Last weekend, a bunch of FanGraphs/RotoGraphs/NotGraphs writers descended on Arizona for our annual Spring Training Thing. The traditional Big Pizza Bash at Cibo happened on Saturday night, and Rob Neyer (maybe you’ve heard of him) was among the special guests. At one point during the evening, a stack of baseball cards was making the rounds. When it got to my table, the word was “Neyer brought these, he says take some.” Sweet. The cards were very new, and I had heard of many of the players. I took three, and later that night at the hotel I read the “Scouting Reports” that Bowman had on the back.
Needless to say, they were amazing. They used the right words and everything. I am not sure why anyone reads Baseball America when insight like this is on the back of cards. So I thought I should share some of the stuff I learned. I think it is an appropriate thing to do, given that Rob himself is no stranger to the “here’s what I learned from some baseball cards” technique. Not sure he has ever taken it to the level of scouting, though. Look out Hulet, Sussman, and Newman!
At first, I was just going to take three random cards. Then I noticed there were multiple players named “Austin.” That is a great contemporary baseball first name, isn’t it? It’s the “Dakota” of prospect names. So I had to take two Austins.
Our first Austin, as you can see, is currently in the Upside-Down Whataburger Marlins’ system. Lucky him. A Spring, Texas native, outfielder and fourth round draft pick in 2012, Dean was going to head the the University of Texas before signing the the Marlins. According to his player page, Dean didn’t exactly light it up in rookie ball, hitting .223/.337/.338. But minor-league stats, especially on the lower levels, are only a small part of the story. What do Bowman’s expert scouts tell us about Austin Dean? “Elite hitter who makes consistent hard contact… Keeps hands back, then attacks with lightning-quick wrists.. Owns strength for booming homers.” Pretty exciting stuff. Basically, it’s about his bat.
But my favorite line was this: “Good athlete with solid speed.” Nothing gets the blood pumping like hearing a prospect has “solid speed.”
Our second Austin is even speedier than “solid.” Austin Schotts is another high school outfielder. He hails from Frisco, Texas, but unlike Mr. Dean, he was planning to leave Texas for college at Oklahoma State before signing with Detroit after being drafted in the third round in 2012. Brothers set against brothers.
Schotts actually make Marc Hulet’s most recent Top 15 for the Tigers, and, like Bowman’s scouts, emphasizes his speed.
You know what Hulet did not bother to find out? Something I had to learn from a baseball card? “Enjoys competing in bass tournaments.” I am told this is about fishing, but I prefer to think it is a musical competition judged by Bootsy Collins, Ron Carter, and Ian Hill.
Now we come to the random selection: Mike Dodig. He may not have the classic baseball name. He may only have been a 10th-round draft pick. He may not hail from the heartland. He may not have been enough of a stud in high school, attending Columbia Green Community College (like James Shook and DeShawn Ziths before him). But he has the most entertaining card of the three.
Dodig is a big dude at 6’4″, 210 pounds. According to his card, he played some shortstop in college, but he is currently listed as a third baseman. He is from New York, so his “Up Close” information lets us know that he “Grew up as a Yankees fan.” However, he is a third baseman in the Braves system: “Says that Chipper Jones was his favorite player as a child.” How to bridge this cultural gap? “Tries to emulate the all-around game of Mark Teixeira.” Well played, Mr. Dodig.
The best part is skill the scouting report on Dodig’s skills. The three top comments:
“Pure hitter with long levers that help produce power.” “Levers” came up a on a number of other cards that other people took. Good scouting line, you know this stuff is legit. My favorite use of “levers” was during the 2011 FanGraphs Spring Training trip when Carson Cistulli used it to impress a group of Rangers Assistant GMs.
“Runs well for his size.” Great, but is his speed solid?
“Steady defender at corners.” Look out Adrian Beltre. Is “steady” better or worse than “solid?”
Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.