KPT Sports BlogKPT Sports posted on October 14th, 2014
In all major league sports, part of what makes a team competitive is how effective they are in locating talented players and, if they’re lucky, making them a part of the organization before someone else can. In pro football, this happens almost exclusively through the U.S. college system, using invitational combines and a draft system. The N.B.A. adds to that mix a lot of high school and international scouting.
But no scouting program is as extensive as that of professional baseball teams, who have scouts constantly in the field keeping an eye on high school players, junior colleges, and international teams from Cuba to Japan. Those scouts can bring up to 1,500 players into MLB every year, often into the extensive feeder system of over 180 minor league AA and AAA teams.
That means that, in comparison to football or basketball, there are a lot of opportunities out there for aspiring pro baseball players from nontraditional backgrounds to get at least a shot at playing professionally, whether they’re from St. Petersburg, Florida, or Nakajima, Japan. For talented athletes, getting a professional baseball contract is much more in reach than, say, joining the defensive line of the Baltimore Ravens.
But first, you have to impress the scouts.
MLB Scouts prefer seeing players in person, unlike other pro league’s scouts, who tend to watch players on tape. To do that, they watch players in real games, and to get their attention, you have to actually be playing. Even if you didn’t make a smooth transition from high school or college into a minor-league feeder team, there are some other interesting opportunities to play in independent leagues. Just one example is the United Baseball League in Texas. Though not affiliated with MLB, playing in leagues like this can still be a way to get noticed by scouts.
When a scout watches a player on the field, they rate them on five criteria – Hitting, Fielding, Power, Arm Strength, and Speed. Whether they’re looking at a young player or someone more seasoned, scouts will give more attention to those basic building blocks than to refinement and execution, with the assumption that a good development coach can mold potential.
(Also, if you’re left handed, you’re going to be playing outfield or first base – or if you’re really talented, pitching. Get used to it.)
Baseball’s extensive scouting system means that a really talented and dedicated player has a real shot at moving up in the world, whether that means getting called up to the Majors or, more likely, a spot on a minor league roster. But for players at any level, the process of negotiating a contract can seem more intimidating than fielding a ball. Once you’re ready to really make your mark on the field of dreams, what you’ll need most of all is a baseball agent keeping your best interests in mind.