Back in mid December, new Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich hired Danny Haas to serve on his staff as one of his two national crosscheckers. The 35-year-old Haas had been a scout with Boston since 2002.
In recent years, he served as Boston’s southeast, east coast and upper midwest/northeast crosschecker. Red Sox major league players signed during that time include Ryan Kalish, Ryan Lavarnway and Kyle Weiland. Haas was named Red Sox amateur Scout of the Year in 2004. He signed Sox pitcher Michael Bowden in the supplemental round of the 2005 draft.
A Kentucky native, Haas played college baseball at Kentucky and Louisville. Boston drafted him in the 18th round of the 1997 draft and he played in their minor league system through 2001, advancing as far as Double-A Trenton.
Haas’s father, Eddie, was an outfielder with the Chicago Cubs (1957) and Milwaukee Braves (1958, 1960) and managed the Atlanta Braves in 1985. His brother, Matt, is an east coast crosschecker with the Florida Marlins.
Here is a Q and A with Haas about joining the Orioles.
Q: You have worked together with Gary Rajsich before in Boston. Did that relationship lead you to join his staff with the Orioles?
Haas: “I’ve known Gary for a while. We scouted together with the Red Sox and we shared that ‘02 draft together when he signed (Jon) Lester, that was my first year as a scout. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I’ve kept in touch with Dan (Duquette) as well.
“I ran into Gary advancing this year. He was doing some free agent stuff for the Blue Jays and I was advancing for the Red Sox and we ran into each other and had some good conversations. It’s a good fit for me to work there. Gary is a good guy and good scout.”
Q: Was this a situation where you could have continued to work for the Red Sox, but this is an upward move for you?
Haas: “Yeah. It’s a bit of an upward move. It’s more of a rebuilding project to some extent. I’ve been with the Sox for 15 years. But the intrigue of something new and exciting was real appealing. I’ll be part of something from the grass roots.”
Q: Do you basically split up the nation with the other national crosschecker Ron Hopkins?
Haas: “We’re going to sit down at the end of this month and early next month with some regional meetings with our scouts. Some of that is still being put together. But he is based in the northwest and I’m here in the southern part of Florida. We’ll probably start more in our spectrum of the nation.
“As the spring goes on we will probably have more of a targeted list with who might fit at four (the fourth pick in round one) and our second and third-round picks. We would kind of specialize at that point.”
Q: As a crosschecker is that basically that you see players after other scouts from the team have seen them?
Haas: “Generally, yes. Anymore in this day and age a lot of staffs work in a similar fashion. From your showcases and your summer coverage and college leagues, you’ll develop a list of the top-top prospects.
“You start with that list and try to narrow it down a bit. As the spring goes on, some guys get better and some get worse. You get more history with players and get a better feel for them for the June draft.”
Q: What do you like about scouting?
Haas: “Well in scouting, everyone has a different opinion and all the times with the Red Sox I worked for parts of three regimes and everyone has a different way of seeing the game with philosophies and so forth. Every day in the game you should learn something new.
“Scouting players is very humbling. You see them, form an opinion and sometimes you are right and sometimes wrong. It’s fun to watch them grow and move up the ladder. Just seeing the whole process unfold is the best part of scouting for me.”
Q: It seems hard to try and project how good a player will be down the road. What are some key things that any scout needs to do?
Haas: “The longer I am in it, obviously you have to have talent and tools, particularly in the AL East. But makeup is so important, someone that loves the game and wants to get better.
“The game is a grind that takes a lot of dedication even for the most talented players. More and more, it’s getting to the bottom of (a player’s) makeup. Some kids are a lot different at 26 than they were at 18. Identifying the skills is very important, but trying to get a feel for that makeup is just as important.”
Q: How close can scouts get to the players to find out about that makeup and character?
Haas: “It depends on the scout. Some are better than others and some are very personable. A lot of it depends on how early and often the scout interacts with the player. A relationship that you establish early on in the process can create an environment good for both.”
Q: Will it be different scouting for a team that is rebuilding some and is trying to get to where the Red Sox have been?
Haas: “I wouldn’t want to say rebuilding and maybe that was a poor choice of words early on in the interview. Maybe a chance to be a part of a new beginning is a better choice of words. There are some pieces there to be competitive, there is a core there, for sure.
“This new CBA, it’s going to be challenging and really create a level playing field. You still have to identify the best players and get them signed and that is universal.”
Q: As Gary (Rajsich) gets in place here, do you forsee some philosophies you will go by when scouting for the Orioles?
Haas: “I don’t know about a philosophy, per se. Looking at Gary’s exposure, he has worked for the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rangers. Those are three teams with different viewpoints, but all those teams love tools and performance.
“All teams in baseball are moving toward that marriage that we love the talent but what kind of history has this player shown us and what do we see him being?
“In the draft there is that happy medium with your upside and your talent and probability guys. Who can make it in the big leagues and I think will be on the same page.”