Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook

Today in my mailbox the yellow package arrived from the folks at Baseball America. Contained inside was their annual Prospect Handbook product, the Bible for following baseball prospects.

Published annually, the Prospect Handbook contains the Top 30 prospects for each organization in Major League Baseball as evaluated by the staff of Baseball America.

The book contains a full page spread on the #1 prospect in each organization, shows a thumbnail photo of each of the top 10 prospects, with a bio and brief scouting report on every one of the 30 listed.

A new feature with the 2012 edition is the inclusion of both a scouting numerical “grade” and a “risk factor” for each evaluated prospect.

The scouting grade will reflect the state of the player’s current physical skills. The risk factor will show whether that player is more likely at this stage of his career to maximize those skills and to reach his potential.

The scouting grade is based on the traditional baseball 20-80 ‘OFP’ (Overall Future Potential) formula in which players are rated on their power, hitting ability, arm, base running/speed, and fielding ability.

The highest ranked players, those in the 75-80 range of the scale, are impact talents that can change the face of an organization. Most prospects will fall into the 50-55 range. You will rarely see players at a 30-35 or lower level make it into the book.

The risk factor was developed by the folks at Baseball America, and includes ratings of “Safe”, “Low”, “Medium”, “High” and “Extreme” that will reflect their opinion as to how likely it is that a player with a certain skill set is to maximize his potential and translate those skills to the big league level.

A “Safe” player is one that has already demonstrated they can play in ‘The Show, and only four players were given this rating in this initial roll-out of the designations.

At the current time, almost all talent evaluators in baseball would be in agreement that the top 3 prospects in the game overall are outfielders Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, and pitcher Matt Moore of the Tampa Rays. Trout and Moore were 2 of the 4 players awarded the “Safe” designation, because each player has performed at the MLB level and has shown that his skills do indeed translate to that level of play.

The highest-rated overall prospect is Harper of the Nats. Well known by baseball insiders for years, and by even the most casual fans by this point, Harper was a Sports Illustrated cover subject back in June of 2009 when he was just 16 years old.

Now still just 19, Harper is poised to become the latest teenage phenom to take the big league stage. His prodigious power and overall skill set have led Baseball America to hand him their only ’80’ grade. Coupled with a “Low” risk factor, only some freak injury would appear to be standing between this young man and baseball immortality.

Baseball America is the single most respected publication in the game today in the area of young player information. The writers and researchers key on the minor leagues, college and high school ball, the business side of the game, and stories of general interest in the sport.

Baseball American also covers foreign leagues to keep fans and insiders alike abreast of the latest news and information on players and teams overseas. Of course, there is some Major League Baseball coverage as well, particularly when it comes to the annual First Year Player Draft.

The 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook is available at this time through their website at http://www.baseballamerica.com for the price of $32.95, and ordering through them also gets you their upcoming ‘Top 100 Prospects’ issue and a bonus supplement showing extra prospects for each organization that just missed the Top 30 lists.

The book will be available in a few weeks through places such as Amazon and in book stores. Wherever you prefer, if you are a baseball fan, make sure that you pickup the book, and while you’re at it, get a subscription to the magazine, the website, or both.

The input of Will Lingo, Jim Callis, John Manuel, J.J. Cooper and others from BA will undoubtedly increase your own knowledge of the game. Baseball America and it’s publications are must-haves for anyone who wants to call themselves a true baseball fan.

Rallying ‘Round Romney

I’ve been a fan of Newt Gingrich for a long time. At the same time that Gingrich was leading the Republicans to victory in the 1994 congressional elections with his “Contract With America“, I was making my own shift from lifelong liberal Democrat to social conservative Republican.

Gingrich is a brilliant man, a superb debater, and perhaps the single most informed individual in the entire Party on the entire range of issues.

His performances in the early candidate debates were outstanding. So it was with hope that I began to support his candidacy for the Presidency last year, and with excitement that I watched him bolt to the polling lead a month or so ago.

But as the weeks pass, the first states begin to cast their primary and caucus ballots, and the candidates are exposed to one another in more focused debates and to the press and public at campaign stops that now matter more than ever, Mitt Romney has taken a commanding lead.

The former Massachusetts Governor became the first Republican in modern primary history to capture both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

Romney’s doubleheader sweep in the Heartland and in New England show that he has a wide range of appeal. That has always been one of Mitt Romney’s strengths.

He has never been considered an ideologue, never been considered a part of the ‘Vast Right Wing Conspiracy’, never been beholden to the ‘Tea Party’ or any other particular group. He appeals to many people on many issues, and makes almost as many wary on almost as many issues.

The problem for Republicans like myself who label ourselves as true Conservatives, and who have been searching for a candidate to face off against Barack Obama in the fall, is that we have been looking for “Super Conservative” – a candidate who fits that label on both social and fiscal policy issues. We want a candidate who paints a stark contrast to Obama’s near-socialist liberalism.

But in our haste to find the perfect candidate, we need to remember two very important things. First, that candidate does not seem to exist. No one is perfect.  When viewed from the standpoint of true Conservatives, all of the contenders who actually want the position as the Republican nominee have weaknesses ranging from personal to experiential to their past legislative and governing records.

The second thing that we need to remember then becomes the single most important – we need to get rid of Obama. As the single most liberal President in American history, Obama has blown the deficit through the roof, stagnated the economy, threatened taxation increases on the very people and businesses that drive that economy, bailed out large corporations with our tax dollars and on the backs of our grandchildren.

God help us all if he actually gets to appoint a Supreme Court Justice this year. The damage that individual is likely to do over the next few decades, for many of us covering the rest of our lives, would be unimaginable.

The most important thing that every Republican across the country, especially every Conservative currently backing Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, or Rick Perry, or Ron Paul needs to remember is that we simply cannot allow ourselves to be pulled apart by our differences. We have far too many more similarities to let that happen. More importantly, we have far too many differences with Obama and his socialist-style cronies to allow our nation to suffer through another four years.

I have backed off my support of Newt Gingrich and thrown my hat fully into the camp of Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination and for the Presidency of the United States because I believe that he legitimately offers the Party the best chance to defeat Obama and socialism. I also believe that, with a Republican congress supporting him, Romney will produce a far more truly Conservative administration than any in the last twenty years.

From his own website comes the Romney vision: Mitt Romney will rebuild the foundations of the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation. His plan seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs. It seeks to increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility. It relinquishes power to the states instead of claiming to have the solution to every problem.

Romney is also born again hard on a number of social issues, including continually emphasizing of late that he has become staunchly “pro-life” in his view on abortion. On military matters, Romney has stated publicly that he wants to grow the defense budget to allow for modernization of the aging Navy and Air Force fleets. He has attacked Obama for not doing enough to counter the greatest military threat to ourselves and our allies, a nuclear Iran.

Mitt Romney has earned a record as a ‘moderate’ Republican. However, he is leaning towards more Conservative positions now. I believe that is not simply due to wishing to earn the nomination, but also because he has genuinely grown or been pushed towards those positions. Either way is fine with me, all that matters is where he is now, and where he will take the nation.

I am asking any one of my fellow American Republicans currently supporting another candidate, or currently holding back their support for anyone, to strongly consider throwing your full, outward, vocal, strong support to the campaign of Mitt Romney for President of the United States.