scout B’s was 84-87, and the stadium gun was 80-94 (I’m not joking, it was +/- up to 7 MPH on any given pitch, and there was no rhyme or reason for why it was high or low). Both Scout A and Scout B agreed that B’s gun was a little fast.

    Basically, you can take it with authority that if I’m quoting radar readings for minor leaguers, they’re coming from a scouts gun. I wouldn’t guess on velocity, or at the very least, I’d make it abundantly clear that it was just a guess. But 99 percent of the time, I watch games in full view of multiple guns.

    And James Loney is only losing his prospect status from people who don’t really understand how to evaluate talent. Seriously, when he’s healthy, he’s awesome. There’s absolutely no correlation between Stevens and Loney. As long as Loney can get beyond his injury problems, he’s going to be a terrific player.

  6. hans on April 13th, 2005 9:33 am


    Thank you for sharing these stories and this insight with us. There is no way you would find this type of write-up in a large daily newspaper anywhere. As a fan, this kind of information really helps put things in perspective.

    I appreciate that you are busy and don’t have to do this at all. So thank you.

  7. Jim Thomsen on April 13th, 2005 10:28 am

    I agree. Please keep sharing.

  8. John on April 13th, 2005 12:41 pm

    wow, i think the royals have the most bland commentators ever!

  9. Brad Dowdy on April 13th, 2005 6:19 pm

    Nice report Dave – as a Braves fan I really appreciate it. Too bad you didn’t get to see Jarrod Saltalamachia play that night.

  10. The Ancient Mariner on April 13th, 2005 9:52 pm

    I’m reminded of watching Mark Mulder in one of his first minor-league starts; we spent a fair number of Vancouver spring/summer/early fall nights at the Nat, and I was excited about this one (my wife’s family are all Spartans, and it’s rubbed off). I can’t find my scoresheet and notes, but I was quite disappointed, because the Mulder I saw wasn’t the Mulder I’d read about. His velocity was unimpressive (though I can’t quote gun readings), the movement on his pitches was nothing special, and his command was merely average. He made it work and turned in a solid start, but I’d seen Kevin Jarvis do the same thing on more than one occasion, and really, Mulder didn’t look much different.

  11. Megan on July 23rd, 2005 6:12 am

    Just a few notes on your write-up about Stevens. He is in fact 6’3″…trust me, I buy his pants. Also, the 40 degree, rainy weather most definitely played a role in his performance. The BA write-up wasn’t necessarily incorrect, because as anyone should know- any player can have an off night. I enjoyed reviewing your personal notes, but don’t agree.