Prescient scout to thank for Jeter in pinstripes

In April, 1992, Dick Groch got a look at a young Derek Jeter; the rest is history
02/18/2014 5:34 PM ET
By Jack Curry

Former scout Dick Groch saw in a young Derek Jeter the perfect Yankees shortstop.(AP)
Even the most ardent Yankees fan wouldn't consider April 8, 1992 an important date in the team's successful history. The Yankees didn't even play a game on that day, which meant it was as benign a day as a franchise could experience. But something memorable did happen on that seemingly sleepy day.

Dick Groch, a Yankees' scout, was busy that day, busy completing his scouting report on a high school shortstop from Kalamazoo, Michigan named Derek Jeter. Almost 22 years later, it is surreal to analyze how accurate Groch was in forecasting the future for a 17-year-old player. Groch filed the report on April 8, 1992, which is why that innocuous day is actually a relevant date in Yankees' history.

When Jeter discusses his decision to retire after the 2014 season at a press conference on Wednesday, he will explain why this is the end. There will also be questions about how Jeter, the kid who told his parents and everyone else that he would play for the Yankees, started his career with the organization. While Jeter was drafted in the first round by the Yankees on June 1, 1992, don't overlook the importance of Groch's report from two months earlier.

After receiving Groch's report, the Yankees were more committed than ever to selecting Jeter with the sixth pick overall. Scouts routinely use a 20 to 80 scale to rate the different skills of a player, with a score of 50 considered to be an average Major Leaguer. A 60 means a player is above average and a 70 means a player is among the best of the best. Groch rated Jeter's overall future potential as a 64, meaning he believed that Jeter would be a well above average player and an All-Star.

While Groch's numerical ratings of Jeter's hitting, running and throwing were revealing, his comments about Jeter were more intriguing. As I read Groch's report, it was eerie to realize how precisely he had predicted Jeter's career.

Under the section of the reported entitled, "Summation and Signability," Groch wrote, "A Yankee!" A five-tool player. He will be a M.L. star times five!!."

In the section for "Abilities," Groch wrote, "Above average arm, quick release. Accurate throws with outstanding carry. Soft hands, good range, active feet. Very good runner. Flow on the bases. Shows power potential. Quick bat."

In the section for "Weaknesses," Groch wrote, "Anxious hitter. Needs to learn to be more patient at the plate. Swing slightly long."

When Groch had to give a "Physical Description," for Jeter, he wrote, "Long, lean, sinewy body. Long arms, long legs, narrow waist, thin ankles. Live, electric movements."

In Groch's report, he graded Jeter's in intangibles. He rated Jeter as "excellent" in dedication, emotional maturity and agility, "good" in habits, aptitude and coachability and "fair" in physical maturity since the shortstop was still a skinny kid. Although the report listed Jeter as 175 pounds, Jeter has said he was 156 when the Yankees drafted him. Groch was prescient enough to give Jeter the highest ranking for dedication and emotional maturity, traits that have been hallmarks of his career, on and off the field.

Groch's report also used the 20-80 scale to give Jeter a present rating and a future rating for 10 different skills. Jeter's future scores included one 70 (for running speed), one 65 (for fielding), five 60s (for base running, arm strength, arm accuracy, baseball instinct and range), one 55 (for aggressiveness) and and two 50s (for hitting ability and power). Merely giving Jeter, who has 3,316 hits and counting, a 50 for hitting ability was one blemish in the report.

When Jeter was being scouted, teams knew there was a slight possibility that he could go to Michigan to play baseball. Groch scoffed at the notion and said the only place Jeter was going was to the Hall of Fame. So Groch will eventually be right with that prediction, too. The scout was right about most things with Jeter, which is why the report he filed on April 8, 1992 made that day a memorable one for the Yankees.

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