Derek Jeter – What the Scouts Saw in Him
By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM
A previous post (http://baseballstrength.org/youth-sports-what-do-baseball-scouts-look-for-by-gene-coleman-ed-d-rscce-and-jose-vazquez-pt-rscc/) addressed the physical tools that pro baseball scouts look for when evaluating talent – speed, arm strength, fielding, hitting for average and hitting for power and intangibles like attitude, work ethic, coachability, etc. While every scout wants to find the next 5-tool player, the truth is that there are several 3- and 4-tool MLB players, but 5-tool players are rare, and some, for various reasons, never achieve Hall of Fame status. Derek Jeter is an example of a 5-Tool, Hall of Fame player. What did the scouts see in him as a 6’2”, 150-pound, 18-year-old high school player that would set the foundation for a Hall of Fame career? If you google, “Derek Jeter scouting report”, you will see several reports by scouts who saw him play in high school and summer league.
The attached report from April 8, 1992 by the Yankees scout who signed him, Dick Groch, gave him an overall grade 64 on a scale of 20-80. Most prospects score around 50 points; about the average grade for the 5-tools possessed by most MLB players. Groch and others scouts said that Jeter:
- Is an athletic, 5+ tool player
- Performs at a level well beyond his years
- Has excellent speed on the bases (4.30 sec to first base) and range in the field
- Has an excellent, athletic body with long arms and legs, narrow hips, “electric” movements” and a tremendous potential for future growth
- Will be a MLB star at shortstop; not someone you sign for his trade potential
- Has very good fielding tools and is an impact player defensively with both his glove and arm
- Hits to all fields and will be a consistent run scorer and run producer
- Has excellent agility and is a quality baserunner who is fluid when he runs and can steal bases
- Has excellent baseball IQ and make-up
- Is an aggressive hitter with a quick bat and the potential for more power when he shortens his swing and develops more patience at the plate
- Has good habits on and off the field, excellent dedication to the game and good aptitude for learning
SIDE BAR: Derek Jeter was the first high school player selected in the 1992 MLB Draft and the sixth pick overall. The scouts didn’t have any trouble finding him. He was the 1992 High School Baseball Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-State Basketball Player at Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Thirty years ago, there were no showcases, no social media and no one was measuring exit velocity or launch angle. The scouts kept their ears to the ground, read the sports pages, talked to coaches and other scouts and watched a lot of games. They didn’t have access to today’s technology, but they were looking for the same things that today’s scouts are looking for – athletic players who understand how to play the game, have played other sports, have been coached by different coaches and have played at high levels. They want to see how a player competes in meaningful games; to see if the skills they read about, heard about, watched on video or saw at showcases transfer into meaningful games when a playoff spot or a championship is on the line. They want players with a high baseball IQ who respect the game, are good teammates and have fun playing the game.
Yogi said – “You can observe a lot by just watching”. Scouts watch a lot and observe a lot, but the most important thing that they look for is how a player performs in game situations. You can estimate potential from metrics, but you can’t tell how well an athlete will perform under pressure until you watch him in game situations.
Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM has over four decades as a head strength and conditioning coach (Astros) and strength and conditioning consultant (Rangers). He is Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Website Education Manager baseballstrength.org.