Siegel: Baseball scouts use numbers, too

From Alan Siegel at on August 11, 2014:

Joe Mauer broke the 2-to-8 scouting scale before I even had a chance to tell you how it works. In the spring of 1999, Mauer was years away from the perennial All-Star catcher he’d become for the Minnesota Twins. He was only 15 years old and in his sophomore season at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he was already good enough for a veteran scout like Mike Larson to have heard of him. Larson was so intrigued that one afternoon he drove to the Metrodome in nearby Minneapolis to watch Mauer play in a scrimmage.

That day, Larson watched Mauer’s balanced, upright stance, his startling bat speed, and his rare ability to replicate his smooth left-handed swing over and over. By the time he was a senior, Mauer had become one of the best amateur players Larson had ever seen. When it came time to rate Mauer’s hitting ability, Larson didn’t hesitate: “That’s the only player,” Larson told me, “we have ever put a future 8 hit grade on as a high schooler.”

That 8 grade is the best a player can get for one of his skills, according to the scale that scouts use to grade players. Non-pitchers are given a present and future grade on each of five tools (hitting ability, power, running speed, arm strength and fielding). A 2 grade is poor, 5 is major league average, 8 is exceptional.

Scouts have been grading prospects like this for decades, navigating a minefield of variables. They require a standardized process to measure ability that isn’t based solely on statistical output. Therein lies the beauty of the 2-to-8 scale. “It’s a simple formula,” said Don Pries, a former Orioles executive and former director of the MLB Scouting Bureau. “It’s easy for everyone to read, and for everyone to understand.” To scouts, it’s a lingua franca.

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Originally published: August 11, 2014. Last Updated: August 11, 2014.