Dayton Moore: “Scouts have always been the backbone of an organization. It’s a legacy in our game. I’ve always felt that area scouts and minor league managers are the most important part of every organization, because of their connectivity with the players. Every player in this game is here because of the vision of a scout. The scout then turned that vision over to player development, and it was up to the minor league manager to improve upon that vision.
“Of course, the front office and the instructors — the coaches and roving instructors — are involved in that process. But again, every player’s story begins with the vision of the scout.”
Laurila: What you tell me about some of your early scouting experiences?
Moore: “When I started as an area scout, we did tryout camps all over the country. Part of our responsibility was to run those camps in rural America, and in urban America. We spent most of our time in those areas, because there weren’t as many structured leagues there. Legion baseball, Babe Ruth baseball, and Little League baseball, were all well-formed in suburbia.
“As an area scout, you’d spend a lot of time trying to cultivate those areas of your territory. That’s where a lot of players weren’t getting seen, and the fact that scouts would show up in the urban core… it became a part of the summer routine, if you will. Young players knew that the Atlanta Braves, or the Cincinnati Reds, or the Pittsburgh Pirates, were going to have tryout camps every year at Catholic University in downtown Washington D.C., or on The Ellipse, or in smaller communities, like Clarksburg, West Virginia. That would motivate kids to work hard and to play the game, because they knew a scout was going to show up and that they were going to have a chance to try out for a team.
“Now we’re at a period of time in our industry where there are showcase events. Perfect Game. There’s PBR. And you’ve got to have finances to be a part of travel ball. Scouts just aren’t doing open tryout camps anymore. There are very few workouts. In fact, the industry discourages it. Athletic administrations discourage it. High school associations discourage it. That’s one of the things that, in my opinion, has hindered the prosperity of our game with regard to interest.
“There’s nothing that I enjoyed more than running tryout camps. I’ve had a chance to run countless camps all over the country, and I also did international work for five-and-a-half years. I ran tryout camps and workouts all over Asia and Latin America.”
Laurila: What were some of your your notable experiences there?
Moore: “I remember when we signed Elvis Andrus — this is when I was with the Braves. We were in the Dominican, and Elvis was unsigned. And he was supposed to have been [signed]. July 1 came and went, and everybody thought he had a deal with the Yankees, but he remained on the open market.
“So we were having a tryout camp — the Texas Rangers were over there as well — and Elvis went over and worked out for the Rangers. We were supposed to work him out three days later, in Venezuela. We had our tryout camp — I think we were in Maracay — and it was supposed to start at nine o’clock. Elvis wasn’t there. We figured he must have had a deal with the Rangers.
“About 15 minutes after the workout began, here he came. Elvis showed up and had a really good workout for us. We’d offered him $325,000. After the workout, I said, ‘Elvis, what’s going to get this done?’ He said, ‘I’ll do it for $500,000.’ I stuck out my hand and said, ‘We’ve got a deal.’ That was before there were a lot of agents and a lot of buscones… That was one of things I loved about scouting internationally: every single day you had an opportunity to sign players.”
Laurila: What sold you on Andrus?
Moore: “I just knew that he was a major league player. I could see it in his eyes. I could see it in all his ability. There was no doubt in your mind that this kid was going to hit. Some people didn’t think he’d stay at shortstop, but I wasn’t really concerned about that. I knew that his arm and his hands were good enough, that his feet were good enough, to play the position. Some people questioned the range. It didn’t matter to me because I knew if he had to move to second base, or third base, he was going to hit enough where it didn’t matter. I mean, you were signing the bat.
“Of course, you have to rely on your your area scouts, too. Rolando Petit and Julian Perez had history with him. They signed off on his makeup. You could tell by spending time with Elvis that he was a well-grounded person.”
Laurila: Who else stands out from those days?
Moore: “Martin Prado was at a tryout camp with us. He was 18 years old, and at the time we weren’t signing a lot of 18-19 year olds — they had to be 16, as we wanted to sign them young, and [develop] them from there.
“Kids who were 18-19 years old weren’t getting a lot of money to sign; obviously they’d been passed over for the last couple years. But Martin was at our workout, and while he didn’t run a top-notch 60, and didn’t have a great arm, and wasn’t going to play shortstop, our scouts thought that he had a chance to hit.
“He’s a right-handed hitter, not a lot of power, but he didn’t swing and miss much. There was nothing special about his tools, but you could tell by interacting with Martin that baseball was really, really important to him. He was going to do everything he could to reach his ceiling. Now, he only wanted $10,000, so it wasn’t a huge investment. I knew he didn’t necessarily fit the Braves profile, but I wanted to give him a chance.
“Again, we wanted young players. We wanted to spend our money in Latin America on premium position players, primarily shortstops, catchers, and center fielders. That and left-handed pitchers, and power arms from the right side — players you couldn’t duplicate in the States. As you know, a lot of our high-ceiling talent has been coming from Latin America. If Jorge Soler or Adalberto Mondesi had grown up in the United States of America … Solar would probably be in the NFL. Mondesi would probably be playing football — he’d be a wide receiver, or maybe a quarterback — or he’d be playing basketball. Over the last 10-15 years, a lot of the high-profile players have been coming from Latin America.”
Laurila: Who are some of the domestic guys you’ve been sold on, despite them not being high profile?
Moore: “When I was an area scout, Mark DeRosa was my guy. You’ve got to spend a little more time watching guys like him and Martin Prado — and they both spent 14-15 years in the big leagues. You have to watch them play over and over, because their tools don’t stand out. But you have to remember that the game is the ultimate evaluator. The only thing those guys ever did was figure out how to help the team win games. Maybe they weren’t as tooled out as Wes Helms was during that same era, but they did put up numbers, and the most important statistic when it comes to your organization is winning games. Right? So you want to make sure that you get enough of those guys.”
Laurila: Scouts are going to pound the table for certain guys…
Moore: “The way I was trained in the game, probably 5% of the players you can’t talk me into, and 5% of the players you can’t talk me out of. You couldn’t talk me out of Mark DeRosa, because I knew he was a winner. You couldn’t talk me out of Prado or Andrus, or Gregor Blanco or Rafael Furcal. Adam Wainwright is another.
“And there are probably guys you couldn’t talk me into. I wouldn’t go on the record talking about those types of players, but I will say that I was wrong about Matt Holliday. I did like his power. He had the football thing going on, and I just didn’t know if he was going to be a productive major league hitter. I knew he wasn’t going to stay at short. That was OK — he was going to play third base, or first base, and he obviously ended up playing in the outfield — but I just couldn’t get talked into him. And I was wrong. I just didn’t think the football and the baseball thing… but what was I wrong about? I was wrong because he came from a baseball family, and if he committed to baseball he had the power in his bat, and he had the work ethic to where he could probably become a quality major league hitter.
“Again, there are 5% of the players you can’t talk me into, and 5% you can’t talk me out of. The other 90%? If you make a really strong presentation on a player that I’m just so-so on, you could probably talk me into him. I think those are the baseball people that end up being most successful over time — the ones that are able to listen to the judgments of everybody in the room, and apply what they’ve learned. They listen to the quality points about the player. You stay open-minded about the drafting of that player.”
Laurila: What other qualities do most good scouts possess?
Moore: “One thing about great scouts is that they look at the game in a way that is holistic. They utilize all the information available to them. They can’t have enough information and data. Yes, they trust their eyes — they give their own opinion, and not somebody else’s opinion– but they’re fascinated, and stimulated, by everything that’s to be learned in this game. I mean, Art Stewart is the first scout I met, when I was 17 years old. He’s a Hall of Famer, a legendary scout, and Art has never stopped learning.
“Someone asked me once — this was back when there was all this debate about old school and new school — which category I fit into: ‘Am I old school or new school?’ I said, ‘No, I’m in school.’ I’m trying to learn every day. Like Art Stewart. He’s always been in school. He’s 93 years old, and he embraces the analytics, just like he embraced all the information way back when he first started. Art was with the Royals the first year they became a franchise. So there’s a lot to learn. We all have a lot to learn.”
Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.
FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you’ve come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.