Pittsburgh Pirates ‘Top Scout’ Says Thanks, No Thanks Leaves Organization
By Tom Smith
When FanGraphs named the Pittsburgh Pirates as having the ninth best system in Major League Baseball, they called him the Pittsburgh Pirates ‘top scout,’ but today he’s just another guy looking for a job.
"Top Scout: Mike Leuzinger, responsible for Josh Bell, Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain, Victor Black, and Matt Curry."
When you read the scoop from Rob Biertempfel, it seems like a pretty trivial thing ended the Pirates relationship with their most talented scout. Leuzinger wanted to interview with the New York Yankees. The Bucs said no. Getting a job with the Yankees has to be a big deal. The Pirates offered a contract and Leuzinger tells Biertempfel some of the reasons behind the decision and none of them are real flattering.
When Leuzinger was with L.A. he did some great things too including scouting a guy named Matt Kemp….here is a clip from MLB on the Dodgers changing their draft philosphy….
"Matt Kemp, James Loney and Dee Gordon give the Dodgers three home-grown African-Americans among their current starting eight position players. The game now also embraces an influx of international stars, the Dodgers having been trailblazers in that regard until recent years when funds for signing bonuses dried up.“Our philosophy of taking the best available player, regardless of position, with the highest ceiling, is how we got Kemp in the sixth round,” White said. “We never adhered to the draft-out-of-college mindset, because if you do that, there aren’t as many African-Americans playing college baseball, unless you go to predominantly African-American colleges.“So, I think it’s about the scouting. And I don’t think we have any more or less black scouts than other teams. I don’t think the color of the scout has any bearing on this, nor should it. Black scouts shouldn’t prefer black players and white scouts shouldn’t prefer white players. It just so happens we’re very active in the high school market.“But Kemp was not playing baseball, so it goes deeper than that. You can’t have cultural bias. You need to have educated scouts. I remember one scout talked about a tattoo Kemp had, like that somehow made him a bad guy. That’s stereotyping and bias, and I try to stay away from that. That’s like scouts tell you redheads can’t make the Major Leagues. Biases are bad, no matter what they are. If you have a bias to draft only college kids, you’re walking away from high school players like Matt Kemp.”Kemp hit the radar of then Dodgers scout Mike Leuzinger on a tip from Kemp’s American Legion coach, Doug Weese. White watched one of Kemp’s less memorable games with Leuzinger, but he also worked Kemp out with extra batting practice. Crosscheckers Gib Bodet and Tim Hallgren saw Kemp slug a pair of home runs, and that “raised the conviction,” Leuzinger said.“You could see his enormous power, especially to the opposite field, but he had a long way to go,” said Leuzinger, who also drafted and signed reliever Javy Guerra before leaving to scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It wasn’t always pretty. There was rawness, sometimes crudeness. There were days you’d see three strikeouts. But you also might see balls fly into the parking lot."
Looks like the Bucs lost another talent. We hate losing talent.
Especially when that talent has been called the most talented scout in a Pirates organization that can’t afford a single miss in the draft.
FanGraphs Ranking Top 30 Minor League Systems http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/ranking-the-30-minor-league-systems/
and another from the SI Vault:
"“One day [during Kemp’s senior year] I decided to stop by the school,” says Leuzinger. “Practice was long over, but I could see Matt all by himself, hitting off a tee. He never knew I was there. But that day I was convinced that Matt was all in.”"