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Let’s Go Read: Future Value

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Not just a scouting treatise, Future Value offers a wide look at baseball today

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Future Value is for you, reader.

Perhaps a book about scouting doesn’t seem like the book you’re looking for, but Future Value is much more than that. Naturally, the book by FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel is built upon their years of work scouting for different teams and for different outlets, and it breaks down the work scouts do in incredible detail; if you were looking for an instructional book on how to get started scouting, Future Value would be a good place to start. But all the work the authors have done in their careers has not just prepared them to write a primer on the 20-80 scale. Their work in the industry, with teams and among team employees, has set them up to offer insight across the baseball universe, and the resulting book is a glimpse at baseball right now (at least before the pandemic).

There is a little bit of everything in Future Value—how the scouting scale works (obviously), how teams draft, how teams navigate the international market, what prospective athletes should know about scouting, how a front office works and is structured, what individual teams are doing differently—and it is all written with authority. Both Longenhagen and McDaniel clearly have the baseball chops and connections to write a book that provides an honest assessment of the industry.

Future Value is filled with anecdotes about each topic covered, from draft war rooms to backfield encounters and even Johnny Damon giving insight on when to smoke weed; these stories provide bulk to the book and make it entertaining to read. In fact, a follow-up of just scouting stories and baseball folk tales would be pretty enjoyable. But there’s a lot of substance, as well, and fans of any team will find something interesting.

For Cleveland fans, in particular, it’s not an unsurprising mix of information. The Indians front office is one of the most analytically progressive in the league, partly due to advantage-seeking and partly due to (stop me if you’ve heard this before) owner-imposed financial constraints. But the team has proven adept at creating strategy for player acquisition and development, perhaps most notable at the big league level for pitchers like Shane Bieber or up-the-middle position players like José Ramírez, and learning a little inside information about the team is fascinating. The only thing Cleveland fans might not like is a clear-eyed view of the Yandy Díaz trade.

But overall, there’s not much to fault Future Value for. The authors have a respect for their audience and do not dumb down any language in the book, which is almost a fault because at times the scout-speak can get a little jargony. However, most of Future Value reads nicely and will be an enjoyable diversion for any baseball fan who is seeking to know more about the game as it is today.

Author Eric Longenhagen joined me to discuss Future Value and how he and Kiley McDaniel wrote the book and what he sees in the future for scouting. He was generous enough to spend some extra time discussing Tribe prospects, as well, so stick around for the end to get some insight into what he does at FanGraphs.

Future Value was released on April 14 and is available everywhere. There is no better time than right now to support an independent bookstore. If you’re interested in getting Future Value, you can find an independent store via Indie Bound or Bookshop.org. Small businesses need our help right now, and even if there’s not a store near you, most stores are shipping and I highly encourage anyone interested to give an independent bookstore their patronage.