Reviews

Book Review: The Baseball Prospect Book 2004
By John Sickels
Published by Walsworth Publishing Company
p. 401
Available now http://www.mastersball.com/sickels/


John Sickels, a writer from ESPN.com, was nice enough to allow me to review his book, so hopefully I will do it justice.

Sickels starts the book off by explaining the facets of what is contained in the book. Then he explains several methods of examining players. Hitters are looked at using SEC, which is known as Secondary Average and was devised by the master of sabermetrics Bill James, OPS, which is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, as every baseball fan should know, and the Seven Skills -- controlling the strike zone, hitting for power, hitting for average, offensive speed, fielding range, fielding reliability, and throwing utility -- measure. When rating pitchers, Sickels looks at K/BB -- strikeout to walk ratio -- which is a measure of future success. Strikeouts per inning ratio -- K/IP -- is a measure of the pitcher’s stuff, and the same holds true for the hits per inning pitched -- H/IP -- ratio. The final measure for pitchers is the acid test, which is not the same horror our Chemistry teachers subject us to (well, unless you only have finesse, then this is the time pitchers are subjected to getting mashed).

Next in the pages of the book is Sickels’ 2003 Top 50 Prospects revisited, many of whom are still doing great, an indicator to his flair for judging talent. Next is an overview of the first round of the 2003 draft, which has an amazing compilation of stats and scout reports, even though these players may have come from some unknown place like Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, like Chris Lubanski or Defiance High School in Ohio with Chad Billingsley.

Then we get to the meat of the book. Three hundred and thirty-nine pages of pure prospect reports. Statistics from the previous three or four seasons are listed, plus total minor league averages, a little look at the player (i.e. birthday, height, weight, position), and a description of the fellow. While everyone’s favorite statistic OPS is not written in the stats line, anyone can just add the slugging percentage to the on-base percentage. Sickels looks at over 975 prospects (nearly 1/5 of all the minor leaguers out there) and gives comparison to the league average for H/IP, K/IP, and K/BB for the moundsmen and OPS compared to league average for the hitters. He even tells which leagues are hitter friendly and pitcher friendly, as to inform the reader to be wary of unbelievable numbers. He then grades every single prospect using A+ to C- and everywhere in between, where the A grade should be stars, B guys should be everyday players, and C guys should be mopup relief pitchers or bench/utility players. Sometimes, Sickels will digress onto a tangent, but he will have plenty of humor mixed in to make the reading process very enjoyable.

The prospect bombardment continues with Sickels’ new Top 50 hitters and pitchers list. Then there are the top prospects -- usually 15-25 -- from each team listed. Following this is an example of one of Sickels’ newsletters, which seem like a very good thing to get if you wish to follow the minor leagues closely.

I give this book three balls out of four for the average reader, but if you enjoy following minor leaguers, whether they are in your team’s farm system or in general, or if you play Fantasy Baseball in a Keeper League, you must point your browser to http://www.mastersball.com/sickels/ and buy it now, as it will be a great reference guide for your team, real or imagined.

Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:
One Ball: Average. It has something to say but is nothing special.
Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means its a cut above average, and worth reading/owning.
Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.