Scouting ain't easy, but it's necessary

Leave a comment

you sit back and watch the draft tonight — or, more realistically,
read about it tomorrow — you’ll no doubt look at the list of players
your team has taken and wonder “who the hell are these guys?”

that’s the central dynamic of the baseball draft from the average fan’s
point of view, isn’t it? Not knowing the names of the players on whose
backs the future of the franchise rides? This isn’t like football or
basketball which farms their player development and promotion business
out to the colleges (many of which are supported by your tax dollars,
by the way). For every Stephen Strasburg, there are several hundred Joe
Blows even fairly serious baseball fans have never heard of.

trust that someone has heard of these guys, and that someone is the
person who scouted them. You probably have an image in your mind of
your typical Major League scout, and that image probably looks something like this. And there are certainly scouts like that. Hopefully a lot of them, because I like to see guys like that at baseball games.

there’s way more to it than wearing sweet hats and chomping on cigars.
To find out just how much more to it, you’d do well to read the
Cincinnati Enquirer’s multi-part-feature on the life of the Major
League scout:

Chris Buckley, Reds senior director of scouting,
figures he travels between 150 and 200 days a year. Dodgers scout Marty
Lamb said he drives an estimated 40,000 miles a year to watch baseball
games. Brian Hiler, a Cincinnati-based scout for the Kansas City
Royals, said the scouting life is short on glamour and truly a labor of
love . . .

. . . Anecdotal evidence, interviews, Internet
research and other sources say scouts above the part-time rank can
start in at around $20,000 per year and that scouting directors for
most teams top $100,000 per year. Area scouts/part timers might not get
much more than gas mileage and expenses.

It’s a rough business. It takes both a subjective and an objective eye. Even if you’re good at it, you’re going to be wrong most of the time.

But, boy, I sure can think of a thousand worse jobs to have, can’t you?

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
Leave a comment

Steve Gilbert of reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.

White Sox sign catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dave Clark after his solo home run in the third inning in the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There have been a lot of articles published in the past few days about how to navigate awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your relatives. Heck, we even wrote one.

But there’s always room for more! Such as “How to talk to your father at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that he let you walk away from the only team you’ve ever known to sign with a division rival.” Which is what Alex Avila will likely be talking about with his father, Tigers GM Al Avila:

The older Avila can’t even say he did it because he’s opposed to nepotism. After all, he just hired his other son — who has had his law degree for just over a year — as the Tigers assistant legal counsel for baseball operations. Though I’m sure that wasn’t nepotism. He probably just aced the interview and impressed everyone more than the other candidates did.

OK, those are jokes. In all seriousness, this is a good move for Alex and Al and, probably, the White Sox. With the emergence of James McCann, there really is not space for Alex Avila in Detroit in anything other than a backup capacity. In Chicago, he’ll get more playing time. At least if he can (a) stay healthy; and (b) not hit .191/.339/.287 again like he did in 2015.