TORONTO -- Sabermetrics have become an integral part of evaluating baseball players, but Russ Bove is proof that the traditional way of discovering young talent is still alive and well. In fact, it's what helped the Blue Jays land top prospect Bo Bichette.Bove -- named the East Coast Scout of
TORONTO -- Sabermetrics have become an integral part of evaluating baseball players, but Russ Bove is proof that the traditional way of discovering young talent is still alive and well. In fact, it's what helped the Blue Jays land top prospect Bo Bichette.
Bove -- named the East Coast Scout of the Year at this week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- was part of the group responsible for Bichette being selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Bichette has turned into one of Toronto's best assets, but at the time the pick was no sure thing.
There was some internal skepticism about Bichette's skill set coming out of high school, but Bove saw all of the tools required to become an elite hitter. Bove lobbied for the power-hitting infielder, and in the weeks leading up to the Draft, he played a role in moving Bichette's name higher on Toronto's board.
"It's a battle, but they do have a place," Bove said in reference to the emergence of advanced stats. "I just get a little concerned when you start using analytics on high school players. It's just so hard to compare apples and apples [at that level]. But we're fortunate. Joe Sheehan, who's our analytical guy, is very flexible.
"Bichette did not come off too great with analytics, only because high school position players [are] typically the biggest failures. So we had to keep convincing Joe, and we kept moving Bo Bichette up our board, and fortunately we were able to pick him."
Bove's career began in 1983 with the Major League Scouting Bureau. He spent 11 years as an East Coast supervisor for the Brewers, worked as an area scout for the Expos and served as the Mets' scouting director before joining the Blue Jays in 2011 as a special assignment scout. Some of his recent success stories include Marcus Stroman, Anthony Alford, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., T.J. Zeuch and just about everybody found on Toronto's list of Top 30 prospects by MLBPipeline.com.
Almost every scout has a favorite success story, and Bove did not have to think very long when asked. He pointed to infielder Ian Desmond, who was taken in the third round of the 2004 Draft. At the time, Desmond went to a high school that did not have the best reputation for developing baseball players, but Bove liked what he saw, stuck to his beliefs and helped prove there is an exception to every rule. Based on Bichette's case, he's still doing that for the Blue Jays, too.
Scout of the Year Awards have been handed out every year since 1983. They cover the East, Midwest and West regions, and there's also an additional award for International Scout of the Year. In order to be eligible, scouts must have at least 25 years' experience. Mel Didier was the last Toronto scout to receive the award in 2011, while last year Toronto's Pablo Cruz took home top international honors.
"In our view, and in our minds, the unsung heroes of the game are guys like Russ, who pour their heart and soul and make countless sacrifices for the game, for the organization that they work for," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "When you think about someone being honored as the scout of the year and you pull back and think about the individual sacrifices, commitment and ultimately accomplishment, it's the bloodline and the heart and soul of our organization."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.