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Watching baseball for a living would be a dream job for most every fanatic of the game. However, all things considered, how much do baseball scouts make a year?
Professional baseball scouts make $35,382 a year on average. The range depends on the team employing baseball scouts, and the employment-focused organizations collecting the data. In general, new scouts can expect to make almost $18,000 annually, while the long-standing scouts can make about $70,000 a year or more.
Some employment or career-oriented organizations state higher average annual salaries for baseball scouts — one has the top 10% of baseball scouts making over $82,000 a year (and the bottom 10% under $26,000). However, it is important to note that we should consider the most recently updated data because the baseball scouting industry is changing. Read on for details.
What Impacts Salaries for Baseball Scouts?
Annual salaries for baseball scouts depend on many factors, just as with most occupations. For the higher salaries of baseball scouts, experience, contacts and longevity play a major part. Being a fledgling baseball scout is difficult, with low pay, travel and other costs. Not many remain scouts for prolonged periods.
If you ask moderately experienced baseball scouts, they probably will say they started as an intern or an associate scout (referred to as “bird dogs”), and the pay was minimal if any. Some might say they were paid with team promotional items only!
Those reaching the roughly $35,000 annual average salary for baseball scouts probably have toiled the trade for many years. For instance, a group of midwest United States scouts said bonuses for exceptional signings might range from $100 to $5,000.
There also may be confusion between scouts, and agents. Baseball scouts typically do not get a huge bonus for discovering a young talent who pans out to become a major leaguer. There are no huge signing bonuses, as expected with agents of players.
While initial rewards might be slim, those who rise to the upper echelon of the scouting arena can become wealthy. It is said the director in charge of all scouting for major league clubs can make $300,000 a year. Below the directors are regional scouting directors, who oversee the actual baseball scouts most fans envision — the guys with the radar guns behind home plate wearing golf-logo caps, sunglasses, long pants and collared shirts.
For a broad idea on the salaries of today’s baseball scouts, consider the following from a former scout stated in 2018: the pay is about $30,000 to $60,000 for area scouts, $60,000 to $90,000 for what are known as crosscheckers, and $300,000 annually for the scouting directors “It takes years and years of hard work and travel,” he said.
Said another, in summary: it’s difficult to imagine a scout making more than $80,000 without being promoted to a position that’s not simply an on-field scout, such as regional administration or some type of scouts’ oversight for a team.
More Information About Baseball Scouts
Know the Level — Pro vs. College Baseball Scouts
It is important to note that the pay and expectations for baseball scouts can differ greatly depending on who you are scouting for. While scouts for professional baseball teams can make careers out of scouting, with a lot of patience and dedication, there also are scouts for college baseball teams.
Typically college baseball scouts make less than their pro-team counterparts — if anything at all. College baseball scouts scour local, regional and sometimes even national high school baseball games to attract commitments from top-level talent to college and university programs. Some might even volunteer the service for their alma mater.
Their job differs from the pro team scouts in that they also must consider other factors when evaluating players, such as a player’s school grades, aptitude test scores, potential to succeed in college, the family, and even a player’s temperament. No scout wants to recommend a player who turns into a hothead or head case, embarrassing the school.
What Do Baseball Scouts Evaluate?
These days, anything and everything. Old-school scouts used their naked eyes to look for 5 key tools in players: hitting, hitting for power, running speed, throwing and fielding. This was the standard for many years and baseball scouts engaged stopwatches to gauge running speeds, ever-evolving radar/speed guns for the velocity of thrown balls, and more.
The image of a scout or many men in sunglasses sitting right behind home plate aiming science fiction-looking guns right at a pitcher is a classic image of baseball scouts. Baseball teams are constantly looking for pitching talent — not only are pitchers more prone to serious injury before they make the major leagues, but it also is very difficult to evaluate young pitchers. Hence the prevalence of speedguns.
The latter is a reason that in recent years MLB teams have favored drafting more college pitchers instead of high school pitchers. Teams figured out that major four-year college baseball programs are the equivalent, talent-wise, of AA- or AAA-league minor league baseball, and therefore player statistics can be considered in evaluations. That’s not always true for high school players, many who dominate in leagues with lesser competition so their statistics can be unreliable.
For position players, consider the above-mentioned “5 key tools.” In the old days baseball scouts depending much on their eyes, plus their ears in terms of what others might say about a player, to determine just how well a player performs in those 5 areas.
For each, players might have been graded on what is known as the 20-80 scouting scale (instead of 0-100), invented long ago by a premier MLB general manager to consider deviations at the upper and lower ends of the spectrum. The starting point is 50 as the major league average; followed by 10-point increments either way, if a scout considers a player better or worse than average.
For pitchers, scouts grade each pitch such as fastball, changeup, slider, curveball and cutter, the most common used by young players, on the 20-80 scale. They also then might judge the command of each pitch, or provide an overall grade for command (which is throwing quality strikes). They also might grade for control, which means ability to throw consistently in the strike zone; or pitchability which means a pitcher’s ability to keep batters off balance, or have a feel for sequencing pitches.
Generally, if batters have 5 key tools, pitchers have 4: fastball, changeup, top breaking pitch (e.g. curveball, slider, splitter), and command. A grade of 20 means basically the skill does not exist with the player; while 80 means Hall of Fame-caliber skill. The number 55 is known to represent an above-average player or pitcher. Anything higher represents solid potential.
As one could imagine, how a young player fares under this scale depends much on the experience and opinions of individual scouts, who must first judge what might be considered average for a major leaguer, then compare players they scout against that barometer. In recent years MLB teams have tended to also use other types of metrics to judge players, including statistical analytics, strength measurements, mental aptitude testing, and more.
Analytics’ Impact on Baseball Scouting
The past quarter-century or so, major league baseball has begun to rely more heavily on statistics and data analysis in terms of judging both potential young talent to draft, and to evaluate current MLB players using parameters beyond the typical batting average-home runs-RBIs, etc.
For more information, read the book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis (or the movie of the same title starring Brad Pitt). The result has been a steady decline in the number of professional baseball scouts, as teams let go of some old-timers or they just retire, in favor of hiring more (and much younger) data-driven analysts who crunch statistics from college or MLB games for players to present recommendations to teams.
This does not mean baseball scouts will disappear entirely. They still extensively consider metrics and algorithms in evaluations. It’s just that those who refused to adopt and apply analytics paid the price for it — they’re no longer scouting.
Question: How can someone become a baseball scout?
Answer: Somehow make a contact with someone already connected with scouting, and probably volunteer services as an intern at first. Few people walk in, cite their knowledge of baseball, and instantly become a scout. As in business, most often it’s who you know, not what you know. Perhaps, attend top-level high school or college games, look behind the plate for guys aiming radar guns, and go introduce yourself. Ask how you might break into their field.
Q.: Are there specific factors that impact the salary of a major league baseball scout?
A.: Factors can include experience; the particular team (as each MLB team pays differently); area of responsibility; travel requirements; and the level of competition being scouted (e.g. college vs. high school vs. older-age youth ball).
Q: What kind of experience is needed to become a baseball scout?
A.: A good percentage of MLB team scouts have experience as either a player or coach in baseball, and some of those have major league experience. Also, most have at least experience as a player in college or the minor leagues. Additionally, the MLB Scouting Bureau has a school for its scouts, and there also are private (for a fee) scouting schools.
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