As many baseball fans know, a MLB lockout was implemented on Dec. 2, 2021, effectively banning players from returning to practice facilities, and making it harder to obtain team-issued health benefits. Owners and players couldn't come to a new collective bargaining agreement so the owners decided to lock the players out of the team facilities.
The lockout has already affected players in the league by restricting access to team-licensed doctors and physical therapists, among many other issues, but the problems surrounding a lockout spread far beyond just the professional ranks.
The way I see it, baseball is run by the players, not the owners. If there is a continued lockout this season, ASU could lose out on an opportunity to be close to spring training, which could be in jeopardy due to the slow negotiations.
ASU baseball has become a hotspot for professional scouts over the years, due to the proximity of the University to spring training. Eddie Bane, a former national scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Sun Devil alum explained in an article from Sun Devils Athletics that, "Arizona State is isolated, it's the only game in town for college baseball, unlike the Southern California area. Every club has a scout in the area, so players get seen more often by pro scouts."
ASU leads Division 1 college baseball in overall draft picks with 455. The closest is the University of Texas with 356.
A key reason for ASU's ranking is that more scouts watch the University's baseball team during spring training, getting to interact with prospects one-on-one.
This was a huge advantage prior to the internet. Many people would argue there really is no advantage to being so close to spring training action anymore because, as ASU lecturer and sports ethics and philosophy expert Shawn Klein explained, before scouts even go and look at a player, they have probably looked at a tremendous amount of video of the player already.
But no matter how many clips have been watched, this does not account for how the player will interact with the team.
"There's a lot of metrics you could look at, but then there are other things that you still need 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."
Building a report on a player's personality is a huge part of the scouting process because there really is only so much you can tell by the numbers.
ASU is one of the best places for prospects to come in hopes of getting looked at by MLB scouts; scouts still love coming to games in-person to get a good read on a player's personality and to see how that player fits into a dugout.
If not scouts, some players actually enjoy going to amateur games and trying their hand at scouting, just like Zack Greinke did when he was with the Diamondbacks.
There is a correlation between scouting and the teams that come to play in Arizona for college tournaments, said Klein.
"You have a lot of smaller and larger schools that do come out and play in a lot of tournaments that are often right around spring training down here," he said. "Likely that's just because you have the teams, you have the scouts, you have the other college teams all going on all at once, so there's probably a bit of an economy of scale there for everybody."
If there is an economy of scale for everybody, then wouldn't there be an advantage for the team that plays home games just minutes away from spring training action?
Ultimately, if spring training doesn't happen, the Sun Devils lose their advantage over other schools when it comes to scouting.
This story was updated on Jan. 27, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. to clarify claims about the possible postponement of spring training.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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