Scouting 101

By: David List – June 16, 2011

It’s that time of year again, when we sit down here at DP and compile another ranking list for the graduates in the 2012-2014 class and select a roster for Palmetto Games. As many people already know, it’s not a science. The purpose in this article is to make sure that people understand the process as best as possible and hopefully can appreciate it for what it is. I will now try to tell you what scouting is and what it is not.

In a general sense of scouting, there are three pieces to the puzzle. They are Skill, Athleticism and Projectability. The combination of the amount of these three things is different for every player on the planet. No one piece of this puzzle will make you a college or pro player, but the culmination of the three will make you what you are going to be. There are many sub-sets in these three general pieces such as tools, size, weight, make-up etc. Each position on the field requires a different combination of the sub-sets for a player to be successful at a certain level. For example, "Player A" has been an all-star for his Dixie youth program and has always played shortstop, until his try-out for his high school team in the seventh grade. He is fortunate enough to make the "C-team" but is moved to third base. The parents don’t understand why, but the high school coach has deemed his tools as a better fit for the program or his future at third base. Is that wrong? Nope. He has probably done the young man a favor because he will get the reps he needs in a position that fits his tools better. College scouts and Pro scouts will figure out the player’s best fit position also, regardless of whether he plays that position or not in high school or during the summer. 

We at DP spend a lot of time on the road in the spring, watching high school contests, analyzing players that we know well and those that we have yet to identify. Contrary to whether you may know me or not, or speak to me at a game, your son will be ranked according to what he shows on the field, his tools, etc. We don’t rank every player that we see because at the time of the viewing we may not have deemed that the player projects to the next level. Please understand that all evaluators do this and the only way that you keep being a respected evaluator is by being objective. 

Now let’s look at what scouting is not. This may help you more than what I wrote above. 

•·  Scouting is Objective, not subjective. I am a parent of baseball players and there is no way that I can be totally subjective with my own kids. Keep that in mind given I don’t know a scout that is not about their own offspring!

•·   Scouting is not Political! Most of you reading this have status one way or another in your community or in baseball programs. Your status is a result of who you are, what you have done, or what you do for the community/baseball program. In those cases your son may benefit more because of those things, but DP/College/Pro scouts will not succumb to political lobbying. In fact, it can red flag a player, doing more harm than good. 

•·  Scouting is not about Stats! It’s about tools. Every high school player sees different levels of competition during the spring. Every bookkeeper keeps stats differently. It’s about tools! There is the old adage that "numbers don’t lie" but those numbers were not against SEC or ACC pitching. I tend to believe that the reason the general population gets stuck on numbers is because they don’t really know what else to go by. There is nothing wrong with that and it’s the easiest way to make some judgments about a player. It is one of the last things an evaluator may look at though. Example: I was a first team all-state player as a designated hitter, with a .560 average during my sophomore year of high school. That honor was only evaluated by numbers because I would have had no chance of hitting above .200 in college. I ended up being a 13-0 starting pitcher by my sophomore year at a junior college and was offered a free agent contract at the end of the season. Hopefully that example helps get my point across. 

I could go on and on and get much more in-depth about what scouting is and is not. I don’t have all the answers myself and I learn new things every day. Every pro/college scout is in the same boat with the previous sentence and if we had it all figured out, everyone that went to the pro or college system would be highly successful. There would be no college players cut and no guys stuck in double A farm systems. Although we don’t have it all figured out all the time, sending us an email about your son will not help us figure it out either. If we have seen him play, we have a pretty good idea of what we saw. If we haven’t seen him play, the only thing you have to offer us is stats. Enough said. 

Take what all of the above for what it’s worth, respect the decisions made by the scouts and if that does not sit well with you, then go out and work hard enough to get where you want to go in the game. Use immediate failure or disagreement as motivation. Almost every single scout is comfortable with being proven wrong and will tip the cap toward the player whose resolve will not be denied.

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