At this time of the year, Spring Training is the national signal for the start of the best time of year -- baseball season. To most, that means that the Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball seasons are finally here, and it certainly is. But for guys like Conor Glassey, the middle of February is also a sign that the college and high school baseball seasons are starting. Conor, Baseball America's draft writer and amateur expert, is known for his knowledge and coverage on that exact topic. If you are a draft junkie, an amateur baseball fanatic, and baseball fan in general, Conor is your guy. Enjoy.
Dave Gershman: It's almost time for the high school and college baseball seasons to start. As you and your colleagues over at Baseball America prepare for the pre-draft adventure, can you talk a little bit about what you will be doing in terms of scouting and preparing for the big day in early June?
Conor Glassey: Like everybody reading this, here at BA, we're champing at the bit for baseball season to start! Our draft coverage really starts right after the draft is over. Literally days after the draft is completed, I hit the road and spend a lot of time in the summer following the top high school players around the country to various showcase events. We also provide scouting reports on the top players in every summer college league and those two things provide the backbone for our draft coverage in the spring.
Once the season starts, most of what we do is done in the office—calling around the country to our network of coaches and scouts for information. But, we also get out to a lot of games, too. Our offices in Durham, N.C. are a great location because the minor league writers have every level of the minor leagues within an hour or two from the office, there's a good high school baseball scene and ACC college baseball.
There are a few games I'm really looking forward to seeing this year. . . April 1 I'll be going down to South Carolina to see Kentucky. I've never been to South Carolina's stadium before, and I heard it's really nice. Plus I'll get to see two potential first rounders in Kentucky righthander Alex Meyer and South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley. On April 8-10, Rice will be playing East Carolina, so I'll head out there to see Rice 3B Anthony Rendon. And then on April 30, Nathan Rode and I will be driving to Knoxville, Tenn. to see Science Hill High take on Farragut High. It will be an epic high school pitching matchup between top lefthander Daniel Norris and another lefthander from our HS Top 100, Phillip Pfeifer. Farragut also has one of the best position players in the country in catcher/infielder Nicky Delmonico. So that's going to be a lot of fun! Our college writer, Aaron Fitt, recently moved to Southern California, so he'll be watching plenty of great baseball this season too.
But we go to those games to report on them, not to scout. We're all writers at Baseball America, not scouts. There are a lot of people on the internet these days trying to scout players on their own—and while I'm obviously happy to see interest in prospects and amateur players on the rise, it also creates a lot of noise and misinformation. Here at BA, we have way too much respect for scouts and the jobs they do to try and pretend we can it on our own.
Dave Gershman: As the season nears, many amateurs expected to blow the nation away with their awe-inspiring talent are on course to. But many underrated players are looking to impress as well. Can you talk about some sleepers that may prove to be a first round talent or thereabouts when they were certainly not last season?
Conor Glassey: It's an extremely deep draft class, so sneaking into the first round is going to be tougher than usual. I think we're going to see guys in the second round that would have had a shot to be first rounders in previous years. That's why, if you're a Rays fan, you should be extremely excited, since they have 11 of the first 75 picks in the draft.
A lot can happen between now and June, though—especially on the high school side. At this time last year, we didn't have half the eventual high school first-rounders projected as first-round picks.
With that said, I'll give you two guys that aren't projected to be first-rounders right now, but wouldn't surprise me if they wound up there in June. On the college side, my sleeper would be Gonzaga lefthander Ryan Carpenter. We have him projected in the middle of the second round right now, but he's a physical lefthander that sits in the low 90s and touches 95. My high school sleeper would be righthander Taylor Guerrieri from Spring Valley High in Columbia, S.C. Like Carpenter, he's not a real deep sleeper, because he came in at No. 23 on our High School Top 100 list, but he's not a projected first rounder right now and he could certainly wind up there. Guerrieri has a strong build, also sits in the low 90s and can get up to 95. He has a good feel for four pitches, which is rare for a high school arm. It's a big year for the Carolinas and Guerrieri could be the second player after Jackie Bradley to go off the board from those two states.
Dave Gershman: Among players that are filled with boatloads of talent, can you talk about some of the players you are excited to see the most? What would an amateur player have to do to catch the eye of someone like you?
Conor Glassey: I'm very excited to see the players I mentioned in the first question—Jackie Bradley, Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Daniel Norris, Phillip Pfeifer and Nicky Delmonico. But there's also a lot of great players in this area that I'll be seeing this year. Opening weekend, I'll be out at NC State and I'm excited to see righthander Cory Mazzoni, catcher Pratt Maynard and first baseman Harold Riggins. I'm excited to see North Carolina's Levi Michael play shortstop this season and I'll see ACC guys like Georgia Tech lefthander Jed Bradley and Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen. On the high school side, it's a great year in North Carolina andI'll be driving around a bunch to see all those guys and hopefully I'll also get down to SC to see Guerrieri, who I mentioned earlier.
Like most people, when I'm watching amateur players, I like good athletes. I like guys that make things look easy. I like when players show nice actions in the field or good bat speed. I like guys that hustle and show that they love what they're doing. For pitchers, obviously I like to see a good fastball with movement. I like when pitchers challenge hitters and aren't afraid to throw inside. I like to see good breaking balls and athletic, repeatable deliveries. Those are things I think everyone likes. But, like I mentioned, when I see these things I don't take my own eye and opinion as fact. I use my observations to ask questions to scouts.
Dave Gershman: Can you explain to our readers why you should not compare amateur players to big leaguers? For example, interesting deliveries or diminutive size makes a player more appealing to the average fan, and if you take a guy such as Trevor Bauer and compare him to Tim Lincecum, there's really no point -- too many differences despite a "similar delivery." What are your thoughts Conor?
Conor Glassey: I'm not big on comparisons. Too many times comparisons are forced on players and it's really not fair. Sometimes comparisons work, but many times there are too many differences between the two players and it can set unrealistic standards for the younger player. I don't mind comparing certain parts of a player's game to another player's—saying a player is built like another player or that his curveball moves like another player's, but I don't generally like the overall comparisons.
Dave Gershman: What are your thoughts on picking high upside guys early, rather than later in the draft opposed to taking a college guy with less growing room/upside? The reason I ask, is because one of amateur baseball's most intriguing, scout-loving, and best players by the name of Bubba Starling fits the description a great deal, but is a project. Your thoughts?
Conor Glassey: When teams are lining up their draft board, they have to factor risk into the equation, but I believe they should always take the best player available. With Bubba, you're right—he does have considerable upside. But I don't think he'll be as much of a project as some people think. He's such a good athlete that if he chooses to focus only on baseball for the first time in his life, I think he'll really take off. This is a kid that hasn't faced a lot of quality competition and went out this summer and played very well for Team USA.
Dave Gershman: Talk about some of your amazing colleagues: Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, JJ Cooper, John Manuel, Will Lingo, Matt Eddy, and many more. You guys do a fantastic job throughout the year bringing us expert opinions on players who the average fan may have a hard time seeing or figuring out. Talk about some of the roles that guys like Jim, Aaron and others play in helping Baseball America be one of, if not the best amateur/minor league coverage in America.
Conor Glassey: First off, thank you very much for saying that. We really appreciate it! Before I worked at Baseball America, I thought the guys here were, by far, the best in the business. Now that I've seen how the sausage is made, it's only solidified that opinion. It isn't just a great group of writers and reporters, but we have a great group of guys. It's incredible to think that between Jim Callis, John Manuel and Will Lingo, there's almost 60 years of combined experience at Baseball America.
Being able to work with them and learn from them is a great opportunity for the rest of us here on the staff. Jim and John wear all hats, focusing on all aspects of the game—the draft, college baseball and the minor leagues. They have so much knowledge about the game and respect within the industry. More often than not, when I'm talking to a coach or a scout, they'll endthe conversation with "Tell John I say hi!" or "Say hi to Jim Callis for me!"
Will has a hand in all facets of what we do too andmakes sure everything runs smoothly around here. He does a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at BA to make sure our magazine gets out on time and the books we publish get finished.
In my opinion, nobody covers college baseball better than Aaron Fitt. That guy is a machine! Likewise, Ben Badler blows everyone out of the water when it comes to covering the international side of the game. He has the same challenges I have in covering the draft, but it's even more difficult when you factor in the fact that the players are younger andall the shady stuff that happens down there that he has to sort through. Ben does a tremendous job with the international stuff and is also one of our main minor league writers.
Everyone does a little bit of everything here at Baseball America, but our other minor league writers also knock it out of the park. Of course I'm talking about Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd. We have the business side of minor league baseball covered with Josh Leventhal, J.J. Cooper covers the independent leagues better than anyone else and Nathan Rode is extremely passionate about his coverage of high school baseball.
We may not always be right—nobody ever is in this game—but I do believe we have the best process for everything we do.
Dave Gershman: As the Collective Bargaining Agreement may change the draft format by June of the following year, teams like the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, Nationals and more teams might fail to benefit from this change. Can you talk about how the future CBA might impact the draft for years to come?
Conor Glassey: Well, it's tough to comment on that until we know what's going to happen. I think the draft will be one of the big focus points during the upcoming CBA negotiations and a lot of interesting things could happen—some sort of slotting system, trading draft picks and maybe even an international draft. I would rate the likelihood of those things happening in that order. The idea of a slotting system would be to try andmake sure the worst teams get the best players, but there could very easily be some major side effects. It may cause more high school players to go to college instead of signing out of high school, which could be both good and bad. We'll see what actually happens—it's certainly going to be an interesting development!
As I trace back to my earlier question about sleeper talents, can you talk a little bit about development andhow teams would go about not only finding a diamond in the rough, but going a step further and turning that 18th round pick or 42nd round pick in to a big leaguer? Or do teams misjudge causing a player to fall where he falls?
If team's had crystal balls, the draft would sure be a lot easier, wouldn't it? Even in football and basketball, where players go straight from college to the highest level, there are huge busts at the top of the draft and lower-round picks that go on to become stars. So, obviously when you're picking players that are three, four, five years away from the major leagues, it's tough to project how those careers are going to play out. Sometimes those late-round gems are the product of great scouting and sometimes they're just luck.
Dave Gershman: Thank you Conor for doing this interview. We anticipate hearing about all of the great coverage you will be doing come baseball season.
Conor Glassey: Thanks for having me, Dave. I really appreciate it. A few other things I wanted to mention to your readers: All of our writers are on Twitter and we have a variety of subscription options at our site. In addition to our print magazine and our online subscriptions, we recently launched a digital edition of the magazine and we have many different subscription options to fit anyone's budget (three-month, six-month, one-year or two-years). We also produce four books each off-season, including the Prospect Handbook, where we write scouting reports on each team's top 30 prospects.
To access Baseball America's store, click here.