Showcase : : Story
Friday, January 10, 2014

Showcases, scouting opportunities

Tory Hernandez        
Photo: Perfect Game

Tory Hernandez worked in the front office of the Los Angeles Angels organization for seven years as Manager of Baseball Operations and as a player performance analyst and also served as the Director of Pro Scouting and Recruiting for the Boras Corporation.

For a professional baseball player, the months of December and January are spent enjoying time off from a lengthy and grueling baseball season.  It’s a time to recuperate and rehab from injury, or to relax with family, and de-stress from the rigors of a seven and sometimes eight month season.  Thanks to the devoted and resourceful people at Perfect Game however, the off-season has a different tone for the aspiring professional baseball player.  For instance, down in Fort Myers, Fla., there are key amateur showcases taking place.

I have had the fortunate privilege to be a guest at the World Showcase staged by Perfect Game every year.  In addition to the copious events, showcases, and tournaments that PG puts on, this one in particular has an international flavor.  High school age baseball players from all over the U.S., Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and other regions of the world like Australia, are invited to participate in the first major showcase event of the year.  For professional scouts, it’s an opportunity to check in on some projected draft eligible players for the upcoming June First Year Player Draft.  It’s also vital access to evaluate some underclassmen and see who forecasts to become draft worthy in future years.

At this year’s event, there were over 600 players who attended and displayed their skills in the presence of professional baseball scouts.  It was an impressive affair that took place at multiple fields in the Fort Myers area.  Whenever 600 players, family members, scouts, and other personnel are present for any event, chaos will naturally ensue.  At this PG event however, the operation was astoundingly efficient and well structured.  From my perspective, I was bustling with enthusiasm at the number of players I could lay eyes on.  With my scout cap on and reliving my days within the Angels front office, I couldn’t help but get energized over the concept of scouting the skills and bodies of multiple draft eligible players, again.

There was plenty of talent on display including at least one expected 2014 first round talent.  Many more players have been on scouts’ radars for years and there is a great fluency with them.  For these players, it’s a chance for scouts to follow their progress from the previous season, and continue their due diligence on the growth of those interested players.  For most of the 600-plus players though, it’s their inauguration to the pro world, and their first chance to exhibit their tools in front of major league baseball personnel.

The long and arduous first day of the event commences early at 9 am with players showing off their speed in the 60-yard dash.  In just the approximate seven seconds it takes for the average runner, those observing absorb a lot about a player.  The variance between a mere half-second is the difference in a scout becoming greatly interested, or simply placing the player into the 99-percent population.  That is, the superior runner who drops a time in the 6.3 to 6.5 range swiftly is one the scouts will be eyeballing for the rest of the day.  This is not to say that the average to below average runner is no longer of consequence.  It’s the premium runner though, who has scouts comparing their stop watches and lifting their eyebrows in excitement.

From there, it’s time to observe the arms, hands, and footwork.  You wouldn’t assume that in the two minutes a scout watches a player take ground balls, and throw from the outfield, that he or she could muster much of an evaluation.  To the contrary, as in a manner of minutes, a scout can watch a player run the 60, take five ground balls, and throw from the outfield five times.  Instantly, the scout has almost a comprehensive label of a player’s tool set.  This is not to say that we distinguish everything about the player, but rather it’s a very insightful preview that allows us to measure his upside.

It’s with this precision that the Perfect Game folks have shaped a textbook scenario for scouts.  For instance, I can step onto the field, watch a bunch of guys run, field, and throw and I can lend you an account on hundreds of guys.  In as short of time as a few hours, Perfect Game has enabled me to appraise a plethora of players.  I know who can run, who can throw, who has quality hands, and who has the skills to potentially control the running game from behind the plate.  It’s a remarkable accomplishment by PG to not only have the wherewithal to create such events but to manifest it into revealing players to the appropriate people.

As morning turns to afternoon, the sticks emerge.  It’s time for batting practice and the true barometer a scout anticipates for his final evaluation of the player’s tools.  Batting practice at any showcase can be very monotonous as 90-percent of the players look similar.  Every once in a while though, you’ll be analyzing a swing and hear a few scouts go, “hey now” or “oh my” or just a simple pursing of the lips and a quiet “hmmm.”  Finally, after several generic or vanilla swings, we spot some ‘whistle’ as they say.  Balance, leverage, bat speed, power.  Suddenly, everyone is a scribe and the scout section gets inaudible for a moment.

Games are played.  Oh yes, in addition to the showcase of skills we’ve just evaluated, PG has organized games for each team that is in attendance.  This grants scouts to begin evaluating the tools they have already met, and measure how those tools translate in live action.  Pitchers will be run through the nine to 10 inning games, and if you watch four games you’ll see close to 50 pitchers throw.  Not a bad couple days of scouting.

Perfect Game is revered in the baseball industry and is renowned for their presence.  Even still, I fear that not enough kids throughout the country take advantage of the platform that PG has produced.  If you are fortunate enough to have some potential to play at the next level, performing in a PG event is going to afford you with the capability to showcase your skills to an entire industry in one weekend.

For 14 years I was on the club side of the game, attending these events as a scout and evaluator.  It was a real privilege though, to be an invited guest and witness the PG business model from an operational standpoint.  I was able to see the passion and dedication that the Perfect Game staff boasts.  I, for one, can’t wait for the next showcase, and am excited for the continued expansion of the Perfect Game brand throughout the country.

There is nothing more pure than carrying your clipboard out onto a baseball field, and anticipating seeing the next gem of a prospect.  Every scout dreams of uncovering talent and the Perfect Game standard enables this sort of outcome.  For the aspiring professional baseball player, in an instant, one can turn from suspect to prospect.

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