MINNEAPOLIS -- For professional baseball players, batting practice is a chance to get loose, work out the kinks in their swings and get ready for 95 mph fastballs. For fans, it's an opportunity to get a home run ball from one of their favorite players or play the "who's hitting right now?" game.
For scouts, batting practice is something much more important: An opportunity to see a lot about a player in a short period of time.
"For me, I almost gain more from [batting practice] than I do the game, in terms of seeing the swing actually work," one NL West scout said. "You're not going to see whether the player can make adjustments, and you're not going to see whether the player can pick up breaking balls, which are all huge parts of what we do. But you do get a chance to see the bat speed, the swing path, and -- if we're lucky -- we'll see whether the player has the ability to go the other way with pitches. The average fan might not see it, but there's definitely a reason we get to games so early -- and it's not for the hot dogs and soda."
To no one's surprise, there were plenty of talent evaluators who came early to check out batting practice at today's Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis. I had a chance to speak with one of those scouts during BP, and here's a look at the players who impressed him the most before today's game.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: Baez has not had the Triple-A season everyone imagined after he destroyed pitching at two levels in 2013, but he has come on strong over the past few weeks, and he put on an absolute show during batting practice Sunday by hitting several near or into the upper deck.
"He's just a hitter," the scout said.