Scouts bear down on conference tourneys

While each club has their own way of finalizing player evaluations before the draft, the one commonality is the simple fact that time is running out on them. Most high school prospects have completed their seasons and the college crop is headed into the conclusion of their schedules. This week, the conference tournaments have begun, and such a stage can make a difference.

But can one last start or a few at-bats make a difference on draft day?

"Oh sure," explained an American League scouting director, "every look counts. You gather all the information possible and in the end you decide how much you like that player. "

That means the prospects still have work to do, too, but among the tasks left is that last column or checkbox on the scouting report -- whether or not the player in question can be signed. Prep kids have the option to go to college, college prospects, sans the seniors, can return for their final year of eligibility.

"That really goes without saying for us," the scouting director added. "If the player isn't signable, we're not interested. We might still really like a player, but we can't take the risk that he may not sign. We have to do out homework."

It's worth noting that in most cases teams have an idea one way or the other whether or not the players in which they have interest are signable.

Typically, this involves getting to the know the player some and getting a feel for how much he wants to play pro ball right now and how strong his college commitment may be. So while there may be room for players to improve their stock, there's a secondary aspect to the proceedings as clubs near their final draft meetings.

These final assessments, however, cannot take place until there's no more to see. The conference tournaments are under way, and then the trek to the College World series begins. Any significant performance, positive or negative, can make a difference, and the scouting bosses remain busy throughout.

"It doesn't take much to push one above another," said the scouting director. "This is the draft, we grade on a curve."

Here's a look at what scouts will be watching in conference tournaments this weekend.