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More Prospect Talk: Sickels' Handbook

I got my Prospect Handbook by John Sickels this week, and I've been mulling over how to write it up. Unlike with Baseball America, there isn't as much detail to mine from the book outside of his scouting reports. And, for those, I really don't like getting into the details of what he likes or doesn't like about a guy, because that might prevent someone from buying his excellent book and, by turn, make it slightly less likely that he produces more.

There's not going to be as much detail in this, but I did want to discuss one big issue and then some extraneous stuff about the system's write ups. 

In what was basically a throwaway line in his summary of Jordan Lyles, Sickels mentions that the young hurler has four secondary pitches. He then states that Lyles' curve and his change are considered his best pitches. If you've been following our discussions of Lyles here this spring, you'll know that's a bit opposite what most of us have said. In fact, it's different from what Lyles has thrown so far, mixing in his fastball with the slider mostly and some changes and a few curves.

It's simply semantics here, and I'm not trying to pick at nits, but it goes back to the essence of scouting. Sickels is a one-man band, who does travel to see prospects when he can, but also relies on traditional scouts talking to him and his statistics on guys. If the scout he talked to about Lyles told him his best two pitches were the curve and the change, then that's what Sickels goes with. 

The other thing is, it may be true. Subber thinks that his curve could be a big-league out pitch if he refines it a bit. He definitely changes speeds well enough with the curve for it to be effective, but I have no idea how well he controls it. What I do know is that Baseball America rated his slider as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. That's pretty good right now and would mean his curve needed to be vastly superior to that, which it's not right now.

The question then boils down to this: who do we trust? Do we go with Baseball America's team of writers and scouts? Do we trust Sickels? Do we trust our own eyes in watching Lyles pitch this spring? 

For me, the answer is simple. I'll trust OremLK and Subber10 all day long, because they've seen Lyles throw more than most of the national scouts the two main prospect books talk to. That doesn't mean their information is wrong, but it does mean we have to view it skeptically. In this case, our guys have better information than they do. In the case of Ariel Ovando, we have to take their word for it.

If you've never seen Sickels' Handbook, he lays it out a little differently than BA does. The biggest difference you'll notice right away is that Sickels lists all the players alphabetically without grouping by team. If you want to track down all the Houston players he reviewed, you have to go back to the index and find the organizational list to see how many guys he put in. This year, that numbers was 35.

What that has done for me is made me read about guys in other organizations. Invariably, I also read about draft picks from last summer who I liked for the Astros. One guy that really made me sad was Josh Sale. Sickels' notes on him were exactly what the Astros lack in their system: power. I'm sure the reasons Houston stayed away from him were the questionable defense and worries about whether he'll hit for average at higher levels. But, there's no doubts about his bat.

I also liked seeing some under-the-radar guys on his list, like Jose Cisnero and Carlos Quevedo. Even 15th round pick Rodney Quevedo made his book, which surprised me. He wasn't super high on any of them, and kept referring to the "thin system" making it easier for those guys to be fast risers with good results this year. It was also good to be vindicated some with his notes on Ben Heath and Tommy Shirley. He liked both of them, even with the detraction's, which is what we said last summer.

Overall, though, I feel better about the depth this season than last. There were more Grade B guys in the Astros system than last, though only Lyles cracked the Top 50 players lists, coming in as the No. 17 pitcher. Both J.D. Martinez and DDJ had good reviews, but couldn't crack the Top 50 hitters list. I think the problem with Martinez is his unorthodox swing hurts him when talking about overall rankings. He'll be good, but that chance is maybe less than someone like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, who have more conventional games.

Anyone else looked through Sickels' book and have thoughts?