Q & A: Rays Scout Rico Brogna (Part 1)

Early this week the Rays announced that former Mets and Phillies first baseman Rico Brogna had been hired as a scout by the team. Brogna was kind enough to talk with Rays Digest from his home in Connecticut. In part one of this exclusive interview he discusses his love of scouting, his personal views on the craft, and what his role will be with the Rays.

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Rays Digest: What exactly is going to be your responsibilty as a scout for the Rays? Are you going to be doing advanced scouting? Or scouting amateur players? What exactly is your role going to be?

Rico Brogna: It's a great opportunity, because the Rays are going to allow me to scout pro, guys in Double A, Triple A, Single A, maybe some big league scouting. But it's more in line with gathering reports on pro players. Sometimes there is advanced scout work for the pro scouts during Playoff time. But my main job is gonna be pro scouting. Which is great, I'll get to scout players at all levels in the minors and some in the Major Leagues – for other teams – it is more of outside, external scouting work.

Rays Digest: So are you going to be scouting players within the Rays system? Or just players outside of their system?

Rico Brogna: I'm going to be scouting players outside of the system. There is some of that internal scouting, but this is scouting other players from other organizations that are already in the pros.

My exact coverage is still being developed. Most of the teams that I'll cover during the season will be a lot of the Northeast teams – which there are so many of – because there is the Eastern League, the International League, the NL and AL East. There is some northern South Atlantic teams too. So there are a lot of teams in the Northeast to cover, which is great. There will be others too, but that is gonna be my primary job.

Rays Digest: Well that was kinda going to lead me to my next question. You live in Connecticut and your currently the football coach at Notre Dame-Fairfield. Are you going to be staying with that job and doing scouting on the side that will keep you in the Northeast?

Rico Brogna: My job is with the Rays. It's full-time. To be honest with you – to answer the best way I know how – I'm still kinda not sure. But there is no doubt that my Rays' job is my priority. So we'll see about the football. I'm not sure.

Rays Digest: As a former MLB player what kinds of advantages do you think you have over scouts who were non-players. What kinds of things do you look for in players, that from your experience as a player, are important things that may get missed by other scouts?

Rico Brogna: That's a great question. I think that the first thing that comes to mind in that regard is the experience. Playing – and playing for a good chunk of time – having been in the action, gives you a different type of feel, if you will, for players. I think the experience of playing is very valuable.

The best way to describe it is that when you're a major league player you're basically scouting every day. You're scouting the opponents. You're scouting the pitching. You're scouting their offense. You're scouting the other team and all of their players. You're not a scout, you're a player, but one of your main jobs as a player is to be a scout of sorts. I think that experience is invaluable.

Rays Digest: In preparation for this interview I was reading some of your writing for the WFAN website. Something that you wrote in one of your pieces struck a chord with me. You were talking about Jose Reyes and you were saying that you have your own personal criteria and value chart that you put together for players. So I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your evaluation process when you're looking at players?

Rico Brogna: To preface that a little a bit: The unique thing about being a scout for a team - when you scout for a team like the Rays – it's not so much about my criteria anymore. I can take my experiences of course, but I want to take what the organization wants to know first. Each team has their own criteria. So I'll obviously be following in line with what the Rays want to find out.

That being said, when I was doing some blogging and I had been on the field a few years away from scouting, I kind of on my own, took what I was taught and what I've learned and kind of made my own criteria. Not so much different from what team's want to know. So there are things that I look for, but now that I am with a team, obviously the priority of the job is to meld that together with what the team is looking for.

What I was talking about when I was writing about that is something along the lines of a player's abilities, his make-up, what that player can become in his best prime years as a big leaguer. It's more of a grade and a value chart. There are numbers and letters, of course, that I use to put a grade on a player. Obviously Jose Reyes, when I was doing that research, got a very high grade. He's a super, super talent.

But with the Rays, I can still use my experiences and what I have learned, but it will be more in line with what the Rays are wanting to know and using the Rays' grading system and value chart if you will. It's not like mine is completely unique. Maybe a little bit. Each team tailors it to what their philosophies are. So at the time when I wasn't with a team I came up with my own philosophy, but it's really not that different from what teams look for.

Rays Digest: The Rays are obviously an organization that really relies a lot on scouting and player development and using the system to populate the major league team because of the economics of what they have to work with. Part of their success has been that they have an organizational philosophy that starts at the top with the front office and trickles all the way down through the system. How do your own personal values and philosophies as a player and a scout match up with the way the Rays do things?

Rico Brogna: I think it is one of the things that really attracted me to the job and being a part of the Rays. I thought a lot of my personal beliefs on scouting and player evaluation was very much in line with what the Rays look for and a lot of their philosophies. Their's and mine are very similar. I was lucky to have a few opportunities with different teams – and I say that humbly – but that was one of things that stood out about possibly being part of the Rays' organization is that a lot of their core beliefs and philosophies in their developmental system and scouting are very similar to what I believe in.

A lot of that starts with the make-up of a player. It's very important to every team obviously, but every team is unique. The uniqueness of the Rays and the way they have been operating – and highly successfully too – is something that drew me in. I'm still learning. I'm still getting my material on how I am going to be scouting for the Rays, but I was very much attracted to the way the organization evaluates players.

Rays Digest: I was also reading an interview you did with Baseball Prospectus back in 2007 when you were with the Diamondbacks I believe. You started talking a little bit about statistical analysis. Sabermetrics have kind of become familiar even to the more casual fans. Most people know what WAR is and stuff like that. How much of an emphasis do you put on statistical analysis? What are your thoughts on using it along with scouting reports to evaluate a player?

Rico Brogna: I have really taken a lot of time the past six or seven years to educate myself in that arena. I really ask a lot of questions and study a lot from people that have a deep knowledge of it to try and get smarter and learn more in that realm.

Again it is kind of in line with the way the Rays approach it. You just get every piece of statistical information that is available on players and you use it all. You try to get the best picture you can with all the available information. I believe there is a lot of things that can be learned about a player through their trends, their history and their statistics. That along with the visual part and going to see them play.

So I believe in using it all and not really wasting any information. Because something in there might be very valuable, whether it be statistically or visually, in trying to figure out who the player is and what kind of player he can become.

Rays Digest: You were the manager of the Mobile Bay Bears in the Diamondbacks system in 2010. How did you like that experience and how does it compare to scouting? As far as job in baseball goes do you prefer being a manager? Or do you prefer scouting?

Rico Brogna: I really liked it and I like scouting a lot. I like it all. I love the sport, so I like every aspect of the game. I'm not so sure one more than the other.

One thing that I do love and am passionate about - whether it be playing, scouting, managing – is that I really do take to evaluating players. That sounds like it just may be scouting, but when you're managing, you're really scouting the opposition as well as evaluating your own players on your own team. So I really think there is scouting in every aspect of baseball, which makes scouting unique and something that I really love.

I found myself as a manager trying to help my players – the best way I could with my scouting background – try to find ways to individually and collectively help our team play against the other guys. That was new to those players. I would present scouting reports that I did on my own. I would do research on every player on the other team and present it to the team in a meeting. The players were very receptive and I believe it helped them.

But I love it all. I love scouting. I love managing. I love being part of the front office. It's all great stuff. I find it all enjoyable.

In Part 2 of this exclusive interview: Brogna discusses more about his time with the Diamondbacks, some of his best memories as a player, how Ankylosing spondylitis affected his playing career, his thoughts on social media, and of course...more on scouting.

John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.


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