Rapsodo Baseball Podcast: MLB Draft, Scouting in a Pandemic, and MSU’s Newly Drafted Middle Infield

It’s usually a pleasant surprise when Rapsodo data shows up in articles and on broadcasts. In the case of the 2020 MLB Draft, we knew it was coming.

As part of their draft prep, ESPN reached out looking for information on the players likely to be drafted early. As more and more session data was featured in the scouting reports, we couldn’t help but wonder: is the pandemic actually an accelerant, speeding up the journey to a place we were already going?

Impact of a Lost Season

High school prospects have been hurt by the loss of their final season, and it showed in the draft. It took until the 8th overall pick for a team to select a high school prospect, the previous seven picks used on more established college players.

But then there was Nick Bitsko, a high school pitcher taken by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 24th pick.

What made Bitsko unique isn’t that he’s a high school pitcher. It’s not even that he lights up the gun to the tune of 98-99 mph. It’s that the majority of clubs were able to see him pitch a grand total of three competitive innings…almost a full year ago.

A lot of the buzz around Bitsko going into the draft was the result of video and Rapsodo metrics he shared from various bullpen session on Twitter and Instagram.

To be clear – the number one reason Bitsko was selected isn’t because of Rapsodo. It’s because he’s filthy. That said, his rise may be a sign of things to come.

What if every “diamond in the rough” had video and data?

Video AND Data Don’t Lie

“Do you have video on this kid?”

“No, but I have the data, and data don’t lie.”

“But you need video to be sure it’s him and see his delivery. So, actually, video don’t lie.”

That’s a real conversation we had the other day. We could try to draw it out like “Who’s on First” for the technology age, but instead let’s just say in the emerging era of virtual scouting, video AND data don’t lie.

We are not at a point where there are no more diamonds in the rough, but if the right mix of data and video becomes accessible to all players, we could be heading that way.

What Data Can Do…And What It Can’t

Technology doesn’t replace coaches; it helps them do their job better. The same is true for scouts.

While the idea of all prospect being able to leverage data and video to get seen is exciting, there will always be things you can’t learn from a bullpen or cage session.

What is a player’s character? How does he respond after giving up a bomb? How does his performance change in pressure situations?

Those things can’t be replicated. You’ll always need scouts to see players on the field, to watch them compete and show their ability to deliver in tough spots. But technology can uncover players worth watching, and that puts all scouts in a position to succeed.

BONUS: Mississippi State’s First Day Middle Infield

One of our favorite moments of the first day of the draft came at picks 14 and 30, where Mississippi State middle infielders Justin Foscue (Rangers) and Jordan Westburg (Orioles) were selected.

In the latest episode of the Rapsodo Baseball Podcast, Justin and Jordan took turns speaking to Seth about their shared experiences, the process leading up to this year’s draft, and where they are going from here.