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Thread: Question about BA and ESPN vs MLB scouting departments.

  1. #1
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    Question about BA and ESPN vs MLB scouting departments.

    In the interest of encouraging a stimulating discussion, I was trying to downplay my own bias... but I couldn't find the right words, so here it is anyway!

    During this draft (and others), I always wonder why we get upset with the Twins for taking Baseball America's 49th rated prospect with the 32nd pick. I love BA and all that, but how many of their 'scouts' are in actuality just reporters. And how many of these people would jump at the chance to join a major league scouting program?

    I guess what I am saying is that the Twins have a scouting staff of over 20 people, and get further input from the various coaching staffs and affiliated personnel like Tom Kelley and Paul Molitor. So am I in the minority in thinking that the Twins, and EACH of the other 29 teams, have a better scouting department than Baseball America? If BA is better, why wouldn't a deep-pocketed team like the Yankees just buy the info as was done with STATS, Inc. data? BA is run on a shoestring budget, so it probably wouldn't be all that expensive.

    What do others think about the relative size and quality of the BA scouting department in comparison to a MLB team?

  2. #2
    Senior Member All-Star Ultima Ratio's Avatar
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    I'm of the opinion that you've nailed it. Good question and I concur with your analysis and conclusion.
    Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.

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    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    I'll agree with you... It would be good for the team's to have evaluated each player a ton more than BA or others have.

  4. #4
    Senior Member All-Star Shane Wahl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TRex View Post
    In the interest of encouraging a stimulating discussion, I was trying to downplay my own bias... but I couldn't find the right words, so here it is anyway!

    During this draft (and others), I always wonder why we get upset with the Twins for taking Baseball America's 49th rated prospect with the 32nd pick. I love BA and all that, but how many of their 'scouts' are in actuality just reporters. And how many of these people would jump at the chance to join a major league scouting program?

    I guess what I am saying is that the Twins have a scouting staff of over 20 people, and get further input from the various coaching staffs and affiliated personnel like Tom Kelley and Paul Molitor. So am I in the minority in thinking that the Twins, and EACH of the other 29 teams, have a better scouting department than Baseball America? If BA is better, why wouldn't a deep-pocketed team like the Yankees just buy the info as was done with STATS, Inc. data? BA is run on a shoestring budget, so it probably wouldn't be all that expensive.

    What do others think about the relative size and quality of the BA scouting department in comparison to a MLB team?
    Yeah, none of that really matters. That said, we often rely on those places to note which players to follow and whatnot since we don't have MLB teams' scouts notes. That is probably why people often note the discrepancy and say "what the hell?" So I don't blame people for that initial frustration since we don't have that kind of true insider information.

    I work with sports journalists, but also think about those we read or see on television . . . it's a job that is difficult, sure, but so much of it is really not truly EXPERT analysis or anything. (which is why I think the Pardon the Interruptions of the world annoy me so much)

    Looking at the draft, I think the Twins did a pretty good job getting quality arms. They then drafted a bunch of catchers. They did not draft third basemen, but maybe it is possible that some other grand scheme involving that position is in the works (whether it is FA or next years' draft).

  5. #5
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    Good post. Another thing to remember is there isn't much difference (if any) between BA's 33 draft prospect and their 55th. From his chat today:

    • Bill (KC): Jim, I'm curious about something and I'm sure a lot of others are as well. We see a list of 500 prospects. From a talent perspective, how big are the separation gaps on the list? How much separates prospect #354 and #475? On a related note, for guys ranked in, say, the bottom 200, how many detailed reports are you getting on these guys to rank them where you are?


    Jim Callis: There is not a huge difference between Nos. 354-475. When I describe prospects, I tend to think of them in groups of first round (1-30), sandwich round (31-60), second-third round (61-120), fourth-seventh round (121-240), eighth-12th round (241-390), with players in each group roughly comparable. Hope that made sense.

  6. #6
    It's hard to believe the rankings we get from any site, but ESPN & Baseball America have the most authority so that's what we go with. At least with ESPN, they have a couple guys who've worked for Major League clubs in the past in Keith Law & Kiley McDaniel so they are probably as close as it gets to seeing what a scout thinks about players. I like Kevin Goldstein but I don't know what he's done to give him any authority to what he does. He talks about baseball prospects & I like hearing about baseball prospects. "Who the hell is Mel Kiper?"

    The Baseball draft is so different from any other draft. 1238 players were drafted in this year's draft because it went down to 40 rounds from the usual 50 rounds so it used to be over 1500 kids drafted. There's 2 rounds in the NBA draft, and 7 rounds in both the NFL and NHL drafts so that doesn't come anywhere close to what happens in the MLB draft.

    If each team has 20 scouts, each scout would look at 60-75 players or maybe they would be responsible for those 60-75 players but scout a lot more than that. I'm not saying this is what they do, I'm just showing the math of it. Feel free to correct anything or tell me how it really works. I would imagine they've all built up some networks and hear about certain players and then go out and scout them but how many times does a scout see a player before the draft prep is finalized? Also, do Twins scouts see the players in Florida as much as they see the players in Minnesota or as much as the Marlins scouts see the players in Florida? I assume every team has regional scouts in the same areas. Then how often do the BA/ESPN Scouts see those players? Is that why a player like Mitch Brown "drops" on draft day from his ranking?

    So they look at over 1500 players throughout the year and isn't it considered a good draft if 2 of a team's picks makes it to the majors from a draft? That's like a 4% rate!

    That shows just how hard it is to find baseball players through the draft, not great players....just players! The percentage for finding a great player might be under 1%. Will there be 12 great players out of this draft? or 15 out of last year's draft?

    It'd be interesting to see where the players in BA's top 500 are in 5 or so years and then compare that to the actual draft of the top 500 players drafted.



    GO TWINS!

    Robb
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  7. #7
    I like this quote from MoneyBall:

    Billy Beane: Okay! Okay. My turn. You don't have a crystal ball, you can't look at a kid and predict his future any more than I can. I've sat at those kitchen tables with you and listened to you tell those parents 'When I know, I know! And when it comes to your son, I know'. And you don't. You don't!



    GO TWINS!

    Robb
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  8. #8
    Excellent post, I thought that very thing myself during the draft. Who is to say these BA guys are better than an individual team's scouts? I would imagine the first 5-10 picks would be relatively easy for most teams and BA to agree upon, but after that it's ridiculous to think one man's list is the definitive source. If the Twins took someone at #32 that "the board" had going #56, then it should be considered a great pick as both the team and these writers determined this was a player worth using a high draft pick to obtain. The only reason we've come to trust BA or ESPN with these lists is they make them public!

  9. #9
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    My parents gave me great advice once: Never ask a question unless you are willing to listen to an answer that does not agree with your going in opinion......

    I don't think anyone (at least I'm not) is saying that BA or ESPN "know more/are smarter" than any team's scouts. But if you really want to have a discussion about how we talk about the draft, and offer opinions, post a reply saying you are. But, so far, ime on this site, it just isn't true. There is a camp that believes one thing about this discussion, and a camp that believes another thing. And people on both sides are irrationally emotional about how the discussion takes place. But if you'd really like to get a contrary answer to your question behind the question, I'm happy to do have that in this thread.
    Lighten up Francis....

  10. #10
    Twins Contributor All-Star Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
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    As far as scouting goes, I would agree with your assessment.

    The thing that BA has going for them is that they have connections with all of the clubs. They talk to the clubs' scouts and compile lots of opinions. In their handbook, you'll often see them say "people inside the organization" or "scouts outside the organization", etc. It also doesn't appear that those guys are seeking jobs with MLB teams, so I would assume there are levels of trust that organizations probably have with BA that they don't necessarily have with Keith Law, who obviously is seeking jobs (interviewed for Astros GM job last offseason).

    Obviously, these are just my opinions, so I could (and may) be way off.

  11. #11
    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    In my opinion, it's like comparing Baeabll America's Top 30 Twins prospect to my Top 50 Twins Prospects to Kevin Goldstein's Top 11 Twins prospects, to whoever's Top XX Twins Prospects. Most likely, we all have sources within the organization. WE all look at the same stats and hear things on various players, good and bad. Then we come up with a list. The tops of the lists will likely look pretty familiar, but I'm pretty sure if we were all asked to rank players 1-150, things would start looking a little different starting about #15.

    As for the whole "Moneyball" draft versus the Traditional Scouting, I noted a couple times during hte draft that it has definitely returned more and more to the scouting of talent as opposed to numbers. Obviously many times they're the same (guys with immense talent/athleticism also have pretty impressive numbers). Maybe I'm wrong, but it definitely seems like the "scouting" area is back in the forefront, and I think that is a very good thing.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
    As far as scouting goes, I would agree with your assessment.

    The thing that BA has going for them is that they have connections with all of the clubs. They talk to the clubs' scouts and compile lots of opinions. In their handbook, you'll often see them say "people inside the organization" or "scouts outside the organization", etc. It also doesn't appear that those guys are seeking jobs with MLB teams, so I would assume there are levels of trust that organizations probably have with BA that they don't necessarily have with Keith Law, who obviously is seeking jobs (interviewed for Astros GM job last offseason).

    Obviously, these are just my opinions, so I could (and may) be way off.
    this is correct. the reason baseball america has the most credence is because they're a compiler of information. they talk to scouts from many different organizations and try to get out to see the players as much as possible so what you're often looking at is an objective vantage point as opposed to just one team's. their writers aren't scouts, although some of them have been hired away by organizations, just writers who live and breathe baseball.

  13. #13
    Was just going to post the same thing. Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and Keith Law over at ESPN all have scouting contacts with every organization. They talk to them all the time. Along with that, they do plenty of scouting themselves. Kevin Goldstein said he would absolutely love to be employed as a major league scout but for whatever reason that hasn't happened yet.

    The important thing to note, is that team scouts may have players ranked higher or lower than where those players are actually picked. Sometimes teams will try to save money in the draft, by refusing to spend the money they are alotted. Or in the case with the way the draft used to be and still is to some extent, some teams would never sign guys above slot.

    That being said, yes, players are generally seperated into different tiers. Also, among BA, BP, and Law they can all disagree quite a bit about where to rank some players. You're trying to predict the future with these guys, and the best thing you can do is look at their tools, their makeup and try to estimate where they'll end up.

  14. #14
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    I think BA and ESPN are quite credible in this area. While Law goes a bit more with his opinions, BA basically represents the industry consensus- which is the most objective way of doing it. Among the clubs, opinions undoubtedly vary quite a bit. Every team will have some guys they like more than the consensus, and others they like less.

    It makes sense that teams will often end up drafting those players they like more than the other clubs- that's why the player is available to begin with. Ultimately the results are what matter. In that department, the Twins aren't doing too well recently. It's not because they deviated from the consensus rankings though, since their high-profile busts were drafted in line with expectations. They've just chosen poorly.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
    My parents gave me great advice once: Never ask a question unless you are willing to listen to an answer that does not agree with your going in opinion......

    I don't think anyone (at least I'm not) is saying that BA or ESPN "know more/are smarter" than any team's scouts. But if you really want to have a discussion about how we talk about the draft, and offer opinions, post a reply saying you are. But, so far, ime on this site, it just isn't true. There is a camp that believes one thing about this discussion, and a camp that believes another thing. And people on both sides are irrationally emotional about how the discussion takes place. But if you'd really like to get a contrary answer to your question behind the question, I'm happy to do have that in this thread.
    Will someone please accept this gentleman's offer to engage us? I'm dying here!
    Joe Mauer should hit more home runs. JMO.

  16. #16
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    Thank you TRex! I have been saying this for years and every time I do, I usually get my head handed to me. As for how many scouts the Twins actually have, the last time I saw the actual number it was over 50. They have area scouts, regional scouts, national scouts, international scouts, hell, they probably have scouts that scout scouts. When a player is drafted, he has been seen by several of their scouts and I suspect in the case of Buxton that would be over a dozen. With this type of coverage, I have to believe there are lots of interesting debates that go on before a final selection is made.

    Try to look at it like the rankings of Scout and Rivals of high school football players, the 2-3-4-5 star evaluations they give to recruits. Last time I checked, so many of the real stars for the team I follow (Badgers) weren't that highly ranked coming out of high school. In 2006, Scout ranked 100 offensive lineman which didn't include Gabe Carimi, who they gave three stars on a five star scale. None of those 100 turned out to be as good as Carimi, who won the 'Outland Trophy' as college's best offensive lineman his senior year before being taken in the first round by da'Bears.

    Different sport, same results. You have confidence in your scouts and pick the players they believe in. The outside sources are nice for fans and help us get to know who we should be following. But whether someone is ranked 10-20-50 spots better or worse by the fan services shouldn't bring the wrath we often see brought on the Twins and their management.

  17. #17
    What the scouts may recommend and what the Twins actually decide to do may be two different things. You're assuming that the Twins drafting decisions are solely influenced by the talent of the players available. The fact is, the Twins have very rarely gone over slot in the draft in the past and for the reason have let the better players go. It's a reason why teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have been able to field pretty strong farm teams regardless of where they are in the standings. The same can be said for the Rangers in recent years. They're willing to invest a bit more money in hopes of getting a big return.

    The cheapest way to acquire talent in baseball is through the draft. You'll spend a good amount of money up front but the players that make it are a huge bargain up until they hit free agency.

    We can look at the fruits of the Twins drafting over the past several years and we'll see that they've done quite poorly. The plus side is that they've been pretty aggressive in the international free agent market in recent years. I wish that carried over to the draft more often.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Big-Leaguer
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    On the contrary, Turd, the Twins have gone over slot frequently. The notion that they have "let the better players go" is simply erroneous. Even the argument that the Twins have failed, relative to other teams, at drafting well is specious at best. All teams "fail" plenty.

    On a separate note, it will be interesting to see what the team does regarding international signings. Is this how they fill in the gaps regarding infielders? It would be nice to see them make an aggressive bid or two this year.

  19. #19
    Who are some of the guys that they have "frequently" gone over slot for? They most certainly have passed up on at least a few big name prospects. They weren't the only ones to do so, but if you want to separate yourself from the middling farm systems those are the types of guys you need to go after.

  20. #20
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    I think Bojangles is right, my post was rude. Not much I can do about it now, it's on the interwebs forever. So, I apologize for the tone and content of that post.
    Lighten up Francis....

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