What are pro baseball scouts looking for? Part 3 – Defense

Have you wondered “Am I good enough to play baseball in the Major Leagues?” or “What are pro baseball scouts looking for?”

You may have heard the phrase “the five tools of baseball.”   Defense is one of those tools.  Have you ever wondered if your defensive talents are good enough to play in the big leagues?  (If you missed it, we also talked about throwing strength and running speed.)

Orioles Scout Jim Thrift is back to outline some practical guidelines and hard numbers you can use to help gauge your talent against your competition.

Tips from a Professional Scout.  Jim’s 28 year career in baseball includes 4 years scouting for the Baltimore Orioles in the amateur, pro and international divisions, 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 experience in professional baseball. 

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “He’s a 5 tool player” or “He has great tools.” Have you ever wondered how your tools stack up against the competition?  Keep reading to find out if you have all 5 tools.

Note – How amateur baseball prospects are scored.  According to Orioles scout Jim, scouts score prospects on a scale of 2 to 8.  If you are average, you’ll be scored as a 4 or 5.

Are you a BIG LEAGUE defender?

Pro scout Jim Thrift doesn’t like to evaluate a player’s defensive skills just on his statistics.  Errors, chances, and fielding percentage get a glance, but these stats doen’t have a huge impact on his final assessment of the player.

Jim pointed out that fielding errors aren’t broken up by throwing errors vs fielding errors, so it’s not going to give anyone a very accurate picture of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, or of their effort level.  The guy who takes more risks on making difficult plays might have more errors than the lazy guy, but in the end he’s also saving his team runs.Free Shipping and Free Returns at Baseball Rampage

The exception to the stats-don’t-matter-that-much rule is for a first baseman. In Jim’s experience, a first baseman’s defensive numbers are a little bit more important (catch, throw, put out).

Baseball Scout evaluation points

When Oriole’s scout Jim Thrift and others are evaluating a player’s defensive tools, here are some of the things they are looking for:

  • Arm strength is huge part of defense.   If you have a strong arm, you may be a good candidate to play at shortstop, centerfield or pitch.  Pro tip: Don’t neglect long toss!!!
  • Body control, body balance
  • Reliability – Do you consistently make the routine plays?  This means understanding proper footwork, solid fundamentals, body control, and your ball exchange is quick from hand to glove.
  • Instincts and reaction
  • Trump card is overall athleticism
  • Range – keep reading about the defensive compass
How do baseball scouts rate defensive skills?

Defense compass – How will scouts rate you?

Grading by the defensive compass

Infielders – If the ball is hit right at you, you can probably catch it.  But there are four other types of plays scouts will be grading you on.  Jim calls it the Defensive compass.

Defense is important, especially in National league.  16, 17 18 year olds not fully developed but are non-flashy, gamer, grinder, works hard — Is that you?  Then you are what pro baseball scouts are looking for.

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