Tweaking the Padres Draft Process

I don’t have much to say about Wednesday night’s loss, so maybe instead we can continue our earlier discussion on the 2007 draft. Among other things, we now know that third-rounder Tommy Toledo and 10th-rounder Christian Colon didn’t sign.

Rich at Baseball Analysts has a full breakdown of the first round, including bonuses. One thing we learn is that, despite MLB’s efforts to artificially regulate the market (some might call it “collusion”), the average first-round bonus increased by about 8 1/2%. Obviously, that’s not the effect MLB had hoped for, but c’est la vie. The question of what can be done to improve the draft process is a fascinating one, but it’s so broad that it probably deserves its own blog.

I’d like to focus instead on what the Padres can do to improve their own process. Assuming that the mechanics of the draft itself aren’t going to change, what specific, actionable items can the Padres take to gain a further competitive advantage in the drafting of amateur talent? Again, the key phrase here is “actionable items” — don’t hit me with “spend more money”; that’s a copout and we all deserve better.

What I’m looking for are problems and solutions. For example, a problem might be that the current draft philosophy is too conservative, too risk-averse. A solution to that particular problem might be to give stronger consideration to high-school pitchers (a historically poor risk as a group, but one that has yielded some nice individual returns) in the early rounds.

So, acknowledging that the Padres have come a long way in the past few years, what are some next steps they might take to improve even further? I’m listening…

Padres Prospect Report

by LynchMob

With Peter gone, you get a bit more liberal definition of “prospect,” i.e., guys I’ve heard of and/or root for :) — and I take requests.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

AAA

Sacramento 8, Portland 4

Brian Myrow: 5 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 1 RBI; 3 SO
Paul McAnulty: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 0 RBI; BB 2 SO

AA

No game.

High-A

Lake Elsinore 5, Rancho Cucamonga 1

David Freese: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B, SO
Chad Cooper: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 1 RBI; 2B, SO
Steve Garrison: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO (2-1, 1.24)

Low-A

Quad Cities 7, Fort Wayne 6

Cedric Hunter: 5 AB, 0 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; 2B, SO, CS

Short Season-A

Eugene 11, Vancouver 8

Luis Durango: 5 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 1 RBI
Mitch Canham: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 3 RBI; 2B, BB

Rookie

Mariners 14, Padres 4

Drew Cumberland: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 RBI
Edinson Rincon: 3 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; BB

Commentary:

Edinson Rincon just turned 17 and these were his first hits for the AZL Padres (.083/.185/.083 in 24 ABs, born on 8/11/90).

Here’s some (very) low quality video of Yefri Carvajal from Sunday’s Eugene Emeralds game… his first three at-bats were underwhelming, then he got a hit in his final at-bat…

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

AAA

Portland 5, Sacramento 2

Craig Stansberry: 3 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; BB, HR (#11)
Mike Thompson: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Will Startup: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO

AA

San Antonio 6, Springfield 4

Matt Antonelli: 4 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B, SB
Chase Headley: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 RBI
Nick Hundley: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 2 RBI; 2B, HR, SO
Cesar Ramos: 5 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 SO (11-8, 3.59)

High-A

Rancho Cucamonga 10, Lake Elsinore 3

Craig Cooper: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 1 RBI; 2B

Low-A

No game.

Short Season-A

Vancouver 11, Eugene 2

Mitch Canham: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; SO
Yefri Carvajal: 4 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI ; 2 SO (played OF)

Rookie

Athletics 12, Padres 2

Drew Cumberland: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; BB, SO
Edinson Rincon: 3 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 0 RBI – 2 game streak :)

Commentary:

There was some debate in recent comments about Will Startup… he’s been used in relief at AAA all season…

Cooper Brannan, former Marine, took the loss in the AZL Padre game … he’s now 1-3, 8.41 …

Thanks, LynchMob, for once more delivering the goods! The Padres seek a series win Thursday night against Colorado. First pitch is 7:05 p.m., PT; we’ll have the IGD up and running an hour before then. Go Padres!

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57 Responses »

  1. LM, I love the idea of posting the scores. That’s a nice touch.

    I’m not sure how many of you got to see this since I posted it early in the IGD yesterday, but GaslampBaller Drama sent a letter to Nathaniel Whalen in Chicago to ask him where he got his information regarding the Khalil & Bell for Garland trade. Drama posts the response he received, and we all proceed to rip the man apart. It’s good times! http://www.gaslampball.com/story/2007/8/15/172053/260

    GaslampBaller Dinosaur also writes an equally sharp letter to Mr. Whalen: http://www.gaslampball.com/story/2007/8/16/31055/6498

    The best part of Whalen’s argument is that we should use someone from our San Jose club…

    And as for last nite’s game, I’m not too raw about it. I thought that we generally had pretty good ABs and that we crushed a couple balls right at people. I’m more happy that CY pitched well in his second start back from the strain. I’m looking for the real Clay Hensley to show up tonite and shut down the Rox.

  2. LM great job with the PPR and I agree the scores and links to the box scores are a great touch.

    Re: 1 I saw that letter last night and it made me wondered how the hell this guy have a job?

    I guess the best way to fix the draft short of going to a hard salary cap and full revenue sharing (see NFL model). Is to go with a set slot payment per pick which increases with the inflation rate each year. I know the Union will never go for it but I think it’s the only way every draft pick will be signed and the cheaper teams (I refuse to say small market because every team can all afford the relatively low salaries that the draftees are asking for) will not shy away from the high demand players.

  3. #2: Assuming no changes to the MLB draft, though, what can the Padres do to improve their process?

  4. I don’t know that the Padres aren’t doing this, but they need to weigh the “payoff” component of their picks appropriately. A college LHP who is 100% guaranteed to pitch for 5 years in the majors as a LOOGY is worth less than a pitcher who might have a 10% chance of performing as a star for 2 seasons. We seem to be so focused on not paying kids who may flame out at low A, but we pick a lot of guys who flame out at AA or AAA. Unless you aggressively turn those late-flamers into other assets through trade, they don’t help you anymore than the high-upside kid who doesn’t get out of Ft. Wayne.

    They also need to seriously examine the concept of risk. They drafted “low risk” pitchers with their first picks in 2005 and 2007 and they’re both on the shelf. I loved the Carrillo pick, liked Schmidt, but they should be asking themselves (and they might be) whether college arms really are less risky.

  5. In the draft study Rany Jazayerli did a year ago of draft return in the 80′s and 90′s, he found that draft picks of college hitters returned by far the most, but that draft picks of high school hitters and pitchers and college pitchers returned pretty much the same. A change in drafting philosophies or preparation of the various groups could have altered this by now, though. If that result holds, then there’s really no basis for the Padres avoiding high school pitchers, since college ones are just as risky.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5152
    (subscription, I think).

  6. We’ve had a couple of guys blow out their arms and require TJ surgery. How about hiring some of the “amateur” pitching mechanics experts who post on the web and getting their opinion on guys before we draft them? Some of these guys have a pretty good track record of predicting arm injuries.

    A more drastic strategy would be to bypass pitchers completely, or at least for the fist 4 or 5 rounds. We could stockpile hitters and trade for pitchers once they make it to AA or AAA with other clubs.

    Or give Mike Marshall a shot. Give him some fringe arms in rookie ball and assign him to be their tutor throughout their minor league career. The problem I see with that is his advice would conflict with pitching coaches in the system and he would just get angry that he wasn’t given the carte blanche to change everyone in the system.

  7. Im not sure if there is anything wrong with the padres draft philosophy, I think the last 3 drafts have been pretty good. What I disagree with is not picking a guy that they (the padres scouts and KT) think is more talented then the next because he will demand half of Brain Giles 06 salary for them to have control of him for at least 6 years. Or them not signing a guy like Toledo because he is asking for $100K or whatever nominal amount ($100k is not a nominal amount to me but it is only .17% of the big League payroll) and wasting that pick.

  8. 4. I’m not sure I understand your first point… Obviously, we don’t want guys who’ll flame out at any level. However, if a guy is able to make it to AA or AAA and then flame out, how were they supposed to turn into trade assets before then?

  9. A good start for the Padres would be to sign all of their picks. So what if Toledo wants 100k more then they think he is worth? Are they really going to miss the 100k?

    Are they worried that every prospect would then hold them up until the last minute thinking the Padres would give in?

  10. Good stuff, guys…

    #4: Is it college pitchers in general or the ones we’ve drafted in particular? In other words, is the problem one of philosophy or talent evaluation? (This isn’t hypothetical, BTW; I really don’t know.)

    #6: Love the idea of consulting with mechanics experts — this might help alleviate some of the concerns in #4. Marshall is a fascinating idea as well, though that’s more player development than procurement.

    #7: So, the problem is that they’re “settling” for less than the most talented player available due to financial concerns and the solution is… ?

    #9: What are some ways they might go about signing all their picks?

  11. His point was that the pads pick less talented and more polished pitchers who have a low ceiling that will probably make it to AAA off of knowing how to pitch (see Tim Stauffer and Mike Thompson) but whos talent will never let them be more than a 4/5 guy in the big leagues.

    He thiknks that the Pads should take a riskier pick on a less polished high school kid guy with a very high ceiling who could be a 1/2 guy but lack of control/pitching knowldge may casue hime to fall apart in A ball (see Jake Peavey).

  12. Re: 10

    “#7: So, the problem is that they’re “settling” for less than the most talented player available due to financial concerns and the solution is… ?”

    New ownership? I know you don’t want to hear the copout of spend more money but that’s what they have to do if they want to sign the top high school kids because they have the option of going to college and going into the draft in 3 years, or going to a J.C for one.

  13. With the new rules this year the Pads would have never signed Latos and he would have been a 1st to supplemental round draft pick this year by another team..

  14. #12: Okay, new ownership. Couple follow-ups:

    –Are new owners more or less likely to toe the MLB line in terms of complying with slot recommendations?
    –What happens to the current front office? Do they stay on to complete what they’ve started, or does the new group clean house?

  15. 8: You trade them when they’re putting up good numbers in high A or AA, before they’re exposed. The A’s used to do that quite a bit, pick polished college players who could jump to high A or even AA right away, put up good numbers because they were 2-3 years older than the competition, and be traded for major leaguers or more talented minor leaguers. Because they’re polished and older, they’re capable of performing well right away. It’s almost like buying a new car and trading it in for more than its worth.

    9: Agree. They shouldn’t spend money like it doesn’t matter, but I really doubt that Toledo was asking for 500K, which you could infer from Towers’s comment that we’re not going to pay twice what they’re “worth.” 100K more than slot is 1% of the reported draft budget. How many people are even going to notice when draft bonuses are UP about 8% this year, when other teams are handing out bonuses that are 2 or even 3 times the slot recommendation?

  16. Re: 14 The new ownership comment was a joke. The Pads either only draft college players who have less leverage or they have to be willing to pay the top highschool players above slot.

  17. Hey Kyle Blair is going to USD.

    Dodgers have the same problem apparently.
    http://dodgerthoughts.baseballtoaster.com/archives/766707.html

    As for the Padres, the rash of injuries to the top picks is disconcerting. Perhaps, they’d be more risk taking in the next draft. It is possible that the talent pool this year is really not that deep and the FO do not think that the risks were worth taking for the possible rewards. I don’t know this but it’s something to ponder. We’ll see in a few years how many of this class makes it to the Show.

  18. 11: If that was intended to be a summation of my views, I’d like to clarify them. I don’t think we should disregard college pitchers. A lot of them do have high ceilings. My concern is that we’re almost entirely disregarding 1/4 of the talent pool by pushing HS arms off the table, and that we’re doing so because we’re associating them with a higher risk than they really carry.

  19. On the other hand, does it make sense to be more conservative when your overall minor league system was poor for a long time, so you build up with mostly organizational players who complement the gems you do find among college and high school players. Then, when your system is on a sturdier footing, you can be less risk-averse and go for more high ceiling, high risk high school players?

    Really like the idea about hiring mechanics experts to evaluate potential pitching draftees. Studies regarding college pitching work loads, and high schoolers as well, could be valuable.

    It would be helpful also if the UT not only got Towers perspective – “not going to pay him double”, but also the draftees’ advisor/agent’s perspective – do they confirm that they were demanding double slot money or some other potentially outrageous some, or were the team and player really only $100k apart?

  20. Ok, I’m no stat guy, bat Avg and ERA is about as far as I go. But through another blog, I stumbled upon this article in Slate talking about the “golden age of baseball stats.” Enjoy.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2172223/nav/tap3/

  21. Re: 18 it was more of a my views on your views kind of thing.

  22. I’m most upset at the Padres because I think they need to draft well to be successful. I guess it’s possible that they will continue to rip other teams off in trades but that seems unlikely to me (if Towers keeps doing it other teams will stop trading with him). They aren’t going to sign a big-time free agent and it’s doubtful that they will re-sign Peavy and Young when their contracts run out (whenever that is). The only way to get cheap talent is through the draft. And the Padres have to realize this. So by going cheap and taking lesser talents for cost-certainty, you have to question whether they are interested more in being profitable or putting the best team possible on the field.

  23. 19: How much value does the organization reap from that “solid foundation?” If we were ranking the payoff for draftees, my list would go like this:

    1. Plays well for the team that drafted him.
    2. Traded for a player who plays well.
    3. Plays okay for the team that drafted him.
    4. Traded for an average player.
    5. Traded for a marginal major leaguer.
    6. Never reaches the majors but provides a good partner for other, better players in the system.

    I don’t see that we get anything from the “base” approach. We’ve had winning minor league teams in the past without graduating much talent, and our two current home-grown stars played on some mediocre minor league teams.

  24. Follow-on from 17:

    A little further down that article on Dodger thoughts, the discussion brought a blurb from a BP article which explains “slot”. I found this interesting.

    The url to the article in the discussion is:
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6545

    I apologize if it is not working or subscription required, I didn’t actually go look at the article myself.

    The quote they took is:

    “The only thing MLB can do is fine you if you don’t call them first,” said one scouting director, who then went into detail about the process, the annoyance in his voice coming through perfectly. “You call MLB and say you want to go over slot, and they tell you not to, and that they’ve worked so hard to put this system in place and that you are blowing everything up.” From there, things get uglier. “Now, the process can’t continue until MLB talks not to your GM, but to your ownership, where they will once again yell about your team messing everything up, but also often telling them that their own scouting director is doing the wrong thing here,” he added. “Unfortunately, there are owners who listen.”

    The key to getting an over-slot deal done seems to then rely on having a supportive internal management structure. “In the end, you have to have a strong enough ownership where you can tell him that signing this player for big money is in the best interest of the organization,” he continued. “When that happens, the owner has to call MLB back and let them know that their message has been heard and considered, but we’re doing it anyway. Then after MLB yells at you one more time, you sign the guy. It’s a bad process.”

    I guess MLB wants to make it a pain in the A$$ to go outside slot and perhaps Moores, SA and KT didn’t want to go through that hassle.

  25. 19: This is building on your comment about Krasovic’s story. One of my other frequent sparring partners, Phantom, once claimed that newspapers wouldn’t run a story without checking all the facts it contains. First, that’s obviously not true, or newsrooms would have as many fact-checkers and editors as they do reporters. But clearly Krasvoic is simply reporting what Towers told him without checking the veracity of the statement. That doesn’t make Towers a liar or Krasovic an unusually lazy reporter, it just means that we can’t simply accept that a news story has been thoroughly vetted.

  26. Re #17:

    You can’t compare the Dodgers to the Padres. In fact, why should the Dodgers spend any money on their draft? They can just sign free agents who are actually good instead. That’s what baffles me about the Yankees “new” approach of not trading their young players and spending a ton of money in the draft — why bother? Instead of wasting money on Brackman, just add that in for Johan Santana. If you are in a unique situation with huge advantages over other teams, why waste your time and money acting like other teams?

  27. 24: I don’t think that’s it with the Padres. The scouts, Fuson, Gayton, even Towers may want to pay guys over slot, but Alderson and Moores have near-zero interest in it. They’re not avoiding those phone calls because they’re afraid of conflict. They agree whole-heartedly with the commissioner’s position.

  28. 27.

    My thoughts exactly.

  29. 26: The Yankees have the best of all worlds. They can sign great young amateurs, who are still a fraction of the cost of major leaguers, so they can spend more on free agents. They can build the Yankee fan base by having great minor league teams. They can trade their youngsters for players who aren’t free agents. And they can always write a check for any FA they want. The question isn’t why would they avoid the draft, but why wouldn’t they use it to their advantage? If you have four sources of talent – draft, international, trades, and free agency – and your goal is to win a championship every year, why ignore any of those sources?

  30. 29: Totally agree. The Yankees can’t sign free agents in the middle of the season, so if someone isn’t playing well, they can either plug in a youngster or trade one to get another overpaid veteran. Without a farm system they’re really stuck with the roster they assemble in the off-season, which is largely what the Yankees have had to do in recent years because they haven’t had any chips. This year they could trade for Wilson Betemit because they had someone available to replace Scott Proctor. They could replace Pavano with Hughes. When Giambi got hurt, they had Shelly Duncan. When Damon stopped playing well, they had Melky Cabrera. Etc.

  31. re 25: I am with you on the particular story in today’s paper. No indication that they got any information from the player’s representative, so I would not be comfortable trying to opine on whether it was good or bad to not sign Toledo or whomever.

    On drafting more college players when the overall farm system is bad, they may not have higher ceilings than some high school players but there is less risk involved. If you have a crummy farm system, and pick and miss on a lot of high school players, you are in a much worse position than if you have a crummy farm system and pick and miss less on lower risk, lower ceiling college players. In the current Padre situation, it would be nice if the college pitching they drafted wasn’t having so many injury issues collectively, but it looks like they have done a very good job lately with drafting college position players. Perhaps they are getting to a point soon where it will make more sense to draft more high school talent.

    Getting a few college pitchers to turn into 4/5s relatively quickly isn’t bad when the alternative is paying David Wells and Chan Ho Parks types millions of dollars year in and year out.

  32. Interesting to note that although Moores/Alderson have done practically everything MLB has asked them to do……it hasn’t exactly help get the all star game to San Diego. In fact, I’m quite annoyed that the Cardinals skip to the front of the line as their new park is the worst one I’ve seen.

  33. 27, 28: Not saying you’re wrong (because I don’t know), but is this your opinion of them or do you have evidence (non-anecdotal) if it. I am interested to know.

    If I were them, I might try to couch my comments reagrding the subject away from implying I am disagreeing with MLB’s desired plan. Although, it could be that they do just agree with it flat out like you said.

  34. About the high school vs college debate……I’m not sure you can make the jump that college pitchers only relate to #4/5 type starters. Those guys face metal bats in college which significantly changes the way they have to pitch.

    How many people were happy about LeBlanc when he was drafted? I thought it was too safe a pick, but he looks like someone likely to give them league average(or better) innings from day one which is extremely valuable these days when Eaton gets 3/21

  35. 31: “Getting a few college pitchers to turn into 4/5s relatively quickly isn’t bad when the alternative is paying David Wells and Chan Ho Parks types millions of dollars year in and year out.”

    No, it’s not bad at all, but what we’ve been doing more of is picking a lot of college pitchers who turn into middle relievers. The savings between a Doug Brocail at 900K and a Leo Rosales being paid the major league minimum isn’t nearly as big as the savings between Jake Peavy 2003 and Jake Peavy 2010.

    There were alternatives other than Wells and Park, too. We got stuck with Park only because we were too afraid to trade Nevin after his solid 2004 and waited until all he was worth was Park. Seattle was offering Freddy Garcia for him. It’s good to have cheap options, but the front office that sells itself on smarts has only itself to blame for those two acquisitions.

    I’m not calling for a radical reconstruction of the Padres approach. They don’t need to switch to a high-school heavy philosophy. They do need to grab targets of opportunity in the high school ranks, and that includes both the picking and the signing.

  36. 32: Yeah. And I like how one of the “punishments” of not giving teams discretionary funds hasn’t applied to Arizona. I think it’s a convenient cover for teams that have no intention of going above slot anyway.

  37. 34: LeBlanc’s had success, but it’s still early to be predicting him as a league-average starter. He’s only 8 games into his AA career and, as should have been expected, he’s finding it harder than A ball.

    But I do agree that college pitchers can easily land at the front of a rotation.

  38. I don’t think that passing up on a guy demanding too much money is that big of a mistake, especially with MLB’s policy of granting the team an extra sandwich pick for players they were unable to sign. This means that they’ll get another pick at the end of the 3rd round next year for not signing Toledo. Also, it sets a precedent that the team is not willing to give into unreasonable demands by draftees. This may seem unimportant, but I wouldn’t discount the effect that Towers’ reputation as a guy who drives a hard bargain has on negotiations with draftees and free agents. Future agents for Padres’ draftees will know that they have to accept something close to slot value or their clients won’t be signed.

    About the Schmidt signing, I don’t think we can already peg him as a 4/5 guy in the rotation. There are plenty of finesse pitchers that have gone on to have great careers (eg Glavine, Maddux, Wells). Also, drafting this kind of guy means a much smaller chance of him blowing out his arm. It seems preliminary to label him as a low-ceiling guy when there’s no telling how he can develop in the minors.

  39. Just out of curiosity (because I don’t know all that much on player’s history), if you were to analyze the #1 and #2 from each of the 30 teams, which percentage came directly from HS and which percentage came directly from college.

    For the Pads, it’s clearly 50%. The other thing to consider too is that college is much more vogue now than it was even 10 years ago. Almost everyone goes to college now.

  40. 33: This is the most recent story. Baseball America has run a few pieces talking about the Padres’ commitment to slot.

    http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070815/news_1s15padnotes.html

  41. 38: Except that there’s no compensation pick for not signing the compensation pick, so you’re going to select somebody who you’re very sure will sign. Cuts down on the possibilities.

    Schmidt has already been shut down with arm trouble. It’s not blown out, but Fuson has already admitted that he has a tear. I don’t think anybody has put a hard cap on him as a 4/5.

  42. 39: It depends on the time range. If you go back to 1992, the split is 8 HS, 8 college. Since 2000 it’s been 2 HS, 6 college. Since 2005, the first draft under the new regime, it’s all college.

    Actually, teams are doing a much better job at signing kids out of high school now than they did before. The peak years for losing players to college were the late 80s and early 90s.