Coppola: Search For That Diamond in the Rough

On November 18th the Yankees released 28- year old outfielder, Dustin Ackley. He was the number 2 overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners playing in only parts of 6 seasons in the big leagues. What happened?

Prospects are just that, prospects. Trying to project where an amateur will be five years down the road, is harder than hitting a 93 mph Mariano Rivera cutter. Case in point, the 1966 MLB draft. The Mets selected 17- year old catcher Steve Chilcott, number one overall. At number two, the Kansas City Athletics select Reggie Jackson. A colossal blunder? Not really. Just like that box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re gonna get.

The best scouts, who have seen thousands of amateur players, will sometimes get it wrong. The fact that there are only so many sure shot can’t miss players out there, that everyone already knows about, means they have to search for that diamond in the rough, a search that takes scouts, on long journeys across this big country and now the world, covering thousands of miles, staying in cheap hotels and eating at questionable establishments.
Not an easy task.

The young front office decision makers, sometimes make it harder for the scouts to do their job. asking them to film players and record gun times to satisfy the need to compile stats for the analytical department of a ball club, a task that can be done by, an unskilled intern.

It’s wasting valuable knowledge that they have in those under paid and loyal hard working baseball men. When you have your head down writing stats, or are looking into a camera to film a player, you are missing things. Yes, there is a need for stats and analytics. A combination of that and experience in what a scout sees is what should be used to evaluate a player.

I was told by a very good baseball man one time: “The bottom line is, Can He Play?” Numbers such as gun times and run times, should stir your interest. But your eyes will make the final decision.

There are no analytical formulas for a player’s athleticism, baseball instinct, or makeup. You need eyes and ears to decide if a player has heart, and a burning desire to play this game. What does he do when things don’t go so well? What kind of mound presence does he have? Does he hustle on every play? Does his mommy bring him his water? I guess analytically that acronym would be MBHW ?

No short video will show you his mound presence. No gun time will tell you if he can pitch. It will only tell you if he can throw hard.

Ever go to the zoo and see a monkey throw things? Would you sign him if his velocity was 96 and his spin ratio was 2211 RPMs? Numbers can be deceiving, so going with your gut feeling and experience will more times than not get you that piece of candy you want, in that box of chocolates.

Or that, diamond in the rough. In awe of a big league player? Be in awe of the scout who found him. .
Editor’s Note: William Coppola just completed his 40th year in the game of baseball. He has been a coach, instructor and professional scout.

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