Amateur Scouting

» 23 September 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb »

The title of this post might be ambiguous. It refers to “amateur scouting” as in me as an amateur scout of baseball players, rather than the practice of scouting amateur baseball players.

Anyway, in the three years since I started this site, I’ve become a much better observer of baseball. I’d put part of this down to getting to know and interact with people in the industry, and rest down to knowing that my observations are going to be read. Obviously I’m nowhere near the level of a professional scout, but hopefully I’ve refined my eye for baseball and developed the right habits.

In this post I’d like to share the things I’ve learned to look for. And here they are:


  • fastball velocity, movement
  • number of breaking pitches
  • breaking pitches velocity, movement
  • fastball control/command
  • secondary pitch control/command
  • location, location, location
  • “out pitch”
  • efficiency
  • tempo
  • composure
  • effort, smoothness, deception of delivery
  • delivery from the windup versus the stretch
  • performance with runners on base
  • how often does he make mistakes?
  • is he giving up hard contact?
  • ground balls or fly balls?
  • defense

For me, what the pitcher does is most interesting part of the game, so I pay far more attention to that than anything else.


  • contact skill
  • power
  • batting eye
  • patience
  • plate coverage
  • swing mechanics
  • which fields does he hit to?
  • fastball hitter or breaking ball hitter?
  • front leg hitter or back leg hitter?
  • situational hitting

I must admit I’ve only recently begun to seriously think about hitting. The challenge with evaluating hitters is that I feel that I need to see a guy multiple times before I really much about him.


  • range
  • arm strength, accuracy
  • positioning
  • first step, release
  • turning double plays (infielders only)
  • instincts — throwing to the right base, knowing when to charge and when to lay back, etc
  • first baseman — does he catch everything the other infielders throw his way?

For me, getting a read on how well an outfielder is playing is the hardest thing to do when watching a game on TV or online. It can be hard to tell where an outfielder started from, whether he should have made a play or not, whether he had a chance to throw out a runner or not… plays on the infield are much easier to judge since there’s more opportunity to see the whole play develop.

Defense (catchers)

  • game calling
  • throwing out base stealers
  • fielding pop-ups
  • fielding bunts and throwing to first
  • blocking pitches in the dirt
  • handling throws from the outfield and blocking the plate on scoring plays

I never thought about what a catcher needs to do well, aside from the first two bullet points, until a friend and I were talking about Mike Piazza’a defensive reputation, and I asked “what was it that he didn’t do well?” We couldn’t remember, other than throwing out base stealers.


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  1. Patrick
    23/09/2011 at 8:42 am Permalink

    If you are talking about the US (and other neighboring ares under the MLB influence), the pitcher’s height is on the list of many scouts.

  2. Patrick
    23/09/2011 at 9:18 am Permalink

    I think US scouts use height as a proxy for stamina (and that’s something I left out by mistake). It definitely factors in to my thinking.

    Another thing US scouts talk about is projectability, which I don’t really claim to know anything about. Height plays a role in projectability as well; you hear quotes like “he has a projectable frame.”

  3. Patrick
    23/09/2011 at 11:41 am Permalink

    I can’t say I understand what projectability is either, but I’ll take a guess….Possibly they are talking about the pitcher’s movement towards the plate as he delivers the ball. Randy Johnson for example, with his height and wingspan releases the ball much closer to the plate than someone smaller like Greg Maddux. I’ve heard it mentioned that the ball is another 10-11 feet closer to the plate than the rubber when Johnson releases the ball. Maybe only 6-7 feet closer than when Maddux would. I don’t know how much scouts would pay attention to that, but I guess it’s that much less time a hitter has to see the ball.

    As far as stats go, I like ERA and strike out to walk ratio.

  4. Patrick
    23/09/2011 at 1:32 pm Permalink

    Nah, projectability is different. It’s where you have a guy who has one set of abilities as an 18 year old, then evolves or improves has he adds strength, bulk or maturity. You might have one 18 year old kid throwing 87 and dominating high school opposition, but he’s physically mature and unlikely to progress much more. Then you might have another 18 year old who doesn’t throw as hard but is skinny and lanky, and he might be a reasonable bet to fill out and add a few mph. That’s what projectability usually refers to with amateur players. Most of the Japanese players I watch are finished products and projections don’t play much of a role, but then again you’ll have the occasional Takashi Saito who I’m pretty sure added velocity in his mid-30’s with the Dodgers.

  5. Patrick
    23/09/2011 at 2:19 pm Permalink

    I should also add, I don’t think I know how to identify projectability in guys that I watch.

  6. Patrick
    29/09/2011 at 11:21 pm Permalink

    I’d say that the “height” factor is more about better expectations of physical durability rather than stamina – kinda like the example of Tim Lincecum and his underevaluation during the draft.

    In the same sense, that’s probably one of the big reasons why scouters love Darvish for the big leagues: his superior hardware compared to other Asian pitchers makes him a safer investment prospect.

    And looking at Dustin Nippert in KBO, I think height may also have something to do with fastball (what’s the word I’m looking for here…) efficiency? (relatively higher release, better angle, better velocity etc.)

  7. Patrick
    29/09/2011 at 11:25 pm Permalink

    About projectability,

    Lim (of Yakult) boosted velocity in his mid-30’s as well, but at least he had Tommy John’s surgery and post-surgical rehab as a very good possible explanation.

    Saito- he’s just a mystery….

  8. Patrick
    Billy D
    30/09/2011 at 7:46 am Permalink

    Great stuffs. I’m a hitter’s guy, just saying.

    I wonder what’s your thought on the pitching mechanism of Ishii (石井弘寿)? Some say he hurt himself since WBC 2006. I have my doubt. There was a Hard Ball Time article years ago that found out players didn’t really hurt more after the Classic.