Today you could safely describe R.A. Dickey in any number of ways. The 38-year-old has authored a best-selling book, mastered baseball’s most fickle pitch, accepted an honourary doctorate, raised money to combat sex slavery, and won a Cy Young Award.
But when he was a draft prospect back in 1996, baseball scouts kept their descriptions simple:
“Thick in thighs and rear.”
“Durable type arm.”
“Linebacker type body.”
Thanks to Diamond Mines, a site honouring baseball scouts presented by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, fans of the game can now view hundreds of historical scouting reports. Baseball insiders are no longer the only ones who know that scouts expected a lanky 17-year-old named Darren Oliver to fill out because of his father’s strong frame.
Historical scouting reports on Toronto Blue Jays players including Dickey, Oliver, Mark Buehrle and Ramon Ortiz show that the pitchers have evolved considerably from their amateur and minor league days.
Even so, there are some similarities between the pitchers then and now, as the following highlights show.
Minimal alterations have been made to the text below to preserve the tone of the original reports, so there are some spelling and grammar errors. Here are some highlights from the reports (links go to full reports):
Scouts saw a promising right-hander with a powerful body back in 1996. They even perceived the beginnings of what would eventually become Dickey’s trademark pitch. Later that year the Rangers selected him 18th overall in the first round.
Report highlights: Above ave. vel. Chance to have gd. KCB. … Exc. arm. Has been switched to closer and part time starter. Vel. has increased even with this extra work. Must keep eye on his health. If no arm problems occur could be high pick. Closer may be his best suit. Vel. increases and his bulldog approach fits well.
Report highlights: Linebacker type body. Has real strong chest and lower body. What you see is what you get with this body. Power arm type of guy that is very aggressive and very confident in his stuff … Has a decent knuckle curve that should be an average pitch in the future … This kid is pretty good right now. No projection. Would consider if we picked late in first round.
Report highlights: Maximum effort pitcher with 4 potential ML pitches to become a 3rd or 4th starter. I believe what you see is what you get velocity wise. 5pts for his feel for pitching and competitive nature.
California Angels scouts liked 17-year-old Darren Oliver leading up to the 1988 draft, citing his control and projectable body. Ultimately the Texas Rangers selected the left-hander in the third round of the draft.
Report highlights: Long slender frame on skinny side throughout upper body. Thin shouldered… Still a very immature body and face but has frame to get big & strong. Showed poise & confidence along w/ fringe ave stuff early in game.
Report highlights: Tall slender frame wiry strong still growing young face long arms wrist & finger … Real projection LHP but not crude. Going to throw very hard in couple of yrs & we have to be patience … Dad big strng guy.
Report highlights: Compact upper body; easy motion from 3/4 REL; Average arm-speed, with above avg. arm action (88-90 mph); Comfort zone velocity on FB, consistently average, also; Spotted FB, with good location … Controlled his selection w/ high pitchability; Starter role in ML.
Report highlights: Listed on roster as Ramon. Also listed as a six footer but no way. Slider is nasty when he locates it … Some concern about wear and tear on arm. Strong lower half. FB 90-93 still in the 90′s in fifth inning. CH 82-83. Not effective. Numbers are bad this year, but see this guy as future ML pen guy.