By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
June 7, 2010
Here at Baseball Beginnings, we generally abhor the mock draft. The reason is because this is not the way the real baseball world works. For the last week around Major League Baseball, scouting directors have summoned their area scouts to put all players on the big board. The players are organized by their Overall Future Potential Grades (OFPs), but this number is only a road map, a debating point, and not the final destination.
For all the research any of us can do, it still comes to what the great Chicago Cubs scout Gene Handley told all of us who were smart enough to listen. “We’re not any smarter than the other guy,” Handley said. “But we hope to be.” The names of the hopefuls are sorted by OFP grades, and the human instincts are what will determine which of two nearly identical players is deemed more desirable. You can try to make predicting the futures of young athletes as scientific as you like, but in the end, this is nothing but a crapshoot and a horse race. Place your bets on the name of the player you like the best. When the gate lifts at the start of the draft, teams will refer to the list they have composed, which is called the Preference List.
We here at Baseball Beginnings live very close to the real world of professional baseball. So we refuse to do mock drafts. We keep a Preference List, but we won’t publish it. This is partly because we respect the difficulty level of this game. We also respect that young players, no matter how advanced they may be perceived to be, lack the years and experience to understand all that they will accumulate over the coming years. We scout, but we don’t have to go so far as to tell you who we like better. The reason is because, as Handley said, none of us really know. We just like to think we do. And as we say around here, the players will tell us what they are going to be.
Another reason we keep a Preference List is because Major League teams do not do mock drafts. And like Major League teams, we will not make our Preference List public.
Mock drafts are not baseball. In fact, behind closed doors, Major League clubs ridicule them and those who compose them. Mock draft writers are unknowingly tools for teams to bet against each other and lie to the media. Bob Zuk – who was a better scout than anyone in Major League Baseball ever wanted to give credit to, despite being a guy with three Hall of Famers and almost 3,000 home runs in the big leagues – “How do you know if a big league scout is lying? His lips are moving.”
Scouts lie to reporters, agents lie to teams and to the media, everyone lies to players, and we end up with the murky internet waters where accuracy is impossible. Hearsay has no value. All that is left is your own eyes and your own honesty. Everybody is an expert on nobody they have seen.
It’s difficult for those on the outside of this side of the game to understand that there is nothing but gamesmanship in the draft. This is a cutthroat world, baseball’s sewer, where childhood dreams are the fodder of the bait-and-switch. The reason no mock draft can ever be accurate is because none of us have any idea of all the different deals being made under the table. None of us know all the personalities involved. None of us knows who owes whom what, who is out to get whom, or who is the “goose shooter.” If you think some players aren’t bought before the draft, then you’re lost. Handley bought Dick Ellsworth a car, after all. I hope the Cubs expensed him for it. Wise old Gene said it wasn’t a bonus. He said it was a graduation gift.
It is often said of baseball that anyone who thinks they know it all knows nothing, of this, I am certain, the same can be said for mock drafts. Those close to the business know exactly what I mean. Those who miss my point are not as close to the game as they think they are. My old teachers – Zuk, Piper, Genie, Spider, Red, Lefty and Lodi, all gone but not forgotten – have taught me well.
All I know how to do is tell you what I think. Having an opinion is the single most feared thing in baseball. So this is my realm, and I won’t back down.
I don’t care what the media wants me to think about a certain player because I know that media people have no scouting chops. And I know that when a player is hyped he’s usually a product of the showcase system or an agency’s publicity wing. But I can tell the difference between a prodigy and a one-tool player. I can tell the difference between a pitcher and a thrower. If you don’t make contact, I’ll know it. If you don’t have a breaking ball, I’ll see it. If you have a hole in your swing, I’ll write it. If you are under the ball and pushing, I’ll report it. I can tell with my own eyes what is real and what is manufactured, what is talent and what is manipulated. This site’s mission has always been to see – and to want to like players, even the guys who are overblown – for exactly what they are, even when exactly what they are isn’t always what they really are, for better or worse.
I have been around this game for a very long time and I know the tricks when I see them. But in the end, I have to go with my heart, brains, guts and instincts. And I have to keep the Preference List to myself, keep my follows for the coming years to myself, and remind you all that I see more players than anybody else who covers this stuff.
This is the real world of baseball. Not a mock. Be a hitter and be an athlete and you’ll be high on my list. Have only the bat and you’ll be lower. Have no breaking ball and you’ll be lower. I’m resigned to the fact that my preference list is going to look nothing like any of the so-called experts. I am also resigned to the fact that some players will prove me right and some players will prove me wrong. If there’s one thing I know, it’s nobody can be right all the time. Three years before he died, I asked Gene Handley how his most recent draft went. He smiled, and out of the crooked corner of his wrinkled mouth quietly muttered, “Ask me in five years.”