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New concept for 2015 Baseball Prospect Book: the High Ceiling Alert

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Miguel Sano
Miguel Sano
USA TODAY Sports

I have spent much of this morning analyzing Minnesota Twins prospect Lewin Diaz. This is the first draft of his comment for the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book:

Lewin Diaz, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-4 WT: 210 DOB: September 19, 1996

2014: Grade C

The Twins spent $1,400,000 to sign Lewin Diaz out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. His pro debut in the Dominican Summer League was successful: he showed good power from the left side of the plate, drew some walks, and didn’t strike out excessively. When the Twins signed him he drew comparisons to powerful sluggers like Fred McGriff, David Ortiz, and Ryan Howard, although opinions about his pure hitting skills, ability to make contact against quality pitching, and defense were mixed. His glovework is sloppy at this point and we do need to see him hit at higher levels, but the early returns are good enough to move him up a notch to Grade C+. I tend to be very cautious grading guys who haven’t reached North America yet, but a strong debut in ’15 could make him an elite prospect (in the Bs if not higher) entering ’16. Invest accordingly if that fits your time horizon.


Now, that all seems reasonable enough, but the Grade C+ was bothering me. Not that it was wrong; within my grading system scheme, C+ is the right grade for a guy like Diaz who hasn't even reached North America yet.

This is how my grading system works:

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.


Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.

As noted, the grade is just a shorthand and people really need to read the comment to understand what the full analysis is. Anyone reading the full Diaz comment would understand that he is currently graded as a C+ because there is a huge range of potential outcomes in his case, ranging from star to washout, and our information about him is still limited both subjectively and objectively.

But in the age of Twitter brevity and Facebook shallowness and miniscule attention spans, it is far more common for people to just look at a list of grades or brief snippets and to miss a guy like Diaz or think that I don't like him or something.

So, what do we do about that?

An hour ago, the phrase "High Ceiling Alert" popped into my head.

I have been doing "Sleeper Alerts" on little-known or undervalued prospects for years and they are popular. The "High Ceiling Alert" is a little different: the goal here is to point out some Grade C or C+ prospects at the very lowest levels of the minor leagues, who have a conservative formal grade but who also have particularly high upside.

My thinking is that this would be confined to players who are only at the Latin American summer league, Gulf Coast League, or Arizona Rookie League levels. To prevent excessive bleedover into the "Sleeper Alert" category, the concept would focus on guys like Diaz who did receive substantial signing bonuses or praise from scouts, but who are too far away from the majors to (yet) earn a higher grade. You can't really call a guy with a bonus like Diaz a "sleeper," but he hasn't shown enough at a high enough level to be an elite prospect yet either.

A good example from the past would be fellow Twins prospect Miguel Sano, who got a Grade C+ from me when he signed in 2010. It was a high ceiling C+, based only on what scouting information we had at the time and with no sabermetric evidence, and noted as such in his comment, but on a simple list it looked funny given his physical potential.

With High Ceiling Alert idea, he would still have been formally graded as a C+, but would also have a HIGH CEILING ALERT modifier in the grade index and to open his comment.

The Diaz comment would then look like this:

HIGH CEILING ALERT! The Twins spent $1,400,000 to sign Lewin Diaz out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. His pro debut in the Dominican Summer League was successful: he showed good power from the left side of the plate, drew some walks, and didn’t strike out excessively. When the Twins signed him he drew comparisons to powerful sluggers like Fred McGriff, David Ortiz, and Ryan Howard, although opinions about his pure hitting skills, ability to make contact against quality pitching, and defense were mixed. His glovework is sloppy at this point and we do need to see him hit at higher levels, but the early returns are good enough to move him up a notch to Grade C+. I tend to be very cautious grading guys who haven’t reached North America yet, but a strong debut in ’15 could make him an elite prospect (in the Bs if not higher) entering ’16. Invest accordingly if that fits your time horizon. There’s tons of risk but the reward could be worthwhile.

And in the index it would look like this:

Minnesota Twins 44 players

Jason Adam RHP C
Jose Berrios RHP B+
Cameron Booser LHP C
Nick Burdi RHP B-
Byron Buxton OF A
Michael Cederoth RHP C+
J.T. Chargois RHP C
Logan Darnell LHP C
Lewin Diaz 1B C+ HIGH CEILING ALERT
Tyler Duffey RHP C+ SLEEPER ALERT
Ryan Eades RHP C



Anyway, that's the concept. It is experimental but I'm going to try it this year. Comments are welcome.