Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau Q&A
Frank Marcos of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, recently explained the functions of the Bureau, and revealed what they look for when scouting players.
Q: What's the main purpose of the MLB Scouting Bureau?
A: We try to provide the best information on prospects to help clubs make more educated selections in the draft.
Q: When was the Scouting Bureau formed?
A: In 1974, ownership developed the idea to centralize scouting. It was not part of the Commissioner's Office. It was an independent group supported by the clubs. In 1985, [Commissioner] Peter Uebberoth brought the Major League Scouting Bureau under the umbrella of the Commissioner's Office.
Q: Why was it started?
A: Cost was a major issue. It allows the club to get information for a fraction of the price of having two full-time scouts of their own. They're getting a lot more bang for the buck.
Q: How many scouts work at the MLB Scouting Bureau?
A: We have 34 full-time scouts and 13 part-time scouts across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Q: How do your scouts rate prospects?
A: We have basic generic things that apply to both position players and pitchers and then we have specific things for position players and pitchers. We grade position players on hitting ability, power, running speed, arm strength and fielding. We use a scale of 2-8 in each category to grade our players and come up with an OFP (Overall Future Potential). A total range of 40-80 covers Major League prospects. Forty is the minimum for our category of a Major League prospect. We have fringe, average and definite prospect [categories]. As the number gets higher, the better the prospect is.
We grade pitchers on fastball, curveball, slider and other (if the pitcher throws a knuckler or split-finger). If a pitcher doesn't throw an "other," he gets graded on the three he throws. But that's when a scout's instinct comes into play. If a pitcher only throws two pitches, but the scout sees he has the arm instinct to develop a slider, he'll grade him higher. A scout can move the number up if he feels the potential is higher.
The generic qualities that apply to both position players and pitchers are things like aggressiveness, instinct, dedication, work ethic.
Q: Predicting who will make a good major league pitcher must be especially difficult.
A: You can always tell arm strength. We all have radar guns for that, but you can't put a radar gun to a player's heart or head. If you had seen Todd Van Poppel, you would have been sure he was a can't miss. But he did. And then sometimes you have overachievers. Orel Hershiser is a great example. Not too many people were high on him.
Q: How does somebody become a prospect? How do you decide who to scout?
A: Every goal of our year is the June draft. After that, we gear up for the summer, when we get a chance to see younger prospects we didn't have time for before the draft (Prior to the draft, MLSB scouts are busy looking at those eligible for that year's draft). We look at what we call "follows," mostly 15 and 16 year-olds. There are showcase events that have been great for younger kids. They have the chance to compete against the top kids in the country. The more visibility [a kid] has to the scouts, the better.
We develop a follow list by the end of the summer or the early fall. We have a list of five to six hundred players that will be eligible for the 2000 draft. In addition, we'll have lists of players eligible for the 2001 and 2002 drafts. We're always trying to stay ahead.
We also get letters, phone calls, faxes from parents, girlfriends, coaches, agents about players and sometimes it is very valuable information. Some guys are creative. We get videotapes, color shots of their swings. I guess they see it as investment in their future and are willing to go to that extent.
You can never have too much information. We will pass information on to the scout in the area. We'll also provide players with a list for tryout camps.We have 35 tryout camps in June throughout the country and the clubs hold camps as well. It's a chance for a player who doesn't have the chance to be seen to show what they can do. Hopefully kids remember it in a positive way, that it was fun and that they had a chance.
Q: How can players get in touch with the MLSB?
A: They can write to:
Major League Scouting Bureau
3500 Porsche Way, Suite 100
Ontario, CA 91764