I’ll come right out and admit it – I have a bit of a soft spot for Seth Stohs. Seth is the person who inspired me to begin blogging in the summer of 2008 (man, that seems a long time ago). Seth is not only the most knowledgeable person I have encountered on the Twins farm system and prospects, he’s also the most relentlessly positive Twins blogger I have met. Let’s face it, I’m a huge cynic. I’ve always had a problem seeing the bright side of things, both with the Twins and with life more generally. Thank God for my wife, who constantly reminds me that things are not as bad as they seem. I think Seth fills that role in the Twins Blogosphere, not just for me, but for everyone that reads his work and occasionally needs a boost up.
So, I thought it was more than appropriate to use the 100th post on this blog to review his second annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.
When I ordered the 2010 Prospect Handbook, I expected much the same thing from last year. Not that that’s a bad thing – last year’s handbook was probably the most read book in my library until the new one came out. It was indispensable when putting together this year’s prospect list – probably the source I used most short of baseball-reference.com.
But this year’s handbook is a whole different kind of animal. Last year’s book was a useful resource, but it didn’t really become something that I’d look at just for the fun of it. This one exceeds my expectations on that front, which are admittedly high (I normally read police and suspense fiction). But despite it all, the thing that gets me the most is that “Seth,” the blogger and Twins/minor league fanatic we all know from his blog, tweets, and podcasts, comes through on every page.
But who’s Seth, and why do we want him coming through on each page? As Kelly Thesier of MLB.com wrote in her introduction, “[h]e knows the Twins minor league system perhaps better than anyone who isn’t a member of the Twins front office staff, and I trust that anyone who reads this book will have a much better understanding of the club’s future.” I would disagree with Kelly on one thing, though: I’d wager that he knows the Twins system better than many members of the Twins FO staff.
*Disclaimer – I have never met Seth. I have never spoken to Seth. I have never even appeared on the same podcast as Seth. But, like so many others, I feel like I know Seth through his prolific writing and podcasts.
The Handbook is a great source for everything you had ever wanted to know about the Twins minor league system. It has over 150 individual summaries – one for each of some of the best and most interesting prospects in the Twins system, encompassing the best that the Twins have to offer in years going forward, at least until the next draft and the next. Seth gives information about each prospect, their abilities, their strengths, their weaknesses, injury risks, and what they have to do to succeed in the Twins organization.
One of the best things about Seth’s work are the volume and quantity of player interviews he gets (oh, to have the contacts he has). In On the Cusp, a story about highly touted prospect Danny Valencia, he shows off the best of his work. “I feel my defense has gotten better every year. I still have work to do and I will continue to work hard at it. Not everyone is Joe Crede.” Seth points out a weakness, but also shows us why our expectations might make that molehill into a mountain.
There are also areas that I personally have rarely thought about in the Prospect Handbook. I know nothing about the Dominican Summer League. Well, Seth gives his top five prospects from the Twins team in that league. I know next to nothing about the international scouting game. Seth, well, has that covered. And at the same time, he writes in a way that someone like me, who is functionally illiterate when it comes to stats (I know what’s good and bad, but I don’t know why or how they’re calculated), can follow and get a good feeling for why such a statistic is useful and descriptive.
All of that can be found in this 125-page tome. However, there is one thing missing that I found surprising – Seth doesn’t have the statistical detachment that is so common on blogs and in other prospect publications. Where one author might talk about xFIP, Seth mentions that Andrei Lobanov might have the chance to be only the sixth Russian-born major leaguer. Where another author might relentlessly criticize a player for not living up to his potential, Seth writes that Chris Parmelee spent another “building year.” When another blogger might get discouraged at one player’s lack of plate discipline, Seth is able to find a positive in the numbers.
But mostly, you can tell from the words on the page that Seth cares about the minor leaguers. Not just as many people care about the product put out on the field by developing, but professional athletes. But also about the players as people. He knows that Wang-Wei Lin’s brother plays in the Boston organization. He knows that Bobby Lanigan can have trouble controlling his emotions when things aren’t going for him. He knows what kind of person many players are off the field. And he doesn’t just know: in his writing, it’s evident that he cares.
It’s refreshing. And this world could deal with more of it.
So, really, if you’re reading this blog right now, if you own Twin season tickets (or just plan to go to a few games), or even if you hang out on the East Coast and never get to see the Twins in person because they are ALWAYS playing the orioles during finals (sorry, I’m projecting a bit here), you owe it to yourself to get the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook.
Seth Stohs blogs at http://www.sethspeaks.net and http://talkintwinsbball.wordpress.com. He also runs a weekly podcast and another episode of The Show, which he hosts with TJ DeSantis. The Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook can be purchased by visiting his website, from bbotw.com, and even on Amazon.