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PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ On one hand, the phrase ‚Äúbirds of a feather flock together‚ÄĚ seems applicable to the scouting contingent that showed up in droves last weekend at McCoy Stadium.
The section behind home plate became known as an open-air baseball boardroom; one PawSox game featured as many as nine scouts. Remember, the July 31 non-waiver deadline is not that far off ‚Äď four weeks from Wednesday to be exact.
Knowledge is power, and the work in the trenches turned in by these unsung talent evaluators figures to come in handy as general managers on contending teams decide exactly how to bolster the existing roster for the stretch run.
Rest assured that the reports filled out upon the conclusion of each series will not become obsolete once July 31 comes and goes. Trade activity can continue once the calendar flips to August, though the dynamic changes entirely with players having to pass through waivers. Come the offseason, the same observations made on hot summer nights will become valuable pieces of information as front office members huddle up and engage in team-building exercises.
Scouts swear by the following creed: Leave no stone unturned in order to provide the employer with a close-to-accurate assessment of every player listed on the roster. After engaging in a PawSox-related discussion with an American League scout who recently passed through McCoy Stadium, we feel that‚Äôs exactly the case.
Mind you this particular scout saw the PawSox back in April, so on some levels it allowed him to play a game of compare and contrast. In conclusion, we found it refreshing to talk with someone whose very premise is to rely on a critical eye that takes into account strengths and weaknesses.
Here are the scout‚Äôs takes on several PawSox players and topics:
On the idea of shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts taking groundballs at third base when the priority should be to get Will Middlebrooks straightened out:
Scout: ‚ÄúNot knowing what‚Äôs going on inside, but I thought for a guy coming down from the big leagues who had success last year and to hook up and take grounders with a 20-year-old kid for 10 minutes, it can‚Äôt hurt anybody.
‚ÄúWith the way Bogaerts is coming through the system, I don‚Äôt think Middlebrooks has anything to worry about other than getting himself back to the big leagues. To me, it‚Äôs business as usual. You prepare for the game. If they tell Middlebrooks to go out in right field and take a couple fungos, you come back and get ready to play that night at third, whatever.‚ÄĚ
On Bogaerts ‚Äď with the scout seeing him for the first time:
Scout: ‚ÄúWhen you watch him during pregame activities, it looks like he has a lot of fun. There‚Äôs no tension in his game. Right now, the way he looks today, he‚Äôs a shortstop. He‚Äôs going to have to play his way off shortstop to me. Leave him be.‚ÄĚ
On Middlebrooks, the scout saw signs that strides with the bat had been taken prior to Sunday, when he connected for a pair of two-run home runs:
Scout: ‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt seen him since the 2011 Arizona Fall League, but he was always prepared and ready to go. In a situation like his, the first thing you need to do is clear your head and then get your mechanics in working order.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs coming around. The first night, you know that he‚Äôs not happy to be here. Nobody would be, but he got the game-winning hit his first game. To me, he‚Äôs starting to look a lot more comfortable in the box. If he‚Äôs healthy, everything should fall into place.‚ÄĚ
On pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, who the scout saw toss 5 2/3 scoreless innings against Toledo last Thursday:
Scout: ‚ÄúThere was more velocity and way better command of his stuff. I saw his first start of the year, and here we are in late June and he was commanding his changeup, breaking ball and fastball much better.‚ÄĚ
If the scout had to chose between Allen Webster or De La Rosa to make one start for the Red Sox, who would he give the nod to and why:
Scout: ‚ÄúI‚Äôll take Webster because he hasn‚Äôt been on any restrictions. I saw (De La Rosa) throw 49 pitches the first time out [April 8 in Lehigh Valley]. He‚Äôs up in the 90s so he‚Äôs going in the right direction, but Webster‚Äôs been there and he has a taste.‚ÄĚ
On pitcher Alfredo Aceves, who the scout saw get tagged for three home runs against the same Mud Hens lineup that De La Rosa shut down:
Scout: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got seven pitches and the bottom line is he missed with a few. He hung a changeup and missed in the middle with a fastball. If it‚Äôs not working, he‚Äôs got too many pitches. If they‚Äôre working, he‚Äôs great. That‚Äôs how you look at it.
‚ÄúTo me, the thing about that type of guy is, if he doesn‚Äôt have feel for two or three of his pitches, you‚Äôve still got more to go to. Hitters can‚Äôt sit on one pitch because he still has more in the chamber.‚ÄĚ
Sticking with pitchers, the scout smiled when Brandon Workman‚Äôs name came up:
Scout: Impressive as heck. It‚Äôs like we‚Äôre playing country hardball. Let‚Äôs go, I‚Äôm coming at you. I‚Äôve got a seven-run lead, but I‚Äôm not backing down. Rapid fire and hit me if you can.
‚ÄúHe was spotting his fastball [last Tuesday against Toledo] from where I was sitting. He got a couple of loosey-goosey curveballs out of the way and he was snapping the pitch in no time. He buckled a couple of hitters in the middle of the game.
On Mitch Maier, who clearly had the scout‚Äôs attention prior to the outfielder once again landing on the disabled list over the weekend with a strained oblique:
Scout: ‚ÄúHe doesn‚Äôt do anything wrong. He‚Äôs 30 years old and has been around for a while. He‚Äôs got big-league time [with Kansas City] and should have a big-league job based on what I‚Äôve seen. I don‚Äôt know about the power and base stealing, but everything else is what you‚Äôre looking for.
‚ÄúHe looks like the type of guy you can sit down for a couple of days and he can come out and not miss a beat.‚ÄĚ
On fellow PawSox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr:
Scout: ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know what to say about him. It‚Äôs like ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs he going to do next?‚Äô‚ÄĚ Okay, he‚Äôs not the fastest guy on the team, but yet he‚Äôs waiting to catch every ball. He‚Äôs a center fielder, but he can handle the corners. I think he gives you everything you‚Äôre looking for and then some.
‚ÄúOffensively, he shortens up with two strikes. He had a double into the left-center field gap in his first at-bat last Tuesday, and he followed with four so-so at-bats where he tried to get a little big.‚ÄĚ
On how reliever Pedro Beato has changed:
Scout: (Friday) was the first time I saw him throw a slider. He was throwing a curveball before. Basically when I saw him out of the chute, he was getting ahead with the fastball and putting hitters away with a split. (Friday) was a different method of operation with more sliders. He‚Äôll pitch for somebody.‚ÄĚ
On reliever Chris Martin:
Scout: ‚ÄúI clocked him at 93 and (Toledo) wasn‚Äôt even close to hitting him.‚ÄĚ
On the credit Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina deserves for running a first-place operation through the season‚Äôs first three months:
Scout: ‚ÄúI saw his whole playing career with the Angels. I never saw him manage [in Single-A Lowell from 2007-09], but the little bit I‚Äôve seen in Pawtucket, he‚Äôs done a great job and this is a good club. He‚Äôs got them playing the game right and they‚Äôre winning games and having fun doing it. I would think the players have to love him.‚ÄĚ
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03