Yesterday, FanGraphs new head scout, Dan Farnsworth, evaluated the Brewers minor league system. As Farnsworth released his evaluations of previous teams (he’s going in alphabetical order by location name), it was noted by many readers that he had some unique takes on prospects.
For example, both MLB.com and Baseball America consider the Royals’ top prospect to be Raul Adalberto Mondesi. And while Farnsworth acknowledged Mondesi’s high ceiling, he gave him a 45+ future grade as a prospect compared to Baseball America’s 65 grade.
Reading the work of a scout with some uncommon views of prospects is essential to understanding the imperfect science of scouting. If everyone had the same opinion, not only would the world be incredibly boring, we’d all be shocked when top prospects failed.
So let’s take a look at some of the biggest surprises from Farnsworth’s evaluation.
Michael Reed‘s stock soars
Farnsworth isn’t the first big believer in Reed, with ESPN’s Keith Law showering praise on him over the last year, but to my knowledge, no scout has ranked Reed higher in the Brewers current system than Farnsworth did. While Baseball America ranked him 17th, Farnsworth placed him third in the Brewers system, above the likes of Trent Clark and Isan Diaz.
The right fielder has consistently shown some of the best plate-discipline in the Brewers farm system, and Farnsworth believes his power will come along to the tune of 12-15 homers per year. The scout states that in 2016, we will see Reed’s “power-speed mix turn from potential into reality,” and that Reed is an “all-around great player in the making.”
Jorge Lopez received modest evaluation
Lopez’s ranks in the Brewers system according to MLB.com, Baseball America, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball are third, second, and second, respectively. Farnsworth slots him in at eighth. Overall, it’s not that great a difference of opinion, with the scouts that are higher on him seeing his likely ceiling as a No. 2/ No. 3 starter, while Farnsworth hovers more around No. 4 starter potential.
Baseball America and John Sickels have Clint Coulter as a top 10 talent in the Brewers system and no previous evaluation I have seen of the Brewers’ farm has even featured Nathan Orf, a 26-year-old super utility player. Yet Farnsworth gives them the same future grade in his article (40-45), ranking them 17th and 18th in the system. Farnsworth currently projects just average power for Coulter, which is lower than most scouts, and values Orf’s defensive versatility.
Jacob Nottingham nearly falls off the board
Nottingham came to the team in the Khris Davis trade, with scouts divided on his defensive ability at catcher, but most agreeing he was a real talent on offense. However, Farnsworth’s absolute ceiling for Nottingham is lower than MLB.com’s assessment of his likely future value. John Sickels was the highest on Nottingham, rating him the fourth best prospect in the system, while Farnsworth ranked him 25th.
“Batting-practice darling” Gilbert Lara garners humble projection
Perhaps the player that Farnsworth ranks the most differently from the three main sources I have mentioned is Gilbert Lara. The 18-year-old shortstop ranks no worse than eighth in the system between MLB.com, Minor League Ball, and Baseball America.
While Farnsworth acknowledges Lara’s better than expected defense, he rates him the 21st prospect in the system. Farnsworth also noted Lara’s raw power potential, but expressed doubt about his swing, contact skills, and pitch recognition.