You’ve visited this website and clicked on this article, so chances are, you’re not only familiar with new forms of baseball data, but with the impact that data has had on various branches of the game, including and especially scouting. Kiley and I have each written about some of the ways that new data and technology are transforming player evaluation, but all you really need to know for the purposes of this article is that these developments have funneled in-person scouting resources down to lower levels of baseball, both amateur and professional.
There are several reasons for this. For one, the majors and the upper levels of the minors (Double- and Triple-A) are more stable competitive environments, and thus teams are more comfortable with statistical performance accumulated at those tiers of play. Individuals who reach those heights almost always have sufficient talent, technical proficiency, or some combination of the two, to play competitive baseball there, whereas the on-field competency of lower-level pro baseball talent (think teenagers in the DSL, AZL, Pioneer League, etc.) is more variable player to player.
As a result, statistical performance is much more reliable the further up the pro ladder a player climbs, allowing teams to more confidently incorporate it into their player evaluations. This, combined with the proliferation of TrackMan and Statcast metrics in pro baseball (almost every minor league park in the country has a TrackMan unit now), means that a growing number of teams feel that they have a firm grasp on upper-level players even if those players are not seen as much by scouts, and some organizations have even begun to de-emphasize in-person scouting at these levels. This frees up scouts to sift through the growing bodies and developing athletes at the lower levels, where statistical performance is almost meaningless. Read the rest of this entry »