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East Windup Chronicle on scouting


Part-time Cubs scout Aaron Shinsano shared some perspective on scouting today. I really enjoyed reading it. Figured I'd share.




When I started scouting for the Cubs I was reminded of something I read in a sushi cookbook years ago, which was that premiere sushi chefs in Japan often spend the first seven years of their career exclusively preparing rice. That might sound a little goofy, but that’s become my approach to scouting.


When I finished university and got a job at a newspaper my approach was the opposite. I wanted to fight, crawl and bleed my way to the top — which, in my mind was writing as the pop music critic. In a sense I got there, even though I was a pop music critic paid as a clerk, with no chance for a real salary unless I was willing to detour into news reporting. So I quit the job, leaving much as I arrived. On fire.


I’m a little older. And if I’m not any wiser, I’m at least patient. Why am I going on about this? Well, by heading to spring training in Mesa today I’ll be undertaking what I know will be a crucial part of my development as a baseball scout. In fact, I think this trip is going to complete a circle. A small circle, but my first circle.


I’ll be scouting major league level baseball players in America.


Scouting grades are typically 2 through 8, with 8 being something like All World and 2 being most of us. In Korea, I see a lot of 2s, a ton of 3s, some 4s, and the occasional 5. I’ve seen players who I’ve been told are 6s (this is where I have to be patient), and one or two that might potentially touch 7 in a handful of categories. Or one category.


I’m not going to count them up, but I’ll estimate that on my Cubs scouting sheets there are between 25 and 30 different gradable attributes for players. At this point I’ve watched a lot of Korean high school baseball, so I’m fairly comfortable grading those players. I’ve seen some Japanese and Taiwanese teams — they’re Asian and play a similar style of baseball, and would be somewhat comfortable grading them. But I’ve never scouted American players.


So that’s what I’ll be doing over the next 10 or so days. This is the circle I’m talking about. I’m going to the place where people play baseball at the highest level in the world. The place where just about any old high school game will feature at least one pitcher throwing 90 miles per hour. I’ve seen that three or four times total in Korea. I’m at the point where I desperately need some perspective. I need to stand next to Jeff Samardzija and see a 95 mile per hour fastball with my own eyes. Not because I necessarily want to meet Samardzija or get my picture taken with him, but because I need to have that in my brain the next time I’m evaluating a pitcher in Daejeon, South Korea. I need to expand my scale so-to-speak.


Watching baseball is a given with most of us, and so it would seem that scouting would be much the same. I wish that were the case. I’ve been watching baseball my entire walking life. I played baseball into my first year of college. Then I watched some more. Scouting baseball is different. It doesn’t mean you like, understand or appreciate the game any more than anyone else. You just watch in a different way. It’s not as though you’re seeing things other people can’t see and it’s not magic. I tend to think I see things easier. It slows the game down. Not necessarily what you want to have happening when you’re watching four games a day in the middle of a July heatwave, but there are worse ways to spend one’s time.


I don’t really get tired of telling people I’m going to spring training. It just sounds nice coming out of my mouth, but the main reason I’m writing this is to give people a heads up that things will be a little slower around here, and might get really slow depending on Jackson’s schedule. I’m going to try to Twitter, but I don’t have a notebook and I don’t have a Blackberry. Who knows? Maybe it’ll rain and I’ll get a post or two up. Maybe I’ll do some old fashioned Twittering with a pad and pen.


I’ve been told I’m going to be busy from sunrise until fairly late at night. And I’m going to be given homework every day. I’m also going to be given a uniform and will be on the field with the option of throwing batting practice. Huh?


Anyway, when I come back it’ll be early March and the WBC will be starting, which for me is as good as, if not better, than Opening Day. See you then.

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