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High School Baseball
Al Avila, Vice President of Scouting
Florida Marlins

An interview with a Major League Baseball "scouting expert." Al Avila is the Vice President of Scouting for the Florida Marlins. You will be able to tell by Mr. Avila's answers that he took a great deal of time in responding to this interview. We appreciate his insights.

Question: At what age do you start watching a player? (i.e. youth summer tournaments / varsity high school baseball)?
Answer: In the United States we start following players when they begin playing high school varsity baseball (usually 10th grade). If the player continues to improve year to year we continue to follow him through his senior year of high school. (Summer and fall leagues are also used to follow a player's progress.)

Question: How important is it for a high school player to attend a professional team's open try-out day?
Answer: I feel it is important, the more a player can be seen the better chance a scout has to evaluate the player the better chance for a player to be drafted.

Question: At what grade in school should a player attend their first "try-out" day? (i.e. 9th grade, 10th grade, etc.)
Answer: After 10th or 11th grade. The 11th grade however is when the scout will need to report on the player to follow for the next year's draft.

Question: Is it a good idea for a high school player to send a letter of introduction to a professional team? Much the same as he might to a college coach.
Answer: Some scouts don't pay much attention to a letter and some scouts are even turned off by them. However, it may be a good idea for the player or his coach to send a letter to an area scout if the player feels he has not attracted any attention. We always ask our scouts to follow through on all letters if it is geographically feasible and cost efficient to try to see a player if the player requests a try-out or to be seen at games.

Question: If a letter is a good idea should a player include statistics from his high school and summer teams? Is sending "press clippings" from local newspapers, that include highlights, about a player a benefit?
Answer: While statistics don't usually go into the evaluation process of a player, if a player is going to write a letter he might as well send all the information on his achievements since something might catch the scout's interest. If the player does sign the info can be used as a reference.

Question: Is it a good idea for a high school player to make a videotape, of himself, in baseball situations and give it to a professional scout?
Answer: A video is a good idea if the player looks like a prospect in it and he knows what to show-- like a smooth swing, approach at the plate, a good delivery with good arm action pitching or show smooth hands and foot action fielding.

Question: With the increasing number of "Showcase" events, in recent years .... How important is it for a player to attend this type of event?
Answer: It is in the player's best interest to attend at least one showcase. The more exposure the better, but it also helps when you compete against players with similar talent.

Question: How do you decide (as an organization) which showcase events to cover?
Answer: We decide on showcases based on their track record of player attendance, scheduling and cost efficiency.

Question: Which showcase events do you personally consider to be the best? From a professional MLB team's perspective.
Answer: The number one (1) showcase should be the National Jr. Team tryouts. It is supposed to be the best 45 junior players. The Area Code games on the West coast and the East Coast Pro Showcase would be the best ones to attend (depending on where you live). Team One National showcase has also been well attended by scouts. Smaller regional showcases (like the Florida Diamond Club Showcase) are also good to attend.

Question: What is the best way for a high school player to get noticed by a professional scout?
Answer: The best way for a high school player to get noticed is to play. Of course he also needs to have the ability, athleticism and tools. Tools such as, athletic body, arm, speed, power, soft hands, sweet swing, etc. If the player doesn't have any of these tools as a 10th grader don't worry because with hard work he may be able to improve his skills by his senior year. If his skills are still a little short he can attend a small college and continue his development. If he does develop someone (scout or a coach) will recognize his skills and he will be seen.

Question: How important is a player's physical appearance? I do not mean is he 6'-1" tall and weigh 200 pounds. What I am referring to is tattoos, body piercing, odd hair styles, manner of dress, etc. Are any or all of these a "negative" when a pro scout sees a player?
Answer: For some scouts it is very important for some it is not as important. However, the more maturity, discipline and professionalism you show on and off the field the better for the player. The player should always present himself in a positive manner. Scouts will look at tools first but the full package of good physical appearance and makeup can really help as long as it's sincere.

Question: If a player has a bad day ... when a professional scout is in the stands watching him for the first time .... Does that mean it is "over" as far as that pro team is concerned?
Answer: It will be "over" only if the player is being scouted by a poor scout. Scouts are at games to see tools first. Performance is nice to see but a guy who goes 5 for 5 with 4 rbi's and is batting .500 with no tools will not be seen. If the player is a tools guy, goes 0 for 5 and is hitting .290 he is the prospect and will be noticed and followed.

Question: How important is a player's "attitude appearance" when in a game and at practice?
Answer: Attitude and body language are very important and they tell a lot about a player's makeup on the field. A scout has to be careful and interpret correctly what he sees. For example - a player getting angry and throwing a helmet after getting thrown out for being overly aggressive compared to a player who comes across as a crybaby after giving up a homerun.

Question: Do college coaches and professional scouts ever talk to one another about prospective high school players?
Answer: Yes. Scouts use all resources and information. A scout may even recommend a player to a college coach that he feels is not a major league prospect.

Question: How important are the psychological tests in regard to where a player may be drafted, in which round, or if he will be drafted at all?
Answer: That depends on the organization. In general we use tests as additional information. I will generally depend on my scouts opinion of the player more often than not.

Question: How important is a player's past medical history in regards to a potential draft round? Same question for the vision tests.
Answer: Very important. Every scout is responsible for getting up-to-date and accurate medical reports to our office for our doctor to evaluate.

Question: How important is it for a player to attend a "pre-draft" workout - if he is invited? Is it possible for a player to be drafted in the first 5 rounds without attending a pre-draft workout?
Answer: It is important to scouts. It gives us a chance to see the player up close for one last time and erase any possible doubts. A player can get drafted in the first 5 rounds without attending a pre-draft workout.

Question: How important is the "draft and follow" method to your organization? Do you utilize this process much?
Answer: It is a valuable option for a club. There are players that are very projectable but not mentally ready to start a pro career straight out of high school. Going to a JC for a year gives both sides another year to see if there is development and determine what is best for both parties.

Question: How important are junior college players to your organization's draft strategy each year?
Answer: Some scouts don't do a very good job of scouting JC's. The JC's however are important to see since a juco player is projectable much like a high school player but with more experience.
Question: If a high school player has the option of attending a very good junior or community college versus a small four (4) year school what factors make one choice better than another? ( I am referring to baseball programs -- not the academic institutions)
Answer: If it is a baseball decision and the player feels he does not want to wait more than one year or two to go pro then a good juco is the best option. If the above is not important he should choose the best program available, that is the one that will give the player the best chance to play and develop.
Question: Do players get drafted that have not been seen by an individual team's cross checking ("cross checker") scout? In other words on the recommendation of an area / associate scout only?
Answer: An area scout can get a player drafted without having him cross-checked. However this usually doesn't happen in the first 10 rounds. The more experienced scouts and those with good track records are exceptions. I do not feel that an associate scout can get a guy drafted unless it is late in the draft and it is a follow type player.
Question: What other tips or advice can you give a high school player that would rather "go pro" than play in college?
Answer: A player must realize he not only has to be physically ready to go pro, but more importantly be mentally ready and committed. He should be prepared and understand the challenges ahead and be prepared to handle the physical and mental rigors of the job. He should love the game and love to play, but also understand this is a professional arena where it is a career opportunity - a profession not a hobby.

Al Avila
Vice President of Scouting
Florida Marlins

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