If there is a start of the draft season – and in my humble opinion, there is – it started this week.
Every August, the best players in next year’s draft class are featured in summer showcase events; with the big three coming up over the next two weeks in the New Balance Area Code Games in Long Beach, Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, and the Under-Armour All-American Game in Chicago. These events not only feature the aforementioned best of the best, but are also filled with scouts and talent-evaluators from various clubs as they look to get a jump-start on their respective coverage.
One of the more common questions I’ve received in terms of the draft is who the Cubs are going to take – but another one I get is just how much these summer events matter, and what exactly goes into scouting them. To better answer the question, I spoke to a scout who has covered a large majority of these events over the past eight years what he looks for and how much stock he puts into these showcases.
What are you looking for?
“It’s pretty similar to what I’m looking for when I’m scouting a prep kid in the regular season. The first thing I notice is the body type: Is it a projectable frame? Is he already maxed out athletically? Does he have a spare tire? Obviously the talent means more but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking this stuff doesn’t matter.
Then it’s the typical stuff; bat-speed, velocity, if that swing path suggests he’ll hit for power, etcetera. One thing I always keep in mind though is that most of these kids have either been playing all year and are exhausted, or it’s their first time playing in months and there’s quite a bit of rust to shake off. Either way it’s not the perfect look, and I think you have to keep those things in mind when you’re scouting any showcase.”
How much can they help/hurt?
“They can certainly help, without question. A kid like Byron Buxton was going to be a high first round pick because of the 80 speed and ridiculous athleticism, but his performance in the Under-Armour game in 2011 and the East Coast Pro event really put him on the map, and it helped alleviate some of the concerns of him being only so-so in the regular season against bad competition the next year.
As good as the coverage is for our teams and as hard as we work to make sure we cover the country along with the ability to use video, there are always going to be guy that we just don’t get as good of view of. That’s why something like the Area Code Games and Jupiter Showcase can make such a big difference; it’s a chance to see these kids for multiple games, and I think that’s sort of invaluable if only because it gives you such a good starting point when the regular season starts.
I guess they can hurt, too. If a kid really struggles at one of these events, particularly ACG or Jupiter, then I think sometimes you can go into these things with a bit of a biased opinion towards the player when your coverage starts, and that can sometimes put you in the wrong place. Ultimately if they perform, they perform, but if a kid really struggles then it’ll have at least some sort of impact.”
Which event do you prefer?
“This is a diplomatic answer, but they really all have their strengths and weaknesses.
ACG is a bit of a personal favorite just because of the amount of quality and quantity that you get over a full week. It’s tough to beat that quality and quantity. The problem is, there are a ton of non-prospects in the field; guys that are going to end up being very late day three picks at best, and likely are headed to college. That’s true about the regular season obviously, and to a much higher extent, but it still can get a bit frustrating.
The weakness [of the Area Code Games] is obviously the Under-Armour and Perfect Game event strengths. You’re seeing the best of the best, for the most part anyway. You’re also seeing these kids perform in a big league stadium in front of boatloads of scouts and college coaches, and that means something to me. Nerves are a big part of this, and if you’re able to perform in front of what is likely the biggest event these kids have ever played, that’s a pretty good sign. On the other hand, it’s just one look and you’re likely only getting a couple of at-bats, so the sample size is a little small to call it a great scouting opportunity.”
Are there too many events?
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that there are too many. It’ll be a little different this year because you can’t do both the Under-Armour and Perfect Game event, but there are some of these kids who do three, four showcases, and that’s just way too much. I understand that they wanna get as much exposure as they can, but especially for pitchers, there’s just no reason for this much baseball in the summer after playing a full regular season. If my kid decides to take this route, I’m not letting him do more than two events, and God forbid he ends up a pitcher there’s no chance he’s doing more than one, it’s just too much stress on the arm.
I do think it’s important to mention that these coaching staffs do a great job of not abusing the arms, though. These guys realize that this is a showcase and the result of the game is pretty much meaningless, so they make sure kids get a look without throwing too many pitches. I just think it all becomes too much, especially with how hard these guys are throwing now.”
It’s far from a perfect look, but showcase season does give scouts a great chance to see players in the 2016 class compete against upper-echelon competition, and it can be a great primer for when things start to really heat up in a few months.
Thank you for reading
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