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COVID-19’s Impact On Game May Not Be Seen Immediately

Marc Tramuta was pleased with the 2020 MLB Draft.

But as the New York Mets director of amateur scouting, Tramuta must always have an eye on the future.

The future has him nervous.

While the coronavirus pandemic certainly hindered this summer’s first-year player draft, Tramuta believes it may have even more severe consequences on next year’s installment.

“When we got shut down in March we were having tons of Zoom calls with the front office and I made the statement: ‘I can handle this year. … I am way more concerned about 2021,” Tramuta said late last week. “I am going to lose a summer or 90% of it. … If this goes into the fall where you can’t see colleges play, here comes January and February and I’m a little bit blind.”

New York had six selections in this year’s five-round draft and CBS Sports gave the Mets an “A” grade for their class.

The headline of the Mets’ class was Pete Crow-Armstrong, a center fielder out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles. They followed that up with the selection of right-handed pitcher J.T. Ginn of Mississippi State University in the second round before taking outfielder Isaiah Greene from Corona High School in California.

“We had seen Pete the previous year in the fall and some of the summer. We had built that comfort level with him,” said Tramuta, a 1988 Fredonia High School graduate who makes his home there today. “In the spring, you are confirming what you thought, in a sense. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make.

“I only see high school players who are eligible (to be drafted) for next year,” added Tramuta, who predicts he’s on the road about 220 days out of the year and has spent upwards of 5,000 nights in hotels during his 24-year scouting career. “There are underclassmen events, but I don’t have time to see them.”

The talent at the top of the draft has so-called experts gushing over the Mets’ haul.

It’ll put a smile on Tramuta’s face too, but the 1991 45th-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn’t have very much time to dwell on this year’s crop.

Almost immediately after the two-day process ended earlier this month, Tramuta was formulating a plan to scout next year’s talent.

That’s when things start to get trickier because of COVID-19.

New York was able to take high school talent like Crow-Armstrong and Greene in this year’s draft because Mets scouts had already seen them during their junior years of high school and over the summer of 2019.

“I was doing Zoom calls almost every day for two months or on the phone with area scouts,” Tramuta said. “I think at the end of it we were pretty efficient.”

The same goes for college selections like Ginn, who Tramuta’s staff had evaluated during the 2019 season at Mississippi State and throughout the Cape Cod League last year.

But teams also would’ve used this year to scout talent for the 2021 draft.

“I’m so used to having that history and logging at-bats from the previous summer. I am not going to have that this year,” Tramuta said. “That’s a little bit unnerving. In January, we’ll have meetings and we’ll line up a draft board. … We’re (usually) able to have a plan in February to attack regions and players. I don’t think we’ll have that heading into next January.”

In some states, high school players only played 10 games. In a lot of them, high schoolers didn’t even see the field.

The same goes for college programs, which saw plenty of action if you are talking about the Atlantic Coast Conference of Southeastern Conference, but not so much in the Big Ten Conference or America East Conference.

“When everything came down in March they said ‘everybody get home as quickly as you can and as safely as you can,'” Tramuta said. “Then we brainstormed and solicited ideas from everybody on the staff. How do we do this without meeting face to face? The summer before, we saw high school and college players in showcases … but you didn’t get the full body of work.”

Video and analytics could become even more important as this summer and next season arrive if scouts aren’t able to get to every park they want to as they try to whittle down their lists of potential prospects.

“Synergy is a program that a lot of Major League teams buy. Almost every Division I school has cameras in their stadiums in center field. Essentially, I could watch any DI player from that center-field angle,” Tramuta said. “It has really helped with pitchers. … I could see swings, but when we watch hitters, I like to watch them from behind home plate and from their open side to watch swing patterns. … Without video from area scouts, that was a little bit different.”

In a sport where projecting 18- to 21-year-olds is hard enough to begin with, analysts likely won’t know for years how much the coronavirus affected Major League Baseball teams during the summers of 2020 and 2021.

Tramuta just has to put his faith in his staff and in his eyes. And maybe get a little lucky.

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