Scouting Is Only Part Of The Equation
The key to a strong scouting department is, not surprisingly, scouts. But there's much more to drafting a player than a scout simply liking what he sees on the field.
First, the scout himself has to be managed. He needs the right tools and needs to be in the right place at the right time. Then when he generates scouting reports and other information, that all needs to be organized so a team can use it to make meaningful, informed decisions.
None of this happens by accident. While the scouting director is ultimately responsible for it, it's the people in scouting administration who get it done, and they may be even more unsung than scouts.
"Right now we're in full draft-prep mode," Dodgers manager of scouting and travel administration Jane Capobianco said in late April. "So we're compiling all the draft reports, all the medical information, we're looking at signability information and we're starting our draft board. That's a daily process to consolidate and collaborate all the data to make sure it's up-to-date and informative, so that when we get into the draft room, we'll be able to make the best decisions for our club."
Every player a team wants to draft has to be turned in to the Major League Scouting Bureau and assigned an identification number. Teams have all kinds of paperwork on the top players—medical reports, psychological tests, vision tests, biological and contact information—that goes into an internal database.
Capobianco manages that information, as well as the Dodgers' leased vehicle program and the scouting budget. She also serves as a liaison with the 40 scouts the Dodgers employ.
"I think in terms of skill sets, you have to be a solid planner and be really flexible," Capobianco said. "Conflict resolution is very important. You have to be very accurate—I do all the contracts once we draft the players, so I think you have to have a strong attention to detail for all the data we're handling."
The Dodgers use a travel management company, but Capobianco handles contract negotiations with airlines, rental car companies and hotels and provides assistance when scouts get into a travel pinch
"We don't have a lot of down time," Capobianco said, but noted she does occasionally go to games. "Like, we have a game today and I'd love to be able to watch that game, but I can't."
"I get out locally when it's not busy to see some of the top players. I'll go out with the scouts and usually see players with an OFP over 50 or something."
The Brewers' manager of amateur scouting, Amanda Kropp, has similar responsibilities. She doesn't book travel for the scouts, but she does help manage their expenses while they're on the road. She also helps scouting director Bruce Seid coordinate scheduling, looking for the best matchups and keeping tabs on the weather so Seid and his crosscheckers can decide where to go.
"It gets pretty crazy at the end of March, early April, just trying to stay on top of it," Kropp said. "With the high school season kicking in, the player reports are really coming in. The offseason is much slower, which is good for that balance, but I also handle our college scholarship program, for any player that may have been awarded that. So that usually is very busy in the summer and early fall with registration."
Kropp also takes in and organizes the video that scouts send in and works closely with Tod Johnson, the Brewers' assistant director of baseball research for scouting, does statistical analysis on college players, looking for trends and similarities to players in the past. The Brewers' draft room is equipped with several SMART Boards, and Johnson's goal for this year is to eliminate the regular magnets with player names and replace them with movable names on interactive touch screens.
"We do our own park factors and I do my own strength of schedule stuff," Johnson said. "And then just some analytical analysis of what types of previous performances have resulted in guys who were successful at the professional level. Just trying to understand the stats and then putting them into correct context with the new bats, the parks, competition and all those various other things. That's just a piece and a tool that we use here to come up with questions to ask."
Before joining the Brewers, Johnson spent nearly five years at Microsoft. He started out in Milwaukee's information technology department and showed a knack for statistical analysis., and he got involved with the baseball side of things at the urging of former assistant scouting director Tony Blengino. The Brewers sent him to scout school in 2008, when he was still in the IT department.
"It was a great thing for me to kind of get out and see what our scouts deal with at games," Johnson said. "It gave me a really good appreciation for what they do and an understanding of what goes into scouting reports."