Since joining the UBA NL-only roto league where I needed to increase my knowledge of all the prospects in MLB, I started checking out the various sites that cover them including Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America and John Sickel's Minor League Ball. Another site I used quite often is Project Prospect, run by Adam Foster. Adam was nice enough to answer some questions about his site, rankings system and prospect questions for Fake Team readers.
Today I have part 1 of the interview.
Fake Teams: You run a wonderful prospect site-Project Prospects, tell us how you got started with the site, and interested in scouting.
Adam Foster: I started Project Prospect during my senior year in college (2006). My roommates all went home that summer, so I had a lot of free time.
I was already pretty involved in researching prospects for my fantasy league. And I realized that there was very little MiLB coverage out there. So I started following the minors daily and gathering prospect information.
The next step was getting my internship with Baseball America that winter. I started to gain an understanding of scouting when I worked with BA staffers John Manuel, Matt Eddy, Aaron Fitt, Alan Matthews, Matt Meyers and Chris Kline. Those guys helped me learn a ton about the minors.
Fake Teams: Some sites do rankings based on what the player's potential ceiling is, while others base their rankings based on scouting. How does Project Prospect do their rankings? Is it a combined effort with the other writers on the site, and what are your rankings based on?
Adam Foster: We've evolved to put a lot of weight into a prospect's floor, which typically frustrates fantasy owners. Prospecting has been largely about ceiling over the past decade. We believe than an average big leaguer is very valuable, so we don't shy away from guys who don't have star potential.
I've had dozens of great writers make contributions to the site over our 3+ year history. They've all made an impact on how we rank prospects.
Our first few years, we largely ranked off of numbers. We weren't going out and seeing guys play regularly at that point, so we didn't have much else to work with. We've made a major effort to see guys play this year. I'd be surprised if any publication has been to more 2009 minor league games than Project Prospect - I've travelled thousands of miles to attend Minor League Spring Training, California League games, Pacific Coast League and the Arizona Fall League. We have contributors all over the country who pride themselves on going to games, too. Our goal is to become a community scouting department. Even if we aren't professionally trained scouts, we know a lot about the game and we're getting so many opinions that our information winds up being pretty good.
We've also benefitted from the fact that most prospect media members don't put much energy into quantitative analysis. For some reason, many of the big dogs still are attached to batting average, win-loss totals, ERA and countable stats.
We continue to hone our statistical approach, but we're trying to stay up-to-date with advanced applications of college and minor league baseball statistics. We've communicated with professional front offices about how they utilize numbers. And I think we're on the right track.
Fake Teams: Your site is up against some heavyweights in the prospect/scouting industry, how does your site differ from how the others do their rankings?
Adam Foster: We've put a lot of energy into peer review. On top of going back and figuring out what we could have done better, we also analyze the strengths and weaknesses of other publications. We're constantly making efforts to improve our work...we're hungry.
For example, many of the prospects who have been missed over the last 10 years are guys without high ceilings. That brings us back to the appreciation for guys with high floors. We tend to be higher on that type of player than most publications.
But again, I think our biggest strength our hunger. I know how other publications create their lists. And I know there's room for improvement across the board in media prospect coverage.
Fake Teams: I see you recently attended some Arizona Fall League games. What prospects impressed you the most? The least?
Adam Foster: Josh Bell really impressed me with his defense at third base. He could be above-average all around there. Jonathan Lucroy, Brandon Snyder, Jose Tabata, Starlin Castro and Mike Leake also impressed me.
Casey Kelly and Grant Desme looked lost at the plate more often than not. I also walked away with less confidence in Brandon Allen than I had a few months ago - pitchers were picking him apart. And I didn't realize that Casper Wells is too thick to be a center fielder and such a poor contact hitter.
Fake Teams: How much weight do you put into AFL performances, as it appears to be more of a hitter's league every year?
Adam Foster: Not only do the AFL parks favor hitters, but the pitching is well behind the hitting overall. Guys put up crazy power numbers. Fly balls float out of the park. And while the hitters do typically see 4-5 pitchers a game, I doubt the pitchers really have much info on the hitters they're facing.
I've primarily been looking at strikeouts and walks in the AFL. But yeah, a 75-125 PA/TBF sample can only take you so far. If you take one thing away from reading this transcript, it should be to be careful about giving up much value for Grant Desme right now.