Lets Talk Scouting with John Kazanas Part 2
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.
John Kazanas is a scout of over 25 years for the Chicago White Sox, finding players like Brian Anderson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon McCarthy and many more. He served as a coach for the Greek Olympic team from 20023-2004. John is also the author of the ebook, How and Where will a Professional Scout find me?
Website: What Scouts Look For
In Part 2 of this Conversation John talks about:
- About the minor league lifestyle and how tough it is for a young guy.
- The importance of finding a way to help your team win a game.
- Develop the non sexy part of your game to help team win games.
- Different tools he looks for with position players and hitters.
- Different tools he looks for with pitchers.
- How the game has changed from a hitting and pitching stand point.
- The future of scouting.
- Vision protocol for evaluating guys.
- Different path to becoming a scout.
- and much more.
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Geoff: Today’s show is part two of our conversation with John Kazanas, a professional scout of over 25 years and they continued to share with us how to become a scout as well as what are you looking for?
Intro: Welcome to another episode of The Baseball Awakening Podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, usexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Geoff Rottmayer
Geoff: Wlecome to the Baseball Awakening Podcast, I am Geoff Rottmayer and we continue our conversation with John Kazanas, a professional scout of over 25 years as well as serving as the Greek Olympic basketball team head coach from 2000 to 2004 in addition to writing. How and where will a professional scout find me? So, John, we ended up being conversation yesterday talking about handling failure in a burst and you know, uh, uh, more people to go back and listen to this session because this stuff matters because the pro pro ball and that path to the big league man, it is not easy and it’s a grind. You’re constantly failing, you’re gonna. Learn a lot about yourself. You’re going to learn. You know, how much you love baseball.
John: Well, throw in these different variables that we have to consider them as highly as majority of the amateur players. Pitchers will pitch once a week so they have six days of rest somewhere along the way and pitching once a week. Where in minor league baseball, professional baseball, you’re going to pitch every fifth day. So now that’s changed already in your schedule, uh, what you do to prepare to get to the seventh guy, but of the players you’re not playing seven days a week and amateur baseball come professionally. You are majority of players. There are better facilities in some colleges. Then there are minor league parks. They’re better travel accommodations in some division, one programs. Then in some minor league situations, you may even stay a bedroom accommodations on the road, um, listed. You know, some of these d one schools and conferences, you’re flying from city to city. What are you doing on the road? It’s a 16 hour bus ride. A lot of these kids have things well for them at home. Um, parents may be doing their laundry and things are fine. They’ve got a great accommodations in the minor leagues. You’re in with three other in an apartment and you got to figure out who’s cooking and who’s washing and who’s doing this or that things are not done for you. You got to figure out how to get complete your task every day before you go to the Mall Yard. Um, there are so many things that come in there that we don’t know how young man’s going to react under those pressures. And you know, you’re playing 144 games in minor league baseball. You’re not playing, but in college, 50 six games. So your body’s gonna hurt in those little aches and pains. You may not take your best swing. You may not had the quickest start on or something if you got a little ache in your hamstring, but in college or in high school ball, you know you’ve got two or three days off before your next game.
Geoff: So maybe you don’t have your fling or you don’t have your stuff, but you gotta find a way to perform and find a way to be consistent.
John: Find a way to contribute to your team to help them win a ball game. Even though you went over for maybe you moved the runners over twice to put them in scoring position to get two runs.
John: no. Maybe you took a walk fighting off five or six pitches, so you turn the lineup over and you’ve got a chance to one of your better hitters to come to the plate in the ninth inning to win the game.
Geoff: Oh, how much I where people will look at it that way.
John: Well, there’s a difference. There’s a player, more of a team oriented player or is he more driven by his own numbers when they’re in situation and in the game where you have to find a way to advance a runner and do what you need to do. Who wants to hit and run and you know he’s a weak ground ball, but move the runner over and you’re out and your average went down for the runners at second base and we all know it’s putting them at third base with one out, but for some reason we still pull the ball. The short didn’t move him because we didn’t go to the plate with a plan to drive to the middle of the right side,
John: blushed into ops man on third. Well, your plan should be finding something. I could listen to the outfield just to get the sack flight. That’s my number one goal. I got a base hit out of it, that’s gravy. But if I swing early in account on a pitch that I can’t lift and do things with and I hit a weak ground ball back to first or third or whatever, you know? Yeah. I’m all for one, but I lost the chance for an Rv I and running. Maybe my team would win if I get them in
Geoff: that are listening. All this matters. So when you have a guy that says, hey, don’t hit ground balls or don’t try to hit it to the back side, maybe there’s a situation that requires that and, and you gotta develop that.
John: True. It’s part of the process of development in the minor league system. Um, the beauty of the minor league system for pitchers, they’re going to put you in situations where you have to get yourself out of the situation in some amateur systems. If it’s high school or in college, if you were in the fourth inning, you got yourself in trouble. Coach is taking you out and you can’t get yourself out of that. Right? And you gotta know your relievers coming in because their job is to try to get some, was the main goal the amateur coaches is not to see you work on things to get better in sacrifice to w have is, okay, I got to find new because you know what? My administration wants us to win in college and if I don’t win then I lose my job.
Geoff: Right? Yeah. And that’s what the minor leagues about development.
John: Yeah. Some reliever comes in and walks the first two guys in college. He’s replaced. Yeah, in development, in professional baseball. He just walked first two guys. Now he’s got to figure out how to get out of the damn
Geoff: right. Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about, about tools with a position player. So what are the tools that guide need to focus on
John: organization’s profile? Some players to different positions. If you were looking at a first base when they’re looking, be looking at the hit tool more than they would to speed tool of the field tool because you’re looking for a production in that position. Uh, if you were looking for a center fielder, you know, the first thing they would say is Kenny stay in center field. So his defensive tool in his arm and the speed, you know, play well and you can hit, that’s a bonus. But if he was a kid I could just hit, it could play d, then we’ve got some weaknesses that we’re going to be exposed to and it’s going to suffer on. Or You know what, our club, we have to look at a player on the amateur part of it and figure out whether or not he can stay at the position he’s currently yet and be productive. Or does that shortstop have to move to a corner position because he doesn’t have enough arm to make that play in the whole. Well, if he only can go to second base because he’s a bit short with his arm strength. Ben Who’s profile just changed because now you want more of a productive offensive player. Second base, they need to do more of a defensive glove plus range guy with an arm, so you have to find a way to look at every player in valuate their tools. Can they state that spot and even throw this into the equation. Does that amateur player replaced a guy that we have starting in the big leagues? If we say no, then where does he go right there to replace that guy. If we say no, then the amateur players in trouble, right? You’re going to do as fit into your 25 player stats, but what’s cool, and I like to use this because I’ve had some players that have had this situation. A young man has some rough power, but he doesn’t have a high on base percentage. Does he have value on your organization? Yes, he could. Let’s say for example, there’s a young man named Willie Calhoun who came through, um, he was a freshman at University of Arizona with the Yavapai junior college sophomore year. Put up some big numbers, got drafted by the dodgers like in the fifth round. Put up some great numbers in advance to their system pretty quickly. And then he was traded to Texas for, I believe Darvish is. Um, I’m the main guy. It might’ve been another picture, but you went to Texas. Here’s value is not defense. His values, his power in his bat. So when you’re at a ballgame down one, tied up in this, the seventh, eighth, or ninth ending, and you come to the plate, you just now added pressure to the pitcher because if the pitcher Mrs Spot, he knows you have a chance to deposit that ball over the fence to tie the game up or put yourself ahead. If you were to take a pinch hitter and put to the plate and didn’t have power. There’s not that type of pressure on the picture because if he does make a mistake, he just gave up a base hit. He can get them still himself out of the inning. So there is value for a player that may be one dimensional on your organization and it’s hard to find power. But if he does Mrs and your swings in that spot, that young man may win the game or two to three games for you throughout the year. And you went into petabyte
Geoff: when I taught, when I talked to guy that tell them, trying to develop your ability to hit first. And then the power comes come maturity. But, but if you’re barreling up baseballs with, with good timing and driving the ball, the guides are going to put Jack. Uh, they started to get bigger and stronger. Dope, bald. We’re kinda started leaving the ballpark. So, you know, a lot of kids when they first, they, they, they want to focus on the tower and they want to hit the ball hard and all this stuff. But they’re the difference between fleeing out of your shoe and getting good at barreling up baseballs and them up,
John: put in a good swing on a ball. Good, consistent contacts. Important. There’s a young man on the dodgers named Bellenger. He’s been in the big leagues two years. Majority of people don’t know this, but he only hit one home run in high school his senior year. And now you said in 30 something out of the big league ballparks. So where are we? Right in projecting that if somebody’s projected 30 something home runs, it’s a good step because the majority of people, majority of people felt he was more of a mark grace type guy. He’ll get eight or 10 or 15, but they’ll use gap to gap and get on base and a lot of doubles and so when he developed through the dodger system, they tweaked this swing, some so that when he did have a different path approach to the ball, but he had a chance to generate balls out of the yard because of the type of swing, the bat speed and the angle, so now he’s a productive offensive player who was very athletic. He played first base in high school. He’s going to be a gold glove at first base, but he has value. Did they use starting center fielder? Right. He played a little outfield during the area code games in Long Beach his senior year, but majority of his headings are logged at first base. So you saw they’re looking athletes at a good stride, has some arm strength of gain, some experience in the outfield. They did play him in the minor leagues there so that he was able to read balls off the bat. Probably a quality outfield instructor taught him some mechanics and how to break for balls and the angles that he had to take because he looks like a natural in that position. I mean he hasn’t misplayed balls or had certain things in which caused some issues for the dodgers defensively that they’re going to give up extra runs because of a mistake. My thought, variety of things come into play. First of all, his arm speed. You can’t teach that. Like I’m going to take a picture and all of a sudden I’m going to generate an extra 20 percent of arm speed. Um, the mechanics of the arm swing are important. Majority of young men have no idea what the ron does when they take the box glove, first of all, they’re not looking at it. They’re looking at the catcher. So the swing of what he does can be a plus or a minus. And if the young man ends up taking the ball of the glove and his thumb is up, the boss giving, you know, pie thrower. So it’s going to change what you can do with certain rotation of certain pitches or whether or not he’s on top of the ball longer. If he goes out and he hooks his arm around his back or he raps, you know, the rest of the arm back there, or he is a stabber with his arm. Anytime you put more pressure on joints, especially the elbow and the shoulder, it’s going to wear in time that you’re going to injure yourself. You may not have the same consistency in your release slot because of certain things there. Um, if the young man puts more stress on certain joints, we have to take that consideration. That Uni has so many bullets that he might have to be pushed to a bullpen and maybe pitches 50 innings a year. Instead of trying to get 180 endings a, you have to find out where that comes into play because you want people to be able to repeat on the mound, pounding the zone, being efficient with their pitches and not creating additional traffic because they walked to three guys and give up one double. And all of a sudden, two, three runs score. So you, there are so many different places to come in there and they’re on the front side, comes into play head wacker’s a. When a guy releases a ball was in play, how hard is it to the plate? I mean, does he stiffen up the front leg? Does that cause a problem is you’re not pill thrower. Um, what angle does he take with the boss is coming from a three quarter slot or a high three quarter over here. So we have to look at a variety of different ways. Maybe the is choking the ball and can’t get this been raped better than if he was taught how to lay the ball in his hand and use the fingers better. Maybe he’s a stiff wrist or loose wister. There’s again, we’re trying to figure out what he does and what comes out of the hand and if is there anything that can be corrected to make it better with our pitching instruction
Geoff: on the Internet and stuff it guy trying to throw the ball as hard as they can, you know, of control. Throwing it as hard as they can and you know that that can’t be good.
John: That part of the game has changed in the last 10 years. The velocity of pitchers have increased greatly. If we were to look back 10, 15 years ago on a pitching staff in the big leagues, I don’t think he would’ve find four guys throwing 95 plus. Right. I’m now just about anybody walking out of the bulkhead. It’s going to be throwing 93, 96, 97 no matter why. That is. Sure. There’s other programs. This drive line, there’s weighted balls. There’s different variables that caused people know the try to generate this. The best velocity possible. Will that do some damage to the shoulder area or the elbow? It might. If a young man is on a weighted ball program or a drive lane program in your organization doesn’t do that. Would that change something on him? Yes. Will it improve him or make him not as productive? Most likely the negative will come out of it in the positive. You know, people don’t have their velocity may drop if they’re not on the program that they’ve been accustomed to by instructors outside high school or college programs. Because today’s kids go to today’s kids want to see positive results, right? So if they’re buddies throwing 93, 95, where’d you go? I saw you know this guy, this guy, fine. I’m, I’m going there too. All right? Everybody wants to be successful and that’s fine. You want to get put in anything you do in life. What are you going to pay the price? Does it cut your, your, uh, opportunity to play the game. You know, does it cause you to have surgery? If you have shoulder issues, labor issues, recovery times longer, do you have an elbow issue? Then you know, you recovery times less than, but if you have no issues, then you get to play this game for a long time. It make some decent money.
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Geoff: But yeah, I mean our law had a lot had changed and the same with, with hitting there. The lot of Max effort out of control swings,
John: right? And then they lose tracking, right? If you could find a pitcher who could hide the ball in the ball, jumps on the hitter, and he’s only killed 90, 92, does that better than a kid going 95 and you could see the ball better. Those 95 guys get turned around because the here has a better chance of picking it up and reacting. Right? Young man, it’s high and it comes out of nowhere and 90 they’re swinging and missing. Right? So that’s another factor to look at. Um, does this section, you know what I mean? Doesn’t the front side, the hitter just doesn’t pick it up as quick or guy who’s flops the front side. Number seven, you can see the hand the whole time he throws harder and everybody’s looking. Today I’m a gun reader and I’m turning that guy again because I’m a dumb reader. Yeah,
Geoff: yeah, the future of scouting,
John: um, depends upon the model. The philosophy of an organization. Um, sports owners, majority of them are copycats if, when they see an organization when a certain way they feel they need to do the same thing. So if an organization has a trim staff of doing certain ways and they’ve gone to the playoffs all the time, maybe that’s what they try to implement it. Another organization. Um, my personal opinion is you need guys to work the ground. Now you may go valuate video and you may be watching stuff on TV or cable and trying to break down a player, but being there and seeing it with your own eyes, having an idea of the environment, I’m doing your best to communicate and pick up the information and dealing with certain things, uh, is very important. Know Scout a, maybe going into a game and seeing the five game series and that player plays so poor for five games that all of a sudden you write them off and he’s history and you never do anything with him. But maybe he lost his parents. Maybe his girlfriend broke up. Maybe he, you know, there’s maybe there’s something that caused him not to be totally focused on the game, but month and a half later you end up going to a watching four or five games in a know match up and this guy is an old world beater, but she already wrote him off.
John: It’s hard to do this type of scouting when you’re not there, but guys still do it and they feel it’s important, which is fine, but that’s their model and that’s what they’re going to go in and implement and what results come out of it is what the adjust. If it’s successful, they’re going to continue to do something over and over and over again. If it doesn’t work, where are we? Do we tinker with it and figure out how will we can do to make it work? There’s no substitute for experience though, right? In my opinion, the more you get to see, the more you get to evaluate a player. If you’re just starting out, well, I talked to a young young man. It’s gotten, been there a year, two years, three years, whatever it might be. When we say go pick the brains of guys who’ve been around 10, 15 years, they’re doing something the last 10 to 15 years, the organization is not going to keep a scout. If you didn’t do his job well, why would you pay a guy some money to continue to evaluate? That’s poor. That’s not right. You know, you’re, you’re wasted money and wasted resources. Put a person in there that you evaluate his opinion and you see it when you go and evaluate their player on par with yourself and your philosophy and uh, he’s an important car. Did you know department?
Geoff: Yeah. What I wanted to ask you, what do, do you guys look at anything with a vision? You know, so I don’t know, maybe like a clarity chart or that perception tool or anything like that.
John: Some organizations do have a tool to measure their depth perception. Yeah. We see a kid swinging and missing. And by the big margin, I’m sure one of our first thing is, is has had his eyes checked. Yeah. For whatever reason, some players just don’t want to wear glasses because it doesn’t look good.
John: 26:19 But you know what, those glasses, you can see the spin of the ball better and you can pick it up better and you’ll do better in the square it up. Yeah. Yeah. There’s been players to have gone and had that surgery done on there. I used to take away the stigmatism and see the ball better. Probably a lot of scouts need to have that done. Evaluating players and it’s been a blur.
Geoff: Yeah. That’s something that I’ve been spending a lot of time on over the last three, four years is the vision part in and how important it is and the more I learned about it, the more I made sure the guide get that type of training.
John: There are organizations who do have vision programs. If their minor league players do and they see positive results, they’re going to continue to use those programs for every player.
Geoff: Well John, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but I really do appreciate you coming on and dropping knowledge bombs.
John: Scott goes out to a game for one reason. He’s going to try to find a big leaguer and if he leaves the yard was somebody in the tip of his tongue, did he believes in, he’s going to share that information with his organization and he’s going to start to build a resume for this player. And when this young man ever gets to the big leagues, like all Dads, they’re so proud that I’ve dropped a few tears when I got a call from the kid, said I’m going to the big leagues because yeah, it, it’s, it’s exciting. And when he doesn’t do well in the big leagues, you feel the pain. The hope is not being sent down the next day. But, uh, you’re so happy that he made his dream come true to get there. And that, that is very exciting. It’s, it’s, there’s no way the other way to describe it. And um, you know, the thing is you’re a role model just as much as a parent because you take some. I’m interested in the young man. You want to see him do well. You communicate with them. You provide what you can with them. You talked to him, now you do all different types of things, but in your mind, your number one goal is, I love to see this kid has dance to get to the big leagues, so somewhere along the way he turns around and gives back to community because other people helped him get to that point in his life in. There are good people that do that
Geoff: and you have some great experience that most people in baseball would love that big variance.
John: I’m fortunate. I’m, I’m thankful somebody believed in me. Give me an opportunity. Um, it’s not about the money. It’s you get to do something about a kid’s game and they pay you a salary and you’re able to support them. Emily, you’re at the highest, the profession of that sport. You can’t get any higher. Right? People think it’s pretty cool. Hey, how do you get a job doing that? Anybody? Hey, aren’t you doing this? Watching Games, right? Well, yeah, but there’s a little bit more than just what
Geoff: a young guy and he wants to be a scout one day. What is, what is the process that you recommend for them to get started?
John: Don’t know one way to do it, but I would recommend that he go out and watch games than other scouts would be at and introducing themselves to other scouts. I’m picking up things from what, you know, if a scout likes a guy who he’s talking to, he’s going to assist him in some manner. Maybe he hears of an opening in another organization. And guess what? I’m going to call this young man up and say, hey, the Atlanta braves have an opening of a scouting, but it’s in the midwest and you know, you may have to move, um, you know, what? Get yourself in front of Alex, uh, the gentleman or the scouting director and go to the winter meetings. Present yourself and when every time you present yourself to anybody in an organization that’s a part of a resume and how you handle yourself and what they see in the way you speak. And you know, the passion that you display is all going to be in their bank. And when the time comes in and they’re looking for a replacement or they need somebody, um, if you face in Maine, flashes in your brain, you’re going to get an opportunity, but you had to go out and get that exposure. You can write all the letters you want. Don’t believe the letters have been impacted you in person. So I do the best you can to put yourself out there. You’re gonna, you’re gonna. Have to spend some time and invest in, uh, you know, working for nothing and dealing with things and to do it. There’s a young lady in this area here is 13 years old who wants to be a scout. He’s pretty darn good. Yes. She’s in the Phoenix area. He’s out in Arizona, fall league games. She was, uh, she got invited to go to vanderbilt to evaluate their players because she made a great presentation in front of their coach at the area code games and she’s 13. She was interviewed on the area code games and she has a clue how to breakdown a player and evaluate and terminology. And that’s her goal when she gets out of high school, she wants to be a baseball scout. All right? So if you got a dream, do everything you can to make that dream come.
Geoff: And you know, people, people ask me and, and you know, you just say, look, you know, you may have to go work for free for quite some time. You know, you got to think of it as an internship. You know, so most people get an internship where they work.
John: You’ve got to go and prove yourself in front of the people that make the decisions. They have to believe in you that you can handle that responsibility to put you in a position. The, this phrase has been used for years. An owner of a company, if he hires good people, he makes money and he looks good. If he hires bad people, they lose money in his business. Value goes down, right? The same thing. Coaches, if they have good players on that team, then must be a really good coach. You put that same coach with another team and the players are not very good. Well guess what? I’m the coach isn’t very good, so good people put the other people in better positions to look good and that’s the key you want to acquire the best player she can possibly get and the best people to work in your organization. So you have success.
Geoff: Is there a, is there like a, and again, I’m just thinking about my viewers here, um, is there, uh, you know, there’s your book which I highly recommend it. Um, are there any other books that you recommend for someone to kind of read?
John: Other people have put together ebooks or small books on how to become a professional scout? What do you look for that information available? I’m sure through different search engines. Uh, you can, you can research that and read up a little bit on it and see if it brings your interest to the point where, you know, get yourself deeper into the subject matter. Again, I go back to that first race. A coach is only going to teach. What do you learned when not saying it was the right stuff or we’re not saying it’s the wrong stuff, but he can’t teach. If he doesn’t know it, the scout can only scout. What have you learned? He doesn’t know it, then he can’t look for it.
Geoff: John’s been great. I’ve learned a lot and I feel our role as well. Thank you very much for your time.
John: Alright, have a good day. Anytime.
Outro. : I am Geoff Rottmayer and thank you for listenting to our conversation on The Baseball Awakneing Podcast. Stay tuned for our recap show tomorrow.