When I write about scouts, I have to be careful. A few years ago, I had the temerity to suggest there might be great scouts, okay scouts, and below-average scouts, and that it would be interesting to somehow know which were which. In response, one of your favorite baseball-writing personalities quickly sent me an e-mail message to inform me that I'm an asshole. And no, I'm not over it yet.
But yes, I have an immense amount of respect for scouts, almost more than my corporeal self can hold. I've got a friend who's a scout, and I treasure the times I'm able to sit in the stands watching a game with him or any other scout.
Scouts aren't perfect, though, any more than writers or doctors or waitresses are perfect. And it's fair to point out their/our failings, especially if we're just as willing to point out their skills from time to time.
With all that in mind, here's what White Sox scout Warren Hughes wrote about Roy Oswalt in 1997, when Oswalt was a sophomore in junior college:
SCARY TO WATCH THIS KID BUT HE IS SCARY TO HIT OFF ALSO. LIVE FASTBALL AND CHANCE TO HAVE DECENT SLURVE IN FUTURE. BASICALLY HAS TO BE A RELIEF TYPE AND HOPE THAT HE STAYS HEALTHY. MY FEELING IS THAT HE WILL NOT AND TO SMOOTH HIM OUT WOULD ROB HIM OF HIS VELOCITY AND DECEPTION.
In fairness to Hughes, he was hardly alone in his evaluation. Just the year before, the Astros had selected Oswalt with the 684th pick in the draft (he didn't actually sign with the Astros until shortly before the '97 draft). Nobody really liked Oswalt much, which makes him a rare beast; when you look at the pitchers who win a lot of games in the majors, the great majority of them were drafted in the first two or three rounds of the draft. As a scout, you're always looking for that diamond in the rough who nobody else can see ... except that rarely happens, because all the scouts are essentially looking for the same things. And when you wade through dozens and dozens of scouting reports, as I have, this becomes pretty obvious. The difference between a good scout and a non-good scout, I think, is very difficult to discern from this distance.
Soon, I'll have a longer piece that includes one of Warren Hughes' on-the-money reports.