Brutal winter on East Coast leaves scouts scrambling
The amateur baseball season is now underway in full force, with the college season kicking off last weekend. That means amateur scouting departments are going full tilt, knowing there are just 15 weekends before the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
That might seem like a long time, but considering the number of players to be seen and miles to be logged, it goes by in the blink of an eye. It's important for scouting directors and national scouts to see players early, especially those players considered to be top-of-the-Draft candidates.
The biggest variable in any season, of course, is the weather. The extreme storms that have hit the East Coast in particular so far this year have really wreaked havoc with plans to see top guys early. Many scouts went to Greenville, N.C., last Friday to see Jeff Hoffman, currently No. 2 on the Draft Top 50 list. Normally, North Carolina isn't such a bad place to go early in the season.
Hoffman's stuff was reportedly good, but his line (6 2/3 innings, four hits, four runs -- three earned -- two walks, six strikeouts) was just so-so. The fact it was cold and windy might have had something to do with it. No. 1 prospect Carlos Rodon was supposed to head out west with his NC State team, but that got canceled. Instead, he threw at home in cold weather Sunday.
"It didn't sound ideal," one national scout said of Hoffman's outing. "It was hard to watch. Rodon, the day before, they were shoveling snow off the field."
Several scouts thought they were planning well, heading to the West Coast where they could see Rodon, in good weather, face UC-Santa Barbara. Weather scrapped those travel plans, leaving some to scramble.
"When they didn't come, I just stayed out West," one scouting director said. "We have work to do on other picks. I have plenty of time left to see those guys."
"I had it set up to see Rodon on the West Coast," the national scout echoed. "When NC State canceled, it threw a wrench in that."
Many will try again this weekend, though the forecast once again doesn't look promising. While the temperatures have climbed in Raleigh, N.C., thunderstorms and wind look as if they could disrupt Rodon's start Friday against Appalachian State. Hoffman and East Carolina are slated to face top-ranked Virginia (and Draft prospect Derek Fisher). That would be a fantastic early matchup, but the same rain is headed to Charlottesville, N.C., as well.
"When you see a forecast like that, you can see chaos coming on, you try not to lean into that punch," the scouting director said. "It's difficult. You go to such lengths to get the game in and get there and see the guy. If the results are head-scratching, you wonder how much the weather is a variable. While you want to get in early, there's a lot of spring left, sometimes it's easy to forget that. Once you get about a month in, you just have to go where you want to go, weather be damned."
"I'm supposed to be flying [to North Carolina], and it doesn't sound like it's going to happen," the national scout said. "I think it's one of those years where you're battling the weather and hopefully you get lucky. You hope the weather breaks, more for the kids than you, scouting. You'd like to see them all have an equal chance."