Last Thursday, The Cleat Sheet ventured to Reading, PA to check out an MLB Scouting Bureau hosted tryout. This event was open to everyone and, therefore, the range of talent was vast. Most players dressed like the next Willy Mays Hayes, trying to not only look cooler, but also better than the next player. That obviously doesn’t matter because the Scouting Bureau has a quick way of weeding out the weak: The 60-yard dash. Every position player runs. That is the first thing they do. Before throwing, hitting, and fielding, a second baseman, short stop, and outfielder must shine in the 180 feet or he may as well pack up his stuff and go home.
Sub 7 seconds is the time to post to get any recognition from the scouting bureau. Brad Fidler is the Mid Atlantic Scout for The Bureau, and his stopwatch reigns supreme during the dash. Of the 500 players who ran, three dozen posted a time that grabbed Fidler’s attention. Only one was asked to run again to make sure the 6.36 time he posted was in fact correct. Among those 36 players, a few would have a chance to gain recognition further through fielding and throwing. Only 25 players were asked to hit at the very end of the tryout. From observing the hitting, only one or two appeared to have strong line drive consistency to all parts of the field.
When it comes to pitching, Don Kohler is king. Kohler, a veteran scout for over 45 years positioned himself behind the backstop in the bullpen, and he wasn’t moving for anyone. Armed with his radar gun, Kohler set up a double barrel bullpen, to which one would be warming up, and the other battery would audition. Control seemed to be the biggest issue, and there were only a few who showed a combination of velocity and accuracy. Kohler explained to a player who just came off the mound pumping 92 mile per hour heat that he needed to take more off of his breaking ball. He continued to say that a sign of future success is the ability to use the same arm slot for multiple pitches while greatly changing speed and maintaining accuracy.
At the end of the day, The Cleat Sheet determined there were no more than a dozen or so total players, about three pitchers, who had an immediate future in professional baseball. Most of the athletes are on their way to college to improve and hopefully have more success at the next tryout. One or two may have earned themselves a contract. The experience was unique, and the talent was mixed, but it appeared that the MLB Scouting Bureau’s open tryouts are not prime scouting platform to bolster a farm system.