Scout Diary: Jan. 28, 2020 – National League’s best outfield tools

The mission: Identify a professional outfielder who you feel has the best tools identified from this week and the previous week’s readings. Describe in scouting terminology why you feel he is the best.

Last week was infielders, this week’s assignment is outfielders. Again, I want to narrow the focus to as manageable a group as possible so I’ll stick to the four leagues I can access, American, National, Central and Pacific, and center fielders. While right fielders may possess more of the best outfield arms, I’m making an arbitrary decision — as I did with shortstops in the search for the best infield tools — with looking only at the most exclusive position, center field.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

Let’s start again with the Gold Glove finalists from the National League for 2019:

  • Victor Robles, Nationals
  • Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
  • Harrison Bader, Cardinals

Criteria

  • arm strength
  • accuracy
  • release

  • jumps
  • speed
  • judgment at the wall

Victor Robles

Lacking the highlight clips for Robles that people like to make of shortstops, I’ll go with two videos of him, catching and throwing the baseball.

Victor Robles catch
Victor Robles throw

Lorenzo Cain – armed robber

One of my favorites since the 2014 World Series, Cain has four times been named MLB’s Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in center field but has yet to win a gold glove. Because of his knack for making catches at and over the fence, there is no shortage of Cain highlights. Here’s a good one:

Lorenzo Cain

Harrison “Darth” Bader

The fun part of this course is that it gets me to look at different things than I usually do and players I don’t normally see. Bader is one of these.

Harrison Bader

Conclusion

With so few glimpses of Robles to work with, it’s hard to get an impression of him other than the few plays I saw were all amazing. He has a gun, throwing 97.4 MPH across his body in what amounts to little more than a snap throw, but I’ll have to omit him from consideration for lack of evidence.

I neglected to mention a couple of points since all three appear to have excellent throwing mechanics and soft hands. Robles may have the best raw arm strength, but it’s hard to overlook the accuracy of Bader’s throw or that snap release that would look right at home as a shortstop.

If you held Robles’ cannon to my head and forced me to choose, I’d go with Cain. The one part of the video I wanted to see that they cut off is a throw he was getting ready to make after a catch at the warning track. This reminds me of Willie Mays talking about his famed World Series grab in 1954, saying “I made many catches better. The best part of the play was the throw.”

Cain can do what the others can perhaps to a slightly lesser degree as he ages, but that ability to pick balls at the wall makes me go with him.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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