By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
April 1, 2011
(Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Jack Marder is not related to our web master, Jennifer Marder, though she does think it’s pretty cool that someone with her last name actually has athletic ability. And while we’re at it, I am not related to former NHL player Petr Klima, Czech author Ivan Klima, Sci-fi writer John Klima or artist John Klima. But thanks for asking.)
When Baseball Beginnings started in spring 2009, one of the first kids we visited was Newbury Park HS shortstop Jack Marder. At the time, a lot of scouts had dismissed him. He was too small, he was diabetic, he wasn’t going to get any stronger…basically, they buried him. I never bought it. And when you watch this swing from 2009, you’ll see why.
How many times do I say that when I scout, I scout for that which I cannot give a guy. I cannot make a hitter a hitter. Marder could hit, even with this little metal bat, trying to turn and burn on everything. He was cut from Area Codes with a nice reminder that the roster is reserved for studs, not for hard-working little guys. He was an old senior, 19, and some scouts I respect were scared about that. I remember one of them asked me if he should like him. I said, yes, you should.
Now let’s have a look at Marder almost two years later, playing for Oregon, taking BP at Long Beach.
Now, all of a sudden, everyone comes out of the woodwork. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a player. It doesn’t work that way in the real world. If you know what to look for, and if you identify the right characteristics at a young age, then the players who pop should not surprise you. Guys who go backwards usually give you an indication with their work ethic and makeup if there’s a chance that it will happen. Guys who improve show you the same signs, but in a positive way.
If you only look for the finished product at a young age, you will miss players, because you have no feel for how baseball players develop and evolve.
So put yourself in Marder’s shoes. You’re the guy who has always worked to prove people wrong and now, all of a sudden, people you have never met are coming out of the woodwork to say how good you are.
I have no patience for fair-weather player evaluation. Either you like the guy or you don’t, you either like them young or you don’t like them at all. I have said many times on this site that you have to like a player you like through thick and thin, because baseball is a game of thick and thin. Those who flock to players when they are hot are poor baseball minds, who lack the conviction of a player like this, in my opinion.
I’m also not a big fan of the “it’s not his draft year, I don’t have to care” argument. A scouting history on a player is vitally important. Where were those people for the last two years? Where were they when Marder was playing summer ball fresh out of high school or where were they when he banged his wrist and ankle up as a freshman at Oregon and still managed to hit?
This baseball is a fair-weather game and many of the people who populate it lack the guts to call a spade a spade, or in this case, call a ballplayer a ballplayer. If you think a guy couldn’t play two years ago and now you think he can, the player’s not the one proving you wrong. You were proven wrong the moment you blinked when the player wasn’t ready the moment you wanted him to be ready. He was proven to be the good baseball player, the good baseball mind, the good baseball personality – you were proven to be insecure observers without a clue of what a young player looks like before he comes onto your radar screen. Real baseball men don’t wear designer shoes and they don’t ask others what to think.
While I’m a roll, I don’t want to hear any of this stuff about, oh, this is the year Marder proved it. Time to look at my video vault again. In 2010, when UCLA’s Gerrit Cole was throwing the ball better than he is in 2011 when he’s going to be the 1/1 pick, Marder was the only hitter I saw who had the hand speed to be able to pull his hands in and whip the barrel through against Cole’s mid-90s heavy heat. To the video:
There was only one other guy with hand speed to drive the ball against Cole that I saw in 2010, and that was ASU’s Kole Calhoun, another guy who didn’t get the time of day from the experts, but that’s a different story.
So now in 2011, Marder is a bona fide stud and we’ve reached the point where everybody is an expert. My point is simple – if you didn’t like him in 2009, but like what he does now, you missed what he did then. If you didn’t have the guts to like him when it wasn’t hip to like him, you lose.
If you want to say I’ve got hubris, go for it. My old teacher, Bob Zuk, told me that what separated the three Hall of Famers he signed – Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell and Gary Carter – from the other all-stars he signed was immense pride. I have immense pride in my opinions when they are right, and I wear them when I am wrong. What I do not have is the ability to be a fair-weather work shirker who talks a good game and then comes back when what’s hot is hot.
Marder has pride. It oozes off him, it’s defiance you cannot buy in a player. It’s passion to be a pest, to maximize what he has, to be a complete and total leader for the guys on his bench and a complete and total pest to the other team. Is there a box for that on a scouting sheet? Not if you just look at tools, which are there, as they were in 2009, just growing along with the kid.
Let’s talk about the scouting. Do I love this guy? Clearly. Why? He’s a potential gold glove catcher with 20 home run right-handed power. I said it back when the scout was scared to be wrong. I’m not scared to be wrong and that’s why I’m right more than I’m wrong.
In the days he doesn’t catch, he can play third, first, second, left or right. Put him at short in a pinch, it’ll be just like he played there yesterday. I saw him beat out an infield single against Andrew Gagnon at Long Beach State, draw several picks, advance to second on a hit, take third on a sacrifice, score on another. He was on base for 12 minutes and sucked the life out of Gagnon. It reminded me of a 12-play, 12-minute touchdown drive in which the team runs nothing but running plays, runs the clock down, takes 82 yards, and scores without flair. My old high school football coach and his love for the option play would admire that. That’s Marder.
The bottom line is this – Marder is a savant and I don’t see players like him very often. When he’s finished playing, he’ll be a college coach or a minor league manager. He’s not afraid to be who he is – and that’s a pretty good ballplayer who can hit and play defense. You shouldn’t need to be an expert to see it, but a lot of people are great at pretending to be one when the game is over.
Watch Summer 2010 Jack Marder Video
Read Spring 2010 Jack Marder Scouting Update
Watch Jack Marder vs. Gerrit Cole
Watch more Jack Marder Scouting Video
Read Diamondbacks or Ducks? Catching up with Jack Marder
Watch 2009 Jack Marder Scouting Video
Read 2009 Jack Marder Scouting Report
Watch more 2009 Jack Marder Scouting Video
Read 2009 Jack Marder Q&A