Scouting is an art form and a craft that Bernie Pleskoff and others have been working at for many years. While many claim to be scouting players, very few can call themselves real scouts. It’s a job that doesn’t get the pay, the prestige or the press that the players or teams do, but their jobs are vital to the health of an organization.
Our first guest in our “Scout Spotlight” series is Bernie Pleskoff of MLB Pipeline. He has been scouting in baseball for over twenty years. His resume includes working in the pro scouting departments for the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros and currently for MLB Pipeline. We had the opportunity to speak with Bernie about scouting and prospects, so follow along as he shares his knowledge.
CC: In your “Dust has Settled” blog, you stated that “Prospects serve several crucial purposes in an organization.” How do you project players?
- The first thing is mechanics.
- Can he play? Not every guy can play.
- Can they play for us? Does this guy fit in our clubhouse?
- Can he play for us and play for someone else if he can’t play for us?
- You have to look six years down the road. When you bring in a guy, you have to look at where they are in their cycle.
- Does the player hustle?
CC: All the rage around baseball is velocity. While players such as Yankees prospect Brady Lail, won’t blow up radar guns, but throws strikes, won’t ever get the press that the big fastball does.
I’ll take a pitcher to a thrower any day, but when a thrower becomes a pitcher, that’s very exciting. If you throw a high fastball at 101 [mph] at a batter’s eyes, it’s very tough for them to lay off that pitch.
I’ll give you an example: In Coors Field, you have to strike people out, period. They have to get ground balls or strikeouts, it’s very tough to pitch there. There are some guys that they’ve tried, sinkerballer after sinkerballer and it just hasn’t worked.
CC: Was there a player (s) that you risked your reputation on that ended up working out as you predicted?
In the fall league, several years ago, I got the first look at Alcides Escobar. Nobody had seen him before and I staked my reputation that this guy was going to be an All-Star shortstop. Then I did that with Salvador Perez and again for Paul Goldshmidt. When you see a guy one time and you say that this guy is going to be a star, that’s kind of risky.
The guy that I missed on was Nate Shierholtz. He had one of the sweetest swings that I ever saw. He really never made it big. He made it to the big leagues, but certainly not the star that I thought he would be.
CC: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I was the dean of students for 27 years, at Loyola University, Chicago, before transitioning into being a scout at 50-years of age.
*Bonus* Scouting Reports
Pleskoff was also nice enough to give us some bonus scouting reports for some players that were in the Arizona Fall League. Here are a few of the players that he spoke about:
He’s got a good fastball, a good slider, good changeup. Turns his back to the hitter and a left-hander can’t see the ball coming out of his hand. Josh Hader is a guy that I really, really like.
I just think that he’s going to be a really good starting pitcher. He’s got a fastball/changeup combination. His fastball is 96-97, with sink. He is a flyball pitcher, but the contact is fairly weak.
In a day where sabermetrics have really taken a prominent place in the game, nothing can ever replace the seeing eye test. While some front offices favor sabermetrics over traditional scouting, there needs to be balance. You can’t tell hustle, instincts and mechanics from a statistic.
Bernie Pleskoff has spent over 20 years giving teams and now the public, breakdowns of players strengths, weaknesses and future projections. A true gentleman and ambassador of the game, his interactions with people on social media are equally as good as his interviews. If you’ve read his work, you know that at the end he always describes people in a word.
Pleskoff in a word