Scouting Staffs Aren't Disappearing, At Least Yet
It is true that some organizations have cut scouting jobs in recent years with the Houston Astros reductions being the most notable and several other teams starting to follow in their footsteps, replacing scouts with video analysts and additional analytics staffers.
But the sky isn’t falling as much as it may appear at first glance. To get an idea of how scouting departments have changed, Baseball America compared front office staffing in 1989, 1999, 2009, 2018 and 2019. While some scouting departments are seeing some reductions, it does come after the size of scouting staffs and front offices in general have seen explosive growth this century and overall and overall, the 2019 staffing levels track right on pace with the the 2018 staffing levels.
To get a sense of the size of scouting staffs, we counted each organization’s staffing as listed in the Baseball America Directory. The exact counts from one team to another vary because of differences in titles. A position that is a director with one team might be a coordinator with another team. But by grouping by pro scouting, amateur scouting, international scouting, directors and special assistants, the total counts should be relatively accurate and relatively similar from team to team.
The data is the best we can get our hands on. Because it is using the information provided by teams, it is possible that one team includes part-time scouts in a list with full-time scouts while another team separates the two (Baseball America tried to count only full-time scouts).
Also, since it’s a look at head counts, this doesn’t look at how much teams are spending on scouts. It’s quite possible that teams could be replacing veteran scouts with lower cost, younger hires and it would not show up in the data.
But so far, there is no indication that as a whole the industry is shedding a significant number of scouting jobs. What is most notable is how much scouting departments have grown over the past 30 years. In 1989, the average front office has only 30 employees listed as involved in scouting (directors, assistant directors, special assistants to the GMs, pro/advance/major league scouts, area scouts, crosscheckers and international scouts). There were many teams whose amateur scouts did double duty as pro scouts as well and some international scouting departments could hold staff meetings in a cubicle.
By 1999, that number had only grown to 33. By 2009, the average front office had 44 employees involved in scouting. In 2018, that number had grown to 62. In 2019, the average department lists 63 scouting employees.
|SCOUTING STAFFING, YEAR BY YEAR|
|Year||*Directors||Special Asst||Pro Scouts||Area Scouts||International||Total|
|*Includes assistant directors|
Amateur scouting departments have stayed relatively static over the years. The average amateur scouting department had 23 scouts in 1989 and 24 scouts in 2019. But pro scouting departments, special assistant jobs and directors/assistant director positions have also seen significant growth.
But nothing compares to how international scouting departments have developed. In 1989, teams listed on average three international scouts (buoyed heavily by the Yankees listing 20 international scouts) In 1999, teams on average listed two international scouts (thanks to the Yankees listing only two international scouts).
Now, many teams have international scouting departments whose size comes close to rivaling the amateur scouting departments. There are 13 teams who list 20 or more international scouts in 2019. A decade ago, only two teams listed 20 or more international scouts.