Scouts perform integral behind-the-scenes duties

Scouts perform integral behind-the-scenes duties

The life of a Major League Baseball scout means a lot of baseball, research, evaluations, reports and gut calls. It means being on the road for the majority of the season, evaluating players who could help your team down the line or trying to figure out how they don't hurt you if they are facing your team.

Spring Training means stockpiling information on players who could help you down the line. For Texas Rangers scout Keith Boeck, Spring Training meant getting a look to see how some younger players perform against big league talent, but of course he has to take it with a grain of salt.

"The younger players come in 100 percent from the very beginning. They are amped up, trying to make a roster so you'll usually see them outperform veteran guys [the first couple weeks of camp]," Boeck said, "The guaranteed roster guys may be working on one thing in particular."

During Cactus League play, Boeck was responsible for scouting the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. In the regular season, his role expands to all teams in the National League West and NL Central.

Every time Boeck sits in on a game, he has a few "target" players, but he also monitors the tendencies and patterns of all players in the game and reports back to the Rangers organization on anything he notices. While certain players may be unavailable to fulfill a need now, Boeck and the other scouts still evaluate those players just in case a need arises in the future.

"You never know what a need may be a month or two from now. You might be set with eight pitchers in camp that could start, but three could go down tomorrow. So the more history you have on them, the better the evaluation is going to be," he said. "You're always looking to stock underneath what you have. As much as you want to, you're never as good as you can be".

As Spring Training ends and the regular season rolls in, Boeck and the other scouts begin to piece together the puzzle of a player and get the whole picture to determine whether going after that particular player is a good or a bad move for the team.

"There's a million different factors that go into acquiring the right player," Boeck said. "It's not just stats, because stats can change every year."

Boeck also spends a great deal of time scouting his own organization to stay current on their tendencies so he is able to compare outside talent to what the Rangers currently have. He says his scouting has developed throughout the years by watching and evaluating thousands of players over thousands of games and constantly talking the game of baseball with fellow scouts, players and coaches. His job can't "be done on the couch."

"You learn the language of scouting and what other people are looking for, what constitutes good arm action versus bad arm action, what constitutes a good delivery versus a bad delivery," Boeck said. "Then you see how that translates into what you're seeing and how to actually express it. [Those] are the biggest things. That just comes from experience of going out there, having somebody that trusts your own instincts."

While many players may have unorthodox deliveries or hitting mechanics, exceptions do happen and he needs to be able to recognize when those exceptions are apparent and work for the player.

"[Giants pitcher] Madison Bumgarner, for example, doesn't have your typical starter's look, but what he does do is repeat it like nobody's business. So that is a good delivery. He might have a huge arm wrap, go east-west and turn his shoulders big and not face the plate. They don't teach it like that, but it works for him. That's the thing that people can get caught up in," Boeck said. "There are exceptions to every rule. The exceptions are what you try to look for."

While a good chunk of a scout's time is spent in the seats with stopwatches, reports and radar guns, the job also requires scouts to do a great deal of research. He will talk to managers, coaches, other team's scouts and a host of others who may have insight and information regarding a player's work ethic, makeup and aptitude.

It requires long hours, painstaking research and having to go from small town to small town throughout the country, but scouting is crucial to the team's success. Boeck described it as the backbone for the organization to make the necessary decisions to put the team in a position to win. However, he said don't expect to see any scouts jumping for recognition after they recommend a deal that works out for a team.

"You never take credit for what you did or didn't do for a club, because usually you're one part of a whole sum, and if you're scouting and you understand that, that's a huge thing," he said. "It's a very rewarding job when you recommend the right guy and they take your recommendation and he starts performing and you win."

So as the boys of summer begin to take the field for the regular season, Boeck and his fellow scouts will spread out across the country, preparing themselves and putting the time in so if someone from the front offices needs their opinion on the next big move the Rangers are about to make, they will be ready.

Jordan Hamm is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.