It takes a special eye to pick out the next crop of Major League Baseball players from this group of Tri-City ValleyCats.
By looking at the batting averages, home runs and RBIs of the hitters, as well as the strikeouts, walks, earned run averages and speed-gun figures for the pitchers, the casual fan might think he knows a thing or two about who could be the next superstar. But several pro scouts in attendance at Wednesday’s New York-Penn League game said they are looking for talents and skills beyond the numbers.
Drew Ferguson went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and a double, Dexture McCall also homered and the ValleyCats snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Vermont Lake Monsters 8-2 at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
In 14 seasons with just over 400 ValleyCats wearing a uniform, 37 of them made a least an appearance in the majors, including Ben Zobrist (Oakland Athletics), Hunter Pence (two-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants) and Jose Altuve (Houston Astros all-star) who have reached name-recognition status.
Of course, in reality, very few of these ValleyCats will make a similar jump, but the scouts at Wednesday’s game were seeking for some diamonds in the rough.
“We’re looking for the physical tools for the next level,” said one, who only identified himself as a an NL scout named Matt. “We want to see if their legs will get a little faster, and whether they will fill out a little. We want to see what they can do naturally here, instead of having to force it. The tools get you drafted; the skills get you to the big leagues.
“At this level, it’s a little harder to tell whether they will make it. We are trying to identify some of the players who have a chance here. We need to get a look at them. Can they adapt?”
Another NL scout, John, who some of the other team officials identified as a Braves scout (they are a secretive lot), also pointed to the physical tools making the difference.
“It comes down to athleticism,” he said. “Some of these guys may get a little faster and stronger, and their hand-eye coordination may get even better. But what the average fan doesn’t understand when they look at the numbers is, 'Did this guy get his hits off a top-end pitcher or a bottom-end pitcher?' Sometimes, you look at a guy who hits .275 in the minors, but only .150 in the majors. The reason is he was getting hits off the bottom guys in a minor league rotation.”
Shenendehowa High School and Siena College grad Mike Serbalik, founder of All-Stars Academy baseball school in Latham and the Northeast scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks, said most of the players in the New York-Penn League are a little older than guys who are drafted, although the ValleyCats have several high draft choices on the roster.
“Some are 23 or so, and some of the younger advanced kids could be 18 or 19,” Serbalik said. “For me, at this level, I’m primarily looking for guys who our organization might like in a trade. Who are the prospects who could help us out in the depth department?”
Serbalik has been following the ValleyCats for the last five games, and he’ll wrap up his evaluation during this six-game homestand.
“It’s still all about the talent, the tools,” he said. “There are still some guys at this level who have a chance, but maybe they don’t jump off the page. They could still benefit an organization like ours if they can hit, and having extra power is a plus.
“The good thing about the way I follow a team is that I get to see a five-man rotation, plus all the relief pitchers. I get a good idea of what each team has.”
Tri-City manager Ed Romero said he knows a major league prospect when he sees one, and it usually doesn’t take him much time.
“You know about some more than others,” Romero said. “The numbers are nice, but they don’t mean as much as what I see from them. Take the infielders, for example. I notice how they take charge, how smart they are. You can tell by the way they carry themselves, the way they walk and how poised they are.
“We have some high draft choices sometimes, but they don’t always work out. But there are some guys that you just know they will make it as soon as you see them.”
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Pallares cf 5 0 1 0 Sewald 4 1 2 1
Lopez 2b 5 0 0 0 Marlow 2b 3 0 1 1
White ss 3 0 1 0 Hermelyn c 4 0 0 1
Iriart 1b 3 0 1 0 Carrasco 1b 4 0 1 0
Brown rf 4 1 2 0 McCall dh 4 1 1 1
Santana dh 4 0 0 0 Porter rf 4 0 0 0
Collins c 4 1 1 0 Wernes 3b 3 1 0 0
Howell lf 3 0 0 0 Ferguson lf 4 3 3 2
Loehr 3b 3 0 1 2 Ballard ss 3 2 1 1
Totals 34 2 7 2 Totals 33 8 9 7
Vermont 020 000 000—2
Tri-City 001 033 01x—8
E—Loehr (1), Brown (1), Collins (1), Lopez (2), Marlow (1), Ballard (3). DP—Vermont 1. LOB—Vermont 10, Tri-City 8. 2B—Collins (1), Loehr (1), Iriart (2), Ferguson (2), Sewald (2). HR—Ferguson 2 (2), McCall (1). SB—Loehr (1), Ballard (2). SF—Ballard, Marlow, Harmelyn.
IP H R ER BB SO
Massad L,1-1 5 2-3 6 7 4 2 1
Sosa 1 1-3 1 0 0 2 1
Naile 1 2 1 1 0 0
Barrios 3 2-3 6 2 2 1 2
Santos 1-3 0 0 0 0 0
Deetz W,1-1 3 1-3 1 0 0 2 3
DelRosario 1 2-3 0 0 0 1 1
Belisle 1-3 0 0 0 0 0
HBP—by Santos (Loehr). Balk—Massad.
Umpires—Home, Mac Dietz; Bases, Ryan Wilhelms.