Scout Chat: Stars vs. Regulars

April 28, 2011
Tyler Matzek

Part of the fun of getting out and seeing prospects is discussing them with people inside the game. I recently had a conversation with a scout about the value of star players versus regulars. After you check out some of the sweet Pitching Machines our sponsor has to offer, here's how it went:

Adam Foster: Let's jump right into it.

I'm realizing in reflecting back on some of the guys I saw at spring training and discussed with you that you're a lot more patient with high-upside talents -- guys who are potential stars -- than I am.

I'd be reluctant to hand many big bonuses to high-risk talents, but I'm sure there's a lot to gain in taking on high-upside talents with some development left. Tyler Matzek, for example, is someone who I think has a ways to go but could be a great guy to roll the dice on, if the price is right.

Anonymous Scout: I know I've said this to you before, but it's worth mentioning again and again.

You do not win with MLB regulars. You win with STARS. Upside talents are the only players that give you a chance to compete for championships year in and year out, and our business is the business of winning championships. If you miss so be it, the attrition rate is an accepted norm of the industry. However, star players are the talents that can carry a team. You can find a regular, but finding a true star is a much more difficult task.

Adam Foster: Yeah, I get that. Usually stars are pretty easy to identify. When you see them, you know it.

But there are going to be some late-bloomers. I wonder how many regulars, who may be above-average players, it's worth missing out on in an effort to find stars. There has to be a number, even if it's say 50. A team that's all upside all the time, is going to struggle if it isn't developing stars regularly. I just wonder where the balance point lies between stars and regulars.

Anonymous Scout: That's what separates good teams from bad...GOOD SCOUTS.

Adam Foster: If you were creating a template for how talent should be evaluated in an effort to win championships, what direction would you give evaluators about pursuing guys who aren't going to be stars but look like big leaguers?

Anonymous Scout: I would encourage them to trust their instincts, and never conform to a specific "type" of player. That being said, you don't want to go out and play roulette with all your money on one guy. There are many different approaches to building an organization from within, and there is value to having role players mixed in with stars. The most important element of scouting is getting the player right. Is he a 45 type player (fringe MLB regular) or is he a role 60-80 (star caliber talent year in year out)? That is the tough part, and really what defines the successes of this industry.

Adam Foster: That makes sense.

So it sounds like setting up a rough allocation of how much of your amateur budget should go toward high-risk/high-reward players versus low-risk/low-reward could be fruitless. Talent pools are dynamic.

Anonymous Scout: Exactly. Look at what the Phillies have done as an example. Depending on your sources, very few of their top prospects were drafted in the top 5 rounds. Is that a credit to scouts or player development? The answer is both. There is no proper formula. You put as much financial muscle as you can in amateur, international, free agent budgeting as possible. The goal is to add both a collection of depth and upside to your organization. I would have no problem spending $15 million a year on players if I felt there were $15 million worth of players available to me. You really have to rely on your staff to determine the types of players these guys are, and hope your ownership backs your philosophy with their checkbooks.

Adam Foster: So you see who's out there, get good looks at them, and then spend based on what your budget allows for?

That's pretty subjective, but maybe the mindset I've been carrying about building a contender by investing heavily in low-to-medium-risk talents is unrealistic. Am I attempting to build a hard science out of an art?

Anonymous Scout: You are over-analyzing. I think it's worth it to spend money on players you like. It's that simple.

Adam Foster: I'll have to do more research and get back to you.

How about we wrap things up with your guess of Tyler Matzek's odds of becoming a star pitcher in the big leagues?

Anonymous Scout: Tough question considering his BB/9 struggles right now. There are no mechanical issues to suggest his trouble locating, which draws attention to the mental side. You want to believe he can and will figure it out. I still feel he has a 60% chance to click (which is high by my standards), but many prospects have been derailed for years by the mental struggles of the game. That being said, I leave you with this: If Matzek finds the zone again, the stuff suggests the type of arm that could pitch Game 1 of your Playoff series, and you just can't find that elsewhere. Translation: worth the risk.


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