Scout’s Diary: More Than A Number

We write reports.

We take people, individuals, break them down, ruminate about them, and sum them up in a single number.

Their entire essence, their being. Their entire self or self worth. One number.

Think about that.

It’s kind of cold, really.

For those who don’t know, it is industry wide that we, as baseball scouts, evaluate players and put a number grade on them. Major Leaguers, minor leaguers, high school kids, college kids, foreign players, all of them. We put a number on them, using our traditional 20 through 80 scale, with 80 being the top of the line, a Hall of Fame type talent.

This guy is a 50. That guy is a 45. Oh, this one is a 70. That’s what they are to us.

But we never count on this.

We never think a player might die before he gets a chance to live up to his grade.

I’m not supposed to talk about individual players in this diary or reveal my grades, but I’m going to make an exception this time.

I had a 60 on Nick Adenhart.

That means he was going to be a No. 2 or 3 starter at the Major League level for a long time.

That’s not what he could have been or might turn into. That’s what he was. It was a done deal for me.

That’s what it means when a scout puts a grade on a guy, that he’s going to be that. No maybes, ifs, could-ofs, or should-ofs. That’s what he is, a 60.

He was one of the top prospects in baseball. A tall, lean, hard-throwing righty with a nice delivery, a beautiful thing to watch. He had some things to work on. He wasn’t as aggressive as I would have liked. He lacked great deception. But he was pretty darn good.

He was a 60.

Obviously, that grade has changed. That report means nothing now.

It’s not like I saw Adenhart as just a number. Often as scouts we just sit back and observe from afar, but the players are people and we are people, and sometimes we cross paths.

I happened to cross paths with Adenhart before I ever saw him pitch. I was in the stands, watching his team play, and I remember this young, preppy looking guy, charting pitches near me in the stands.

This is not unusual. That’s what minor league starters do. They chart pitches on days they are not starting. But, for some reason, I didn’t think Adenhart was a pitcher. There was something different about him. He wasn’t dressed like a typical 21-year old minor leaguer. He didn’t act like them. He didn’t carry himself the way they did.

There was a certain unique sense of self in Nick Adenhart, a certain quality that said, “I’m a person first, and then I’m a baseball player.”

It surprised me. It surprised me when I found out that he was Adenhart, one of the Angels’ top pitching prospects. To be honest, I don’t know if that improved his grade or made it worse when I saw him pitch the next night. I considered both possibilities. In the end, I don’t think it mattered. As a pitcher he was a 60.

Now he’s gone.

So what does it all mean? Who knows. Life goes on. People die every day, young, old, famous, unknown, people with great potential and people without. This doesn’t change that.

But I guess from now on, every time I sit down to write a report on a prospect, somewhere in the back of my mind, even for a tenth of a second, I’ll think about Adenhart and remember that we never really know what’s going to happen next in life. We can’t really project the future, even if that is what our job asks us to do.

And maybe after I write that report I’ll get up from my laptop, find one of my young daughters and give her a hug.

Our Scout Diarist is a veteran professional scout who has asked to remain anonymous.