From Clayton Kershaw to Cliff Lee, veteran baseball scout Jim Stevenson has seen plenty of talent over the years.
He had a gut feeling about Dallas Keuchel. Stevenson saw the left-hander at the University of Arkansas and convinced the Houston Astros to draft him in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft.
"I saw Tom Glavine in him and other lefties, Mark Buehrle, that type of guy," said the 52-year-old Canadian. "He even has some Cliff Lee to him, you know."
Stevenson's gut was right as Keuchel went 20-8 with a 2.48 earned-run average this season en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award.
Stevenson is no stranger to NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta either, drafting the Cubs right-hander out of junior college when he was scouting for the Milwaukee Brewers. The move didn't quite pan out however, as Arrieta decided to transfer to Texas Christian University rather than sign in the majors.
"To me it's still an honour to say you drafted both kids at one time," Stevenson said in an interview. "I was ahead of my time on Arrieta, I guess."
After growing up in Toronto, Stevenson headed to the U.S. after high school where he played baseball for a pair of junior colleges. Following a brief stint at the University of Mississippi, he returned to Canada, suiting up for the Concordia University hockey team for three seasons.
Stevenson briefly coached in the U.S. in 1992 before becoming a scout with the Cleveland Indians in 1993. He joined the Brewers in 2001 and the Astros in 2007.
"I think he's a very instinctive scout. Very confident scout," said former Astros assistant general manager Bobby Heck, who now works for the Tampa Bay Rays. "He really has a belief in what he's seeing and doesn't need reassurance from others.
"Jimmy has had a good way of figuring out who the top guys are and who are the guys that we should either let go to college or let some other teams select."
Heck trusted Stevenson's gut on Keuchel at the 2009 draft. Having never seen Keuchel pitch before — a rare occurrence for a scouting director, according to Stevenson — Heck and the Astros selected Keuchel 221st overall.
"Obviously we should have taken him earlier," admitted Heck. "If I took him with our first pick, I would have been ripped, but I look pretty smart now."
Stevenson said he tries not to show interest in players that he really likes. Keuchel was no exception.
"Even when we drafted him, I walked in his house, his mom was like, 'Oh my God, we had no idea the Astros even liked him'. And I said that's how I work, you know. Those gut feel guys," said Stevenson.
Stevenson lives Tulsa, Okla., and is the Astros area scout for Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.
"My roots are here now, I've got three kids, and I'm here for the long haul," he said. "Hopefully I can continue scouting as many more years as I can."