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Mining The Gems

Major League Scouting Bureau
Reprinted from the Major League Scouting Bureau Website
by Jonathan Giannettino

That 17 year old from the local high school is at it again.

He's thrown another 1 hitter to go along with 16 strikeouts and has run his record to an amazing 17 - 0.

The kid is simply unhittable as he toys with the batters in his league. With an arm like that you wonder what his chances are of making the Major Leagues someday.

That question is most likely being answered since there is a strong chance that one of his games has been attended by a scout representing the Major League Scouting Bureau.

Created to Assist Clubs

The Major League Scouting Bureau was created on September 1, 1974, with the notion of trimming Major League organizational costs in the department of player evaluation. Before the Scouting Bureau came into existence, clubs would operate a network of their scouts and deploy them throughout the country with hopes of mining hidden gems.

The problem with this system was that the clubs with deeper finances were able to have a greater territorial reach and were able to stock up a majority of young talent. One small market club could only afford a handful of far-flung scouts; another club with deeper pockets could blanket the nation.

The idea behind a central scouting combine would be to serve all of the clubs' needs when it came to discovering and evaluating young talent. Initially, 17 of 24 clubs joined the Bureau. By 1985, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth made it mandatory for all clubs to participate.

The Major League Scouting Bureau is headquartered in Lake Forest, California, and is headed by Frank Marcos. Its Board of Directors boasts some of the games most astute minds -- Boston's Dan Duquette, Florida's Dave Dombrowski and Anaheim's Bill Bavasi to name a few.

A Wide Reach

The Bureau employs 33 scouts, with another 12 part-timers located in Canada. Their mission is to cover the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico and compile information on the top talent in their region. According to Marcos, their responsibility covers a wide gamut:

"Each of our scouts is assigned a territory in the eligible regions (United States, Canada and Puerto Rico). They are responsible for reporting, coordinating travel and conducting "in house" interviews," said Marcos.

"They will also provide signability information, and results from eye and motivation testing."

"The Scouting Bureau also utilizes cameramen who film the players. This spring we taped over 280 players."

Scouts that work within the bureau average around 10 years of service, so the turnover rate is quite low. In order to prepare for the instances, where they need to replace someone, the Bureau looks to candidates that have graduated from their Scout Development Program that is based in Florida. The 2 week program is full of former players and coaches who are recommended by the individual clubs. At this point 10 scouts have graduated from the program to work for the Bureau.

Evaluating the Talent

When scouts are evaluating the potential for a prospect they utilize two different formulas -- one for pitchers and the other for position players.

For position players, the five criteria that are judged are:
Hitting
Power
Running
Arm Strength
Fielding

For pitchers, the criteria are:
Fastball
Curve
Slider
Other Pitch
Control
Mound Presence
Aggressiveness

Players are graded on a scale of 2 - 8, with 5 being viewed as average. The sum of the grades is a total called "Overall Future Performance", or OFP. An OFP of 50 is viewed as Major League Average.

According to Marcos, scouts do not review players based on their past or present performances - the key is what they may develop into, so aptitude and ability to make adjustments outweigh the fact that a playern belted 50 home runs during his senior year in high school.

Though the Scouting Bureau covers a vast expanse, there are still going to be players who for one reason or another slip from the watchful eye of the Bureau. For that reason, the Bureau holds try-out camps during the summer that are open to the public and heavily attended by Major League Scouts.

For more information about the Major League Scouting Bureau
http://www.majorleaguebaseball.com/draft/scouting.sml

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Revised February 01, 2003 .