The Growing Role Of Video For MLB Scouts

Scouts are hired because they have a knack for observing baseball players, not because they’re particularly tech-savvy.

“I’m not up to speed with all the new technology so to speak, so it’s pretty old-fashioned,” says David Chadd, amateur scouting director for the Detroit Tigers.

Chadd says he relies primarily on cell phones and computers to do his job, so he is comfortable with gadgets. That's a good thing, because another form of technology is becoming more important for him and other Tigers scouts.

“We’ll video as many kids as we can and we’ll actually use that video in the draft when we’re talking about players,” says Chadd, who operates one of three Tigers video cameras. “[Video scouting] certainly started to advance itself probably in the last three years.”

The Tigers are far from the only team using video. Clubs know that the footage they record provides them with more information about the amateur players they’re considering on draft day. Brad Grant, the amateur scouting director for the Cleveland Indians, uses a game card, stopwatch and radar gun, but that’s not all.

“I carry a video camera as well,” Grant says. “Video’s becoming a big part of it now as well.“

This year the Blue Jays hired three new video coordinators. They have always relied on scouting reports, medical reports and stats. That remains important to the Blue Jays, but they’re relying more on video to gather information. Andrew Tinnish, the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director, says video can supplement a scout’s written or spoken report.

“I think our guys do a great job of painting a picture,” Tinnish says. “But it’s even better when you have film to look at [too].” 

Video has its limitations, too. It can be a distraction for scouts, players can perform differently on different days and cameras don’t capture everything. But for Tinnish, having video footage of a prospect is better than nothing.

“It certainly isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s a piece of the puzzle,” he says.

Whether you use a game card, a smart phone or a camera, Chadd says the results are more important than the method for the Tigers.

“At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter, as long as we’re seeing and talking about the right players.”