Tag Archives: Scouting

Scout Diary: Feb. 17, 2020 – Chapter 2

I wrapped up my General Manager and Scouting course early Sunday morning and would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to my teachers, Dan Evans and Hank Jones, and my classmates. The instructors encouraged interaction, let us go off-topic and explore. In addition to the content delivered in the twice-weekly chats and the assignments, the dynamic between my classmates made it a Grade A experience.

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So to Paul Williams (our chat MVP), Jon Carson, Daniel Cho, Alicia Crandell, Edgar Arismendi, Beni Cromwell, Carlos Fernandez, Chris Fessler, Jeff Laue, Santy Prada, Guillermo Quinones, Luis Alejandro, Ben Rockwell, and Andrew Smith, thank you and see you in Dallas in December. I loved reading your work and hearing your questions.

I’ve done the SMWW analysis class and it was a vastly different vibe. I was a “classmate” of new Royals manager Mike Matheny but with one chat a week, and the great guest speakers the teacher, Ari Kaplan, brought in, there was very little live interaction. Some of that was due to SMWW since hanging the platform for live chats to Zoom, and that experience is much improved.

So now that I’ve written a half-dozen scouting reports, analyzed pay hikes for arbitration-eligible players this past winter, did only three informational interviews instead of the six I had hoped to, researched trades and players and wrote an analysis of the SoftBank Hawks for my final paper, what’s next?

Chapter 2

Starting today, I am officially scouting. I will be taking notes as often as possible from the high school spring invitational tournament, the pro preseason, youtube video of players who are newsworthy, and writing reports as often as possible. If any of you have seen these players and want to share your opinions, constructive criticism or even utter disbelief, my e-mail is guidedogjapan@yahoo.com please write and be critical.

Since the day I stopped becoming a rabid fan — I think the vaccination process involved accidentally breaking a plate glass window at my rental in college over the result of a San Francisco Giants loss in the final week of the 1982 regular season — I haven’t been more excited for the season to start. The normal dread that comes with the thought of downloading rosters and player codes needed to build another season of my database has been outweighed by a thirst for more and different knowledge.

Scout Diary: Jan. 30, 2020 – American League’s best outfield tools

Who has the best outfield defensive tools in the world?

To find out, I’m looking at the leaders in award fielding honors in center field in four of the world’s top pro leagues. Today is a quick look at the three finalists for the American League’s 2019 Gold Glove in center field.

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  • Kevin Kiermaier, Rays
  • Mike Trout, Angels
  • Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox

First up is Keven Kiermaier. In addition to the good hands, great jumps, speed and strong arm, his throwing mechanics are incredibly fluid. His feet are extremely quick, so even though he is ready to release the ball very quickly, his feet are set, allowing him to make hard accurate throws. Although he is fearless at the wall, he lacks the grace there Lorenzo Cain possesses, which puts Kiermaier in the same group with every other outfielder in the world.

Kevin Kiermaier

Mike Trout has the physical strength to leap at the wall and athleticism to make diving and tumbling catches look effortless. He may be a little faster than Kiermaier, but is not as fluid with his throws as the Rays’ glove wizard.

Mike Trout

Jackie Bradley Jr., however, is my pick for No. 1 in the AL. He can cover ground with the best of them and has the speed to recover when his aggressive jumps send him the wrong way. While his throwing mechanics are not as quite as smooth as Kiermaier’s — nobody’s are, he has the strength and flexibility to make any catch at any angle.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Next we’ll start our look at Japan with the top three in the voting for the Central League’s 2019 Golden Glove.

Scout Diary: Jan. 24, 2020

Friday is homework assignment day, so I’ll finish my look at the best pro infield tools with the top shortstops from Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League.

Having now having glanced — I don’t want to glorify my youtube binge watching as study — at 12 elite shortstops, I realize I really don’t know what a 70 arm is yet. Have you seen an 80 arm at shortstop? The following video has some that show real carry, as the ball just fails to appreciably drop on its path to the target.

I’ve seen very few throws with that kind of carry in the Japanese videos I’ve been watching, so it’s possible that none of the 12 candidates have 80 arm strength, although Andrelton Simmons might.

The three CL players with the most votes in the Golden Glove voting were:

  • Hayato Sakamoto, Yomiuri Giants
  • Yota Kyoda, Chunichi Dragons
  • Yamato Maeda, DeNA BayStars

Sakamoto is a 31-year-old veteran offensive star whose metrics have in the past been occasionally the best in the league. Kyoda is a 25-year-old who is just establishing himself. Maeda is a 32-year-old longtime utility player, who won a Golden Glove after being converted to playing center fielder, who had phenomenal metrics in 2019.

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All three have soft hands, good fielding action and above-average transfers. My pick for the player with the best tools goes to Kyoda. Not only does he have excellent physical tools, but he appears to play shortstop like a point guard, with an excellent sense of timing and an understanding of where to throw the ball.

Sakamoto is blessed with a plus arm and does everything right. He is not the quickest on the transfer and tries not to backhand balls if he can help it. He uses his size to set and get good velocity on his throws. He does not appear to be as comfortable improvising with throws from all angles.

Kyoda may have the best instincts for getting to ground balls in Japan. With a quick accurate release and 70-75 arm strength. His transfer is above average, but not elite, and he could set his feet more often.

Maeda is above average at everything. The worst grade I would give him is a 60 for throwing accuracy. He is better at backhanding the ball than Sakamoto but not as good as Kyoda.

The best of the best

My tools competition has produced four league champs:

  • Fransico Lindor, Cleveland Indians
  • Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Sosuke Genda, Seiibu Lions
  • Yota Kyoda, Chunichi Dragons

My pick from them is Ahmed. Of the Japanese shortstops I reviewed, Genda, Kyoda and Kenta Imamiya of the SoftBank Hawks could definitely start at shortstop in the majors.

Mets, Lions, and NPB tie-ups

On Saturday, the Seibu Lions and New York Mets announced a partnership running through the 2021 season, that the defending Pacific League champions see as a way to boost themselves into the 21st century.

What the Japanese get

Of Nippon Professional Baseball’s two leagues, the Central and Pacific, the PL is considered the more innovative, the Lions have a reputation for being more hidebound.

“Their parent company’s main business is railroad. And the most important thing for a railroad is that it is predictable and reliable,” former NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato said once. “For that reason, railroad-owned teams tend to be conservative, and the Lions are more often than not siding with the older established CL clubs.

These deals, which are pretty common, allow for sharing information and technology, that the Lions hope will improve their scouting, medical and business capabilities

The Lions said the deal will open the door for their coaches to take part in spring training and instructional league games in the States.

Some of these partnerships have had a huge impact. Twenty years ago, the tie-up between the San Diego Padres and the PL’s Lotte Marines sparked the introduction of the posting system, when the Marines assigned Hideki Irabu to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Shane Dennis and outfielder Jason Thompson.

Sixteen years ago, the PL’s Nippon Ham Fighters were transformed as a result of their long term partnership with the New York Yankees. For years, Fighters players and coaches had attended minicamps in the States. And when Nippon Ham announced its team would move to Sapporo, they signed longtime Columbus Clippers manager Trey Hillman to run the club.

The organization was transformed under the leadership of Toshimasa Shimada, who created Japan’s first major league-style front office, but HIllman was a valued contributor in that process, and his finger prints are all over the way the team goes about its business 12 years after he left.

In a traditional Japanese team, the manager signs off on all changes in scouting, medical and fitness policy. This was revolutionary. Teams typically innovate by hiring managers who want to implement changes in those areas. When the SoftBank Hawks hired Kimiyasu Kudo, who studies sports science, much more was demanded of the team’s medical and training staff.

That’s the norm. In a baseball culture where players are told what to do, and managers rarely innovate, pro ballplayers need instruction in strength training and conditioning, but while all clubs have excellent facilities, few place any demands on the players to actually employ them in a productive manner. Japan’s amateur baseball culture generally glosses over nutrition, rest and strength education, and few pro teams do any better.

In 2015, when Kudo took over the Hawks, and the CL’s Yakult Swallows hired SoftBank’s minor league training coach, the two clubs met in the Japan Series and I began asking other clubs about their training innovation.

“I’ve been here five years, and we haven’t changed a single thing,” a Lions conditioning coach told me in 2016.

What the MLB teams get

What’s in it for the Mets is a bigger question.

There are a lot of skills Japanese baseball can teach individuals, and having good coaches in camp and in the instructional league could potentially be valuable.

Unfortunately, those skills aren’t learned in a vacuum but rather taught here and practiced in the context of Japanese competition. You can help someone locate their secondary pitches better and play better defense off the mound, but people here learn that because they are prerequisites.

The best outcome might be to have Kazuo Matsui go and coach in the Mets’ minor league system on loan, in the same way that former Ranger and Padre Akinori Otsuka is now on loan to San Diego from the CL’s Chunichi Dragons.

Very often the MLB partners talk about “scouting information” but that is likely going to be very limited to players who are bound for the States and foreign players in Japan who might return to the majors.

There is no chance the Mets could leverage this deal to improve their chances of signing Japanese amateurs, although I can definitely hear some bright person in the Mets front office selling this deal because of the importance of signing 100-mph high school pitcher Roki Sasaki.

If the Mets act like a major league club that knows everything, then they will be putting themselves in the same place as a player who comes to Japan “knowing” that because he’s played in the majors, he can just profit from what he’s already accomplished without learning anything new.

In that case, the Mets will also be leaving at the first opportunity.

But on the other hand, if the Mets approach this like they were players coming here to restart careers and ask “what can we learn that will make us better,” then the Lions deal could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.