Live from the Scouting Formula panel
Your panelists include newcomers Jason McLeod, VP of scouting and player development, and pro scouting director Joe Bohringer; as well as VP of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita and Amateur Scouting Director Tim Wilken. Emcee is player development and scouting coordinator Alex Suarez.
3:40 – We went 10 minutes over, and it’s a wrap!
3:39 – McLeod says that the word they use over and over is to get impact players. Selecting them boils down to a process that culminates on draft day.
3:34 – Could you have foreseen Mark Prior getting injured? Fleita agrees with the fan that it’s the best player he’s ever seen in the minors and cites some examples from his brief playing career of prospects with a ton of potential who were marred by injuries. The doctors in the organization are working on it, as is the industry.
Bohringer jumps in to say that the cutting edge could very well be medical and makeup. He adds Kris Benson as another example of a perfect pitcher who flamed out due to injury, while Troy Percival had ugly mechanics and managed to play several years before getting injured.
3:32 – A question about Rizzo, who has been acquired by McLeod three times. He says they feel he can be a middle of order, staple hitter. High walks, high ops hitter. Some strikeouts as well, but he can hit in the four to five range. He also has the makeup that will allow him to get the most out of his ability. Also natural leadership qualities. He’ll play almost entirely this year as a 22 year old.
3:30 – McLeod clarifies that Fleita runs the day to day operation of player development from the Dominican through Triple A. He says hopefully the team finds the right players first. Once they’re in the system, a player lets the organization know when he’s ready to move from level to level based on his performance.
With Brett Jackson, he has a tremendous amount of upside, but McLeod says that he, like Anthony Rizzo, still have a lot to work on.
3:26 – Metal v wood bats was a bigger deal for evaluators before the recent standardization of NCAA bats, but now the college bats act very similarly to wood, says Wilken and McLeod.
3:25 – McLeod tells kids to play multiple sports. He says that focus on just one can lead to a lot of burnout. As a personal opinion, he says it bothers him a bit for youngsters to play just one. Wilken agrees saying that it benefits young kids mentally.
3:20 – The partnership with Bloomberg Sports will allow the Cubs to process information much more dynamically, says McLeod. This includes defensive metrics. The edge is going to come with scouting, signing and developing players. He says the CBA really is putting an emphasis on making good decisions.
3:14 – Who’s one guy you hit on and one guy you missed on? “I’ll just say, I’ve missed out on more than I’ve hit.” “Thats not what we want to hear.”
When with Seattle, Bohringer says he was right on John Huber, who was scrawny in the minors and didn’t have great stuff. But when he saw him the following year, he had put on weight, had improved his mechanics and his stuff. The Mariners acquired him in a trade for Dave Hansen, and he had a major league career, even if not a star one.
Reggie Abercrombie with the Dodgers is a player he missed on. A tremendous athlete, Bohringer said he could either be an All-Star or be released out of A-ball. He ended up somewhere in between, and Bohringer says with him, he probably held on to his instinct and his ceiling too long.
Fleita jumps in with Crede he wanted no part in. He had the right idea with Francisco Liriano, who was a right fielder and Fleita wanted to try out as a pitcher. But he refused to try it out at the time, and later, he did go to the mound, signed with the Giants for $800k and became a successful big leaguer.
3:06 – Fleita says that area scouting helped him learn to respect the game and to listen to older scouts. Bohringer says experience helps in evaluation and that you have to be comfortable in knowing that you’ll be wrong sometimes. He says he watched a number of scouts he learned from attend several games in different locations in one week.
“We’re all trying to predict the future, and we’re professional guessers. But we has to rely on our experience and our mentors.”
McLeod was at the ballpark early, shut his mouth and listened, asking questions at appropriate times. He learned from more of his mentors how to set up his area, stay organized. That scout, despite not having a strong friendship with each other, was someone he later hired. He also calls Wilken one of the “scouting moguls,” and reminisces about first meeting Wilken a long time ago and talking about what Roy Halladay looked like as an amateur. “He probably doesn’t even remember it.” They’ve continued crossing paths since McLeod became a scouting director, and McLeod says you can’t pay for that experience.
Wilken replies, “Can I start by saying Jason is my hero?” Moose Johnson, Bobby Mattock — a pioneer with the Blue Jays early on — and Phil Cavarretta are all mentors for him.
3:03 – Bohringer explains the pro scouting process, which picks up right after any professional player signs a contract. “We have to make sure we have depth of coverage.”
The Travis Wood deal is cited as a decision that involved 21 different people, including scouting reports on him at Single and Double A. The Cubs going forward will look to have two sets of eyes looking at every level from the major leagues on down, with extra scouts deployed where needed. He says the goal is to identify the players that will play in the major leagues, just a little it earlier than everyone else.
3:02 – Wilken is now asked about hit tools that he scouts. He says he looks at contact quality, relating it to the example of Pedroia, who consistently barreled up the ball. He says that ingredient, if he can make adjustments, will help him succeed going up the ladder.
3:00 – Asked to elaborate about aptitude, Wilken says scouts spend time with players to get an idea of makeup. But different situations, especially those in pro ball, are hard to predict. Aptitude is important once a player starts his professional career.
2:58 – Wilken is talking about keys to future success for pitchers. Arm action, arm speed and body control of pitchers, he says. “The hardest thing to do for an area scout or even ourselves as we cross check players, is what aptitude a pitcher may or may not have. We think we can see it in a few instances, but it doesn’t happen every time.” Body control helps portend ability to consistently throw strikes, with the aptitude really being crucial to developing from there.
2:56 – Fleita is talking about stats and coordinator/coach evaluations in player development. He says it’s “50/50.” McLeod’s job, he suggests, will be to take all the information and put it into play. Fleita emphasizes that other information is to see who gets to the ballpark early, who gets early reps, who can be relied upon when the game is on the line.
2:53 – Bohringer, a graduate of MIT, is talking about ballpark and age context for professional players. He characterizes scouting as a seesaw: for a kid in the Dominican, a scout has to look at the tools and movement he sees, while for a major league player, the information says a lot. “As an evaluator, I get to decide where I stand on that seesaw,” extending the example to a Double A player who has a track record but also needs to be looked at for attributes that can play at the big league level.
“Old-time scouts talk about leaving no stone unturned, and it just so happens that now there are a lot more stones than there were 20 years ago.”
2:48 – McLeod is talking about Moneyball and how it pertains to the Cubs going forward. He says that the book definitely marginalized what scouts do, but that ultimately everything the team does is based on information. They’re going to use statistical analysis along with all the other information in the draft, in player acquisition and all other areas. He says the research he has worked with suggests college performance can help portend future performance.
McLeod actually points out that Epstein several years ago, before college statistics were widely available, called the NCAA and sent a couple interns over to their central office to collect all the statistics. Bill James helped turn that into a model that is a piece of the information used in the evaluation of an amateur player.
McLeod also says that people assume Epstein just runs a sabermetric team, but it’s note true. He cites the short, squatty, hit-prolific Dustin Pedroia as the 65th overall choice in 2004 as an example of evaluation gone right, though he also admits that they never saw him as an MVP or anything like that.
2:45 – Bohringer, who spent the last five years with the Diamondbacks, actually has lived in DeKalb, Ill., for a while. He says he was very excited when the opportunity came up. He started charting and helping with contracts in the front office, learning what made players successful or not.
2:44 – Each panelist is taking turns talking about their backgrounds as well as what the scouting aspect of the game comes down to. All are taking the opportune to emphasize how important the area scouts are, as the lifeblood of the game.
Wilken says he is looking forward to the coordination of the scouting and player development departments.