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Mar 23, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman (left) and manager Aaron Boone (17) talk prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Mar 23, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman (left) and manager Aaron Boone (17) talk prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every year about this time, the Yankees’ pro scouting department sends a few of its sharpest evaluators on the road to watch its own major league team.

The assignment: Scout us as if you worked for someone else, and figure out how to beat us.

This process, which has been an annual tradition for at least a decade but is rarely if ever discussed in public, serves as a reminder of the value of a robust pro scouting department at a time when many teams are cutting jobs in that area.

Fitting with the Yankees’ typical approach, which tries to break down old school/new school silos and foster collaboration, it’s not just pro scouting that participates in the self-evaluation but qualitative analysis and advance scouting.

Among other tasks, Yankees scouts over the years have tried to steal their team’s own signs, and see if the pitchers and catchers have any tips or tells. If they can spot those, the thinking goes, so can opponents.

The process this season — which culminated this Wednesday with a meeting at Yankee Stadium attended by GM Brian Cashman and other high-ranking front office officials, manager Aaron Boone, the coaching staff and the Yankee scouts who had been following the team — further expanded the typical scope.

“This year we’ve done it a little bit different,” Boone said. “Usually it’s hypersensitive on tendencies and things we do to get ready for playoffs. It’s still that and that’s why we do it in the timeframe that we do it. We have them sit on us for three weeks [late in the season].

“This year we’ve expanded it, though, to where we get their thoughts on players. Their thoughts on areas of improvement. Strengths, weaknesses. It’s very helpful to just get an independent view of them [after] sitting on us for a few weeks to have their thoughts and ideas. It’s unfiltered and it just gives us a better grasp of ourselves.”

With the Yankees not technically eliminated from the postseason, advance scouting for October remains a necessary part of the process. But Boone and his staff plan to use the newly expanded component of the meeting to discuss with players what they should work on for the remainder of the year, and into the offseason.

That could include, for the first time, formal exit meetings with players that are more common in the minor leagues, where player development is the primary focus. The Yankees would rather be in the playoffs than have time for these meetings — but if they don’t make it, they’ll use the season’s final days to set individual plans for each member of the roster.

The Yankees’ continued emphasis on pro scouting comes in an era when other organizations have cut back. Just this week, the Washington Nationals parted ways with six scouts. In recent seasons, the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers are among the teams that have significantly downsized their pro scouting departments.

In justifying these decisions, executives cite the high cost of sending scouts on the road, and note that — as with any field — some evaluators are more effective than others. In smaller markets, when owners keep tighter reins on baseball operations budgets than they do in New York, GMs have to make difficult cuts. Pro scouting often feels the pain.

Neither the Yankees nor the Mets plan to cut back on pro scouting, according to sources in both organizations. Both Hal Steinbrenner and Steve Cohen can afford it and understand its importance.

The Yankees make extensive use of data as well, with a large analytics department that includes a presence in the clubhouse. Ace Gerrit Cole this year has complimented analyst Zac Fieroh for helping formulate effective game plans.

But, as Aaron Judge told SNY this week in praising Boone and new hitting coach Sean Casey, there is also value in having the scouts and former players communicate information to members of the active roster.

“It’s not all about numbers,” Judge said. “It’s not all about what happens on a computer screen. It’s about watching the game. Reading the game, having fun with the game.”

Now even more of the information that comes to Judge and his teammates will be derived from the Yankees’ own pro scouts.

“It gives you things that they see that maybe we’re missing that we need to clean up or tighten up,” Boone said. “It’s really helpful.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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