Minor League Prospects in Person: Perception, Reality, or Dizzy Bat Races?

dizzy bat race

I’m headed to a minor league game tonight between the Everett Aquasox and the Vancouver Canadians, a Northwest League short season A-ball match-up. A ritual that I like to go through before hitting a minor league park–aside from donning my raggedy Astros cap–is to research who the supposed “top prospects” in the game are. It’s a tough thing to keep up with, the prospects game, beyond the top 20 or so, but I’ve found that it can be a great way to engage with a randomly attended minor league game.

The guys who show up as top prospects do seem to have an air about them that sets them apart: a little stronger, a little more relaxed in the batter’s box. Just…something. I watch them a little more closely, noting the quickness of their hands or the snap of their fastball, and their hands seem a little quicker, their fastballs a little snappier than everyone else’s.

It is likely that these are tricks of the mind, and that I perceive these chosen players as superior because their status has been planted into my brain by the bloggerati. This is a notable 180 from the usual baseball blogging/SABRmetric goal of pointing out who is actually better than he appears to be to the naked eye.

The real trick would be to take my amateur scout’s eye to a game and make the determination myself about who looks the sharpest. Then I could check that against the prospect lists and see what happens. Granted, one game is nothing on lengthy scouting trips and reports, but I have to think that most scouting–by anybody, at any level except the highest–is firmly rooted in the second hand to begin with.

It’s too late to try this experiment tonight, as I’ve already got the names of the chosen ones bouncing around in my head, but perhaps soon I will trek to minor league parks unknown and challenge myself to a Scout-Off. It’s me VS. the Internet. I’d better wear my glasses.

How do you watch a minor league game? Is it all beers, conversation and promo night hi jinks, or do you try and get into the prospect-watching yourself?

(For the record, my favorite prospect site is John Sickel’s Minor League Ball.)

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