Two pairs of eyes, every guy they draft

DMZ · February 6, 2006 at 10:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

From Jonah Keri’s Q&A with the Yankees’ Mark Newman over at Baseball Prospectus

If there are 50 rounds in the draft, you need to focus on a usable number of rounds, since the players in the late rounds are long shots. So you can look at the top three rounds for the cross-checker, since that’s the focus of his job. Then you might look at the top five or six rounds for area scouts, where there’s still a reasonable chance that prospects will emerge.

To quote myself, writing about the massive buildup of the Bavasi-Fontaine group operation:

By putting more people on the ground, investing heavily in area scouts, cross-checkers, and so on, they know more about every person they’re looking at in the draft than their opposition. That’s amazingly valuable information. We can talk a little about the depth/breadth distinction at some point (Rob Neyer wrote a really good column about this I’d like to dig up and revisit). It makes your picks more valuable than another team’s. If you’re drafting a junior college guy in the 10th round that three good eyes have seen, you’re much more likely to turn that into a player than essentially flipping a coin between single-scout reports.

I’ve been way down on the off-season, but it’s worth remembering that there are good reasons to be happy in the long-term. Advantages like this aren’t going to start showing up for another two years, but it should happen, and it should be sweet.


9 Responses to “Two pairs of eyes, every guy they draft”

  1. BelaXadux on February 6th, 2006 11:47 pm

    I’ll second your kudos for the long-term effort put in by the Mariners player acquisition and development org. The work of Fontaine and his crew are the signal positive of what is likely to be the _last_ year of the Bavasi era. This offseason as a whole was oobleck. I do have some hope that young(er) guys in the present Mariners organization like Lopez, Betancourt, and Rafael Soriano, and as longer shots guys like Carvajal and Nageotte may make signficant contributions before ’06 is over—but that’s all I’m looking forward to with regard to our impending season.

  2. Paul Covert on February 7th, 2006 12:11 am

    Do you expect, then, that the advantage of the current approach to scouting will show up primarily in the middle (and perhaps lower) rounds of the draft, when they get beyond the guys that everybody knows about?

    (Last year’s mid-round guys haven’t really excited me all that much, except maybe Rohrbaugh. But I’d expect that an advantage of this kind can only be counted on over the long run, not necessarily in any specific draft. …And yes, I know, a summer of short-season ball isn’t going to tell me everything I need to know either….)

    Next question: Suppose the team stumbles out of the gate this year, and ownership tells Bavasi not to let the door smack him on the way out. Does Fontaine go with him? Or is he a Bryan Price circa 2003-type guy whose reputation allows him to hang on from one administration to the next?

    (The ideal scenario would be for the good ideas discussed here to become part of the organization’s culture, going beyond dependence on any one member of management; but I doubt that two or three years is anywhere near long enough for that hope to become a factor.)

  3. DMZ on February 7th, 2006 12:21 am

    I’d expect it to show up in a couple of ways:
    – hopefully more middle-round players develop compared to their peers
    – many more late-round players develop compared to their peers

    and in particular
    – the team does much better taking flyers on draft-and-follow guys than their peers

    The possible problem is that if there really isn’t talent after the nth round, then putting more eyes on more players and doing a much better job scouting them is only going to result in much stronger teams at the lower levels of the organization, but still not turn out many draftees into major league contributors.

    As to what happens to Fontaine, that would probably depend on the new GM. They can’t purge everyone without knowing who to replace.

  4. Dave on February 7th, 2006 7:40 am

    Fontaine and Bavasi are good friends. I can’t see a scenario where Bavasi is fired and Fontaine doesn’t leave out of loyalty.

  5. J.L. on February 7th, 2006 9:05 am

    Don’t say that, Dave. Don’t say that there might be a reason not to fire Bavasi after the season (other than some miracle of the M’s finishing with 90 wins, or him having “damaging” pictures of Howard Lincoln and the Mariner Moose). How many Angel rejects that will get seven-figure deals from the M’s will it take to override the benefits of a now-competent farm system?

  6. Steve Nelson on February 7th, 2006 9:29 am

    Fontaine left the White Sox to join the Mariners because of loyalty to Bavasi. Even if Fontaine didn’t leave the Mariners right after Bavasi left, Bavasi would likely continue to recruit him for whatever new organization Bavasi joined.

  7. msb on February 7th, 2006 1:09 pm

    the job here was also a promotion, though– from “Director of Player Development” to “Vice President, Scouting”

  8. Dave on February 7th, 2006 1:13 pm

    Not really, msb. For instance, the M’s last scouting director, Frank Mattox, got “promoted” to director of player development when Fontaine was brought in.

    It’s not a true tier system. Some guys would rather be managing the minors, while others would rather be running amateur scouting. They’re basically peer positions, though.

  9. msb on February 7th, 2006 1:44 pm

    good to know… somehow I’d forgotten about the cascade of title changes that ensued after Fontaine came in:

    “Jongewaard, while retaining his VP status, becomes special assistant to the general manager. Benny Looper, a finalist for the GM job that went to Bavasi last month, assumes Jongewaard’s former role as VP of player development and scouting. Frank Mattox, who ran the Mariners’ draft as scouting director, moves into Looper’s previous position as head of player development. Greg Hunter, formerly director of minor-league administration, becomes director of minor-league operations.

    Bavasi characterized all the moves as promotions that should be regarded as a vote of confidence to the staff he inherited. “I suppose I could have gone a different way and made changes and done OK, but I thought I could do much better with the people in place,” he said. “I think it was important to beef up their roles one, because they’ve earned it, and two, because I wanted to show them the respect I felt for them.””

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