“Feeling a Draft: Baseball Scouting
And the first 50 Years of the Amateur Player Draft”
The publishing info:
Released Nov. 18, 2021
The publishers website
The authors website
At Barnes & Noble.com
The review in 90 feet or less
So what do you hear about “The Hispanic Titanic?”
It’s a person, not a place or thing.
And it could be a really big thing someday.
Perhaps you can become one of his OG fanatics.
So we’re watching the MLB Network last Sunday morning, and up comes an interesting segment about hitting mechanics. The subject is Ivan Melendez, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound, Jose Canseco-looking first baseman from the University of Texas. He just won the Golden Spikes Award in 2022 as college baseball’s best player – .387 average, school-record 32 home runs, 94 RBIs for the Longhorns, who returned to the College World Series.
The show about getting to “The Show” was another in a series related to the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft — the first round starts July 17, this year held in the LA Live plaza for the first time, as another element of the All-Star Game festivities in Southern California. (ESPN will also cover the first round on that Sunday at 4 p.m. in place of an MLB game). The draft doesn’t end until two days later.
So, no, you didn’t miss that MLB draft that usually comes in early June during the College World Series. Starting last year, it was pushed back (despite the wishes of teams who lose a month’s worth of time in development) to make it all more … Compelling? Convenient? Consolidated with the All-Star Game stretch that has actual life-affecting news attached to it.
In the order of picking for 2022, the Angels have the 13th choice overall. The Dodgers would have had No. 30, but — after these sandwich rounds for compensatory picks to help teams that lost free agents players, and a “competitive balance” round where small-market teams get some extra juice — they had to forfeit 10 picks and now, at No. 40 to start the official second round, this is payback for “exceeding the competitive balance tax threshold.”
This 2022 Dodgers lineup valued at $261,273,489 (with $35,333,333 in suspended animation) is your tax dollars at work.
Back to this Titanic fellow.
A graduate of Coronado High in El Paso, Tex., in 2018, he found no one interested in his services. So he went to Odessa College for two years. The University of Texas was attentive to his needs, and he returned the favor with a team-leading 13 homers and a dramatic College World Series ninth-inning three-run blast to clinch a win in an elimination game. All of the sudden, he was the Miami Marlins’ sixth-round pick of the 2021 draft.
And all things considered, he thought he could do better.
He has hammered his way into the Top 100 prospects in this 2022 selection, and is one of the slew of draftable storylines that include the return of former Vanderbilt star Kumar Rocker, the upside of high school centerfielder Druw Jones (son of former star Andruw Jones) and high school shortstop Jackson Holliday (son of former star Matt Holliday), and this ambidextrous pitcher named Jurrangelo Cijntje from a high school in Florida who might go to college over the draft. He’s armed and dangerous.
And what about this 5-foot-8 shortstop Jett Williams out of Texas with scouting grades of 60 (hit and run), 55 (field) and 50 (arm and power)?
Melendez’s march into this process means he’ll also be present for the Sunday show-and-tell in L.A. with his family, then attend the Home Run Derby and the exhibition game the following days.
Nice life. Until you hit an iceberg and then … you panic and call a mechanic?
The MLB.com Draft Prospects report says of Melendez: “Scouts viewed him as a one-tool player … (who) doesn’t offer much value beyond his bat, and a right-hitting first baseman is the least attractive profile for pro teams. He’s a well below-average runner with limited range and an average arm. He’s an adequate defender … his only other alternative is DH.”
Scouts are important to this process, of course. How important? This book does its best to give them a noteworthy platform, thanking them for their service.
The MLB Draft drama has become 20 rounds of a scout-induced, research-heavy guessing game. Mike Trout and his draft day story is all part of that legend and narrative.
Imagine if Rick Monday, this stapping outfielder at Arizona Sta was given this Melendez-like TV exposure in the days leading to him becoming the very first player taken in the official MLB Draft in 1965 by the Kansas City Athletics.
As Sports Illustrated’s Bill Legget once wrote in 1967 about why this organized selection process came into being after so many years of scouts pouncing on players as they came out of high school with few rules to follow: “The idea behind the draft was simple: 1) it gave the poorer teams — usually those lower in the standings — an equal chance to sign the top talent being produced in colleges and high schools; and 2) it cut down on payments of excessive bonuses to untried players. Even those who enthusiastically supported the free-agent draft had no idea that benefits from it would be reaped so quickly. Yet this season, less than two years later, several youngsters selected in the draft have stepped into the major leagues and have performed not just capably but in some cases spectacularly.”
A fascinating examination of the process by two East Coast lawyers with some interesting religious roots gives us a chance to see how far this event has some since the find-‘em-and-sign-‘em Wild West days until where TV has a bigger say in how he comes together.
Fred Day, a private practice lawyer in Falls Church, Virginia, with a degree in political economics from University of Albany SUNY and a law degree from George Washington, has a couple sports-related books already in circulating, including 2007’s “Dream Team: Saints and Gentle Souls from the World Of Sports,” 2005’s “Sports and Courts: An Introduction to Principles of Law and Legal Theory Using Cases from Professional Sports,” and 2004’s “Clubhouse Lawyer: Law and the World of Sports.”
Ray McKenna is the founder and president of the Catholic Athletes for Christ, a ministry that includes holding Mass at ballparks for players and team personnel on Sunday mornings before games. (CAC is where Vin Scully recorded a CD of the rosary that is still available). McKenna’s 30-year legal career in Alexandria, Virginia, includes serving as General Counsel of the General Services Administration (2001-04), legal counsel for the Chief Administrative Offer of the U.S. House of Representatives (1995-’01) and an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice in the 1980s.
They’ve broken down every year of the first 50 draft in three chunks: The early years (’65-’79, which covers No. 1 choices such as Harold Baines, Jeff Burroughs, David Clyde, and Danny Goodwin, whom the Angels took No. 1 overall in both ’71 and ’75); the Golden Age (1980-2001, which had No. 1 picks like Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Phil Nevin, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., and Darryl Strawberry), and the “Moneyball” Era (2002-’14), where UCLA’s Gerrit Cole was taken No. 1 overall in 2011, and included No. 1s like Bryce Harper (2010) and Stephen Strausburg (2009).
They explain the book’s purpose also has three meanings:
= Analyze the results of the first 50 drafts.
= Assess the role of scouts in drafting.
= Relate more stories about the scouting world that haven’t been told before as they were collecting data.
They hold up each end of their bargain. Especially with the storytelling from the scouts. Such as these:
They also hold up the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series title team as an example of how much a team with a deep pocket payroll (especially when matched up against others) can still build the nucleus of a team through its draft and scouting resources with Logan White as guiding light. That focuses on the drafting of pitcher Clayton Kershaw (seventh pick overall in 2006) shortstop Corey Seager (18th pick overall in 2012) and outfielder Cody Bellenger (fourth round in 2013) — and don’t overlook taking Alex Verdugo in the second round of the ’14 draft, developing him, and then making him the centerpiece in a trade with Boston for Mookie Betts.
Look at the range of success in the first 20 picks that year. No. 1 overall makes it — barely. No. 3 is an All-Star book-ended at Nos. 2 and 4 as two who barely made a mark. No. 9 and 12 disappear. And No. 11, four spots behind Kershaw … also Hall of Fame material.
Maybe not the haul the Dodgers had in the historic draft of 1968. But then, what is?
With Al Campanis’ due diligence on selection the best athletes, they had six future All-Stars that started with Washburn (Kan.) University outfielder Davey Lopes as a second-rounder in the January secondary phase, high school first baseman Bill Buckner (second), University of Houston outfielder Tom Paciorek (fifth) and Alabama prep right-hander Doyle Alexander (ninth) as part of the regular June Draft. The June secondary phase brought two third basemen — Michigan State’s Steve Garvey (first) and Washington State’s Ron Cey (third). Add to that major leaguers Geoff Zahn (fifth, January secondary), Bobby Valentine (No. 5 overall, June) and Joe Ferguson (eighth, June) meant that year produced 11 future big leaguers with a combined 235.6 Wins Above Replacement. A story on MLB.com in 2019 called it the best MLB draft ever by one team, which followed the selections of pitcher Charlie Hough and infielders Bill Russell and Bill Garbarkewitz in ’65, Rookie of the Year second baseman Ted Sizemor (’66) and longtime catcher Steve Yeager (’67).
It took a slew of scouts to make that happen. And then tell their stories.
How it goes in the scorebook
We dedicate this post to the memory of Mike Brito, the Dodgers’ Cuban superscout who perhaps single-handedy changed the landscape of the franchise’s ability to secure Mexican and Cuban players of high regard and higher fan attachment. This Bill Plaschke appreciation column reflects that.
On our own 20-80 scale, this project that wasn’t pushed onto our radar until recently really pushes the upper echelon on entertaining, informing and educating anyone who ever covers or watches this draft and knows the lives of scouting.
If the MLB Draft is thought of as third-best behind the NFL and NBA drafts, not as flashy and splashy as an ESPN (or ABC) prime-time event, it feels comfortable in its integrity as well as how wide the range of unpredictability comes with it. That is its charm. This doesn’t have to be a competition to see how outrageous a young man (with family in tow) see this as a life-changing moment and monetary windfall. Guys can emerge into Hall of Fame caliber without being drafted — or, as Mike Piazza can tell you …
But, things are changing.
The MLB Draft coming up will be in this format for the last time. In 2023, the order will no longer be in reverse of the previous year’s standings, but will have a lottery system similar to the NBA where the first six picks will be determined by a lottery of the 18 teams that miss the playoffs. Like the NFL and NBA, the MLB will also slot guaranteed money based on the selection.
It is … evolving? Or monetizing better? It’ll just be … different.
Scout it out for yourself.
You can look it up: More to ponder
== More on how scouting and the draft has been documented in previous books include:
= “Baseball America’s Ultimate Draft Book: The Most Comprehensive Book Ever Published on the Baseball Draft: 1965-2016,” by Allan Simpson in 2016, plus Simpson’s ’14 book, “Hits and Misses in the Baseball Draft: What the Top Picks Teach Us About Selecting Tomorrow’s Major League Stars” with Chuck Myron.
= “A Scout’s Report: My 70 Years in Baseball,” by George Genovese in 2015 right before his passing.
= “Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball,” by Chris Phillips in 2019, which we reviewed.
= “Future Value: The Battle for Baseball’s Soul and How Teams Will Find the Next Superstar” by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel in 2020.
= “Do You Want to Work in Baseball?: Advice to acquire employment in MLB and mentorship in Scouting and Player Development” by Bill Geivett in 2017
= “Can He Play?: A Look At Baseball Scouts and Their Profession” by Jim Sandoval and Bill Nowlin for SABR