Royals hire Brian Bridges as scouting director

September 21st, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals announced several changes within their front office on Thursday, the most notable being the hiring of Brian Bridges to be their scouting director.

Bridges joined the Braves as a scout in 2007 and rose in the organization before becoming their scouting director in 2015. As a scout, he played an instrumental role in the selection of Jason Heyward and is credited with the signings of Craig Kimbrel, Alex Wood and Mike Minor. His first year as the scouting director in 2015, the Braves selected Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley and A.J. Minter.

Other moves announced included:

• Promoting current scouting director Danny Ontiveros to vice president of scouting
Promoting advance scout Jim Cuthbert to director of pro personnel and strategy
• Promoting Daniel Guerrero to director of international scouting

Royals vice president of player personnel Lonnie Goldberg, who oversaw Draft efforts from 2011-22 and continued to help in ‘23, will remain in the front office to help with scouting.

“We’re excited about all of these hires and promotions,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “They all represent something different. Jimmy’s only been with us for seven months, but it was evident that he had some creative ideas about how to go about pro scouting and how it’s evolving in the game. Brian is widely regarded as one of the best evaluators in the game.

“His handprints are kind of all over the Braves right now, with players that are still there and players they moved to acquire other pieces to help them win. We’re really excited about him.”

Bridges is well-respected around the game and has been portrayed as having a good balance of traditional scouting and analytics, but he said he learned the most about how analytics can help shape a Draft after his time in Atlanta. After being dismissed from the Braves ahead of the 2019 season -- alongside longtime scout and current Royals advisor Roy Clark -- Bridges has spent the last few years as a national crosschecker for the Giants, working closely with general manager Farhan Zaidi and vice president/baseball analytics Paul Bien.

“I’ve learned there’s a marriage between them both,” Bridges said. “I’m very thankful for my time with the Giants because it taught me a lot in that regard. … You have to understand it’s there. And then you have to understand, too, where there’s a certain time or place when a guy has such big tools that you have to take some risk.”

Bridges’ communication and collaboration leading up to a Draft appealed to Picollo as the Royals strive to overhaul some of their processes within the front office. His background in different organizations was a bonus, too.

“The people we have are great,” Picollo said. “Their reputation speaks for themselves. But sometimes you get a little too close. You need people to challenge you. You need people to open your eyes to things. This is a long-term vision. People who have different backgrounds, different experiences, will help us understand how we can achieve that.”

The same goes for Cuthbert. The Royals had an opening in their pro scouting department when Gene Watson left to join first-year White Sox general manager Chris Getz’s staff.

Cuthbert was hired this season as an advance scout for manager Matt Quatraro’s staff. He began his scouting career as an amateur scout with the Rangers before spending six years in Cleveland, his entry to pro scouting and advance scouting – and where he met Quatraro.

As the director of pro scouting in Miami from 2016-18, Cuthbert was directly involved in the acquisitions of young pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen and Pablo López.

“That time was just really overhauling the pro scouting process, and that’s what’s consistent with so much of what J.J., Q, [assistant GM] Scott Sharp and [assistant GM/research and development] Dr. Daniel Mack are doing here. That’s how we acquired those types of arms at the Minor League level. Same principles, same type of innovation and collaboration.”

Cuthbert spent 2019 as an advance scout for the World Series champion Nationals, then the past two seasons with the Red Sox. Under Cuthbert, the Royals will evaluate some of their pro scouting processes, leaning heavily on live scouting looks on players while also incorporating analytically driven tools.

“He blew me away with how he thinks about things strategically,” Picollo said.

Cuthbert’s department will scout the Major and Minor League levels for potential acquisitions through trades, free agents, waiver claims and Rule 5 picks.

“For me, we want to use R&D tools at your disposal to sharpen the live look, giving you the insight you need to hunt specific traits during a live look,” Cuthbert said. “It gives you an upfront foundation of the player. We have a good idea of where we stand in terms of objective measures, but now we know what to zone in on and lock in on and use the live look most effectively and efficiently.”

As vice president of scouting, Ontiveros, who has run the past two Drafts and is in his 17th season with the Royals, will still help with the Draft but will also scout in the Minors and Majors while becoming more involved with player development. Guerrero, who is currently the coordinator of international scouting, will have a bigger role and work closely with assistant GM/Major League and international operations Rene Francisco in expanding the Royals’ international presence.