Not only have they shifted their draft philosophy to include more analytics, the White Sox have also adapted their methodology in collecting background information on players.
The club’s social media team is now heavily involved in the process as they help the amateur scouting department by researching prospective draftees' personal accounts. If a potential draft pick has Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, the White Sox won’t hesitate to use it as a tool to gather more information.
Amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said it’s just another way to attempt to fill out the picture when considering players, which is significant given the amount of uncertainty already involved in prospects.
“It’s huge,” Hostetler said. “It kind of gives us a comfort who we’re sinking our investments in. And look, these guys don’t perform, my kids don’t go to camp, they might not be in private school, whatever it may be. We’ve got to continue to make sure we’re minimizing our risk from the personality standpoint.”
One of the hardest parts of assessing amateur athletes is figuring out what kind of person the player is away from the field. Whereas you can use a radar gun to clock how fast a pitcher throws or TrackMan can tell you a college hitter’s average exit velocity, determining the personality is limited to interactions with players and those that surround them.
Scouts can interview players during the process. Colleges set up scout days so players can knock out a series of interviews with interested teams in a one sitting. But what prevents a player from telling a team exactly what they want to hear instead of the truth? Scouts also can ask coaches and friends and family members about the player to try and establish who he is.
[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
Still, it’s not an easy process when there are millions of dollars involved.
The San Diego Padres had seen Matt Bush play when they selected him with the first overall pick of the 2004 draft.
The talent was undeniable.
But they hadn’t thoroughly investigated who he was off the field. Had they, who knows if the Padres would have taken Bush, who had a series of off-field incidents, including a felony hit and run and a DUI in March 2012.
“It’s difficult,” Hostetler said. “A lot of kids can put on a face in front of you. Far more goes into it than just the meetings. It’s talking to friends, enemies, teachers, opponents, umpires, etc.”
Social media adds another layer for teams. It can offer them a glimpse into the player’s personal life.
Hostetler said it’s not so much about what an athlete posts — though clearly the potential for red flags exists — but rather what else an account provides. Now teams can get a sense for what a player’s interests may be as well as who they hang out with off the field. Hostetler has spent part of this week reviewing information about potential draftees as his department prepares for the June 12 amateur draft.
“We have our social media team always checking who they are associated with, who they might run with, not necessarily maybe what they post,” Hostetler said. “The background work that our area scouts put in, the time that they spend as well as all the other researchers we have, it’s part of the puzzle, just as the analytics are and the player evaluations are.”