Before The 2011 MLB Draft, Some Things You Should Probably Know

SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 07: MLB commissioner Bud Selig speaks during the MLB First Year Player Draft on June 7, 2010 held in Studio 42 at the MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The MLB amateur draft is a hype machine discussed in its own language. Let's try to get to the heart of where everything comes from, and what so many statements actually mean.

Later on Monday, the 2011 MLB Draft kicks off at 4 p.m. if you're on the good coast, 7 p.m. if you're on the worse coast, and somewhere in between if you're not on any coast. Much has been written about the draft, much will be written about the draft, and you can find a lot of relevant content right here by exploring this very website. We do it all for you, baby birds.

Most of the attention so far has been devoted to the individual players. This is how it ought to be, since it's the individual players who're getting drafted. They're the guys who're trying to become the new top prospects. But I thought I'd write up a quick little guide to understanding how the draft is discussed so that you can better wade through everything you're going to hear. The draft is an unusual time, discussed in an unusual language, and it helps to know where information is coming from, and what certain statements actually mean.

So, your general and incomplete draft guide:

The opinions of the many trace back to the opinions of the few
Everybody who follows the MLB draft has opinions on the MLB draft. Everybody has their own favorite players and least favorite players, and when things go right or wrong, a lot of people will respond with remarkable emotion. The majority of these people have never actually seen the players play. Thorough scouting reports are generated by a select few, and these reports spread like a brushfire. Which isn't to say that the reports are wrong. Many reports are accurate. But scouting is a subjective art, and scouting opinions should never be taken as gospel. Draft time tricks people into making conclusive statements when they should not.

A safe pick is not actually very safe
Sometimes you will hear a player - usually from the collegiate ranks - described as being "safe," implying that he has very high odds of getting to the majors and making a contribution. These players may have better odds than the rest of the pool, but that doesn't mean their odds are good. Ahoy there! Nobody in the draft is a guarantee, or anything close. Especially when you get past the first handful of picks. Bet against everyone.

A pitcher who draws comparisons to Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer will probably be bad
Comparing a young pitcher to Glavine or Moyer is another way of saying "well his stuff isn't very good at all." Pitchers who don't have very good stuff generally hit the wall in AA or so. The reason Glavine and Moyer are cited so often when discussing a soft-tossing lefty is because so few soft-tossing lefties actually make it.

A pitcher who is polished is often a pitcher with underwhelming stuff
"Polish" usually means "his offspeed stuff works, which is good, because his fastball isn't very fast." A "polished" pitcher is frequently considered a "safe" pitcher, although they don't always overlap. "Polish" is supposed to be one of those indications that a pitcher has a consistent delivery, is smart, and attacks with a plan, but you can teach plans. You can't teach a good arm.

A pitcher with a good or bad delivery is usually just another pitcher
There are some deliveries that appear legitimately good or legitimately bad. But at the end of the day, we don't actually understand deliveries very well, and only making things worse is that so many different scouts will have so many different opinions on the same mechanics. We only kind of understand what makes one delivery more effective than another, and we barely understand at all how much stress any given pitcher's body can withstand. You can pay attention to mechanical breakdowns, but ultimately it's all only semi-informed speculation.

A "projectable" player is tall
A "projectable" player is tall.

A pitcher with the potential for three plus pitches is a pitcher without three plus pitches
It is easy to throw an inconsistent, occasionally solid offspeed pitch. Look, Ervin Santana's doing it right now. It is much harder to develop an offspeed pitch into an actual, reliable weapon. Every pitcher with a half-decent arm has the potential to throw three plus pitches. Very few of them will.

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That about covers it, although I'm sure there's a lot I left out. Much like a fantasy baseball draft, the MLB amateur draft is exciting, but much like a fantasy baseball draft, a lot of the MLB amateur draft ends up disappointing. You are free to get excited about the players you see your team draft, but please, for the sake of your own sanity, do not evaluate these players by their possible ceilings. They will only let you down. Most of the players selected on Monday will fail. The overwhelming majority of the players selected on Tuesday and Wednesday will fail. Some of the players are very very good, and have high odds of breaking through, but in the end, all of these players are kids with a long road ahead of them, and vehicles break down. Be reasonable.

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