What baseball scouts look for: Advice from Orioles Scout


What baseball scouts look for in amateur baseball players – what makes a player become a prospect?  If you want to know how to get drafted, it is important to know what the baseball scouts are looking for. The answer may surprise you.

Orioles scout Jim Thrift is a 28 year veteran of professional baseball, with experience in coaching, managing, and player development (Pirates, Mets and Reds) as well.  Currently he’s in his 4th year of scouting full time for the Baltimore Orioles, and he was kind enough to let me interview him over the phone.

I learned a lot from Orioles scout Jim during our chat, but here’s what really stuck with me – Players who scouts consider to be “the whole package” are not necessarily the same guys who are playing in 8 travel baseball games every weekend.

“Why is that?”  You might ask.  “Those guys are committed to baseball and they have the stats to prove it.”


Or maybe that guy is just really good at hitting high school pitching, but his swing doesn’t work on a breaking ball, he doesn’t know how to take a secondary lead, and he’s only playing baseball because his parents paid a lot of money for private lessons.  Or maybe he’s very talented, but also very lazy.

Just sayin… there are aspects to the game that scouts notice and often value higher than hitting statistics and pretty swing mechanics.

What baseball scouts look for

Image by Joe Territo, Sports photographer

1. Overall Athleticism.   When I asked Jim to rank what he looks for in an amateur draft prospect, he immediately answered “Athleticism.”  The more we talked, I understood this to mean speed, power, size… the things that are God-given and can’t be bought or taught.

What can we do about it?

We’re NOT saying you can’t get stronger or faster through training.  There’s a lot of competition out there, and small advantages can have a big impact on your baseball career.

(And see below for some more actionable tips)

2. Passion to play.  Major League baseball life might be glamourous, but the road to the Major Leagues is not.  Can you handle getting only 1 of 30 days off?  Spending 10 hours a day at the field, 7 days a week?  Can you handle a 4 am wakeup, long hours of travel, and then starting your day on the field?  Can you handle long slumps? Angry fans? Zero privacy (hope you like sharing a hotel room with another dude)? And all for an itty, bitty salary (until you become a free agent, make the 40 man roster, or make it to the show)?

Even in the big leagues, it’s not all girls and glam.  It takes heart to show up at the baseball field 7 days a week and play hard.  It is mentally and physically exhausting at times.

But for those who LOVE PLAYING BASEBALL, it is all worth it.  Is that you?

These next two are not necessarily in order of importance.  According to Baltimore Orioles scout Jim, points 3 and 4 are both very important.

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3.  Know the Game.  Do you know how to battle a pitcher strategically?  Can you take a secondary lead?  Do you know where to go in a double cut-off situation?   Succeeding in baseball takes a brain as well as athleticism.  If you don’t understand the strategy and proper way to play, you may get passed over for someone who does.

Ha… Lucky for you, this website can provide lots of insight and help in this area!  Signing up to get our best free instruction from the pros delivered to your email inboxis a good start.

4.  The 5 tools.  I don’t want to give the impression that hitting, fielding and velocity don’t matter. THEY MATTER.

Have you ever heard “He’s a 3 tool player” or “he’s a 5 tool player” ?

These are the 5 tools (Click to read about how scouts evaluate that tool):

  1. Running Speed 
  2. Throwing strength
  3. Defensive skills
  4. Hitting for Average
  5. Hitting for Power 

Whether you’re at a tryout, exhibition game, or scouted on your home turf, doing these things well are an important part of making a good impression.

Jim’s Tips for aspiring ball players

Now you know what baseball scouts look for, so what should you do about it?

  • Don’t spend ALL your time fine tuning a swing (that will probably change a hundred more times anyways), and neglect to learn the other aspects of the game.
  • Really evaluate the pros and cons of specializing in baseball vs playing multiple sports, as this directly relates to point #1 above.
  • If you’re not a pitcher, then you need to know BOTH offense and defense.  Don’t spend all your time hitting and neglect fielding – and visa versa.
  • Make an honest evaluation of what playing travel ball is really going to accomplish for you.  Some teams and coaches focus on the wrong stuff, and it will hurt your chances in the end.
  • Playing summer leagues in college is a good thing.  Play against better competition, use a wood bat, and get in front of more scouts.
  • Be aware of how things will change from amateur to pro baseball, and be prepared.  For example – In college, the catchers don’t call the games.  If you are a catcher, you may want to look for a travel or summer team that does things like they do in pro ball.

Scouting a future Major League star is often an art as much as it is a science.  Recognizing the intangible qualities is more difficult, but that doesn’t mean scouts aren’t looking for them.   According to Orioles scout Jim Thrift, those qualities are a very important part of what baseball scouts look for.

By becoming a well-rounded athlete and a knowledgeable baseball player, you’ll give yourself the best chance to succeed in becoming a professional baseball player.

Source:  Jim Thrift, Baltimore Orioles baseball scout

Special thanks to Jim Thrift, who took the time to answer my questions about the scouting process and provided the information in this post.  Jim has acquired a lot of knowledge about what baseball scouts look for in his 28 year career in professional baseball.

During his years as a scout for the Baltimore Orioles, he has scouted in the amateur, pro and international divisions.  Before scouting with the Orioles , Jim spent 15 years with the Cincinatti Reds as a Major League scout, amateur scout and National Cross Checker, triple A hitting coach, and a long list of other impressive positions.

Before that, Jim coached with the New York Mets and the Pittspurgh Pirates organizations.  I could keep going, but we’d be here all day.  The bottom line is, Jim knows baseball and scouting, and we are grateful for his contribution to PBI.  Thanks, Jim!

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  1. Avatar für Brian Bud Clark
    Brian Bud Clark on

    I’m a little older than you gentleman. Please allow me to provide some advice that learned through my collegiate scouting and pro scouting experiences. If you’re 100% sure you’re going to compete or want to compete at D1 or Professional Baseball, start focusing now. I was 1st Team All Sacramento Metro CF. .444 4HR, 30SB, 75 RBI’s. Size: 6’2 185. I hit for power pull, straight up the middle and opposite field. Second Team All State of California in the outfield. I ran a 4.6 40, 6.1 60 yard dash, was recruited to play at Pepperdine University. I was also told I was going to be drafted by the orioles between 10-20 rounds. Long story short, don’t demand anything you’re not good enough to earn as a player. Unfortunately, my parents pushed the orioles scout away with $150,000 of schooling vs pro baseball. Once the orioles got wind I needed a bonus of $150,000 the Pirates s out, knew, then the Yankees as out knew. Best thing to do is get yourself drafted period.

    Play in cap cod Massachusetts wood bet league or Alaska. There’s even a Kansas or Jayhawk league. Don’t just play in wood bat local league to stay close to mommy and daddy. You must prove your abilities swinging wood everyday against top professional or D1 pitchers. I played in Alaska before my freshman year in college. If you are a multi sport prospect decide if your 110% only going to move forward with baseball. The Bo Jackson’s or the 80’s are very few and far between guys. Dominate your sport. If your a pitcher, command and demand a hitter swing at your best pitches. Keep the ball down.

    I understand the new dynamics of hitting and fielding regarding launch angle, velocities etc. here’s the deal guys, there was 4 players at my high school scouted for 4 years. 3 of us played pro ball, one other pitcher pitched in the major league from my HS and he played for 7 teams. He got shelled and his ERA was over 11. He is also 6’4 230 lbs as senior. He thru 85-90 but injuries always followed.

    Batting average won’t get you drafted or a starting position in college guys. I had to prove myself every time I stepped foot on a Dimond after high school. My travel ball before collegiate ball was American Legion. I started 4 years straight. I hit rockets. A minimum 10- 20 fiubles, 5-10 triples and home runs. I hit bill so far in HS they never found over the football stfihm in Yuba City CA. Dead Center. My point is this. Pro scouts are Looking for:

    1) Knowledge of the game
    2) Dedicated to only playing Bassball
    3) Size, Speed, Defensive Ability, Arm
    4) Power potential

    I was a 5 tool player and I was never drafted. I was the fastest outfield, with the strongest arm of my era. I struck out 1 to 2 times and never grounded out. I hit shots, Homeruns, and long outs. I believe playing up to the highest level and potential will take the best talent, coached by the best coaches to the major leagues, Are you coachable? The two best of three best players that I played against were;: Geoff Jenkins, Derek Lee, Nick Johnson.

  2. Avatar für Tom Brian

    Teams of baseball, both amateur and professional, use the services of a baseball scout. They are spared the hassle of having to evaluate prospective players themselves.

  3. Avatar für Landon Alberts
    Landon Alberts on

    I would love to play major league baseball. I am 15 years old, my top 60 YD dash is 6.61, top home to first is 4.39, top velocity from mound is 77mph, top from SS is 81mph, and from OF is 84mph. My exit velocity is 97 mph. I know the rules of the game very well and I workout a lot. I am a very hard worker, I get up and workout at 4 or 5 am to workout and I stay out until 10 or 11 pm practicing. Do you think that I have a chance at getting drafted?

  4. Avatar für Cale Carter

    It is good to see all these people who want to get into the game.
    It would seem that there needs to be an American Baseball Combine of sorts for this talent.
    Too many people hitting over 400 who cant get a look does not seem right.

  5. Avatar für Joe Adesi

    I have a son that is 6 ft 8 runs the 60 7.0 sec plays first and right and 3rd he is a s/w hitter he hits for power and contact longs has been over 400 he is a senior at bowl green in Ohio .he has play baseball all his life he is a red shirt senior and plays club baseball and will do a walk on for a mlb team .do you think he should wait until he is done with his red shirt year. thanks Joe Adesi .

  6. Avatar für Zach Wilson

    Hi, I’m Zachary Wilson and I am wondering if I should attend more showcases I’ve been to a few not to much but every year for the travel team Marion Merchants I bat over 400 and era is a 0.765 I’m very good at both I play shortstop I am very talented and have good potential to make it big but idk how to start. I am a junior at Marion Harding High School I am 5’10.5 I weigh 185. Great IQ for the game I’d love to be watched at a game!! I always impress everyone and the other teams coaches I have pitch a full game with 17 strike outs (7 innings) no errors I threw a no hitter perfect game couldn’t have been any better. Do you have any advice on what I should do to get scouted by college coaches??

  7. Avatar für Toni Richey

    I have a 17 year old son who is 6’4″ #175. He hit .500 as a Sophomore in High School in the 2 whole spot on his Tx 5A Varsity team. He has a great eye for the ball. He rarely strikes out and is clutch in games. He is a great two stike hitter. He hits to all areas of the field and as a R hander gets great power to R field too.He is so big going into his Junior season his coach moved him to the three hole and wanted him to pull the ball more for power. He struggled some with changing his swing and hit .382 as a Junior, still had few strikeouts just hit it straight to them. He runs .678 sixty, 90 exit speed off a tee with a wood bat, throws about 84 IF and 87 OF. He has great hands and excellent baseball IQ. He studies baseball like its a history lesson.
    We have gone to several showcases and just attended the Area Code Tryout at Dallas Baptist. It seems all they care about is homeruns. You see the guys they pick and they pull them over the fence but overall arent any better than Jamey. I feel Jamey will get stronger with age and hit more homeruns but how does he get noticed now. Should he just start swinging for the fence and give up everything he knows about pitch selection, hitting based on the count and situation and being an unselfish teammate, even bunting if needed? I know any team who chooses him will want him in their lineup but he just isnt getting the attention. It feels like the scouts go for the easy pick, run fast, hit it over , and throw 90. My husband says he just wished he had taught him to hit for the fence and forget the rest. Jamey Richey 2018, uncommitted, ready to work hard and play at the highest level possible. What advice can you give him?
    Toni Richey

    • Avatar für Rick

      My advice is let it work out how it works out for him and not you, I can see what your motives are with this post, trying to get your boy a scholarship, that rarely helps when a parent says look at him, look at him.

      You metioned all the stats that this guy basically said is only one part of the equation, remember that, is he a good teammate or the one who coaches the other kids in a negetive way? Whats the competetion like? Mike Trout got looked over by 24 teams because he didnt come from a great area of baseball.

      Practice, patience, passion, team player, the 5 tools and a level head are important. You said he struggled to pull the ball and hit with more power when told by coach, well thats not a great sign, a great hitter in highschool already getting looks knows how to pull the ball and hit with power. Its not all about home runs but a talented baseball player will somewhat stick out. The reason is lack of great pitching in high school, alot of great arms in highschool but most rely on throwing heat every pitch, a great hitter will eat the pitcher up fairly easy.

      If he struggles to pull the ball and hit with power, Id bet he struggled against a pitcher who throws a great change and sinking pitch mixed in with fastballs.

      Whats he defense like? Another huge factor.

      Just keep at it with him and have him try to get better
      In all aspects, and be a great team player. Just because he has size and stats doesnt mean much.

      Sounds like a kid that should get a chance somewhere but he needs to keep working at it. There are lots of routes, Junior College, Club Ball, sending videos to coaches. Dont focus on the next huge step, just focus on today. Good luck

  8. Avatar für Judith Gash

    Our grandson will be 10 in July and is really talented in baseball. He’s fast, smart and loves baseball. Very athletic. He could catapult himself over the side of a low farm wagon at age 18 months. His team isn’t so great this year, but he’s still very enthusiastic. He’s playing 3rd base, can catch and throw acurately and can hit. Broc DeVore, Benton, IL. They play at Benton Park until June 30th.

  9. Avatar für Harrison Cole Davis
    Harrison Cole Davis on

    hey,i’m only 10,but could you possibly come watch me in easley,south carilina in a few years.you might see what you like,i’m a really good catcher.my cousins name is austin morgan,he’s a really good catcher to,i guess it just runs in the blood.i’ve also got a really good arm,i know the situation,i’m a good hitter,and i love the game.i’m in 5th grade right now.thanks for reading this.

  10. Avatar für Adrian Rodriguez
    Adrian Rodriguez on

    I’m a middle infielder and a right handed hitter I’ve been told I have a great glove and i am constantly hitting in the gaps I love In a small town and i was w oundering if you have any advice for me to get my name out there

    Thank you

    My email, adrian.rodriguez1331@gmail.com

  11. Avatar für Rod

    Scouts please go and scout a kid name zach mcgrady huntington college in montgomery all…you will be impressed

  12. Avatar für John Wilson

    Hello – I just wanted to share with everyone about a player I saw in Kansas. His name is Charles Elam and he is simply the most athletic player I have seen in the last 30 years. I have coached and scouted for over 30 years and have seen great talents. This kid is hands down the best baseball player I have seen. I had the pleasure of watching a player a few years ago named Bubba Starling and he was such a athlete and good ball player. I thought I wouldn’t see another player like him any time soon. And we’ll I was wrong I haven’t seen a player like him – I actually have seen a player that is hands down better than him. I went to scout another player and ran across this kid playing left field. He got to ever ball hit from left field to center field. Making catches on balls that should have been stand up doubles. At the plate he showed great knowledge of the strike zone and ability to hit to all fields as he drove a double over left fields head, singled up the middle and then hit a 420 foot bomb to right center and ran the bases on the home run as if he were running for a inside the park home run. He moved to center field and I was treated to another amazing play. I never got the chance to watch the great Willie Mays play in person but I think I got to watch the next best thing. A ball was crushed to the deepest part of the field and he turned and just took off running and to everyone’s surprise he make the catch over his shoulder and then planted and threw the ball back in to second base and almost doubled up the runner. As everyone stood in amazement the fans in the stands kept repeating “that’s normal, he does that all the time.” With my mind made up that I just saw the greatest player I have seen and the biggest hidden talent – one thing completely sealed it in stone. He came in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th inning. Yes this would normally be just a nice foot note. But he came in an gave up no hits, walked one and struck out one. He faced 5 batters. One batter reached back on a error by the short stop. Pretty good line for a pitcher. But what makes it even better is he pitched RIGHT AND LEFT HANDED. He’s a ambedextris pitcher. And what I found out later is that he’s a ambedextris player. He can play every position except catcher with both hands. He was clocked 86 mph right handed and 85 left handed. With great movement and command. I was able to talk to his mom and she says that his dream is to play in the MLB. I think this is such a great chance for a team to draft the biggest talent in the draft. One team is going to get the biggest steal of the Draft in the last 30 years. His name is Charles Elam in Kansas. His mom’s name is Shuronda Elam and her phone number is 913- 596 – 0935. Thanks –

  13. Avatar für Leo Hernandez

    I’ve timed my running speed and you’d be surprised so any ideas how i could use someone to mentor me in steps to becoming a pinch runner , reply at my email leo35hernandez@ gmail.com . you won’t be disappointed.

  14. Avatar für Randy Casford
    Randy Casford on

    there is a gem pitcher in Kingston, Ontario. Matt Brash born 1998!
    Top pitcher in Canada chose not to spend money with expensive
    Summer teams. Played for Team Ontario had zero ERA.
    Last year 87 MpH first outing today hit 90-92 with top pitch 95!

    Complete package quick release, great fielding, great pick off.
    Awesome change and curve rarely walks a batter!

    This 6″2 gem has smooth delivery only 155lbs.

    Potential is off charts.

  15. Avatar für Paulino Harrington
    Paulino Harrington on

    Hi Sarah,
    I sent you a note yesterday and I left the H out of my email. Sorry.
    I’m also trying to find out if the teams hold open tryouts during spring training?
    Thank you again for all your help.
    Paulino Harrington

    • Avatar für Sarah Bernier

      Hi Paul. This link for the MLB teams tryouts schedule might be helpful. There are no tryouts listed now because of the time of year, but as spring training gets closer, it will list which teams are having tryouts as well as where and when. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/about_mlb/tryout_us.jsp#tab2

      This article is also helpful for explaining more about the open tryouts for professional teams, both Major League tryouts and Minor League team tryouts… or the lack of them actually. Hope that helps!


    • Avatar für Doug Bernier

      Most of the teams have some sort of tryout. They will usually post them on their MLB website after the new year and once spring training gets a little closer. I’m guessing they may start to post tryout dates once they announce when report dates are for spring training. Good luck.


  16. Avatar für john

    im a 60 year old baseball lifer, yesterday I saw a kid that impressed me to the point where I couldn’t sleep but he doesn’t seem to be on anybodys radar he’s a catcher with a rocket arm and a power hitting switch hitter, his name is Casey Schroder a j.c. transfer playing his first game at Coastal Carolina, Im from ohio and played the position and watch the best ever Johnny Bench on every day for 15 years so I think I know what im saying, im not impressed easily, I believe the kids a real deal

    • Avatar für Brandon Doctor Colon
      Brandon Doctor Colon on

      I am a 19 year old 6′ 3″ 190 lbs switch hitter.with an ERA of 1.7 and a batting average of 600. I was scoutrd by Alan Marr of the Philliees I have his personnel cell # and email. I was trained by Marlins head pitching Coach Jeff Schwart for 10 years. I was also trained by Yankee legend Mr.Joe Arnold..I am looking for information regarding how to get drafted Thank you Brandon Doctor Colon 561 352 7211. 561 951 3606.

  17. Avatar für Ahmed Cruz

    Hello, my name is Ahmed Cruz, I live in Puerto Rico,( I’m bilingual) I am 5’11 163 pounds with a fastball 83mph, slider and split finger… I have the dream to become a pro on the big leagues I would love to be drafted by any team, I will do anything to succede and be drafted! I Love Baseball, please coach or someone can you help me? my email is ahmed.cruz09@hotmail.com please I will appreciate the help

  18. Avatar für Yazy Arbrelo

    I am a pro baseball player released by the Dimonds Backs. Baseball is my life. I am a power hitter and know the game. You can look up my records at any time. I will like to tryout for you guys and return to baseball. Please get back with me at my email. Thanks

    • Avatar für Doug Bernier

      Sorry to hear that you got released from the Diamondbacks. I am sorry I can’t help you find a job, I don’t have the authority to have a tryout camp for a team. The best place to look is online with each team. Some teams will list an open try out camp that you can attend. Most of them are either in Florida or Arizona at the spring training facilities. Best of luck to you.


  19. Avatar für David baker

    In the section number 5 you list power hitting as a tool and power as a tool. I was wondering if you could follow up with Mr. Thrift on that and see what he difference is between those two items. I found the article very helpful and informative. I used it to show my son what is needed for an mlb candidate. Thank you. David Baker

    • Avatar für Sarah Bernier

      Hi David. When I saw your comment I was confused too, lol! Turns out what you pointed out was a typo. The 2nd “power” should’ve said running speed. So, these are the 5 tools – hitting for average, hitting for power, defense, arm strength, and running speed. So Doug and I thank you very much for pointing that out! And just FYI, we will be speaking with Jim Thrift again soon, so we should have more info coming up soon about MLB tryouts and other draft questions. If you have anything else you want us to ask, please let us know! And hopefully you are subscribed to email or facebook so you’ll know when we get the next one posted. Warm regards,

      Sarah Bernier

  20. Avatar für Peyton

    Man I love the game and blessed with athleticism! Please come take a look at me in Alexandria louisiana at holy savior menard high school. Jc holt is our coach, he played with the braves. Just thought u may know him.keep in touch with me, I eat, breathe, sleep, and live for this awesome most life lesson game.

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