Lindbergh: A little less white space at Baseball Scout School

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on October 21, 2013:

According to a fellow Scout School student who works for the Arizona Fall League, roughly 40 percent of AFL players never make the majors. Considering the quality of the AFL player pool — 36 of this year’s MLB All-Stars were at one time in the AFL — that’s a surprisingly big bust rate. If, as I reported in Part 3, a player’s goal is to trick scouts into liking him for as long as he can, then AFL players are among the most convincing con artists. The majority have made it to their early twenties, and to Double-A or Triple-A, without playing themselves out of prospecthood. But even among the cream of the minor league crop, the attrition rate is high.

That was an important point to remember for fledgling scouts exposed to top prospects for the first time, especially when the report-writing process took a twist. Up until our final trip to the ballpark, we wrote up players as if they were amateurs, even if they had already played pro ball. But after spending close to two weeks improving our evaluation skills, we spent our last full day at Scout School treating the players like professionals.

There are significant differences between the amateur and pro approaches — not just methodologically, but also philosophically. Most high school and college players aren’t even minor league material, so to save time, an amateur scout writes up only players he likes. As a result, amateur reports are intended to answer the question, “Why do you like him?” They might mention what a player can’t do, or at least what he doesn’t do currently, but the idea is to accentuate the positive. “Sell the player without inventing him,” as my instructor described it.

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Originally published: October 21, 2013. Last Updated: October 21, 2013.