Let us start this off with going with what we know right now. The 2020 MLB draft is set for June 10th… that is about it. It is odd to think we are just over a month out from what we work towards all year and we do not know the details. Will it be 5 or 10 rounds? What are the bonuses? How will the free agent situation work? So many unknowns being considered in what has been the oddest of all springs.
At some point we are going to know what the details are for the 2020 draft and it will come, and it will go. We will flip the calendar and hope to be able to return to work to begin working towards the 2021 class. One thing we do know about 2021 is it will likely be a 20-round draft. I will take that over the 5 rounds we are likely to get this year. But what does that mean for the future? Will we ever see 40 rounds again? I want to optimistic but at the same time I truly believe the answer to that is no. My guess going forward is we settle somewhere between 20-25 rounds following the 2022 draft. That leaves me wondering one thing, what will scouting look like over the next three years?
Let us start out with the obvious, it could remain the same. Some teams will go their analytical route and be reliant on the data and numbers. Then on the other hand teams will use a blended approach having a good number of scouts in the field in addition to utilizing the analytics and data accumulated over time. It is difficult for me to sit here writing this and say that will happen. GM’s and owners will look this as an opportunity to adjust the scouting staff in a variety of ways yet still have the necessary coverage.
Here are a few thoughts. The size of the areas could now change. For the most part they are within reason right now. Teams will break areas up based on the talent pool. For example, the Midwest scouts have more states since the talent is spread out. This in contrast of southern California or south Florida where scouts will cover less but still churn out a great number of prospects. There is a possibility of a smaller number of scouts in the field. There is also a possibility of seeing more part time scouts. Have a full-time scout covering a large area and have part time scouts under them. Will teams adjust their cross-check system? These are all thoughts of how teams may respond to a shortened draft on a yearly basis.
With all that said here is my case as to why scouts will remain important in growing the organization. If the draft does remain in the 20-25 round range teams cannot miss. When it was 40 and 50 rounds there was some room to take some chances on players. If we shorten the draft, we need to have more conviction, more looks, and know the character of the player. Misses will happen, but it can’t be on the things that are important, that being the person and their character. Big league teams are only as good as their systems and development. Look at the Dodgers and Rays. Big market and a small market though both compete at a high-level year in and year out. If there are less rounds teams must hit on there picks and build the pipeline from within. Those two organizations have done a great job of hitting on draft picks and throughout the draft not just up top.
These are thoughts. Do not be offended if you are in one of these positions. I am not here to predict job losses. My hope is teams value the scouts and do not try and be overly creative. Stick to a process that works. Teams that have consistent successful drafts year in and year out have little turnover and use a blend of scout evaluation and data. I said it before, and I will say it again this is a people sport. You must know people. People being players in this situation. Know the players. None of that will show up on a data sheet. That leads me to my next point, the importance of the area scout. I do not believe area scouts will ever be eliminated. The accumulation of information and player make up can only be done by an area scout. These next few years will be interesting as we move forward into the coming drafts. The best thing I believe scouts can do is evolve. Learn how to interpret and apply the data. It is apart of the game and it will continue to be. I do believe scouting will still play an interictal part of the draft process in the coming years.