November 9, 2012
Scouting the Sixth Tool
In the world of evaluating baseball talent, scouts often refer to the five tools -- hitting, hitting for power, foot speed, arm strength and defensive range. Players with high grades in each area often bring superstar upside to the ballpark. What separates those who blossom from those who don't is what I like to call the Sixth Tool.
That tool is “makeup,” a mix of maturity, desire and an advanced approach to the game. In some instances, it involves an extra gear of effort and can draw the "gamer" label. It's not uncommon for a player's makeup to be the deciding factor when clubs produce their final draft boards or ultimate evaluations.
"It's something we look for in every single player we scout," said an American League scouting director. "All the tools in the world aren't enough to overcome the lack of good makeup. Those tools can become wasted. We've seen it a million times."
Not all clubs value makeup the same when it comes to amateur talent, but that isn't because they don't feel it's a critical piece to the puzzle. It's because makeup is difficult to scout.
"You really have to get in there," said an AL club's area supervisor. "it's not just about seeing the player, it's about seeing the player in all situations, winning, losing, close games, and getting to know the player a little bit off the field. See what makes him tick."
What makes a player tick is a crucial part of the scouting game, but it isn't always answered before decision time, so clubs have to make an assessment with the data they have gathered. A National League club that selected in the top 15 in June had a particular decision to make between two players with differing levels of tools and upside.