Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect takes a multi-faceted approach when looking at prospects. Some people look for telling statistics to help predict whether a minor league prospect might break out, or whether his numbers are a facade. Others rely heavily on scouting reports, either their own or others'. Eisenberg does both of those, as well as his own video study of players' mechanics, and attempts to synthesize all the data he can find into one crisp report about a player.
Earlier this season, he wrote a bit about the Tigers.
The former HardballTimes and Baseball Daily Digest writer took a few minutes to answer some questions about how he compiles his reports, and what he thinks about both the Tigers' system in general and a few prospects in particular.
KM: Thanks for taking the time to do this. Before we get started looking at the Tigers in particular, could you tell us a bit of background about yourself and your web site, Baseball-Intellect, as far as what it brings unique to ever-growing list of sites that cover the scouting of prospects and amateurs?
AE: I graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Kinesiology and supplemented it with Biomechanical research. I noticed an inefficiency in baseball analysis on the internet about three or four years ago, when I was in college, where much of the analysis was based off numbers and I think the work I've done has helped fill that inefficiency.
Could you talk a bit about using video analysis in creating your scouting reports?
Video makes something that looks confusing on paper easier to understand because you can visually see what the words are trying to convey. The only way you can truly get people to understand mechanical concepts or truly explain what changes a player has made to his mechanics over the years is by using video for readers to see.
I also think fans and people that play fantasy baseball crave information. But they want to make sure the information they get is right. Using video allows individuals to make their own judgment on players.
Is this something anyone could learn how to do, or is there specialized training to attain?
I think anybody can learn how to do what I do...as I said, I have a background in Kinesiology and Biomechanics, but a lot of what I learned was self taught. I learned from a variety of sources I felt were credible, I've collected thousands of clips, and I've watched a ton of video. Eventually, things sort of click and you get it.
When projecting players, do you think it's more useful to look at the tools or the numbers?
It's difficult to choose, but I'll say tools win out during the first couple years and as more and more data is accumulated and a track record starts to develop, numbers start to become more important because results have to count at some point.
Let's turn to the Tigers' system now. What's your take on it?
I like the prospects sitting at the top of the system. I'm a big fan of Turner and Crosby...I see both making big jumps next year in everybody's top-100 prospect list. I like Avila, Sizemore, and Jackson though I'm not crazy about any of them. I thought the selection of Oliver at No. 58 was an excellent value pick. I really like Fields' upside and I think Streiby is a sleeper. But I don't like the system's depth. Once you get past the first seven or so prospects, the system really thins out. You're looking at mostly part time hitters or potential power arms out of the bullpen.
It bothers some fans the Tigers have focused so much attention on pitchers at the expense of position players. Do you think the Tigers' draft philosophy of taking high-ceiling pitchers in the first round appears to be paying dividends or is it too early to know?
Absolutely it's paying dividends. The theory is that you want to use your first round pick on a bat, and then stockpile the pitching, but I think it depends on the kind of pitchers you're acquiring and where in the draft you're picking them.
We see more position players bubbling up this season than in recent years, do you think they've turned a corner there, or are we kind of grasping for straws looking for positives there?
It's a little of both. You have some of the college hitters making their way up...a couple solid regulars and a bunch of mostly part-time players. But I see very little depth below Double-A. You have Gustavo Nunez and Fields...that's about it.
I'm a bit curious about some guys who are new to the Tigers' system, such as center fielder Austin Jackson. There's a lot of debate whether he projects to be a good major league player and his statistics in the minors are a bit mixed, as well as a bit luck driven. What's your take, and is he ready to start the season in the MLB this year?
Jackson is a difficult guy to evaluate...I know you read my scouting report on him, which documented his many swings over the years. His most recent swing had him getting rid of his big leg kick...I hypothesized that the change was made because without the leg kick, he would have an easier time adjusting to off-speed pitches, which would help reduce his strikeouts. Of course, his most productive period occurred when he was using that big leg kick.
You didn't rank lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth this offseason, but how do you view his future possibilities?
Correct, based on the criteria I laid out for what qualified for a prospect, he was not included. Overall, he's got a tremendous arm and two really good pitches. He doesn't have to have pin point control because his stuff will make up for mistakes in location, but he obviously has command problems he needs to address. I'm not sure what's been up with him this spring though I wouldn't be too concerned...as long as he hasn't experienced some sort of drop in velocity.
Thanks again, Alex, for taking the time to answer some questions for us!