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How many and how do you find them? 
revised 03/2012

How Many Prospects should we protect?


Over the 12 years since the old Scoresheet Canada began allowing more than 2 prospects per team (starting in 2001), I have noticed an ever increasing tendency of managers protecting more and more prospects. Yet, there are many reasons why Scoresheet teams are designed to have, at least, 33 players available to play. A real life Major League General Manager controls the employment of roughly 150 players counting all the levels of the minor leagues. Other than the occasional Rule V guy – a species nearly extinct – GMs generally have their 25 best players at the Major League level and another 10 to 15 older prospects in AAA ready for their call up in case injury or spot starts. That’s makes a group of 35-40 players who are Major League ready – the same as a Scoresheet team’s roster, if they kept no players in the minors – because you can’t play them no matter how ready they are. A Scoresheet manager has no control over which borderline major leaguers stick with the big team and which are sent back down to be tried later. The AAA player that Scoresheet automatically assigns you, if you run out of actual playing time, is much weaker than those 10 real life AAA players on hand to replace their Major League counterparts by a couple of levels.


One more difference: once a prospect blows his rookie status, a Major League team can still send him back to the minors for the next two or three years, while a Scoresheet manager has to decide if he is worth keeping over one of his top 13 veterans – and discard that previously 13th best veteran, if he is. After giving up all those opportunities to have a contributing player instead of your prospect – for however long you hung onto to him, you still will not likely enjoy his best years unless his greatness is apparent in his rookie season.


Yet, I am not against protecting four or five prospects. First, the veteran players available on draft rounds in the 30+ range are nearly blind dart throws. If the prospect you hold is likely better than any prospect available in those rounds, he is probably worth keeping – for trade value, if nothing else. If he is ready for the Majors and likely to be more help than any player available on the round you sacrifice in order to keep him, then of course, keep him. My A.L. Robinson protected a record 64 prospects this winter. Yet, here we are at round 28 and I still see a couple of B+/A- (Sickels) **** (BP’s Goldstein) prospects still available. Even if your team is a contender, as long as there are plenty of managers in your league who like to carry a bunch of prospects, they are an easily convertible currency during each late summer’s play-off push, when half the teams are starting to look towards next year. Late round draft veterans are much more likely to lose value by the end of the year than a good prospect.


Choosing Who to Pick and When


Most of the public prospect experts offer their detailed expertise during the winter. Some offer a mid-season updated ranking of the top 50 or so prospects. However, most of the top prospects are scooped up during the season – generally in the first supplemental draft after real baseball’s June Rule IV Amateur draft. With five supplemental drafts now distributed almost evenly over the season, those who stay on top of the best prospects all year long are going to have an advantage over the rest of us.


The long established Bible of minor league information is Baseball America. This is a subscription service for both their magazine and critical parts of their website. They have a constant flow of articles about the minor leagues. If a Scoresheet player were to make one outside investment, Baseball Prospectus should be it. Kevin Goldstein keeps a constant eye on virtually every minor league prospect and is in steady contact with scouts from all over the continent. He tips us when any prospect has an eyebrow raising couple of weeks. Goldstein is prolific and comprehensive. He is now joined by a dedicated scout and mind blowing writer Jason Parks for another perspective on the top prospects. John Sickels is a prospect rating industry unto himself and is as well regarded as anyone. He provides a blog throughout the season. Our friend at scoresheet-talk Jay-Dell Mah (Ebbet’s Fielders) has a wonder Scoresheet oriented site that combined prospect rankings from many sources:  At the Plate.


There are others such as former Blue Jays Assistant G.M. Keith Law who are highly regarded, but frankly I haven’t kept up with them all. Finding pearls is an ocean of prospect oysters is very tiny part of successful Scoresheet managing. It might not be worth all the time and draft picks it takes to come up with one unless that is just something you really enjoy doing. If there is a Bryce Harper / Alex Rodriguez who comes along that every scout is praising as no one has been bestowed such praise before, of course, you should take him if you have the opportunity. If a record signing Japanese or Cuban import comes your way, who are you to say he isn’t worth it?


Keep in mind that the rankings that Goldstein, Baseball America, and most prospect gurus use are based more on long term potential rather than immediate pay off – and that Scoresheet teams do not have 6 minor league teams to stash a prospect away and nurture him until he is ready. Hence, the closer a prospect is to the Majors, the more worthwhile he is to Scoresheet team given two prospects of the same potential.


I am willing to dig much deeper than Bryce Harper, of course, but there is no point in taking a B+/**** prospect in the low minors who will have years to go before he is ready – if he gets ready - as he will cost you a pick every year until he is – and high picks if he isn’t ready in his rookie eligibility losing season. Having played under Scoresheet Canada rules for most of my years, I am not ready to say accurately what percentage of impact players are drafted and protected since their first supplemental draft after the June draft, or after they signed their North American Organized Baseball contract, or after when they first had an impact season in the minors, or anytime after they lost their prospect status. (June draftees used to be ineligible until the following February.) However, my team alone has drafted Jose Bautista, Cliff Lee, Alex Avila, C.J. Wilson, and Adam Jones after they lost their prospect status.


You can always check how certain prospects are doing yourself, if your draft is coming up and you don’t have a professional analysis to help you. This Minor League Equivalency Calculator estimates what a player would have produced with a given Major League team. Remember the jump to “the show” can be especially unpredictable for pitchers. Sometimes they thrive in the big leagues, sometimes they thrive at first, then get slaughtered, sometimes they tale a long time to thrive, sometimes they just bomb out – either by injury or by not having precise control of a pitch that can fool a major leaguer. Be especially cautious towards the finesse pitchers. Even if they are impressive the first couple of months in The Show, they usually get ‘‘solved’’ the 2nd or 3rd time around the league. Don’t worry if a young hitter doesn’t have many homers as long as he has plenty of extra base-hits. As the prospect grows up and gets stronger, those doubles will become home runs.


If this all sounds too much work, well, for some it is the most fun. Whatever, don’t worry. Building with prospects is not as necessary in Scoresheet as it is in real life, if it is necessary at all. In fact, it is a bit of a market inefficiency in my league. If the other managers are spending their best picks or too many picks on prospects, spend yours on the ready-now players they are overlooking.

John Carter