If I could get my hands on any original scouting report, read someone's description of their future before it became everyone else's past, baseball would be about the furthest thing from my mind. General Eisenhower's assessment of the Normandy coast. George Martin's notes after first laying ears on the Beatles. Albert Einstein's high school report cards saying he'd amount to nothing. (Now that's foresight.)
Thankfully, baseball saves these scraps. Every one of the 10,000 players who have played in the big leagues since 1950 -- as well as hundreds of thousands of others who never made it -- were watched in high school and/or college by major league scouts, who scribbled out forms grading their hitting and hands, their command and cajones. Each one of those reports hangs as a portrait of the player before his timeline of fame ever began.
As the 2004 amateur draft approaches on Monday, and while teams ruffle through their piles of scouting reports on tomorrow's players, the following are 13 scouting reports on players who eventually made it, and made it big. Some, like Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., left the scouts drooling. Others, like Orel Hershiser and a high school Randy Johnson, made them recoil. And if you ever wondered if Cal Ripken could have pitched, read on ...
(Note: Scouts' names and clubs have been removed to preserve anonymity.)
El Segundo (Calif.) High. Age 17, 1971.
Has nice fluid movement in his fielding and shows sure hands. He carries his hands extremely high as does Yastrzemski. This is not for him, as he has trouble pulling the ball when there is mustard on it. I believe that if he drops his hands back he will be able to pull the good stuff ... He comes to play and has a great desire to play in the big leagues. He is going to be a good one ...
Drafted: Royals, second round.
Georgia Tech. Age 21, 1986.
Tall, thin, strong body. Broad shoulders, long arms. Above avg. FB with plus movement. Boring, sinking action. Slider has good bite occasionally. Free and easy arm action. A competitor. A little mean if he has to be. Slider is not consistent. Slows arm and motion on change ... Does not have know-how that Swindell has.
Drafted: Rangers, No. 4 overall.
University of Texas. Age 20, 1983.
Good strong pitcher's body. Has a good arm. Fastball had avg. vel. Most of the game was 87-90. In first 2 innings was 85-87 till the end. Curve has gd rotation. Slider was sharp early in game. Control was only fair. Didn't see a straight change. Fastball doesn't have much movement when in strike zone. Used slider sparingly, could be good pitch for him.
Drafted: Red Sox, No. 19 overall.
Georgia Tech. Age 20, 1994.
Slim, slight frame. Wiry, long legs. NEEDS STRENGTH ... Aggressive and flashy with hands. Natural instincts with hands. Average arm when he unloads. Good baserunner, consistent contact. Spray type ... Long and weak upper half. Has enough quickness to hit but needs added strength for long haul. Flips ball a lot -- gets careless ... Will hit if he gets stronger. Can cover ground. Quick, agile kid for middle of field. Good package.
Drafted: Red Sox, No. 12 overall.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Moeller High, Cincinnati. Age 17, 1987.
Trim, well-proportioned, young face and body ... Immature at times ... Rare combination of speed/power/instincts. Smooth, fluid, natural actions. Makes game look easy. Bat speed with HR power. CF arm and overall defense ... Will show lackadaisical play. Doesn't utilize outstanding natural ability all of the time ... Similar style but much better than Barry Bonds at same stage. Super star potential.
Drafted: Mariners, No. 1 overall.
Bowling Green State University. Age 21, 1979.
No command or control. Fastball lacking velocity for big man. Doesn't throw curveball properly but has possibilities. Didn't like arm action as he labors through the throwing zone ... Delivery inconsistent, threw several wild pitches. Looks like he rattles easily. Questionable makeup with physical question marks in a 21-year-old leaves me with an empty feeling about him.
Drafted: Dodgers, 17th round
Kalamazoo (Mich.) Central High. Age 17, 1992.
Report 1: Gliding runner w/ burst type acceleration. Very qk. feet, very gd. lower body control. Arm strength to spare! Excellent carry and can throw from all angles + body positions.
Report 2: Slender, agile body with long arms and legs. Large feet ... Outstanding infield instincts. Soft hands and strong, accurate arm. Bat has quickness with little long stroke. Makes contact with gap power. Will hit occasional long ball. Comes to play.
Drafted: Yankees, No. 6 overall.
Livermore (Calif.) High. Age 18, 1982.
Stork-like body -- tallest pitcher I've ever scouted ... Timid due to awkwardness and plenty of room to fill out ... No concept yet, just a thrower. Johnson is like a box of Cracker Jacks, there's a surprise inside. Our only problem is whether or not we will like the surprise. He's a boom or bust. Long way to go yet. Has no pitching mechanics ... With his long arms could eventually bury all left-handed hitters. A real gamble.
Drafted: Braves, fourth round (went to USC).
Valley High, Las Vegas. Age 18, 1984.
I really believe that this boy would possibly be the number 1 player taken in the country if only he looked a bit more physical. He throws 86-89 consistently with very good movement. His movement isn't a gradual tailing type but a quick explosive bat-breaking kink. He has a big league CB (curveball) right now although he needs to be a little more consistent with it ... If available when we select in the second round I would be surprised. We would be getting a first-round guy.
Drafted: Cubs, second round.
University of Southern California. Age 20, 1984.
Very large frame, very strong ... Consistent average to above-average bat speed. Dominant top hand ... Occasionally takes some pretty good looking FB's; may be guessing a little much. Long swing, contact ability may drop the further he goes. Breaking pitch away hurts him / will occ. lunge ... Chance to hit 40 HR's + .275 for me.
Drafted: Athletics, No. 10 overall.
Aberdeen (Md.) High (as pitcher). Age 17, 1978.
Tall-rangy. Good athletic body ... Poised. Polished -- good tight quick rotation on curve. Straight change major-league now. Delivery coordination good. Competitive command of pitches very good for 17-year-old ... Throws weak slider which he does not need. FB needs another foot on it to be ML ... All he needs is pitching experience in pro ball and a bit faster. Has good pitching potential.
Drafted: Orioles, second round (as shortstop-third baseman).
Westminster Christian Academy, Miami. Age 17, 1993.
Report 1: Juan Gonzalez type body w/o as broad of shoulders ... Can field, throw, hit, hit for power, and steal an occ base. Pluses across the board. Outstanding kid who loves to play and is handling all of the attention w/ no problem. Outstanding! Dominate player! ... Should be a franchise player and play in many all-star games.
Report 2: Better at 17 now than all the superstars in baseball were when they were seniors in HS.
Drafted: Mariners, No. 1 overall.
University of Southern California. Age 20, 1965.
This boy showed a real good fast ball with good life, has real good command of point of release. Boy has slider type of curve but could improve as he has good arm action and should be able to come up with good curve. Boy has plenty of desire to pitch and wants to beat you.
Signed: Mets, through special lottery
Alan Schwarz is the senior writer of Baseball America and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His first book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.