Going back in time with old scouting reports

Orioles snap six-game losing streak as McLouth walks off against Yankees
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I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.

Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:

Derek Jeter Scouting Reports

You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.

Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:

  • a good face
  • a hi butt
  • an impact both offensively and defensively
  • makeup 2b a star
  • some hot dog in him

Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.

After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:

Alex Rodriguez Scouting Reports

Typical best prospect I’ve ever seen stuff. I love that last line in the last report, “Reminds me of Travis Fryman or Cal Ripken.” I don’t know, I’ve always gotten a Joe Randa or Mike Schmidt vibe whenever I watched Alex. Too close to call.

The database only has one scouting report for Mariano Rivera, and it’s dated July 8th, 1995. That’s four days after Mo’s fifth career big league start, which also happened to be his best. That eight-inning, two-hit, eleven-strikeout masterpiece against the White Sox. Here’s an Orioles scout on Mo the starter:

Mariano Rivera Scouting Report

“3/4 starter … Has a real good, live arm & should be a good ML pitcher in the future.” That was a few weeks before Rivera was permanently moved to the bullpen and two years before the learned the cutter. That’s all it took to go from 3/4 starter to future Hall of Famer.

A few days before that report on Mo was filed, another Orioles scout submitted this evaluation of a 22-year-old rookie left-hander who had just gotten his first taste of the big leagues, someone named Andy Pettitte:

Andy Pettitte Scouting Report

Three grade 55+ pitches with 60 control at age 22? It’s no wonder why Baseball America ranked Andy as the 49th best prospect in the game before the 1995 season. Actually, looking back at that 1995 top 100 prospects list, it might be the best top 100 of all-time. A-Rod, Chipper Jones, Jeter, Johnny Damon, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero, Chris Carpenter … that’s an awful lot of All-Star/borderline Hall of Fame/no-doubt Hall of Fame talent right there. Wowza.

Much to my disappointment, the database has nothing on Jorge Posada. I really would have liked to see a report from his days as a second baseman. Here’s the only info they have on Bernie Williams, circa 1990:

Bernie Williams Scouting Report

Not exactly the biggest or most informative blurb in the world, but it’s better than nothing. The “Bat ?” remark, which I assume means his bat was a question, shows just how hard it is to evaluate hitting ability. For the most part pitching is cut and dry, you can read velocity off a radar gun and see how much breaking balls break. Did he hit the glove? It’s a yes or no answer. On the other hand, no two swings are alike. Everyone has a different swing plane, a different hole to exploit, different amounts of plate coverage … it’s not cookbook. Bernie went from “Bat ?” to a batting title and a nine-year stretch of .319/.404/.525.

Now I want to go back a little further and look at someone who never played for the Yankees but has ties to the club today: Ken Singleton. I’ve made it no secret that I love Singleton as a broadcaster, but he was also a damn good baseball player once upon a time. He was a career .282/.388/.436 hitter in parts of 15 big league seasons, most with the Orioles. Here’s a report from 1972, his first full season in the show and third overall:

Ken Singleton Scouting Report

Free swinger! Singleton regularly walked more than he struck out in the minors and from 1970-1971, he drew 91 walks in 600 big league plate appearances (15.2%). The year after the report was written, he drew 123 walks in 692 plate appearances (17.8%). Singleton retired with 1,263 walks (14.8%) and 1,246 strikeouts (14.6%) in over 8,500 career plate appearance. This isn’t even a “he was a free swinger earlier in his career before the light bulb went on” situation, he always showed big-time plate discipline. It’s all he talks about on the air, it seems. Funny how inaccurate some these reports can be, like this one on Wade Boggs.

You can lose yourself for hours and hours in the scouting reports, but I’m only going to highlight one more player: Manny Ramirez. He has no connection to the Yankees other than destroying them as a member of the Red Sox, but he did grow up in Washington Heights and certainly has New York ties. In this 1991 report, scout Brian Collins went all-in on Manny, who was just a high school senior at the time:

Manny Ramirez Scouting Report

Well, Collins was wrong. Ramirez didn’t hit between 400-500 homers, he hit 555.

Can you imagine that though? A scout submitting a report predicting a player will hit 400+ homers as long as he stays healthy? I feel like that’s one of those things you just don’t do. Like, yeah, 400+ homer players are out there waiting to be drafted, but actually putting that tag on them out of high school is crazy. I don’t even like saying a team will win more than 95 games in a given season. Kudos to Collins for a ballsy (and technically incorrect) prediction.

I don’t know what the plan is for the database going forward, but I truly hope the Hall of Fame and Scout of the Year folks intend to add to the scouting report collection in the future. It’s amazing looking at all the notes about a player’s home life — notice the notes on Jeter’s parents? — and other stuff like that. I can’t imagine how hard that is to evaluate. If you’ve ever got some time to kill, the scouting report database is the spot to hot. It’s a goldmine.

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  • Graham Nash

    Super cool article, thnx 4 sharing

  • Bennett

    Awesome. Think I’ll be going through that archive myself in the near future.

    Funny that even the scouts found Jeter attractive.

    • jsbrendog

      wonder if they got gift baskets…..

      • Robinson Tilapia

        They just had “IOU”‘s in them, which led to “I blew this broke MFer, and all I got was a bag full of IOU’s?!”

        I hope he never followed up on those. That’d be even more badass. “Maria in Columbus in ’94? Nah, don’t remember you…”

  • Bavarian Yankee

    this is pretty good stuff. I’ve read a lot of them like 3-4 weeks ago but some of those reports are pretty crazy. Like the Ramirez one. I mean what the scout predicted really happened but still … just crazy.

    • mitch

      Crazy prediction by Collins, but you have to take away a couple points for “Attitude: Good”. He was off on that one.

  • Eddard

    This is why I didn’t like Moneyball trashing the scouts. These guys know baseball. I’ve always thought Jeter hot dogged it every now and then and it seems to have rubbed off on Robbie Cano.

    • MannyGeee

      If only his hi butt would have rubbed off on Cano as well, then we’d have something.

      Dude, you just say shit sometimes to say it, don’t you… I can’t buy you believing this, but I can co-sign on you saying it for troll affect.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Well, they kind of had to trash the scouts. They felt they were doing something new and revolutionary. You have to break with the past when you do that.

      It’s like Shawn kicking Marty through the Barbershop window. he could have just said “I’m doing my own thing now,” but it’s just not that simple.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      I agree on the Moneyball thing. Billy Beane didn’t “discover” Miguel Tejada, signed in 1993, 5 years before he took over as GM, Eric Chavez, picked in 1996, Tim Hudson, picked in 1997, Mark Mulder, the No. 2 overall pick of his first draft in 1998, or Barry Zito, the 9th pick of his second draft in 1999.

      Those pieces were a hell of a lot more important to their success in 2002 than Scott Hatteberg was.

      • vicki

        sandy alderson, baby.

  • BeanTooth

    I just bought the RAB Bern Baby Bern shirt last week. It’s seriously awesome. Bernie was my favorite player of that era. Can you imagine the amount of prospect hugging we would’ve done in the early-mid 90s if RAB was around?

    • Pseudoyanks

      I was doing it with Baseball America (subscriber since 1988…)

    • Robinson Tilapia

      HE’S REPEATING A LEVEL! BUST! CASHMAN FAILED! WAIT…..WHO’S CASHMAN?!

      • Bob Buttons

        He joined the Yanks in 86 so we can still blame him. If he wowed Steinbrenner he’d have been GM by 1991, when Gene got the gig.

  • trr

    Can’t help but laugh at some of this, marvel at some of it, right? Thanks for sharing

  • ariekne

    He still has a pretty great butt imho.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Thanks, Mike, that is great stuff! Already searched a few and can’t wait to get back to it later.

  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    The Mike Mussina archives alone are worth a post. I love this one from the Cubs and this one for the bonus figures. Sadly no mention of his sour puss personality.

  • pat

    I remember reading a story that I unfortunately cannot find now about a Seattle scout who was assigned to go see Arod in HS. He was new to the organization and Arod happened to be his assignment. After watching him play he was absolutely terrified to hand in the report because he had him marked down as 8 for every category and thought they were gonna take one look at it, throw it away and fire him.

  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    Here’s a good one on Giami: Future 3A journeyman, maybe bat off bench.

    Oops.

    • Luke

      Take him off the roids and that’s preceisely what he was/is.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        That’s excessive. Giambi had a special eye. That can maximize otherwise average power.

  • MannyGeee

    RE: Jeter: “Recieves Groundballs too close to his body…”

    God, don’t you wish he still had that problem?

    #pastadivingJeter

    All joking aside, I LOVE these when they come across on Eye on Baseball, and I am LEGIT afraid to take the jump to the database, because I may never come out. Truly fascinating reads.

    Check out the Bo Jackson one sometime, it is pretty wild.

  • Pseudoyanks

    Derek Jeter…”Got some hotdog in him”
    I wonder what the Rickey Henderson scouting report said.

  • Greg

    Scouting buzzwords in general are great, and “good face” is just hilarious. What could that possibly mean?

    • Yankee Fan 1

      Good face I kinda get. “Hi butt” on the otherhand….what??

      • pat

        Muscle development of the glutes?

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Long legs, probably.

      • Pseudoyanks

        I think it’s a rotator cuff warning for coaches…they will have to alter and lift their arm slot when they smack him in the butt after a nice play.

    • high heat
    • Darren

      I remember reading an article that discussed how good looks actually is an indicator of athletic ability. Basically,throughout the world, facial symmetry is considered the one comment element of whether or not someone is considered attractive, and being symmetrical is thought to correlate with agility, balance, etc.

      Makes sense to me.

      • Greg

        Yeah sure, I’ve heard that too. If all you could do was look at headshots to evaluate people having no knowledge of their abilities, that would make some sense…but obviously that’s not the case. They’re there to observe all these abilities that the facial characteristics would tend to indicate (not all that reliably, of course), so if we already know he’s a great athlete and player, what does “also, super-handsome. Can fall back on fashion modeling” really ad to the scouting report?

        There’s no way anyone could tell a AAA player from a ML player just by looking at their face, that’s just crazy, even by scouting standards. They must mean that there’s something specific about their appearance that makes them look good. Eye-fieriness, or something.

      • DC

        I think Pete Rose, Randy Johnson, and Yogi (just to name a few) would disagree.

        • RBC

          throw in David Ortiz

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Someone find me one a so-called can’t miss guy who missed. C’mon. Show me Todd Van Poppel or something.

  • Chris

    I’ve always suspected my low butt kept me from getting drafted…

  • high heat

    “I love Singleton as a broadcaster”

    Hell yeah, apart from Vin Scully he’s the best there is. We’re fortunate as Yankee fans to have him doing the games.

    I could listen to him reading my tax returns, he’s that smooth.

    • Ghost of Joe Dugan

      When Singleton & Kaat where broadcasting together it was a real treat. Two guys with an incredible knowledge of the the most important aspects of the game, hitting & pitching, and the ability to convey that knowledge in the flow of the game. I really miss that combo.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    This might be my new addictive baseball website. Thanks Mike!

    My favorite player of all time: Dave Winfield

    Here’s one of his reports from 1973. The last line kills me (was the first thing noted in the 1968 report). Amazing and awesome to see how far our country has progressed since those days.

    http://scouts.baseballhall.org.....=winfida01

    • Ghost of Joe Dugan

      Big Dave is also my all-time favorite player. I became a Yankee fan in 1982 when I was 11. He tweeted his scouting report awhile back but I completely missed that last line. Amazing.

    • RBC

      I also loved how they kept referring to him as “boy”.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    You have to wonder what could have been had there been a proper “hi” versus “bye” butt analysis of Cito Culver.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I found Van Poppel as a high schooler. Predicted to be a high draft pick and impact starter. Great presence. Sound mechanics. Good FB and CB.

    I know I’m going to be more interested in reports that miss the mark here.

  • sangreal

    I mentioned this in a chat here a couple of weeks ago. I guess it was with Matt and not you, but these really are fascinating

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    Wow, really nothing for Cano in there? I know Cano was a B lever prospect, it would be awesome to see what scouts thought of him.

    • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

      *level

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Holy crap I’m not going there. I’d be lost forever. That’s the biggest time-vacuum I’ve ever seen. Those comments are crazy; I can’t imagine today’s scouts writing those comments and not getting called out for them.

    Maybe I could get a couple of pitchers of margaritas and just take a little glance…

    • Bob Buttons

      Not a big fan of football? You should have heard the scouting reports on Geno Smith.

      • vicki

        one guy!

  • Greg C

    I spent a lot of time there a couple weeks ago. A lot of the reports didn’t make sense to me, but I’m just going by memory here.

    I think one of the ones raving about Jeter as a future star (not the hi butt one) also said his POTENTIAL was as a below-average hitter. I just don’t get that. Was he supposed to be an all-field no-hit SS? Ha.

    You actually see a lot of future stars with 4-5 or 40 ratings on things, not just current but potential,too. Maybe I’m just not familiar with those ratings or how tough the grading is.

    Being a Yankee fan who grewup in MD, I mostly read Yanks and Os ones. Brady Anderson was rated as having very poor speed- that was listed as his biggest weakness. When I was a kid, before his “enhancement” era power and strength surge, he was light-hitting guy who stole a lot of bases. Does a guy with very poor speed with the potential for below average speed really steal double digits in MLB? Now maybe I’m just assigning more speed to him in my mind since he was a thin, light-hitting guy, and that type of guy usually has some speed. Maybe he was hanging out with Jose in 86-87 and enhanced his speed before his strength.

    Of course, a lot of players develop differently than expected but some of these were reports after 4 years of HS and 3 years of college.

    Also, in High School Mike Mussina was highly rated as a SS as well as pitcher. In fact, I would say Mussina was probably graded as well as Jeter as a SS in some of the early ones, but it appears after his sophomore or maybe junior year he became primarily a pitching prospect. His pitching weaknesses included control issues. I think he got a good handle on that. You can also see comments on recommended bonuses and expected asking prices. I think his said something like “Dad is a rich lawyer. Going to Stanford. won’t sign.”

    • Greg

      Brady Anderson might’ve gotten into much better shape in college, but I assume that’s just a scout being totally wrong. He was an above average runner til his late 30s, and extremely fast earlier in his career. Pretty hard to imagine that he was ever a slow runner.

  • http://www.geeks2you.net Marc

    Mark McGwire
    Pretty good read on McGwire, check it out

  • http://www.geeks2you.net Marc

    Albert Pujols is another good one. Gotta read both scouting reports though, as the first one reports that he has mistake HR power, then the next one talks about he is an avg 3rd basemen, but could be potential power ML All-star

  • RBC

    This is WONDERFUL!!! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to be lost in that website during the weekend.

  • Linny

    Check out Orel Hershiser’s report http://scouts.baseballhall.org.....=hershor01

    Its interesting how some of the scouts thought he didn’t have the drive or toughness to be a big leaguer.