The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Peter Stein
Staff Writer 

White: Good evaluation requires all info

 

January 30, 2019

Logan White

Scouting to baseball is like vitamins to the body. It’s essential for growth and progression, for survival really.

So that makes Logan White kind of like a guy who owns a multi-vitamin store. The 1980 Portales High graduate has spent most of his adult life tasked with scouting for the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and most recently, the San Diego Padres. He’s made a career of beating the bushes, peering under the rocks, visiting the small, tucked-away towns, the hamlets, the villages.

And he’s supplied some pretty potent energy-boosts — especially for the Dodgers — by landing Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Hiroki Kuroda, James Loney, Joc Pederson and Chad Billingsley.

MVPs, Cy Young Award-winners, Rookies of the Year. Get your vitamins here.

For all he’s done, White was inducted into the Legends of Scouting Hall of Fame earlier this month, at a ceremony hosted by reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich and held at the Beverly Hilton where the Golden Globes took place six days earlier.

That’s how important scouting is to the game, to teams’ success and their future. And why a savvy scout like White has risen to his profession’s Hall of Fame and to the position of Senior Advisor and Director of Player Personnel with San Diego. Thanks in part to White, the Padres now have Major League Baseball’s top-ranked farm system, a distinction to which the Dodgers rose while White worked for them, making him an integral member of San Diego general manager A.J. Preller’s staff.

“I love my role,” White said, “being part of a team and being there to evaluate ... and being there for A.J. and giving him any advice. And also being there to be part of mentorship, for lack of a better term.”

Among those who consider White a mentor is Cory Wade, a relief pitcher who played four major league seasons — two apiece with the Dodgers and New York Yankees — compiling an 11-6 career record with a 3.65 earned run average and 137 strikeouts in 177 2/3 innings. He’s been managed by Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, been a teammate of Greg Maddux and Derek Jeter.

Wade was discovered by White when the latter was with the Dodgers, and hired by White as a professional scout for the Padres in 2015.

“I’ve known Logan since I was drafted in 2004,” Wade said. “It’s crazy to say it’s been 15 years.”

Since then, Wade has learned a lot from observing White.

“Just learning players’ personalities,” Wade said, “it’s one of those things I picked up from him, even when I was still playing. Those are the little subtleties that you pick up. ... He kind of told me to trust my instincts. He said you have to trust what you’re seeing. When we had our very first conversation when I first got the job in San Diego, that was something that I picked up from him right away. He had mentioned those things in the past years, just conversations that we had. ... We talked a lot about, not just the physical part of the game, but we talked about the mental part. Obviously you need the tools first, but the make-up is what ends up separating the players to some degree.”

White can impart all of the above lessons and more because he has a lifetime’s worth of baseball acumen, a lot from which younger players and scouts can draw.

“I think Logan has the ability to pick up on nuances of players that I think other people just miss,” Wade said. “It’s so different than a pitcher born with the ability to throw the ball hard and a hitter born with the ability to hit the ball hard. That’s obvious. I think he’s just really good picking up on the little things, the subtleties of a player and finding out their backgrounds. A lot of players talent-wise can be very similar, but there are always those x-factors that can make or break ballplayers. He’s obviously shown that over his career, especially with the Dodgers, with the players he was able to bring through that system. It’s unbelievable.”

Scouting has changed a bit during White’s career. Scouts used to focus on the five tools — hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing and fielding. Analytics have transformed that, with more involved, quantitative statistics like Wins Above Replacement, spin rate and exit velocity dominating the 21st-century scouting world.

But analytics aren’t exactly the Rosetta Stone of baseball.

“A smart evaluator will use both (analytics and traditional stats),” White said. “I think the biggest challenge is to determine what is people data and what isn’t people data. ... Most of the good decisions that were made were based on the human element. That’s the most important thing.”

“I think it’s everything. I think anything can be used to some degree,” Wade said. “But there’s something about passing the eye test, and you need athletes to be able to do that. And if you look at Logan, the thing that sets him apart is his ability to do that. The game-changers are the ones that are athletic players, and Logan has the ability to find them everywhere — north, south, east and west. He finds players, and he’s had a knack for doing it for a long time.”

White has changed with the times. And he thinks they’re changing again, as analytics are replaced by more technological scouting.

“I actually think the wave has past analytics now,” White said. “Using sensors, electrodes and using video, I think that is surpassing analytics. The things they’re using now to break down the mechanics of a swing. Analytics is here, but I think the next wave is the technology. ... There are so many opportunities to get data that wasn’t there before. Good baseball people are always going to try to stay on top of whatever is going to help us make the best decision.”

Decisions they hope will help them build depth throughout their rosters, and with that depth, championship contenders.

“You don’t have to be some baseball savant to see that Mike Trout stands out on the baseball field,” Wade said. “There are a lot of players that fall in that medium range. ... There’s not a whole lot of difference between those guys. And if you can find those diamonds in the rough, they can end up making or breaking your baseball team. So those players are important.”

 
 

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