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Patrick Newman

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Amateur Scouting

by Patrick Newman (Sep 24, 2011)

The title of this post might be ambiguous. It refers to "amateur scouting" as in me as an amateur scout of baseball players, rather than the practice of scouting amateur baseball players.

Anyway, in the three years since I started this site, I've become a much better observer of baseball. I'd put part of this down to getting to know and interact with people in the industry, and rest down to knowing that my observations are going to be read. Obviously I'm nowhere near the level of a professional scout, but hopefully I've refined my eye for baseball and developed the right habits.

In this post I'd like to share the things I've learned to look for. And here they are:

Pitching

  • fastball velocity, movement
  • number of breaking pitches
  • breaking pitches velocity, movement
  • fastball control/command
  • secondary pitch control/command
  • location, location, location
  • "out pitch"
  • efficiency
  • tempo
  • composure
  • effort, smoothness, deception of delivery
  • delivery from the windup versus the stretch
  • performance with runners on base
  • how often does he make mistakes?
  • is he giving up hard contact?
  • ground balls or fly balls?
  • defense

For me, what the pitcher does is most interesting part of the game, so I pay far more attention to that than anything else.

Hitting

  • contact skill
  • power
  • batting eye
  • patience
  • plate coverage
  • swing mechanics
  • which fields does he hit to?
  • fastball hitter or breaking ball hitter?
  • front leg hitter or back leg hitter?
  • situational hitting

I must admit I've only recently begun to seriously think about hitting. The challenge with evaluating hitters is that I feel that I need to see a guy multiple times before I really much about him.

Defense

  • range
  • arm strength, accuracy
  • positioning
  • first step, release
  • turning double plays (infielders only)
  • instincts - throwing to the right base, knowing when to charge and when to lay back, etc
  • first baseman - does he catch everything the other infielders throw his way?

For me, getting a read on how well an outfielder is playing is the hardest thing to do when watching a game on TV or online. It can be hard to tell where an outfielder started from, whether he should have made a play or not, whether he had a chance to throw out a runner or not... plays on the infield are much easier to judge since there's more opportunity to see the whole play develop.

Defense (catchers)

  • game calling
  • throwing out base stealers
  • fielding pop-ups
  • fielding bunts and throwing to first
  • blocking pitches in the dirt
  • handling throws from the outfield and blocking the plate on scoring plays

I never thought about what a catcher needs to do well, aside from the first two bullet points, until a friend and I were talking about Mike Piazza'a defensive reputation, and I asked "what was it that he didn't do well?" We couldn't remember, other than throwing out base stealers.


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