With the draft quickly approaching, there will be lives changed forever. Whether it is on Day 1, 2, or 3, a player will have his name called that he has been selected by an MLB team in the upcoming Draft. It is a great moment in time for that player, program, and family. No one really stops to think, what about the person who doesn’t get drafted or signed as a Free Agent after the draft? I am not talking about the player whom doesn’t have the ability, I am talking about the player who has the ability to get drafted/signed and doesn’t get the proper looks from MLB Scouts or Front Offices. It happens every year across the country, and that number is increasing. Just look at just New York, the amount of high schools and colleges. It happens more often than you think.
MLB Scouting Departments are dwindling. Scouts have a tough enough job covering 7-10 states depending on their area/responsibilities to see every prospect. They have to see their top prospects and their follows list of players. It is an extremely difficult task to do for one man. Some organizations hire part timers to help out, but even those jobs have been reduced. Some organizations have been told to not even bother to look at Division 3 players, which is a complete joke because there are prospects in all levels of College & High School Baseball. Scouts rely heavily on coaches, trusted birddogs, and in this day and age some online coverage from baseball scouting companies like yours truly.
I was part of the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays expansion of their Scouting Department, under newly appointed GM Alex Anthopoulos. The Blue Jays almost doubled their scouting staff in 2010 from 2009 to 54 Scouts. That was not the norm at the beginning of scouting staffs being cut down due to analytics and other money saving techniques across the industry. The idea behind Toronto’ increase of their scouts, was plain & simple get more eyes out there and see more players. The Blue Jays quickly reaped the benefits of that (and I’m not just talking about players drafted in the top 10 rounds) which supplied them with ample trade assets to improve the big league club, but also allowed them to build a strong Minor League system. The reason for this success: more scouts, smaller territories, more looks at players.
I had the pleasure of working with great scouts such as Michael Pesce and Tom Burns whom are great baseball men and human beings. We would run our own pre-draft workouts for players in our Area (Northeast USA). Players would be from our list of low and high follows whom we couldn’t get a chance to see or players we needed another look at. It was an amazing opportunity to give to the local players and provide them with a chance. We ran those workout camps every single year during my time with Toronto (2010-2013).
Just last year, MLB Scouting Bureau (which was a centralized scouting resource for all MLB Clubs to provide scouts across the United States, Canada, and Latin America) laid off their last remaining scouts. The Bureau was ran by MLB and funding was provided by all MLB Teams. They supplied scouts to gain insight on players, video, and run open try-out camps. The Bureau provided another opportunity for players but also provided more information for scouts on prospects. They also ran MLB Scout School in Arizona during the Fall League to train individuals looking to become scouts or MLB Front Offices would be able to send their representatives.
Analytics are an extremely important part of the game of Baseball, but to a degree. It is not the end all of evaluating a player. You have to see the player, get to know the player/family, see his work habits on and off the field, and among other things. You need to form the whole picture of the player, not just what you see on your computer screen or spreadsheet. There are so many factors when projecting a player and how he will do in Minor League baseball against great competition. Scouting Departments need to be increased across the board not cut down. These scouts are extremely hard working individuals. Scouting has been the backbone of this game for so long. There is a happy medium to involve analytics and the person to person scouting. The game needs to change, let’s hope that change comes sooner rather than later!
The message is simple: more scouts, more looks at players, more quality prospects.
As teams are preparing for the draft, I congratulate all of the hard working scouts and front offices out there on another year in the books and after the draft is over, on to 2020! Travel safe and be well!