Longenhagen’s Scouting Mailbag
You had some questions, I had some answers. No more talking.
@gberry523 Where do scouts usually consider the best seats to be able to scout from during a game?
You’ll see them directly behind home plate, usually a handful of rows back or more. Lots of guys like to be elevated a little bit instead of right behind home plate. That spot directly behind home plate is the best place to look at pitch movement and pitching mechanics, it gives you the most accurate velocity readings on your gun, and you can see the entire diamond in your field of vision. I like to move around during games between that primary spot and a spot along the first or third base line, perpendicular to the line between the mound and the plate. It’s a good spot to look at hitters, and it’s where you’ll see scouts during batting practice and infield drills. I like to head over there for an inning or three during games to watch at hitters and their mechanics against live pitching. Seeing batting practice is huge, you get to see a guy’s swing several times in a row in a short amount of time, but I like to see them take swings in the live hitting environment as well.
@Matt_Winkleman What is the best way to get the most out of sitting with scouts at a game?
If you’re going to start a conversation with a scout you need to be sitting in the section near them. That means you’re in the same row just one seat away or directly behind or in front of them. Don’t come over from your seat a few sections away in the middle of the game and stand around and talk to them. Start your conversation between innings or at least between at-bats so you’re not interrupting them when they’re writing. The conversation will often continue as they work, that’s fine, but try not to halt their thought process when you go to break the ice. If you make your initial question more advanced than, “Who do you scout for?” or “How does this guy look?” your chances of them opening up are much better.
@FelskeFiles How deos a scout determine if a player has a “high ceiling” from those who don’t, given limited track records?
A player’s ceiling is most determined by athleticism, by displaying skills that can’t be taught or learned. I can’t teach a pitcher to be 6’5” or throw 95mph or teach a hitter to be lightning fast or have a ton of natural strength because genetics have blessed him with a body befitting a Greek god. I might be able to fix his swing and teach him how to hit or iron out the pitcher’s delivery and teach him how to throw strikes. Maybe. Players almost never reach or exceed their ceilings, it’s a perfect world projection that assumes everything will click one day.
@JonCheddar What were Rollins’ and Utley’s five tool grades when they were in their primes.
This is a great question because it allows me to address the idea of player comparisons. I avoid comps at all costs unless it really makes sense. Often, I use comps (short for comparison, for the uninitiated) just to describe the player’s body. Yoenis Cespedes is built like Bo Jackson. Kevin Gausman is built like Kris Benson. As far as Marte and Castro go, they have similar approaches (by which I mean they don’t really have one) but similarities end there. All of Castro’s skills are a grade or more below Marte’s but the skillsets there are similar, so I get where you’re coming from. But yeah, I always try to evaluate someone entirely on their own.
@AntsinIN What are your thoughts on Taijuan Walker? What’s his ETA?
Yes, a non-Phillies question. I love Walker. I think he’s the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball. I like him better than Dylan Bundy, better than Archie Bradley, Kyle Zimmer…everyone who hasn’t graduated to the majors yet. His delivery is very athletic, the fastball is plus-plus and the curveball will show plus-plus at times, too. His ETA? No idea and I think it’s silly to burn mental calories trying to predict it. Most prospects arrive in the Majors because of necessity or due to factors entirely out of their control. Mike Trout didn’t mash his way to the big leagues, he was called up because Vernon Wells got hurt. Mike Zunino was called up because the Mariners had nobody left to throw out there. Just last night I was sitting with Pawtucket pitchers who were discussing why Alfredo Aceves was getting called up instead of Steven Wright or Brandon Workman. One of them explained to his teammates that they just needed someone whose arm was fresh, someone who could pitch that day if they needed him to. Wright and Workman had just pitched and weren’t fresh, Aceves was, decision made. Sometimes that’s all that goes into it. It’s not worth it to ballpark a date. Just wait.
@Ut26 What are some of the best resources for info on scouting/prospects?
Keith Law and Jason Parks are at the top of my list. Baseball America is exceptional, but if you’re just getting your prospecting obsession off the ground, their stuff runs so deep and their website is so hard to sort through that it feels overwhelming. Start with Law and Jason and his staff over at Baseball Prospectus. Clint Hulsey is also really, really freakin good but his stuff is non-traditional, research oriented a lot of the time. And he writes a ton of stuff. If prospect writers are ice cream flavors, Keith is vanilla (not vanilla as in boring, vanilla as in essential), Jason is mint chocolate chip (the package is odd looking but the flavor is incredible), Baseball America is Moosetracks (fantastic in sections but a little too busy at times) and Clint Hulsey is Butter Pecan (different style, really good, should be more popular). That’s where you want to go to learn about prospects.
Now, if you want to learn all you can about scouting then I suggest two things. First, read Jason Parks’ chapters in Baseball Prospectus’ Extra Innings book. It’s pretty comprehensive essay on the foundations of the scouting process. Next, go listen to every episode of the Up and In Podcast from start to finish. Go to some minor league games during that time and take some notes, whatever you want to write down. When you’ve done all that (it should take you 3-6 months) then you’ve completed Amateur Scouting 101.