New Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette's vision for the organization is coming into clearer focus, with news of a de-emphasis on physical scouting at the professional level, more resources poured into amateur scouting and the hiring of a Loyola University professor as an economic adviser to help quantify players' financial values to the team.
Believing that the organization would be better served by using statistical and video analysis on the pro level while having more scouts watch potential draft picks, Duquette has orchestrated a fairly dramatic change in the scouting department.
Six pro scouts — including former pro scouting director Lee MacPhail IV and advance scout Jim Thrift — have been reassigned and offered jobs as regional amateur scouts, meaning that instead of attending minor league and major league games, they will be observing high school and college players in preparation for the annual draft.
Bruce Kison and Dave Engle, the club' scouts who have major league responsibilities only, will remain in the same positions. But those pro scouts who observe the minors and majors — Ted Lekas, Jim Howard, James Keller and former Oriole Todd Frohwirth — will now concentrate on amateurs. The club could always direct a scout to go on special assignment if the Orioles need to more closely watch a trade partner.
"A lot of the analytics and video capabilities make it easy for major league teams to follow pro-level talent and track trends and performances," said Duquette, who took over in November. "I think our scouting capability is vital at the entry level as the players develop their own track records, which we can follow through their performances and also with video. This is just a reallocation of resources."
It's also another immediate tweak implemented by Duquette, who has hired Loyola University economics professor Stephen Walters to be an economic adviser. Walters, who left the same position with the Chicago Cubs to rejoin Duquette, believes he is the only economic adviser to a baseball team, and "if [other clubs] have them, they are not talking about them."
The Orioles have not officially announced Walters' hiring, but he has been working for Duquette since mid-November. He has already provided financial valuations — based on an undisclosed formula — which have aided the Orioles in their pursuit of several minor league free agents they have signed this offseason.
To explain Walters' complicated role in simple terms, he analyzes how many additional wins a player can create and how much a specific team should pay for those wins.
"If you incorporate 'Player X' into the mix, how many wins does that add and how much are those wins worth in that market?" said Walters, who also still works for Loyola. "It can vary from case to case, and there is a time dimension question with any player transaction — what are the future ramifications? … So the puzzle pieces come together, and ultimately, Dan is the guy who masterminds that information. But a lot of people supply him with the information."
The Orioles already had baseball operations employees dealing with advanced statistical analysis — known as sabermetrics — so Walters' work is in addition to that research.
A Massachusetts native who first worked with Duquette when he was the general manager in Boston, Walters is best known in baseball circles for making a numbers-based argument before the 2002 season on why the Red Sox should sign outfielder Johnny Damon, who eventually helped lead Boston to a World Series championship in 2004.
"Steve Walters and I worked together in Boston, and he helps me with economic analysis of player contracts," Duquette said.
The Orioles also announced Friday that they have hired Danny Haas as the organization's national cross-checker, meaning he will travel the country and provide additional looks and analysis on amateur players who interest regional scouts.
Haas, 35, had spent the past 10 seasons in amateur scouting with the Red Sox. He was drafted as a player during Duquette's regime there, and Haas' father, Eddie, was a longtime special assistant and right-hand man to Duquette in Boston.
"Danny comes from a good baseball family," Duquette said. "He is very well respected in the industry, a good talent scout."
The pro scouts who have been reassigned can refuse the assignment, but this late in the year, most would have difficulty finding positions with new organizations. Their salaries are expected to remain the same despite the change in status and responsibilities.
The new assignments offered are: Thrift (western Florida); MacPhail, (Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia); Howard (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania); Lekas (New England), Keller (roamer, assisting in California) and Frohwirth (Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota).
Dean Albany, a Baltimore native who was regional cross-checker, will work as an area scout with emphasis on Maryland-area players and the Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities program.
"Dean Albany is going to be the local presence for the Orioles," Duquette said. "We are putting an emphasis on drafting, signing and developing local players for our fans, and Dean Albany is vital in that effort."
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