Scouting Talk with the Former National Crosschecker for the Red and Mariners
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.
Butch Baccala is the National Scouting Director for Prospect Wire. Previous to that he spent 25+ years as a National Cross Checker for the Cincinnati Red and Seattle Mariners.
On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayersits down with Butch Baccala of Prospect Wire. We discuss his career as an evaluator, scout, and national crosschecker.
In this conversation Butch talks about:
- His background in baseball and how he got into scouting.
- How different college recruiting was from scouting.
- The saying behind, if you are good they will find you.
- Playing against good competition matters in terms of being able to evaluate.
- How the analytics plays into scouting.
- How he developed his process of evaluating players.
- What a crosschecker is and the entire hierarchy in scouting.
- How the conversation goes when talking with other scouts.
- Understanding what he looks for when looking at position players.
- Understanding what he looks for when looking at pitchers.
- How a player responds to a situation matters.
- How it is important to ensure a guy has a plan and understanding on how to hit or pitch.
- Can you scout confidence?
- How the How-To of coaching confidence is missing in today’s game.
- Common flaws he sees with position players and pitchers.
- The future of scouting
- What advice he has for a young guy wanting to get into scouting.
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Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:00 Which he is the national scouting director for profit wire, our former national crop Jaeger for the Cincinnati reds and the Seattle Mariners. He joined the show and we’re talking about why he sees we’re talking about the hierarchy in scouting and he provided great insights.
Intro: 00:00:23 Welcome to another episode of the baseball and weekly podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, sexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Ron Meyer.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:48 Welcome. Good baseball mean podcast. I’m Jeff, Rob Meyer and I’m sitting here with butch because butch, how are you?
Butch Baccala: 00:00:56 I’m really good. Thank you. Thanks for having me on here.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:58 Absolutely man. Thanks for coming on. But you’re a guy who spent a lot of time in the game of baseball and men’s mainly in, correct me if I’m wrong, but mainly as a scout and I’m looking forward to learning from you today, but can we kind of share your story and then how you became a scout?
Butch Baccala: 00:01:20 Absolutely. I always dreamed of being a major league player and uh, you know, playing through high school, went to college, played summer teams, and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies I think 10th or twelfth round. And then I signed, I got, I got hurt, um, right away I had some, a supraspinatus and infraspinatus problem. And then I went from a guy, you know, I was a starter type. Um, I grew up to 93, 94, uh, and I, I wanted the ball and when I got on the mountain I was trying to go nine and I went from a guy that gets thrown later night again down to one or two and just could not. I was having problems down my arm, um, had surgery, uh, wasn’t getting better. And then they did a dye test in my neck and the dye went into my brain and I had a grandma seizure. She, yeah, I was in, I was in intensive care for three days. Once I got out of that, I just said, you know what, maybe it’s time to look at something else here. Cause I knew I want a family. I wanted to be married and have kids and um, you know, experience that also. Yeah, go ahead. Please go ahead. So I, um, I actually coached, um, in uh, at Santa Rosa Junior College. I was a pitching coach there and my first summer there I met a guy named Jim Fleming was, ended up being assistant to the general manager in Miami for the Marlins. It was at the University of Oklahoma as they’re hitting coach. And this is a really, really talented guy. I met him through, uh, my mentor and coach at San Francisco state named Orange Freeman and um, I went up to Alaska and coach with Glam and we ended up winning the national championship. Yeah. So we went to Wichita one that whole tournament, you know, we beat the gold panners and uh, we were the mat, Su minors. We ended up winning that thing. So then, um, I was lucky enough to meet a guy named Steve Mcfarland who is a scout now. I think that’s what the cubs got in the Arizona area, but he was the hay to cal poly San Luis Obispo and he offered me the pitching coach’s job at cal poly, which I took. And then I was there for two months and then it’s a really well known scout named Roger Young word signed Kevin Mitchell, darryl strawberry to name a few of his guy. I want to show you signed billy beane too. He was, he was, he was with the mets and then he got the scouting director’s job, uh, with the mariners and he offered me a dual, a job as a scout in northern California and the pitching coach in the Northwest League. So Id have I left. Uh, I left cal poly San Luis Obispo, which, you know, obviously you’ve been there. It’s an unbelievable place right on the water. There’s a place called prisma beats right there. A lot of time down there doing a lot of baseball stuff. Actually sit on the beach riding a lot of baseball stuff and, and uh, you know, hopefully, you know, deciding where my future was going to go. But then I got the scouting job and uh, you know, I was on my way
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:05:34 mainly a college guy. So obviously, uh, the college code, you’re out there, you know, evaluating their recruiting. So what was the transition like to becoming a scout in terms of evaluating players?
Butch Baccala: 00:05:52 In all honesty, you’re learning learning the first three years you’re doing it, but you’re writing reports, your email, you’re evaluating guys, you’re trying to put guys in rolls, you’re trying to project, you’re trying to, no body did you. And you’re trying to know a skills are going to improve, but you’re kind of, in all honesty, you’re really kind of blind the first three years while you’re learning how to write report while you’re learning your area, where while you’re learning where you want to do a trial complex, you know, I was a boy, how could I say this? Right? I was a guy that was gonna try to turn over every stone that I heard about. So when I first started scouting to the northwest, I did 25 tribe camps during the summer. It was just like the greg in my area or like, are you crazy? And it was, I mean, it was crazy, but what it did, it taught me is there is no substitute for hard work. Obviously you can be smart, you can work smart, but the harder you work, the better chance you have at finding really good players. Uh, and what, what, what I learned more than anything was I, I, it taught me, I started building relationships and you know, as scouts, everybody does it differently. Um, I would say the way that I decided to go on the scouting side was, is I was going to make the college coaches in the high school coaches my best friends. They were, they were going to be my network of people that I talked to to get to the players. Now every, you know, every scout does it differently. There’s a lot of scouts that and try to give the same information so they don’t miss anybody. I, I wasn’t, I wasn’t that guy. I wasn’t the guy that was worried about what the other scouts thought. I wanted to be the guy that found guys that good guys and I mean I have some unbelievable stories like I can. I can tell you a story on A. I don’t know if you remember a guy named Travis Lee, you know, he went in the first round from San Diego state. I was up in Olympia, Washington the first day of the season to see these two pictures and I’m sitting in the stands minding my own business and a guy says, he tested it. He goes, you know, there’s a better player in this town and these two guys. And I looked at him, I said, no, I really didn’t know that. Um, can you kind of directly in the way I need to go? And the guy says, okay, I know they’re over practicing right now. So I give him my car. I leave the game because I had no interest in the two pitchers and the rest of the scouts are staying there. I get in my car and go over to the other field and I walk out in the field and this guy, his first five swings, it’s three off the fence and two out of the park and he’s using wood. So I’m just like, oh my gosh, these are the stories they tell you about when you do, you know, this Guy Greg, Scottie story. When you find somebody that nobody knows about. So I watched him. It’s Travis Lee and I’m talking to. I’m talking to his dad. Uh, there’s one other scout in the area that knows about him and nobody else knows about it. I mean, because he didn’t go to any of the summer showcases that all the scouts see the players in nowadays. And it was, it was amazing. So what I did was I went and watched him play the. I stayed overnight, wouldn’t watch them play. The next day I wrote them up as like a, a straw, you know, a guy that you would take in the second, third round that would be an everyday player. Had a chance to impact your team. And after that I did not go back and watch him play. I had one of my bird dogs, nobody knew, go sit at every one of his gangs was to do, was just to report to me who was then the play. Well, I had to have my cross checker. I was an area scout den become man and uh, you know, turn it into the evaluation so I could, I could get them in the draft and I’m not gonna I’m not going to mention my cross checkers name, but he calls me. He goes, there’s nobody, there’s nobody here. Are you sure? Are you sure this guy can play? I said, number one, I’m positive. There’s no one there if you can’t see me, but through this phone I’m doing flips right now because I’m glad there’s only that we’re gonna get this, we’re going to get this guy the draft. No, I’m thinking. And here’s stipulation was that he wanted $400,000 out of high school. You know, you ended up like, I, I forget what it felt like. Two point $3, million or three point 3 million out of, out of college, but he only wanted $400,000. So I thought it was a great deal. And uh, my crosschecker would not write him up. He would. So I, I, I call you to get through the Cs that I see him play in the playoffs at the end. He, he looks, Travis Lee was tremendous. She was a tremendous high school player and so we get back to is comes to the day of the draft and uh, Chuck Lamar, who is scouting directors, one of the best guiding, does that ever worked for just a really, really sharp, sharp guy. I mean he could break them down really quick and do a really good job of breaking them down. He was, you know, he ended up being the GM of the Tampa Bay devil rays when they first started and he ate a brilliant guy. But uh, I, I, I called, it was about the fifth round and I, I, my cross checker was going crazy, you know, like I am called above him and I told her, please just drop this guy. So, so we didn’t draft him. He ended up being the first high school player ever to go to the Alaska League and he had over 400 in the Alaska League as a high school senior. And so the moral of the story was, is the draft is, comes the next year and I’m sitting at home and it’s five minutes before the draft and my phone rings. It’s Chuck Lamar. He says, do you have any travis leads on your list this year? I didn’t know when you do this, as long as I’ve done this and I’m, I’m, I’m pops out here now. You guys know me. They tease me and uh, but as long as you do it as long as I did, um, you know, there’s, there’s so many stories and so many fun stories and I don’t know if there can be a better job, uh, in, in all the world and being a scout. And especially when it’s a scout with the winning team, it’s fun.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:13:57 I know you all have stories that most people in baseball would have wished to have experience with that. So with that, you know, Travis Lee would be an example of this thing that if you’re good they will find you. But can we talk a little bit more about that same because a lot of players think that they are better than they really are and they have this approach of well, I’m good and they’ll, they’ll find me and they missed the boat. In terms of skill development and self promotion,
Butch Baccala: 00:14:39 is that what you’re saying is absolutely true. And especially with Youth Baseball today, I spent a lot of my time, obviously. I mean I worked for prospect, but I also spend a lot of time in the northern California area. I’m really lucky. Um, you know, rob Bruno, a guy with North Cal baseball, uh, lance spraying. So Chico aces, John Zuber would zoots. I mean there’s, there’s tremendous youth baseball here in northern California. So the exposure in this area for kids is fairly high. Uh, you know, the had seen, um, you know, they give signed and they commit to the schools, but when you think that you could just go out and play in, somebody’s going to notice you. I think personal opinion, I think Major League baseball we could do a better job of identifying and then selecting players. Obviously when there’s so much money spent in the major league draft, a major league ball clubs, you no want to make the right decision. They have to get their first three picks, right? That’s where the scouting director’s job and hangs on the balance. But um, you know, there are so many this year. I mean, you still get the draft this year. I’m more analytics was used in more college players were drafted. You have a better sample. I think the reason why that happened is you have a better sample size, more consistent sample size in the colleges that you could ever have in the high schools. You know, I mean, like I think you said on here that is the image sheet that we talked about. Um, there might be a guy hitting 70 and up in South Dakota and doesn’t get grafted in and people are like, are you kidding me off to this guy not be drafted? Well, I mean the six slash 70 in South Dakota might mean the fastest pitcher that kills my face is 70 miles an hour. So, um, that, that, that being said, um, I would say that, uh, you, you have to find ways. You have to have people that have experienced help you map out how you’re going to be seen and noticed, you know, starting in ninth grade,
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:17:24 you know, the kid that hit for people that are listening, you know, the, the competition matters and getting exposed to that matter and it’s not stay that you can’t go on and do something, but you know, with that stain, if you’re good, they’ll find you. That’s kind of a rare exception, you know, with the guide, the Travis Lee and the Bryce Harper and those type of guy. But even then there are a lot of pieces to it. And then, then just going out there and hitting the 6:50 in high school was 70 mile an hour pitching.
Butch Baccala: 00:18:08 So that’s happened this year. You know, most major league clubs are starting to have a different types of, putting different types of departments together to study and analyze, you know, how they want to do the draft and how much money they’re going to spend in, what way they can spend money to scout players and, you know, obtain these players so they can be winning players for that organization. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s very hard to do that with high school guys like myself. I was lucky enough to get to work for the pulse. Snyder’s of the world, the truffle, Omar’s of the world. Um, the Chris Buck was other world, you know, I mean, these guys were really, really good, good scouts and good bosses. I’m the Terry Rentals, but the one thing is, is, you know, all, all four of them, uh, like did like high school players and would let us draft high school players and you know, they were the biggest, they were the biggest wildcard. But when you’ve got a good high school player, he was an all star two, so you, you either decide you wanted to take that chance on a guy that where you couldn’t get as much information. You obviously, you try to assemble as much information and many opinions as possible so that the scouting director can make the right choice. But, um, you have so much more information, uh, in college ballpark than you do in high school. And the competition is more similar to major league competition than it is in high school
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:20:03 with the analytics. Can you talk a little bit about, is that something that you see being good for the game and for scouting? You know, what, what is your thought?
Butch Baccala: 00:20:20 You know, I’ve talked to people about this all the time because now I’m with prospect wire that bose mile who runs prospect wire has been the guy that started, um, you know, scout cash, light scope. He’s, you know, he’s trying to get as much data as he can to find out about players so that she can help major league baseball. You know, they can get the information that he has. Um, analytics to me is, is always been used. Even when I was a young Gal, I checked their averages. I looked at certain statistics that they had in the guys who were drafted in the major league draft all usually had really good staff. You know, the, the, the, if you’re going to draft him in the major league draft, they should have good stats, you know, you’re saying they’re going to be majorly player someday. They, they should have good stats. But the difference in today’s game analytically wise is um, I think there’s a, it’s, it’s a sway thing. I think there’s the guys that study analytics and understand what the analytics mean and then their scouts that scout players are not afraid to make decisions whether the Lichen guy or not and can tell you what that player is going to be in three or four years. The only thing is scout cannot tell you how the body’s going to change. You know, we’re not, we’re not guys that, you know. No, we, we, we know a lot of things, but we don’t know that now that the analytic part of it is, is that I co, I do a lot of coaching with kids. I’m kidding especially, and the launch angle stuff to me is this. I mean it’s just, it’s gone way out of hair guys teaching kids how to swing appeal to try to get to a plane of 11 to 14 percent and can hit each ball at 11 to 14 percent launch angle. They’re going to get $800. I just, I don’t know how you do that as a coach, how you can, how you can get a guy to swing at a certain angle. I’ll pitches change every pitch, but there’s so much good information. Less spin spin rates are. I mean like for me, I love spin rates because a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a form of what you can project from, but it can also tell you if a guy’s tired too so it can help you with injury. It can help you tell you that, hey, look at the spin rates now and they’re not as good as they were when we signed them. If he’s ready, pitched too many innings and now, uh, or stressful endings and the workload is starting to back up on him a little. Maybe we need to stop him for awhile or, or the, the analytic stuff is really good on telling you that. Okay. Uh, this guy’s getting back into shape, but he’s still not in shape. When you take a week off, you know, guys don’t realize it when you take a week off from pitching and then you come right at, you need time to rebuild up your arm strength. So it’s crazy. I, I, you know, I grew up in the Atlanta braves organization. We had, when we had all those winning seasons, I was lucky to get to work with John Schierholtz and Bobby Cox, uh, just off the chart. People, smart, smart baseball people. And you know, I think what people are going to find out, the groups that are studying arms and throwing are going to find out if there is no stress caused to a player. If he throws year round, it can’t be stressful. And you say like, uh, Felix Hernandez throws 236 settings, 200 of them are stressed. The landings, you know, you, you have to have a period where there’s no stress in the evenings or in your throws, but there’s no reason why you can’t touch a baseball everyday and throw a baseball.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:24:48 Yeah. Let’s go back to when you first started scouting. If I’m a young guy and I’m listening to this conversation and I want to get into scouting, help me understand what is their. Did they give you a manual and say, hey, here are the things that we’re looking for and looking at or is that something that you’ve learned over time? When did you start to gain that understanding? Because you can go watch the game and watch. The kid was kind of overwhelming with all the moving pieces that you have to see. So where, where did you start? How did you start about, you know, how’d you start bigger now? The profit that worked for you in terms of evaluating our player?
Butch Baccala: 00:25:44 Yeah, I started, I was lucky I was one of the youngest scouts. I think that every scout and I started when I was 24 and I was lucky enough to live in an area in northern California where there was a guy named Lloyd Christopher and Christopher was a former Pacific coast league player that played triple a but it was way ahead of his time in thought process for how to develop players and how to see skills into assess skills that we’re going to develop into major league schools. So I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with him, you know, talking baseball, talking, hitting A. I can remember that he said when I first started, he used to tell me there’s two boxes, player sit in ones where they stand. And one of those where they hit it and when he was telling me was, is the guys that can hit make contact out in front of a plate, they don’t lift the ball, don’t let the ball get deep. And um, it’s amazing the process you go through while you’re learning. Now when you are learning, you are developing your own sense of style, um, uh, how you’re going to write reports, your own, how you verbalize things, uh, in the, in how you write them. So, um, I was a rider, you know, my griffin used to tell me they go crazy. Go Bush. Right, right, right, right. I mean, can you condense these reports? And I tell them, no, I can’t because this is what I, this is, this is how I do it, you know. So I was lucky enough to work with people that let me, uh, be be who I was. But what I would say today, uh, when you go out and you start scouting, obviously it takes time to develop that style. It takes courage to not just be one of the guys, you know, go to the park and a person, not just because one guy likes the guy. I can’t remember when I first started scouting, I did not like tiny Jones who was a first round pick down in the San Diego area. He was a long torsos short legged player. And I knew, I knew because I was a long torso short legged player that those type of people ended up having lower back problems. It’s just the structure. And I was just, I, I just, I could not bite on him. I could not go on. And um, I ended up being right, you know, he never even been planes in Aa and then get to the big leagues and um, but there’s guys you’re wrong onto because you can get a little stubborn. But as it is, as a first year, second year, third year, guys, I think you, if I was to give advice to all the scouts that are trying to get involved now, a number one, I would say, don’t be a know it all. You know, you’ve got, you’ve got these great resources that have been around the game. I mean, I got to talk. Scouting was guy like Eddie Bockman. I’m a Dicky. Hamlin used to help me a lot. Um, I built a guy named Bob tool with the phillies back then. Uh, there was just so many guys that wanted to help a young person like me, um, and, you know, show them the ropes and tip, you know, teach them how to do their expenses and how to do maybe a workout if you’re going to work out a player. Um, you know, there’s so many things you do not. Today’s game is definitely different. Um, the process of it is definitely different. I would say that the area scouts are more like a bird dog now where they’re just a identifying and then there’s people that come in above them and make the decisions and they’re more responsible for just going into the house. Having a gut feel of, of this, this guy really want to sign your. We’d rather go to college and knowing if he’ll take a certain amount of money or you won’t.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:30:26 Right. And when you talk about guy above you, you, you’ve worked your way up into the natural crop checkers now with several teams. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, what that is, maybe what the difference is in the admin there. Maybe you can talk a little bit more about the entire hierarchy.
Butch Baccala: 00:30:51 Sure. Um, you know, it starts all at the area scout or area supervisor, then it runs into a western regional scout scouting, crosschecker, Midwest Crosschecker, East Coast Guard sector. Um, you know, southeast crosschecker in northeast crosschecker. Every team does it differently where they have a certain amount of, um, a regional crosscheckers now. Then you have your national cross checker where there’s usually just one or two and he, those two along with the scouting director will usually make the decisions about the top three guys. They drafted the first three rounds. It’s a good scouting directors used the entire organism nation. And, and do it that way. Like I can, I can go see a guy one time and I supposed to make an opinion on a lot of player one time. Well, I had no problem developing that skill, you know, to go in and see a guy, even if he goes off for, for seeing what he can do and making a good report. Uh, but I’m in the key was always in my mind how good of an area scout you had, how hard was the area scout work, how here’s the valuation was, uh, there were some guys that I would cross check for that were their scouts and I never thought they were right. Then I would throw into some areas and I knew that I see the player and it was just like almost described exactly what I seen on the report from the area scout about that player. So, you know, I mean there’s different levels of skill obviously at all areas. You know, when you get to be the national cross Checker, you’re going to see, um, mechanical things and things that don’t work a little bit more than their scouts. You want to make sure that your areas have all the players on this draft list that can can play and that should be seen. Whereas the National Cross Checker, my job was just, I can still see it to. This buck was coming up to me when I was with the reds and he was the director and I was the national cross checker and he goes, he goes, Bush, your job, your entire job is to make sure that I don’t screw up on our first three picks, but I don’t. I make, I make the right pick if you think I’m not going to make the right pick, it’s your job to tell me don’t take this guy. But it’s. I mean, it’s funny because I think it will pick this. I pitched that I had really big ses in a when I was with the reds and I was only one in the reds draft room besides, um, one other guy of seven of us that wanted Mike Link. Everybody. Everybody wanted a guy named Alex white that was at North Carolina and they were comparing Alex white to John Smoltz. Well guys, I, I was with Atlanta when John Smoltz was there. Alex White was. No. John Smoltz. Okay. So, um, you know, I loved my clique. I was lucky enough to seeing it’s to pitch three a game, three different games that Arizona state that year and you know, I fought for him, I fought for him in the draft room and we ended up getting them as the number seven pick and he gone out and had a pretty nice career and the other guy to the other, the other guy was Zach Kozart. Um, I w we, we, our area scout liked them. They did a really good job on him and we didn’t do a very good job from a regional crosscheck standpoint and seeing him early enough and our guys didn’t like them. So I get a call one night, I forget where I was on a Thursday night and you know, it’s bustling. Says, Hey, I need you to get to Tennessee immediately and go watch ZAC codes for three days and tell me if I need to come see him. I went and watched that goes out and obviously in college that goes, that was a very, very good player and I took a Sunday night. I said, you need to get your butt in here now. This guy is the best college shortstop, I’ve snow year and we ended up getting them in the second round. Yeah. So it needs to come in all star and you know, he’s made a lot of money and he started a really good job. So you’re good stories and then there’s not so good stories of guys that you do like any adult, like. So the National Cross checker can go in anywhere. The Hamilton in Mississippi, uh, we’ve had really mixed reports on him. I went and saw him and our, one of our national guys have done a really nice job on him. Uh, but some of our other people did not, you know, like in Hamilton now, in the big leagues, there’s a player in the majors, a AK steel running doesn’t really hit, which surprises me because I saw him. He was a shortstop, a little highschool, Mississippi, and he could absolutely play shortstop. I mean tremendous range and enough arm and he would hit balls up in the sky and with, you know, with a, with a aluminum bat and like six, six, seven, six, eight. So that, you know, you can, you can judge on fly ball length, Bible high. So, you know, I, I had, I had a feeling I wrote in my report that may be a lot better hitter than we think he may be. So, and he never, he has never become that guy. I mean he’s a speed player all the way. It’s you, you in the National Cross checker has his job as he goes in there and he puts the players in line on his list. And I always used to do it two ways. I would do a list one through, I would see probably 250 players a year, you know, from a, from January 15th to May 30th. And uh, I would put them online and then I would do, I would do a list by position. Okay. And then I would do, I did my own list of guys that a graded out high just by role, just by like, okay, so you go in and see a third basement and you’re judging all five tools. But to me the best way to scout a player is by scout the position in the best three tools for the provision. So if first based you would throw out fielding ability and running away, you know, so it would be just, it would be her throwing ability, excuse me. So you would throw out, you would just use for a first baseman is hitting grade is power grade in this field, in grade, he’d forget the other two and I think that just works best for all the positions and you get more of A. I mean there’s not many five tool players and if you can, if you can get three tools at one position and they tool out then you’re going to have marked two sheriffs. You know, those type of players every time
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:38:55 that will present prayers to you. Maybe sometime to doug the match what you’re for and what they’re seeing. What was that conversation like? Kind of a sell me on this type of conversation or.
Butch Baccala: 00:39:14 No, I never. I was always wanting to talk to our scout about the player that I saw because I, I never, I felt like we owed it to that area scout. He’s working his butt off in his area. He was the first one to have the courage to make a report on that player. Um, and I felt like it was every bit is right to know how we felt about that player. So I always, when I saw player, I mean I had many times when my boss has asked me not to talk about the player to the Scout. And in those situations I would tell her scout, our bosses asked me not to talk to you about the player, but every other time I felt it was my job to, to, to tell them what I saw, how I projected it. And the comparison, a player comparison. I think that’s really huge when you’re in a scouting staff that you’re able to give a plane comparison to somebody you’ve seen that was like that player. So I can remember John Schuerholz telling me, um, after my third year I was going to get a promotion to a cross checker and John Schuerholz, he told me, he goes, I don’t really feel comfortable giving you this promotion because I believe that a scouts and scouting area for 10 years to build up an encyclopedia of players that he seen so that he can compare those to the players he sees in the future. And I think, I think that, that right there is, is one thing that is from, is so true. Because it was easy for me after I scouted for 10 years to say, Oh man, this kind of reminds me of this guy is my third year scouting. You know, back in, in that guy never made it. Did you know, you never, you never found out the same guy never panned out. Well, I was involved with signing a todd. You know, we got, we took todd, uh, in our second pick in the, in the first round it took Devin Misuraca and then we took todd and todd was a real, a bottom hand armbar swinger. But todd first action was back into his body with his elbow so he could get inside balls were most guys that are armbar guys go around balls when they hit and I had the experience where I’ve watched a ton of hit her so I can see that where other guys would say, oh, this guy’s an Armbar hitter, you know? Well, he’s really not an armbar history. He hits Roman arm bar, but he doesn’t hit with an arm bar. So no, there’s experience. Um, definitely helped me see more players. You definitely have a better chance to make better decisions and make you make more mistakes too. Because I’ve seen what guys in your, you instinctively you want to like players.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:42:48 Let’s start with the position players. What are you looking at? You know, if I’m a young player and I’m listening to this conversation trying to figure out what I need to work on to get us out the lynching, what do you, what do you say? What, what, what, what do I need to work on for you to stay? I got the tour that are worth looking at.
Butch Baccala: 00:43:13 I don’t know how it works or not until I go to his practice and watch them practice or go to a workout to workout. I, number one, I think you have to look for, I don’t think size has anything to do with what you’re looking for, but I never believed in size have always been a believer in strengths, you know, a strong play and there’s has to be strengths in a player’s body composition. And what he does with his tools, strength has got to be part of it. Now, uh, you, I mean, I was lucky enough to scout destined for joy when he was in high school. How could you, I mean, yeah, obviously destined for royal was balding in high school. Essentially fail was short in high school, but his skills and tools were good and his playing ability to play the game was a 10. So, um, there’s all kinds of players. They’re skilled players, there’s tools players, there’s rob as crude. And usually what happens is, is as they grow older and they start to get their strengths and their tools become skills played in the game, then those guys are the guys that used to play in the big leagues. You obviously look for. I looked, I used to look for easiness out easy. A guy could do it, you know, I watched them a shot. I’ll make some of those plays a, even though I hated the way he acted in the games, as immature as he was a and selfish as he was. Some of the plays that he made in the game were incredible. The body control, the, uh, ability to, to, uh, do some things while he was in the air with a body action in fluid. This, um, it was, it was crazy. But, um, you know, in order to play in the Middle Infield, you, it all starts with the feet. Guys have to have good footwork and they have to be able to, to use their feet in when they’re attacking the ball. And usually the guys that have good speed, usually it combines with hands. So usually have good hands gets beat up, arm strength, more worried, you know, I mean when, when you talk about range, I think range is a really overused tool because when, when guys do so range, how often are they able to throw guys out? So I was more concerned with players that could make the place I wanted to play. I wanna play makers, I wanted guys that made the routine routine and didn’t make errors, you know, like um, I can remember when I was with Cincinnati and we got Aaron Hooray from the Hayes and became a very good picture with us. But part of Aaron’s problem was we got Adam Dunn in left field and Adam Dunn was a terrible fielder. So Adam Dunn would give up probably two balls and game that should have been caught a that would have saved the picture anywhere from 12 to 25 pitches in a game. And people, that’s what people don’t realize is, is this, you know, the teams run on defense when people think that, oh, it’s just all offense. The teams that have the good defense are able to give pitches to the chance to get into that seventh or eighth or ninth inning because they’ve made the place so that they don’t have to throw extensive or extended
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:47:28 are anything in the game. You know the gal from the coach and the people that are anything in the game that are watching the game, they understand the game so they know that the guy didn’t make the play and that you did your job at the pitcher to get the ground ball. You did your job so you don’t have to beat yourself up. So how player responds mattered though. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Butch Baccala: 00:48:06 Hashtag Cup playing under pressure and in my mind is really, really important tool because a lot of the players you see all have the same skills. I’ll have tremendous skills, tremendous ability to make contact, hit the ball, hard to make place, but our guys going to react under pressure. Now I don’t buy the bullshit that curse shock can’t perform in the playoffs for a tremendous, tremendous player. One of the best lefthanded pitchers of all time. Just like I will not buy the fact that mookie Betts, he had a terrible play off this year world series. So, uh, can I say he can’t play? No. The bryce Harper’s or the world to play with 12 energy on a skeleton that get after the game, they play with a certain violence. You know, I saw, I saw him in the, in the JC before he drew. He was assigned by the nationals the first pick. And if you want to talk about a guy that can’t, couldn’t catch, he was the guy he could not catch. He was, he closes his eyes. He would flinch on swings. He dropped his head. Um, I mean, I’ve never seen a guy that was such a good prospect, a look as bad defensively she did behind the plate. But then again, he’s stepping to the plate with that Shalala in the sand. And there was no denying that he was the best shit or that you were going to see. So, you know, everybody is, it’s different for everybody. But playing under pressure brings a different, um, you know, brings a different intangibles to the game. And it’s so important that when you, when you’re trying to obtain players, have the best information you can get is, is about a guy’s makeup. Now, uh, four years ago I was out, I was working for the mariners and Jack and Jack had me see, I saw camp that summer. I saw, um, in a couple other guys and I sat out for 30, I think it was 17 days, 17 straight days. And what I can tell you about this now that I know is that he’s a great human being. His teammates love him and he was actually the leader of the Oakland a’s back then. You know, when you trade a three hole hitter on your team, that’s three. Hold liturgies are the backbone of your scene. You know, he’s the, he’s the, he’s the grind in the clubhouse. She’s the guide on the field. He gets it done when it’s the most important to get it done. And he’s the guy that always comes through with runners in scoring position. And I would have never known that in less. I sat out for 17 days and did my research. I talked to as many people as you can. The radio announcers from each team know the players probably better than anybody, so they if you can get to them and they trust you even get some unbelievable information. Yes.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:52:00 He plays third base. He’s got quick hands, maybe a strong arm, maybe a slight upper cut swing, and he’d got some beats, but he got the abilities. You know what, what the Prophet of where the scout on a guy like that.
Butch Baccala: 00:52:25 That goes back to the evaluating on the three tools that matter the most for that position. If he can hit these, the third baseman, if he can hit it, he’s got power. If you got fielding ability, those are the first three. Then throwing ability and speed are the last two. So if he can do the first three or you can do to have the first three and then he has a throwing arm. You know, he, he, he’s probably a pretty good player. That has a chance to play in the big leagues. Now, when you’re looking at swing a, when you’re looking at hard contact, when you’re looking at guys that hit with runners in scoring position, um, all those things, obviously, I mean, you’re trying to see what you can see mechanically, how a guy gets his Paul when he makes contact, whether it hits the bench elbows, uh, whether east got great hip action where the hits. I mean there’s so many things, markers that I know I used to look for in hitters and you know, the biggest thing is, is whether they have good eyes and they can see, you know, sometimes you wonder if thinking that you would see or if they have a depth perception problem and there’s so many things that go into it. But did you guys get to the big leagues? And I don’t care who they are. If they’re in the big leagues, they’re, they’re pretty damn good.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:54:04 Right? What about when you go and see a guy and he’s got, he’s got a good swing, got quick hands. He can play a little bit, but he doesn’t have a clue where his strikes known his or he doesn’t have a game plan or an approach. What? Go through the mind of a scout.
Speaker 4: 00:54:27 Okay. Sorry. Peanut. Here I was a scout. I never worried about the guy swinging and missing out a strike zone. Never worried about it. I worried about guys that one in miss in the strike zone and they would or wouldn’t swing in the strike zone. Now a plate discipline is huge, uh, being able to understand your hitting mechanics and being taught, you know, like if a guy is connected in his hitting, his hitting actions, um, he’s going to hit with bench elbows. So like his hands and arms are going to be in els when he hits. Okay. So when he met, con act is usually clearing with your bottom hand in his top panel is coming to, to smack the ball. His palm is up, there’s bending the elbows and his eyes are always in front of his bat. Okay? So, I mean, like for me today, an overused term is, is let the ball get deep. When I hear guys let the ball get deep, I want to scream and tear whatever little hair I have in my head out because it’s the worst information you could ever give a kid. Let the ball get deep, right? I hear him. I don’t mind the word travel because the boss traveling, so it leaves the pitcher’s hand, but you, you, you, you have to be taught both in the stance and the reasons why that approach and stance puts you in a position to hit strikes and to let balls go. And the coaches can do that with players. Um, you know, guys just, uh, have better a strike zone. Discipline usually see better than other. Um, and I mean, just make better decisions when they have to make decisions with their eyes in that quick. It was the quickest time they have to make that decision, right? So, um, you know, I’m trying to think of the guy’s name. Torii hunter. If you were to watch story hunter, he would say he’s kind of a wild hitter. He’s like Vladimir, you know, just let it rip wherever. Well Tory, for any term you would throw him on the strike zone. He never missed. Right. So, you know, I mean when Tory hunter would extend this drags out and swing at balls, he killed himself because he was so good in the strike zone. Never missed. So Jeff and guys, just those wise.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:57:42 Yeah,
Butch Baccala: 00:57:45 go ahead. I’m sorry.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:57:47 What about competence? You know, for the people that are listening, can you look at a player in scout competence? Yeah.
Butch Baccala: 00:57:57 Yes, no doubt. Certain players. Okay. For me, when I worked with kids and evaluate kids’ confidence is number one, The kids that have success in her good, they just believe in themselves and they got a swagger that’s a little bit different than most, right? It’s, you know, it presents itself, you see it immediately. And by the way they respond to adults, the way they respond to their teammates, the way they respond to their coach, where they respond to the empires. Yeah, I mean it’s very. When you’re trained and you’ve watched a lot of players, you see it immediately. Do you see guys that don’t have confidence in themselves? So um, competence is like, is a cure all I know the kids that I’ve worked with, when they start to get their confidence and they started to turn the corner and you see them turn the corner and they see this, they see themselves during the corner in the live world. It’s like a whole new world there.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:59:14 Yeah, I agree. There’s a lot that goes into competence that people don’t realize, you know, got to work hard. You got to prepare, you’ve got to know thyself. You just gotTa have a way about you. But there is, you know, the how to part. That seemed to be missing because the kids are missing because they’re just not taught the how to part.
Butch Baccala: 00:59:43 I think you’re right. What is coaches not able to reach a kid? Number one, communication wise. And then number two, the ability to teach these kids are lost. Then you get to this guy, the guy that can coach understands what he’s trying to teach. And I’m not a big guy on, on people buying into what we’re doing. I’m a big guy in a coach knowing what he does in players believing in that coach, believing in what he’s teaching and it’s, I think it’s huge when players can be coached coaches, show them technique, mechanics and make them better, and then they start to flourish because the belief in themselves rose so quickly.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:00:58 A common flaw that you see nowadays with position players where you just sit there and go, Jesus, this is killing me. You know, and, and I see this all the time. You know, what, what the common flaw.
Butch Baccala: 01:01:13 Okay. Um, position players, I would say they don’t know how to get sideways. Yeah. Well, uh, you know, in order to throw a ball hard with accuracy, you have to get sideways. And I see people teaching guys at their feeder for, you know, 24, you know, they turned their bodies that way and it just, it can’t swell more than anything as a position player, just like a picture has to get sideways before he delivers to ball. And I think we need to do a better job of teaching guys how to stay between their feet when they shuffle in that crossover backstep and will help guys stay in a position to be sideways when they throw. And then for hitters, this is the number one thing I see in the kids I work with that I changed immediately. They have instant results. That movement has to stop before the pitch comes to the plate. If you’re the watch guys, shit and kids, yet they’re backs are either. They’re either mixing the butter, their bat head is flying in front of their hands. You can’t hit was the barrel head in front of your hands. The apparel has to stay behind. Grants your hands lead the barrel to the ball. So when I see a kid in his preliminary movements and actions and his hands are moving, people have caught them and inward role, um, I would tell you to go watch big leaguers, yet it was before the ball comes to the plate, everything comes to a stop. They, they load to their bodies, they hit with their hands. So that’s the biggest thing we hitters, I see his hand movement, which is a negative because then guys get between their stride in their hand movement.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:03:23 And what about pictures?
Butch Baccala: 01:03:26 Um, pictures I would say a couple of things. I don’t understand why right here. This fits on the left hand side of the rubber and left is on the right hand side of the river. I believe in angles on you. You’re pitching the angles to a plate and you’re trying to create animals on a plate. And when a pitcher throws from the complete right hand side of the rubber, the lefthand side of the rubber, his arm swing is right into the hitter’s bat. It drives me crazy. I’m a big believer that you want to create angle so that the ball comes off a player ship. It’s harder to hit a ball coming off your hip and it is coming into your back, into your body. The other thing was pictures, um, that really bothers me is we’re not developing starting pitchers anymore. We’re delivered, we’re, we’re building fast, throwing hard, throwing one to two pitchers a now. And I’m a big believer that if a guy has a delivery, has body field, has athletic ability, he can teach him to be a starting pitcher and I think we need to do a better job in all of baseball is starting a youth baseball to start building a starting starting type. That means throwing in a week I’ll be used. We do a terrible job in the youth game. I’ve been a pitcher pitch on a Saturday and then you might touch the ball one time the next week and then back in Chris again the next Saturday. Horrible. We do a horrible job with letting kids wrote three days in a row. She never happened. No. I mean there’s things that are. We just didn’t do a bad job on that. We can really be a lot better at.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:05:27 Yeah. What was the thought? You know, seeing guys are throwing harder with, with Mac advert throws and even with the swing you’re seeing a lot of effort out of control swing and you know, we’re kind of really fold on that, you know, are being sold on the power and the velocity of where’s that? And for the most part it did because they’re getting the money at the big league level. So at some point though that we see where this is going, this can’t be good. There’s got to be some balance between being so passive aggressive.
Butch Baccala: 01:06:09 I think, you know, you talked about controlled aggressive. I talked with my players and players. I Scout, uh, I like, I want to see, I just want to see him quick and aggressive myself. I want to see violence through the plate. I mean, when I say violence, I don’t mean body violence or that kind of stuff. I mean I either want to see wicked movement or just such tremendous batch sleet and hip speeds that it was a car crash when the ball’s collided. And I mean those things are different now. I think when you see, when you see a player, when you’re watching a player Pitcher, the first thing I look at is their head, what is your head going? Okay. Now if either dive in, it’s either snapping or it’s either still. So the guys with the steelheads, they have the chance to be starting type pictures. They’re gonna throw more strikes because their head’s still. The guy that goes against that whole theory is Max Scherzer because Max scherzer every time he throws his head snapping, it’s almost like he’s going to break his neck. Okay. You said it’s all over the place. He dives and when I saw him at the University of Missouri, I seen a guy pitched. The first Jenny is dominant is you can pitch 96 breaking ball strike zone. Nobody touched the ball after that. I saw a guy that I thought, you know what, this guy’s best role in the major leagues maybe as a closer. So a different guys do different ways. Um, you know, you watched them and she was in the world. The smaller you go the world, those guys would just strike throwers and they can throw strikes whenever they wanted. They could move the ball both sides of the plate. They knew how to speeds. They knew how to change direction. Um, and they just had that feel. I mean, I think it’s more feel. I don’t know how many guys have feel anymore because I think they just see that velocity earns money so they go out and try to throw 98 to 100. Well, look at the world series. If you’re looking at Boston staff, I mean incredible arm. It’s incredible when you get above 96 to throw to a hitter, it goes to a different range of guys that can make quality contacts on the can’t. It’s the numbers are they show you that is so much smaller of an area. So, uh, you know, drive lines, what they’re teaching, how to get power running power and all those things. I see what they’re doing. Do I like it or agree with it? Probably not a little bit more conventional that you, I’m a big believer in you track your things that you’re going to do in the game. I’ve still never seen a guy runs 16 steps before. It’s always a baseball to home plate. You know, I understand how is teaching you how to build power and to teach your arm to move as fast as it came. But, uh, I, my, my thing is be the Ashram also. How many starting pitchers are you guys developing?
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:09:55 We need more. We go from one extreme to the other. But anyways, no. Now that now you are a national scouting director for prospect wire, can you talk a little bit about that and, and, and how that role, if it is any different than what you’ve been doing? Yeah,
Butch Baccala: 01:10:16 no, I’ve been lucky enough to get out of pro baseball. I got to work for a group called programs 15 and a new bow street just start series. Now I’m lucky enough to be with, uh, with prospect wire and prospect wire. We do tournaments, we do all American games. We do a lead, 100, uh, but we’re trying to find ways more ways into, um, the analytical part. No sitescope the seeing the, the, how far balls are going to spin rates and we’re trying to develop techniques into seeing from all the data that we’re collecting outer projects players out of it. You know, it’s a, it’s a whole new world. Um, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to be around because now, um, you know, everybody would call me old school and you know, um, I can write reports with the best of them and I can break down players with the best of them, but I’m at 56 becoming even a better scout because I’m understanding how to balance all this information. What we have to do as an industry is find people that can balance this information and then see it from an analytical standpoint that like a hitting coach where I can take the information that I’m given from these stats in change, certain things that I have to change in order to make this guy a better hitter. Whether it’s going to be given him a more launch angle, whether it’s going to be teaching them how to get to the strikes, have quicker with his hands, whether it’s going to be to teach him, not to get off the plate too soon though, swinging golf or play through. So there’s so many things in this, um, in these analytics that we’re learning about the player. It’s, it’s going to be really depending upon how we put that information to use in the way we teach because it’s no good if we don’t know how to teach it
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:12:48 either, you know, whatever the data said, regardless of anything else or were totally against the were so old school that we don’t want anything to do with this. So I think there needs to be balance, you know, I think the good thing for both, but there needs to be balanced with like anything else,
Butch Baccala: 01:13:13 baseball guy, like I’m a baseball guy and any information that we can get it right, who doesn’t want information, information helps you learn, makes you better. And um, it’s a place where all everybody needs to go. Now there the balance that I think that you’re talking about and, and I believe it to be the same, is how to, how to directly take the analytics with the ground rules, you know, the, the ground floor of the scouting and the information that the scouts give and get to those analytic reports that these guys are just looking at or looking at machines and looking at launch angles. And Bob Kerrey and ball speed and spin speed and spin rate and all those things. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s going to be interesting because if I’m a guy that has been a ground roots scout guy who totally believes in that it’s old school, so I believe in the scouts. I believe it has to have scouts and scouts have to be part of the equation. But I also see the, the, the, the need for the use of the analytics also, but I see it more from a developer then a production standpoint different.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:14:50 What’s the future of scouting?
Butch Baccala: 01:14:54 I think it’s changing again myself. I think here in the next five years, more people are going to start hiring scouts again, wait a in going away from analytics, but understanding that there’s something to be seen instead for the scouts, seeing it in person, having the gut instincts to say this guy can play or not, and then trying all the other information in so that it’s a quality pitch. I think it’s ridiculous to say college players are more important than high school players or high school players or more importantly college players. I think there you need a ballot. I think a good organization has a balance of both and um, he, I, I still totally believe that you will find your star players from high school and the first three rounds I think you should have scouts. We able to see the king griffey Jr’s the prince fielder’s, you know, the joey bottles. I think you should be able to see them and identify them in high school, in draft them. And then there’s layers they just developed later and become later. And those are the guys that decide that they, they believe in themselves, they wanted education, they want to get better in college and then they come out three years and guess what their first round choices. So I think we can do a good job and you know, everything’s tied and everything is tied about what’s in your farm system. So when you’re in the draft room and you’re going to draft, start your draft and you always want to take the best player that you can take, your organization might be so close that one type of a player might get you over the hump. So you have to drop that guy that year so it might away from everything and believe in, in the draft because the only thing that you should believe in is winning at the big league level. That’s all that matters. So, uh, it changes, you know, and you use the, I would say that like the Boston Red Sox have done a tremendous job and I’ve had tremendous scouting people and people leading their organization through there. They’re doing a great job of signing and then developing their talents but also having the money they want to have that you can possibly have and going out and getting the players to supplement those guys as they do graph.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:17:54 I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. If I’m a guy listening to this, I think I want to get into scouting. What, what advice do you have for that guy?
Butch Baccala: 01:18:09 Immediately start going to the ballpark every day. Start writing reports on players, going to games and trying to find a prospect and then write a report about it. And then I’m getting your resume together, sending it into major league teams, but going to the winter meetings and trying to set up meetings for yourself with the assistant scouting director of the scouting director who are, or whoever hires the handling of hiring people in your organization, in an organization. But the more people, the more that people see you and identify you as a person and then you’re trying to get a job, the better chance you have of getting that job.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:19:07 It’s been a great conversation. Thank you for your time and thank you for everything that you just shared with us in this last hour and a half.
Butch Baccala: 01:19:15 I appreciate you calling me and including me in this and uh, just showing me the respect of a guy who’s done this for a long time. And it was really fun in, you know, when you get to be my age, all you. There’s no agenda for yourself. I have to admit, when I was young I wanted to do everything and be everything and it was an entirely different agenda. But now today, my agenda, it was just all about the kids and given back to the game. Yeah. Do I make money teaching kids and said, yes I do. People are, are, are very, very, very nice to me in, in when I helped their kids and they want to take care of me. But they also know that, um, you know, when we, when we get to this age, we do have a lot of, um, experience of my acts. I have this, you know, you have numerous contacts that you can always draw upon and your agenda is to help a kid get to the next level and helping him a be a better person. Have high character. I mean, I’m begging the John Wooden Pyramid of success and, you know, um, just everything that John wouldn’t encapsulated a who wouldn’t want to be like John was. So I really appreciate your time. It’s been fun. Thank you.
Outro: 01:21:04 Thank you for listening to our conversation on the baseball wakening podcast. Stay tuned for our recap show tomorrow.