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11-09-12 22:21 Age: 252 days
WHAT SCOUTS LOOK FORCategory: Top Stories
Looking to Make the Big Leagues? Here's Tips for Players Who Want to Get Noticed
Their presence is unmistakable. They typically sit together, armed with radar guns, stopwatches and notebooks. They write down virtually everything they notice, leaving nothing to chance. They then begin interviewing coaches, parents, friends and anyone else who will talk, trying to gain as much information as possible in their attempt to judge just how much talent and potential a player possesses for the professional level.
These information-gathering men are professional scouts. Their job is simple, yet incredibly difficult. Scouts are paid to find the best amateur players in their territory and assess which ones have what it takes to reach the game's top level. And while they may be wrong more often than not, scouts want nothing more than to find a youngster who can become a vital part to the team's success in the major leagues.
Be assured, if you as a player have potential, scouts will flock to your games. While their opinions and evaluations may differ, the scouts are looking for the same things. And if you know what those special ingredients are on the scouts' checklists, the better chance you have of making a positive impression.
Rod Gilbreath knows the process better than most. Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round in 1970, he spent seven seasons in the majors before becoming a scout for five years in the early 1980s. He then served as the Braves' assistant director of scouting from 1985-90 and assistant director of player development from 1991-95. The former utility infielder was promoted to Atlanta's farm director for a couple of seasons before returning to scouting in 1997.
"For a position player, I look for athleticism," said Gilbreath. "You can always do something with a player who's an athlete. I believe that in order to play this game, you have to be an athlete first. You also have to be strong. You see a lot of little guys playing this game, but they're very strong. If you're not strong, you're not going anywhere in this game. I'm not saying you have to be a monster, but you do have to be an athlete and possess above-average physical strength.
"Area scouts really start following guys around their hometown about age 15. For position players, scouts look for the five major tools. We look for the arm strength, the fielding ability, the hitting ability, the power and the speed. Now there's different factors for different positions, but overall those are the necessary ingredients in order to get a chance to play professional baseball."
Steve Gillispie agrees with Gilbreath's assessment. Gillispie scouted for the Philadelphia Phillies for a 5-year stint in between college coaching assignments. He's now assistant coach at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
"Around age 15, some of the better kids will start to emerge," Gillispie said. "Their tools will start to separate themselves from the other kids' abilities. Now, there are some kids who do not start to really develop until they are 21 or 22. Those kids are late bloomers, even though their raw, natural athletic ability has indicated that they could have some potential. But the vast majority of kids with pro-type ability starts to separate themselves during their freshman and sophomore years of high school."
What are the abilities Gillispie, Gilbreath and their contemporaries look for? As Gilbreath said, it depends upon the position. Yet regardless of where a player may play, speed is a piece of the puzzle. Scouts look for bat speed as well as foot speed among position players. Arm speed is also a factor, particularly behind the plate, on the left side of the infield and in the outfield.
"Speed is always a factor among position players," Gilbreath said. "You love to see guys who can move. By speed, I don't necessarily mean foot speed. I've seen a few guys play shortstop at the major league level who couldn't run at all. But you at least need quickness, especially with that first step out of the batter's box and that first step toward the ball on defense."
Scouts believe that foot speed can be evaluated accurately beginning when a player celebrates his 15th birthday. The scouts will time a player when running from home plate to first base, with the major league average being 4.3 seconds from the right side and 4.2 seconds from the left side.
During individual workouts, scouts will time a player's speed in the 60-yard dash. That distance equates to 180 feet, which is how far a runner goes from home plate to second base, from first base to third base, and so forth. It is also the average distance outfielders have to run when chasing balls hit in the gaps.
Here's a quick snapshot of what scouts look for by position: