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Interview: Mike Newman

I was lucky to get to know Mike when he was running his own blog on prospects, scouting the sally.   Mike now writes over at Fangraphs.com and does scouting reports for them on players in the minors.  If you haven’t read his work I would recommend it as Mike is  great at scouting players and writing reports that fans can read easily.    Since I wrote for his old site I was able to reach out and ask him a few questions about Yankee prospects and about scouting.

1. A previous piece at Fangraphs had your scouting take on Cito Culver.  Some Yankee fans are doom and gloom and I’m not quite there yet.  Do you think it would be best for Culver to ditch switch hitting and only bat right handed?I spoke to a scout familiar with the Rochester area who told me he turned Culver’s name as pitcher. At present, Culver’s only offensive attribute is that he walks quite a bit. When/if he continues to advance levels, pitchers will realize they do not need to be so fine and can simply attack him without worry of anything more than a single. To specifically answer your question, his swing from the left side simply won’t work in its present form. If Culver is to remain at SS, he should ditch hitting left-handed and focus on his stronger side.

2. I was wondering if you were able to catch one of Bryan Mitchell’s starts and if so what you thought of him?

I haven’t seen him

3. Anderson Feliz was promoted from Charleston to Tampa. Can you give us some thoughts on him?Feliz is a guy rarely spoken of, but I actually like him quite a bit. I’m not sure what his defensive home will be, but he always seem to present with better bat speed and offensive tools than his production would indicate. If I were a scout in an opposing organization, I’d look to pluck Feliz away on the cheap.
4. Ben Gamel doesn’t get a lot of hype did you think he was a prospect at all when you saw him play?

Gamel was a C/C+ prospect for me. Think Brett Gardner without the speed. However, that speed in Gardner’s game really props up what would be an average set of tools/skills otherwise. I liked Gamel’s hit tool, but the power leaves plenty to be desired. Plus, I didn’t see great reads in left field on fly balls leaving me to wonder if center field is really a viable option.

5. What do you think is the hardest tool to scout when you scout pitchers and hitters?

For hitters, plate discipline is always difficult to scout because I’m rarely behind home plate for top hitting prospects. With video, I’m always filming from side angles to view a hitter’s swing mechanics. I know that’s not one of the five basic tools, but there’s a big difference between actual plate discipline and a timid player who takes pitches hoping for a free pass.

As for pitchers, command is difficult to scout in person. In a perfect world, I’d be able to scout a pitcher a handful of times over the course of multiple seasons to gauge development. However, a select few have the means to travel at the drop of a hat and I’m not one of them. My general coverage area is Atlanta, Georgia with a few trips to Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolina’s. in 2012, I also made it to upstate New York for the NY-Penn League, as well as Phoenix, Arizona for spring training.

If a pitcher hits my area at the right time, I’ll make the trip to see him knowing it may be at his best, or worst for that matter. Obviously, this will impact the look and my subsequent pieces discussing the player — Especially from a velocity/command standpoint. Unfortunately, traveling to see a single pitcher on multiple occasions results in diminishing returns in terms of content and budget outlay. Seeing Mariners Taijuan Walker twice is grand, but if it means missing Danny Hultzen and a chance at multiple pieces on top-20 prospects due to budget restraints, then I need to be absolutely positive a second write up on Walker would be more valuable to the prospect community. For whatever reason, prospect followers seem to think writers travel with unlimited budgets and ability to scout anybody and everybody. Nothing could be further from the truth in practice.

6. How did you get into scouting players?

Towards the end of the 2008 minor league season, I was growing bored with a blog I had started earlier that summer. With a minor league stadium three minutes from my former home in Savannah, Georgia, I took advantage of the opportunity to see a Rome Braves team featuring Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, as well as the Charleston Yankees with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Having played baseball through college and a period scouting high school players in Florida for a number of college coaches, I decided to take notes and write about a handful of guys. Those pieces took off and the rest is history. Four seasons later I’m still at it and have been fortunate enough to have my work well received within the industry.

7.  What do you take when you go scout a player?
My scouting bag includes my radar gun, video camera, a netbook, extra batteries for everything, a notepad and pens/pencils. I also tweet quite a bit from games so my phone is never far from reach.
follow Mike on twitter @scoutingthesal  He is great about answering fans questions about prospects he has seen.
Written By

I'm a Yankee fan living in Kansas City. Prospects are my passion.

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