Scouts On Scouting, Part 5: Their Job


See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 1: Hitting

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 2: Pitching

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 3: Defense

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 4: Makeup


In addition to talking with scouts all year about players, I also spent the year asking scouts about their job. Scouts are the backbone of any major league team, but there isn’t a lot of information out there about what they’re looking for, what they’re doing and how they do their job. So, I asked several scouts about their job this year about their jobs to pass along the information to our readers, whether they’re players, parents, coaches or just fans. Here is the final installment, on their jobs. . .


What do you do to evaluate yourself and what do you do to improve?

“I try and look at where players went and try to figure out what I may have missed on a guy or what I didn’t like about a guy that had me have him further back than where he went or why I may have elevated someone who we passed over that went behind where I liked a guy. I try and stay on top of players from my area from previous drafts to see what they’re doing and how those guys have progressed. Is it how I expected them to? Is it better, worse or is it even in the same ballpark? It’s certainly a long-term process. It’s probably 10 years down then line when everything’s shaken out and we really know what guys are doing. But, obviously, we’re all on one-year contracts, so we don’t really have the luxury of waiting 10 years and then adjusting. So, I try to see as many games at as many different levels as possible. Because you always have to have that baseline of what major league talent looks like. When you run around and watch bad baseball for a month in a row, the decent player in the bad game starts to look like an all-star.”

—A National League area scout

“What we do is a draft review of the current draft at the end of the year. Where did you have the guy turned in versus where he went. And then, what we do that’s really interesting, is go back 5 years and look at all the guys in my area, how much they signed for, where they are right now and how they’re doing. It’s really amazing to see a big leaguer that you missed or a high draft pick that you liked that didn’t make it out of A-ball. So it really gives you a look and you’re like, you think you’re pretty smart? Well, you missed three big leaguers, these two other guys—whatever you want to say for yourself, but you pounded the table for those guys and they weren’t worth a damn. And sometimes it’s like, ‘Hey man, I pounded the table for that son of a gun in the 10th round and look at him now!’ There’s always those guys. It’s a humbling thing, if you do it honestly. It’s really helped me become a better scout, without question.”

—A National League area scout

“That’s the first thing you do after the signing deadline. You’ve got to regroup come late August and sit back and look at your list and see where you can get better, where you did do a good job and where you can get better on your list. You go back to your travel schedule and ask yourself, ‘How can I utilize my time better on the road?’ Because, honestly, you’re not going to see everybody in your area. You’re not. Most of your work is done in the fall for the upcoming season, so if you don’t do your job in the fall, it’s going to make your job harder in the spring because you don’t know where you’re going. You’ve got to have a plan and you go to these showcases and weekend tournaments. It’s a 10-month job because November and December you’re not on the road. But from June to the end of October, you better do your job better every year to get better in the springtime. Some people say you can evaluate how the draft went, but I disagree with that. Because these people that are drafted and signed, nobody’s really right and nobody’s really wrong until five years down the road. You just don’t know.”

—A National League area scout

“As area scouts, we don’t talk about this big leaguer we got or that big leaguer—because the reality is we’re lucky to even get a guy drafted. The reason is because it all depends on where you pick, number one. Just because you got a guy or you didn’t get a guy, I don’t think that makes you a bad scout or a good scout. What I do to evaluate myself, is I always look where guys were drafted—I have a spreadsheet that I’ve been keeping for several years now—and where they ended up in real life, right? I look at it and you can see a lot a guys and go, ‘Geez . . . this guy didn’t get out of A-ball, and I liked him! Maybe I didn’t see him enough.’ I think the way I gauge myself is, as long as I see the majority of guys that are drafted and I’m very aware of what’s in my area, from what I feel is right or wrong—I can disagree with all the scouts in the area, as long as I have conviction in my own mind that that guy is not going to play for my team and he’s not going to be a major leaguer. Honestly, I would rather have a guy in the 16th round that makes it to the big leagues than the guy that goes in the first round and gets $2 million, because there’s a lot more on my ass in that situation. If I don’t get a top guy, I can’t control that because the reality is that everyone else wants him too. But maybe I can get a junior college guy that’s as good as the star at a big-time school and I get him for $30,000 when that guy has a high-power agent and wants $700,000, then I did a good job.”

—An American League area scout

“First off, I want to make sure that, in my area, I’ve got all the players covered. I’ve seen all the players and I’ve gotten my crosscheckers and my scouting director to the best players and I’ve stated my opinion on players. Just make sure that my organization can see the top players in my area so, as an organization, we can collectively evaluate the players with our different opinions. Then, of course, they line them up in the pre-draft meeting. The success of an area scout, I think, should be based on his final pref list and kind of where the players go in the draft. I think if your pref list is somewhat similar to where the draft went that year, you have a pretty good feel for evaluating the players correctly, as maybe the general industry would, but there’s always going to exceptions because it’s a game of opinions”

—An American League area scout

As a scout, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you were just starting out?

“You’ve got to like players. If you lose your like for players, then you’ve got to get out of this game—the amateur stuff. But I was so rollercoaster on guys based on what I would see. I’d see a guy my first time and really like him and then go back and be like, ‘Nah, I don’t like him.” I wish I was a little bit more middle of the road and not so crazy on the guy I liked and so adamant on the guy I didn’t like that I didn’t want to change my mind. That’s probably the biggest thing, being a little bit more subdued. It’s like our scouting director always says: We don’t need to get them all right on March 10th, we need to get them all right on June 10th.”

—A National League area scout

“Scouting the games at times is the easy thing. All of the organization and communication that goes into effectively doing the job is just a huge workload—from before the season starts, running down schedules, talking to coaches and making sure your follow lists are in order so that you’re seeing the guys at the right time and making sure the guys are ready to be seen right out of the gates. If I waste the first weekend of the college season because a guy isn’t at full strength, that means I have to go back. Maybe it’s a situation where I would want to go back anyways, but it could be a wasted weekend. And, at this point, with the condensed college season, the weekends are indispensable and you can’t throw one away. Really, communication and organization are right at the top of the list, making sure you’re in the right park seeing the right players. But, if you’re not at the right game, then you’re going to miss.”

—A National League area scout

“What I know now that I wish I knew when I started probably was a better idea of how the minor leagues work, not only from a player standpoint, but from a player development standpoint and what the coaches really like and dislike or what our manager likes or dislikes and just, in general, the overall lifestyle of the minor leagues. The one thing I like about us is that (our scouting director) will send us to the minors to coach and make us stay there for weeks and get a feel for it. Then he’ll send us to instructional league. I remember my first draft, I went to instructional league and I’m seeing all these guys roll out and I’m going, ‘Holy crap, I can’t believe I turned that guy in. There’s no way he can play for us.’ So, I think a lot of it is just a perspective on minor league baseball and the caliber of talent in professional baseball.”

—An American League area scout

“I wish I would have known the history that I have from the time I’ve been scouting to see where the players went to make comparisons that you don’t get when you first start out scouting. When you first start out scouting, it’s a brand new world there and it’s very fast-paced. You can open a book and see the history of players and where they went, but it’s nothing like going out there, looking at the player, making a comparison to that player and then actually seeing where he goes in the draft. I’d say the first five years are a big learning process for an area guy, where he’s finally able to see where he had  guys on his list and, in five years, hey, has that guy gotten to the big leagues, or not? You can’t go out as an area scout in the first two yeas and think you’ve got it. Maybe some guys do, but you’re constantly learning. I’ve been doing this over 10 years and I’m still learning. You learn from the people that you work with that maybe have more experience than you do or have a different perspective than you do, or maybe they’re better at evaluating than you are—they see things maybe a little different that maybe you didn’t see. It takes about five years for an area guy to start getting a feel for players in his area and how the draft works. The more you do it, the more history you have and you can start making comparisons. There’s no shortcut for scouting than actually being out there and doing it. Obviously, if you played, those are the intangibles that can’t be taught. They can’t be taught in an office and they can’t be taught in a book. Those are what scouts that have actually been through the grind, when they talk to the player, that’s where a scout will have an advantage over a guy that doesn’t have a playing-career background because he can feel that player out a little more. There’s no substitute for having played, that’s for sure.”

—An American League area scout

“I wish I knew just how much agents play a role into these kids’ future. If the kids would realize the agent works for him and the kid doesn’t work for the agent, it would be a better industry. I don’t deal with the advisers until the very last second. I want to hear it from the kid’s mouth, from the family’s mouth. Sometimes they tell me to revert everything back to the adviser, but guess what, sometimes when I tell the agent stuff, I don’t know that it’s getting back to the parents. The kids have to understand—they work for you, you don’t work for them. If you know your value and you know you’re good—you play a ball game you know who’s in the stands and you know you have an opportunity to play professional baseball, why in the heck would you want to give an adviser five percent of your money? It makes no sense to me. Zero. You’ll need your agent when you get into minor league ball or the big leagues, but you don’t need an adviser right now if Major League Baseball is what you want to do. These agents want to say how much money they made their clients, but what they forget to say is how much money they lost their clients by not allowing them to sign and by the time they’re juniors in college and it’s not the same. They forget to say how much money they lost by holding their clients out.”

—A National League area scout

We know what it takes to be a good ballplayer, but what would you say are the five tools of scouting?

“I would say number one, first and foremost, is evaluation skills. You can be organized, you can look nice, you can wear nice clothes, you can be professional and all that crap—and it’s not crap, it’s part of the game. You can run around like a crazy man and put 80,000 miles a year on your car—you can do all that, but the bottom line is, you’ve got to know what the hell you’re looking at. I think sometimes we lose track of that. It’s like, well this guy looks good, he’s a nice young kid, he’s a hard worker, he’s gung ho, he’s organized and all that stuff. But then you go, ‘Well, wait a minute. Can the guy evaluate Mickey Mantle from Mrs. Mantle?’ For me, evaluation’s number one. Number two is building relationships in your area with the baseball people—college coaches, high school coaches, summer coaches. And that takes time. Being ultimately organized would be number three. Know where you’re going, what your backup plan is, what the backup-backup plan is. You’ve really got to be on top of it, or you’re just going to be drowning. For every week I lay out, it doesn’t get two days into it before it changes because of the weather. We watch the Weather Channel like we’re part of it. Next, you’ve got to be a self-starter. Let’s face it, you can get by in this game being lazy. With the way things are now, with the way guys talk and everything, you can be a lazy prick and not earn your money. If you want to work that way, me I couldn’t live with myself to do it that way, but guys have been doing it for years, especially if they’re putting miles on your car. Five would be just professionalism. Knowing that you represent a major league team. Everyday I walk out there, how I look and how people perceive me and how I talk in the stands, that’s how they see my team. That’s a big responsibility that I take very seriously.”

—A National League area scout

“Work ethic. You’ve got to have a great work ethic. Second, you’ve got to be able to have conviction on what your opinion is. You can’t waver. You can’t be on the fence—either you like him or you don’t. People skills are huge. You’ve got to be able to be a chameleon. You’ve got to be able to operate on each kid’s or parent’s different personality. You can’t just be a bull in a china store. You have to find out what makes that student athlete tick. What makes that family tick? So yeah, you’ve got to have people skills, conviction, work ethic and you’ve got to be able to set family time aside. In order to make your job work, you also have to be able to take a step back and enjoy your family and take family time when you need to. You can go, go, go, go, but when it’s all said and done, the only people that matter are the ones back home. When you have kids and a wife and a family, you better make sure you take care of the home front first, because that will enable you to do a much better job on the road, when you leave the house. That’s one of the big things I think scouts get away from. A happy wife is a happy home, you know.”

—A National League area scout

“One would be work ethic. Because, if I’m on one side of the country and my employer’s on the other side of the country, what do they know I’m doing? Do they know where I’m at all the time? I think these two go together—you’ve got to have work ethic, but you can’t have a guy that doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing evaluation-wise, either. You have to have a guy that has a feel for evaluating and knows when to project and when not to and what plays and what doesn’t. Some people feel you have to play in the minor leagues to get that feel, but I’ve seen guys that have played in the big leagues that don’t know what the hell they’re doing from a scouting standpoint. So, I disagree with that. I think also communication, or you could call it marketing. I have to sell my organization just like a college recruiter sells his college and really, really convince that player that this is why you want to come play professional baseball, blah blah blah blah blah. So, I think marketing and communication is critical because when you go into a house and you’ve got a kid that’s got a full-ride to UCLA, I’ve got to be able to sell that kid on professional baseball and be able to look at his mom and dad and say, ‘Look, your kid is going to be okay if he comes here.’ So, I would say marketing and communication goes for the prospects, but that also goes for the college coaches. Because we steal a lot of their players before they get there and then we also take their juniors or draft-eligible sophomores, or if you’re a junior college, we can take your freshman. So, I think we’ve also got to be willing to understand that we can’t just take their players and we’re not just a major league team, so we can do what we want. I don’t agree with that. I think you also are responsible to help that college coach find another player and keep that relationship building. And for marketing, that also has to do with image. You can’t dress like you’re homeless—for some of these scouts it’s embarrassing. We’re representing a billion-dollar company. You should look good . . . because that’s the only contact they have with the teams is with that area scout. The last one is organization and that means organization in terms of schedules, making sure your crosscheckers are very in tune with what’s going on in your area. It’s so critical to be organized. Organization is also with the offseason, when you do your in-home visits and interviews with all the kids. Because that’s when you really find out what you’ve got and what they’re like.”

—An American League area scout

What is the biggest misconception about scouting?

“I think the biggest misconception is that you just go to games and watch them and if you like a guy, you draft him. That’s the biggest thing that you’ve got to get people away from thinking that happens. Little do they know how little power I have, and I’m a full-time scout. Obviously birddogs have it worse because they’ve got a small area and see the same guys playing 10 times. I’ve been around a long time and the real power I have in the draft room, I know it and I’ve accepted it—it’s very little. And I’m okay with that. I understand the process. As long as we get the best players, I’ve got no problem.”

—A National League area scout

“I think people think it’s a lot easier job than it actually is. You can run into a dozen people at every park you go to that tell you, ‘Oh, I like to travel and I love baseball, so I think I’d be a good scout.’ I don’t quite think that the magnitude of the travel really hits people and the constant life on the road. You see the scouts for opposing teams more than you see your family from February through the draft. It’s just a constant grind. There’s a true excitement when you find a player that you like and you want to go to bat for. That’s the really exciting part of the game and of this job. But I think that a lot of people think that we’re just going to baseball games and you can sit there with a beer and a bag of peanuts and enjoy the game when, really, it’s constantly working, constantly traveling to get in the right spot and get the right players and stay ahead of the weather to make sure you have your territory covered. It’s not just a leisurely night at the park when you’re working.”

—A National League area scout

“I think the common-folk parents think we make money off the kids that we sign. ‘Oh, you get five percent of their big league contracts if they make it, since you found them?’ No. That’s a big myth. There is no extra money being made on these kids when we sign them. We get a pat on the back and get told, ‘Good job, now go do it again.’ You’ve got to prove your weight in gold to the organization in order to keep your job. They pay you for your opinion and that’s basically how you keep your job. If they like your opinion, then you keep your job. If not, then you’re on to your next organization or your next job. But kids have to understand that if they’re signable, they’ll be drafted where they’re supposed to be drafted. Once they say they’re not signable, then they slide and they’re not going to be taken where they should. Obviously we want guys that want to play but, honestly, if you say you’re signable, you’ll probably get drafted higher than you should because we’re not going to lose a pick when you’re signable. The kids today are very misinformed, especially with these agents, but oh well. Kids haven’t changed. Parents have changed. The parents are more of the problem than the kids. Bobby Knight said it best when he was asked what’s wrong with kids today and he said there’s nothing wrong with the kids, it’s the damn parents. Parents are way too involved with the kids. I would say 90 percent try to live through their kids’ dreams and they think they’re the ones that are going to sign. The parents have false expectations and a lot of times they don’t understand a lot of times that agents work for them, not the other way around. Agents screw kids out of more money than the kids even realize because they end up not signing and the agent never told them that this was the offer. It’s getting out of control and hopefully MLB will take care of this money thing here soon.”

—A National League area scout

“The misconception of not being treated fairly, I see that a lot. When you go in and you’re talking to players, they’re a little apprehensive, maybe because they don’t know who the scout is and they think we’re trying to pull a fast one, or something. But, we’re just out there to meet the player, if the scout chooses, to get the information the organization needs to properly evaluate the player. And, if it’s an area scout, just trying to find out who the player is by talking to coaches, talking to parents, talking to the player themselves. Because, in the top 10 rounds, it’s an investment and the organization wants to know who they’re getting. If the area guy can’t get to know that player, you really don’t know what you’re buying. You look at that car in the lot and go, ‘Man, that car looks great. Can I sit in it?’ Well, no, you can’t sit in it, but do you want to buy it?”

—An American League area scout

Draft | #2010 #Draft Basics

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