Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Draft Strategy

The NBA and NFL drafts are vastly different from the baseball draft. In addition to having a relatively small number of rounds (two in the NBA and seven in the NFL compared to 50 in the MLB draft), teams in the NBA and NFL often select with the immediate needs of their current club in mind. Need an offensive tackle? You don't necessarily have to venture into the trade market or even free agency, as you might be able to solve your problem in the draft. Of course, such a setup comes with its own set of issues.

In baseball there is plenty of talk regarding need, although that usually refers to organizational need as opposed to immediate Major League need. For instance, a team's farm system may be thin at the catcher position, even if they have a solid catcher at the Major League level, so they will target catchers in the coming draft. Therefore, don't be alarmed if your favorite team takes a guy who plays the same position as the best player on the current ML team. Every team out there always needs more good players at every position, especially at the lower levels of the minor league system. Rarely do teams target players in the draft with their immediate Major League needs in mind, with the one exception being a top end reliever. In recent years more and more college relievers have been selected in the top rounds of the draft in hopes that they could get to the big leagues quickly to fill a role.

Fortunately for the Padres, Grady Fuson and Bill Gayton have had three very strong drafts in a row which has significantly bolstered our minor league system. Though we haven't picked in the top half of the first round in any of those years, we have been able to procure extra compensation picks due to the machinations of the free agent market. These extra picks have afforded us the opportunity to stock our system in an aggressive manner, and we've been able to fill many organizational needs over those years ranging from starting pitching to outfielders to catchers. Once again this year we have three extra picks (#42, #46, and #111 overall)... so we got that goin' for us, which is nice. This year, though, it's time for "best talent available", and we're excited about being in that position.

I have received a lot of questions regarding our strategy for this draft - will it be college oriented, what about players with tools, pitchers with velocity? Fortunately, I can answer these questions without giving anything away to our competitors. We're taking what we feel is the best talent available at the time - college, high school, pitcher, position player.

There's always a balance between impact potential and safety. However, the reality is that none of these picks are "safe". We're trying to predict the future performance of human beings five or even ten years into the future, at which time they'll be playing under circumstances that they can't even imagine right now (we hope). Safe? No chance. The business of baseball in general is a constant tug-of-war with uncertainty, and the other side of the rope never pulls harder than in the draft.

That's what makes it so much fun.


ConorGlassey said...

Paul - how often do teams scout their scouts? Obviously even the best scouts are going to miss on guys, but what type of process is used to judge how well your scouts are doing their job?

Steve Adler said...

This is exciting to hear! I know I already left a wish list, which I'm sure you have in your back pocket as the draft comes closer.

Seriously though, are you planning on having a recap on the draft. Most of the guys the team selects, the average fan will have no idea who he is or why he's a Padre. If you could give us a break down after that would be awesome!

Thanks and Good Luck

Tom said...

So we're apparently "heeding" MLB's slot recommendations again, which limits the team's ability to take the best available player.

Isn't the purpose of the draft to procure future major leaguers, whether by developing the drafted players or trading them? The last few "strong" drafts have seen the Padres fill holes in the minor league system with low-ceiling players. Brad Chalk cost 300,000 and will be lucky to turn into a 5th outfielder. For a team that insists it will build through the farm, wouldn't that money have been better spent going over slot for Toledo or Green, or drafting someone with more upside? How does devoting millions of dollars over 3+ years to filling in the Ft. Wayne and Elsinore rosters with low-ceiling players really help the big-league club?

Unknown said...

Gunga...gunga galunga.

Howard Lynch said...

Paul DePodesta is a Bill Murray fan? Back-to-back Bill-Murray-movie references suggests so ... well, done! :-)

Go get 'em in the draft ... tug that rope as hard as you can!

I hope you can get a "big bat" at #23 ... I like Ike.

Sideshow Bob said...

Great blog. I have two questions on scouting: given that it can take years to gauge whether draft picks will be successful, how do you go about grading your scouts? What do you look for in potential new scouts to complement your existing scouting network?

Unknown said...

My first comment, so I should start by thanking you for the interesting and instightful blog!

Now for my draft question. I understand you comment about taking the best available player, but is it really that simple? Are major league teams really able to put all their favorite prospects in a set order, or is it really more of a tiered approach?

I'll use another team as an example. The Rays have the #1 pick this year and there is lots of buzz over who they will select, with Posey, Tim Beckham, and Alvarez being the frequently named options. All these players seem to offer different pluses and minuses (Posey is lower risk, plays an elite position, but has some ceiling questions; Beckham plays a premium position but carries a bit of projection for 5 tools; Alvarez has some cost/signability issues and defensive concerns compared to Posey and T. Beckham).

Pretending for a second that the Rays decide all three are in the same tier, talent-wise, do other factors like organization depth a at a certain position or developlment time for that player become bigger factors?

I am not asking you to comment on those specific players. I am not asking you to comment on the Rays strategy, just using them as an example.

I think the question becomes even more relevant later in the draft. Do teams really have their #400-410 prospects in an exact order, or are they just in a tier? And at that point does need (not enough catchers in the organization) or balance (we've already drafted 5 pitchers, lets balance things out by drafting a corner infielder) become a big consideration if the remaining players are in the same tier, talent-wise?


Unknown said...

Paul, question off topic.

Can you explain the status of Matt Bush?


Byron said...

Paul, I was wondering how teams allocate their scouts' time during the year. Do organizational needs play a role in deciding which players to scout? Do you make resource allocation decisions a year in advance? How much a role does chance play ("Gee, I didn't have Player X on my radar screen but I just saw him play a game and we now have to start following him")?

For the 23rd pick, I imagine a team would have a list of about 40 players to follow going into the year to evaluate as potential first round picks. After eliminating some players who will clearly be gone by pick 23 and scratching some non-performers off the list, you might have a final list of 15 or so who could be drafted in the first round. I could also imagine a similar process, with expanded numbers, for supplemental, 2d or even 3d round picks.

For the rest of the draft, does a team tell its scouts to look, for example, for "left-handed power" or "right-handed fastball pitchers" as an emphasis?

There are so many prospects out there and scouting resources are limited. I am interested in how teams plan for the use of those resources in advance.