Library’s scouting reports provide trip through time

Written by: Bill Francis

They were once known as “ivory hunters,” those men and women who searched far and wide for the elusive ballplayer who could one day play at the big league level. With skill, a good eye for talent, and a little luck, a baseball scout could forecast future success for often young but talented players.

Among the recently retired ballplayers participating in the 2018 Hall of Fame Classic legends game, held on May 26, were a few who had a chance to revisit their amateur past and check out their own scouting reports. While the former players were sometimes surprised by a scout’s assessment, overall they felt the scouts got it right in the long run.

“This is probably the first time I’ve ever actually seen one of these. Wow,” said Tim Crabtree, a big league reliever from 1995 to 2001 with the Blue Jays and Rangers, thumbing through three reports from May 1992, a month before he was selected in the second round by Toronto. “’Delivery – fair,’ because I hadn’t pitched very much, so that’s a perfect assessment. I went to Michigan State and was a catcher up to my junior year. I wasn’t playing a whole lot so I became a pitcher.

“’Physical description – Duane Ward body type, solid, intimidating.’ ‘Plays good ol’ country hardball.’ ‘Fastball 86-94 with good, heavy life.’ ‘Consistent 91-93.’ ‘Good command.’ ‘Can be overpowering as closer due to velocity.’” read Crabtree, repeating one scout’s assessment of the future pitcher’s abilities.

“’No breaking ball to speak of.’ Of course I didn’t have a breaking ball at that time. I was still learning how to pitch. ‘Short arms it like a catcher,’ which I was,” said Crabtree, reading off his weaknesses in one scout’s opinion. “It’s funny because they all kind of say develop a slider and could be a closer and in the end that’s the way it kind of went.”

After soaking in the reports, Crabtree said, “I think it’s a fair assessment given the fact that I hadn’t pitched very much and it was a position change for me. These guy are looking at me from, really, with not a lot of miles on the arm from an arm strength perspective. They were assessing me, ‘Hey, if he can develop this than he has a bright future.’ I think it’s pretty accurate.”

Michael Barrett was an 18-year-old high school senior when he was selected in the first round, 28th overall, in the 1995 MLB amateur draft by the Expos. The Hall of Fame has five Barrett scouting reports, all from 1995 prior to the draft. The future big league catcher, who would spend a dozen seasons in the majors, mainly with Montreal and the Cubs, was eyeing Clemson University at the time.

“These are pretty cool. You should have seen the scouting reports on me when I got done playing, they weren’t so positive,” Barrett joked when looking at the scouting reports on him. “I started as a shortstop, signed as a shortstop, converted to a catcher, and then went back to the infield right before I got called to the big leagues.”

One scout writes, referring to Barrett’s make up, “Loves to play. Dedicated.” Another writes, “Good athlete that has a chance if he hits enough.” A third’s summation: “Good body and an athlete.”

“These reports are pretty accurate,” Barrett said. “I broke in as a third baseman. I think a lot of organizations thought maybe I would be a good catcher, but didn’t know if I would be willing to accept that role. The Expos took a chance.

"I just wanted to play in the big leagues. I didn’t care what it took to get me there. They thought that I had a better chance of playing a longer career at catcher than third base. I think they got that part of it right.”

The Hall of Fame has five scouting reports for Chris Gomez, a shortstop who spent 16 seasons in the majors for eight different organization before retiring after the 2008 campaign. Gomez was selected out of Cal State Long Beach in the third round of the 1992 MLB amateur draft by the Tigers.

“I would say … all right, I like the dedication and the maturity part of it. I think they’re right on with that. I think hitting ability, power, running speed, base running, all those things, fielding, I’m way overrated. So if 5 is average, I think I’m way overrated, so I think you can throw this out, burn it,” Gomez joked as looking at his scouting reports from his days before becoming a professional. “And I’ve never touched 6-foot-2 in my life. There’s some fake news in this thing for sure.”

On a more reflective note, Gomez considered the scouting reports on him pretty accurate.

“Everything is right down the middle. Average,” he said. “’Has grown and improved since high school.’ ‘Always showed good hands and accurate arm.’ ‘His hitting has improved.’ ‘No glaring weaknesses.’ What I’m shocked about is that they didn’t mention running speed. That’s always been the huge knock on me, from high school on. Everything else was OK.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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