Scouting 101: Ed Creech

Year round, scouts from each organization are looking for players that will one day contribute at the big league level. But, scouting is also a highly inexact science, one that has many theories and important lessons. In our third installment of Scouting 101, we talked with Pirates' Scouting Director Ed Creech. When scouting a prospect for the draft, what is the most important thing to keep in mind when judging his abilities?

Ed Creech: Depends on the position. Power or future power for the corners. Defense and speed up the middle and so on. Position players we look for hitting, power, arm, defense, and run tools. Pitching we look for arm strength, movement on the ball, how the arm works (easiness), ability to spin the ball for breaking balls, and feel for changeups. Projection is an intangible that must be hard to gauge. What are some ways that you can spot a projectable player and who are some players that you can remember that were drafted more so on projectability than anything else?

Ed Creech: Mostly young Dominican players fall into this category. Javier Vasquez was a young, projectable kid out of Puerto Rico. When looking at a high school player, what would you say is the hardest tool to scout and why?

Ed Creech: The hit tool. Many reasons - metal bats, will he get stronger, can he make adjustments to better pitching, etc. It's easy to fall in love with pure tools and athleticism. How hard is it to tell the difference between an athlete with baseball skills and a guy with tools that may never be able to turn it into on field success?

Ed Creech: They usually show you on the field. Aluminum bats create a big challenge. What's the best way to tell if a player can be successful in switching to wood bats? What do you look for in his swing?

Ed Creech: Hopefully some batting practice with the wooden bat is provided. We look for bat speed and balance. Solid, hard contact without too many swings and misses. Compare makeup to pure skills. How much does makeup play into your evaluation of a player?

Ed Creech: Very much! But skills have to accompany the makeup in any case. A plus-plus tool is rare. How often do you see it among amateur players and does one plus-plus tool make an elite prospect?

Ed Creech: We see them every year in some capacity. Elite athletes with plus-plus hitting ability are elite as well as pitchers with that type of velocity or breaking ball. A phrase used a lot is that if a player can hit, he can hit. When you see an amateur player with mechanical flaws but he manages to still be an effective hitter, does that still apply?

Ed Creech: Not necessarily. He still has to make adjustments as he goes from one level to the next. There are a lot of good high school hitters that cannot make it in the next level and so on. How much of scouting and drafting an amateur player now come down to physical tools such as size and strength?

Ed Creech: I think every one likes big and strong players, but the skills still have to be there. Projection is still a strong influence in how we go about our business. If the two players are the same skill-wise, then I would go with size and strength. In your opinion, what separates an elite top 10-15 pick talent from the rest of the pack? How much of a difference is there between those guys and 2nd and 3rd round picks and how are you able to determine those elite talents?
Ed Creech: Tools, skills, make up and work ethic. We evaluate these top rounds with a lot of different opinions and reports. These many looks usually separate the top from the bottom. Obviously we have seen these players for the last three to four years of their career prior to the draft, so we have history. In an amateur pitcher, what typically takes priority in a scout's mind, stuff or command? Which players can you remember with the most impressive pure stuff?

Ed Creech: I believe in stuff, but the ability to obtain command is necessary. Prior, Wood, Beckett were all impressive. Players tend to get draft-itis leading up to the big event. How hard is it for you to look past a lack of performance and see a player's skills?

Ed Creech: Past history as I mentioned before is necessary. The Royals did a great job with Johnny Damon in high school when he did not have a great year, but his and their past history sold him to them. On draft day, there are obviously hundreds of players your team would like to draft and dozens that you'd like to select early. What types of things become determining factors when choosing between a number of players? Can you think of any of those decisions in recent memory that you could attribute to excellent scouting an evaluation of a player's skills?

Ed Creech: Obviously, the skill levels are the things that stand out and how much other teams are on the players. Old saying in scouting is, if you like the player then go up to get him before anyone else does. Two players that come to mind are Michael Barrett (last pick in first round of 95) and Milton Bradley in the 2nd round.

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