Opinion: ASU baseball will suffer from MLB lockout

As many baseball fans know, an MLB lockout was implemented on December 2, 2021, effectively barring players from returning to practice facilities and making it more difficult to obtain team-provided health benefits. Owners and players could not come to a new collective bargaining agreement, so the owners decided to exclude the players from the team facilities.

The lockout has already affected players in the league by limiting access to team-certified doctors and physiotherapists, among other things, but the issues surrounding a lockout extend far beyond the professional ranks.

The way I see it, baseball is run by the players, not the owners. If there is a lockout this season, ASU will miss an opportunity to be close to spring training for scouting opportunities.

ASU baseball has become a hot spot for professional scouts over the years, due to its proximity to college to spring training. Eddie Bane, a former national scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Sun Devil alum explained in a Sun Devils Athletics article that, “Arizona State is isolated. It is the only game in town for college baseball, unlike the Southern California region. Every club has a scout nearby, so players are seen more often by professional scouts.”

ASU leads Division 1 college baseball in overall draft picks with 455. The closest is the University of Texas with 356.

A major reason for the ASU rankings is that more scouts watch the college baseball team during spring training so they can interact one-on-one with prospects.

This was a huge advantage prior to the internet. A lot of people would argue that there’s really no benefit to being so close to spring training action anymore because, as ASU teacher and sports ethics and philosophy expert Shawn Klein explained, before scouts even go and look at a player, they probably have watched a great amount of video from the player already.

But no matter how many clips have been watched, this doesn’t take into account how the player will interact with the team.

“There are a lot of stats you could look at, but then there are other things that you still need to get that personal connection to actually get that relationship,” Klein said. “You can only see so much on the video, you can only see so much in their stats.”

Writing a player’s personality report is a huge part of the scouting process because there’s really only so much you can tell from the numbers.

ASU is one of the best places for prospects hoping to be watched by MLB scouts; Scouts still enjoy coming to games in person to get a good sense of a player’s personality and see how that player fits into a dugout.

When they’re not scouts, some players like to go to amateur games and try to scout them, just like Zack Greinke did when he was with the Diamondbacks.

There is a connection between scouting and the teams that come to Arizona to play for college tournaments, Klein said.

“You have a lot of smaller and bigger schools that come here and play in a lot of tournaments that are often around spring training,” he said. “Probably it’s just because you’ve got the teams, you’ve got the scouts, you’ve got the other college teams all at once, so there’s probably a little bit of economies of scale for everyone.”

If there are economies of scale for everyone, wouldn’t there be a benefit to the team playing home games just minutes from spring training?

Ultimately, if spring training doesn’t take place, the Sun Devils lose their advantage over other schools when it comes to scouting.

Reach the reporter at jdhinkl1@asu.edu and follow @JeffreyHinkle_ on Twitter.

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by The State Press or its editors.

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