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Thoughts on grading the glove-first shortstop prospect

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Ozzie Smith, circa 1996
Ozzie Smith, circa 1996
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Earlier this month, we discussed how to account for the relative value of prospects at different positions. Here is another discussion question along the same lines but with a slightly different angle.

Every year there are some prospects who may not hit a lot but who stand out for their defensive ability and are young enough to eventually do something with the bat. Of course, most of the time the "glove first" guys stay glove-first for their entire careers and never do improve with the bat. Most players in this category end up being utility players under most circumstances and hold little fantasy value.

Occasionally you'll get a guy who will play regularly for a while even if they don't hit much: the Mark Belanger, or Rey Ordonez or Adam Everett types. Andrelton Simmons. Rarely, someone will pop up with a genuine Hall of Fame caliber glove, but Ozzie Smiths are few and far between. And even Ozzie turned into a good hitter eventually. That usually doesn't happen.

As I work through the prospects every season and run into these glove-first guys, the grade often comes down to Grade C/C+ with a utility player projection. There's a few dozen every year. I try not to default to that grade but it happens a lot. Part of the issue is the dichotomy between fantasy value and real baseball, since most prospect lists straddle the boundary between the two universes.

Ultimately the best thing is to just write the report and make the player's strength and weaknesses clear that way. It does provide another example of how a single letter grade, or Overall Future Potential number, is at best a short-hand.

Your thoughts?