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A Canadian Perspective: Brief Guide to Amateur Scouting

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Amateur baseball in Canada has advanced significantly over the years with the help of the Blue Jays. Tournament 12 has been a great event to help showcase our northern talent from coast to coast in front of high ranking scouts. Now we are starting to see more and more Canadians drafted. Scouts are one of the key drivers in choosing who gets selected. They gather information and evaluate players on an ongoing basis, and advise higher ranking scouts or even management staff on good fits.

Before we dive too much into scouting, it is important to differentiate the ranks.

National crosschecker – These scouts are the national level scouts who oversee all of the regional crosscheckers. They are typically leaned on heavily for information by the director of amateur scouting and influence draft choices. They are called in for assistance in evaluating top draft choices.

Regional crosschecker – These scouts are assigned a region and hire/manage area scouts. They are commonly called in for big name prospects.

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Area scout – Area scouts are professional and do this for a living. They are well respected and are typically what most people refer to as “scouts”.

Associate scout – Most of these scouts are somewhat unofficial. Many are not on the books, and are auditioning for an area scout role. They do not carry much pull but can get the attention of their area scout should someone really look interesting. These scouts typically have some kind of background either with playing experience or coaching.

Of course, the screening process for these positions isn’t exactly that intense, and there are a lot a of horror stories of associates doing something unprofessional. Many area scouts and organizations are completely against associates just due to the liability. These scouts still can be very good at what they do.

"“Associates are dangerous” – Former National League Scout"

It is important to realize that the chain of command works a lot like it should. Associate scouts typically scout players after the 20th round, area scouts and cross checkers are used for anything above that. It might be common sense, but any player who gets drafted is looked at by a crosschecker or area scout and not just an associate.

Now that we know who we are dealing with, let’s look at the basics.

There are five tools in baseball commonly referred to.

Hit – The players ability to hit for average
Power – The players ability to hit for power
Glove – The players ability to field the baseball
Arm – The players ability to throw the ball
Speed – The players ability to run

These skills are then given a 2-8 (or 20-80) rating on each for the present and future. In amateur scouting there are technically ten tools, which are all added up to give an OFP rating. OFP stands for overall future potential. There are loose guidelines from the bureau on matching OFP with range of talent in the draft. For example, an OFP of 52-55 scores you a third round selection. This is just a estimation of course, but interesting nonetheless.

It is also possible to project a negative movement on speed. If you project a 16 year old to grow into a 30 home run guy, you are projecting his body to fill out. It is very rare to have a guy fill out and gain foot speed as well.

"“[Josh] Naylor has 80 raw [power]” – National League Scout"

Positionally, scouts will look for different things. A catcher’s most important characteristic on the amateur side is his arm. First basemen, on the other hand, rely most on power, so on and so forth. It is important to realize how things are interrelated and interdependent on each other. Certain attributes without others will devalue the initial attribute.

Arguably the hardest tool to project is power. It is much easier to get a handle on hitting ability than power. Most players do not peak power-wise until mid-twenties (or later), so projecting something that far into the future is the hardest part.

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The easiest thing get lost in is speed and build. You hear the “He sells jeans” quote from the movie Moneyball, and this is the one area where some scouts can get trapped. Especially in aluminum or BBCOR bat leagues, it is easy to see an athletic player connect once or twice and drive the ball. Remember, some scouts will only get a few at bats to judge a player, so this can leave a lasting impression. It is also worth noting wood bat leagues are usually much better for scouts, and they know that. Seeing a player use wood (the bat they will be using in the minors) is much preferred.

"“Mike Trout would have been drafted a lot higher had he come out of a Florida high school…” – National League Scout"

There is also a lot of bias in the scouting industry. Players from northern states in the US have to put up with a lot of these biases. Scouts like players who play baseball year round better than those who train in cages in the offseason at indoor facilities. Recently, due to the increasing frequency of Tommy John surgeries, northern bias is being ignored more and more and you are seeing players selected out of “offseason states”. Canada unfortunately qualifies as a northern state.

On the Canadian scene, however, it has not stopped scouts from making the trek north. Many organizations now send scouts to Tournament 12 games. Tournament 12 is a tournament which showcases coast to coast talent at the Rogers Centre every September. Now that we are back on the topic of Canadian players, let’s look at some of the rising stars in no particular order.

"“I would draft him [Cooper Davis, class of 2017] today if I could” American League Scout"

Isaac Deveaux – Outfielder out of Montreal. Everyone had already gone home one night in 2014 when he launched a home run down a power alley at Rogers Centre in a game. He was also a year and a half away from his draft. He has quick hands, needs work on the defensive side but assuming he can stick as a left fielder, he is a great hitter.

Luke Van Rycheghem – Catcher for the Ontario Blue Jays. What was so impressive about Luke was that he converted to catcher a couple years ago, and already looks like the 2nd best catcher in his draft class. He’s the type of guy who is just happy to be there. Bat plays at first as well.

Andrew Yerzy – Catcher for the Toronto Mets. Arguably one of the top high school players in this year’s draft, Yerzy is your typical catcher. Works hard behind the plate, fundamentals are solid, great arm. He wrapped a pitch right back up the middle in September 2014 which registered 98 MPH. Not bad for a catcher a year a half before his draft.

— A final note on scouting is that a good scout won’t see the game the same way as a statistician; that is not their job. A scout, especially on the amateur side, is supposed to see what makes a player good rather than quantifying the past. A good scout doesn’t care about the numbers as a good statistician doesn’t see the scouting reports. It is up to front office staff to have both cases presented on both sides as to what makes a player good/better than the alternative.

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