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May 15, 2007

Wait 'Til Next Year

The Scouting Directors, AL West

by Bryan Smith

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In football, every coach is assumed to have tendencies that can be discovered and schemed against, and as a result, coaches spend hours each week looking at game tape. Tendencies are a natural part of being in a high position in the sporting world -- in stressful situations, people go with what has worked before. It's natural, but yet we don't identify when it happens enough in the baseball world.

The 2007 amateur baseball draft should create more of a demand for perfection in mock drafts. Around June, many teams become tight-lipped about their draft intentions. Kevin Goldstein and Jim Callis do a fantastic job uncovering this information thanks to huge rolodexes, but some organizations just won't talk. In this instance, I say, we should look towards the tendencies.

In the coming month before the June 7 draft, I will tackle tendencies of the scouting directors in each division. For every scouting director that has run a draft prior to 2007, we will look at the decisions he made to arrive at his final choices. Does he prefer college players or high school players? Pitchers or hitters? Polished or projectable? These are some of the decisions scouting directors make annually that trend together over time, and when guessing what directors will do, this can be some of the best information we have.

Here are the categories I'll be examining:

Best Player Produced: This part is subjective. If I think John Danks is destined to have more success than Ian Kinsler, it's Danks' name that appears here.

Best Prospect in the Minors: Again, self-explanatory, with one caveat. If a scouting director has yet to produce a Major Leaguer, I put the best prospect under Best Player Produced, and look at the next best prospect.

Notable Steals: Any player after the first five rounds that has made an impact is listed here. If you have not heard of the player in this section, then I'm reaching, and the scouting director has probably yet to land a big fish.

Five-Round Strategy: In this instance, I have compiled the total picks each scouting director has made in the first five rounds. These are the rounds with the largest likelihood to produce Major Leaguers. I have then divided the total picks by the number of picks that have come from college, high school, junior college, and Latin (most often, Puerto Rican) baseball.

Strategy in a Nutshell: No objective analysis here, but this involves me pouring over the drafts each scouting director has made, looking for trends. Some scouting directors only draft certain positions early; some tend to draft more often from certain states (or more specifically, from certain regional scouts). In this area, we will simply look at the ways we can use previous drafts to predict what each scouting director will do on draft day.

2007 Draft Crystal Ball: This is important. I use this section to predict a player the team could draft in the first round given their tendencies. I am choosing not to use inside information here as a case study to see if previous tendencies can help us predict picks up to a month in advance.

Today, we start with the AL West, and we'll move East before returning to the National League.

Los Angeles Angels
Scouting Director: Eddie Bane (Drafts run: 2004-2006)

Best Player Produced: Jered Weaver (1st round, 2004)
Best Prospect in Minors: Nick Adenhart (14th round, 2004)
Notable Steals: Adenhart, Peter Bourjos (10th round, 2005)
Five-Round Strategy: 13 total picks. 11 high school, 1 junior college, 1 college player.
Strategy in a Nutshell: An old-school evaluator, Bane got a break leaving the Devil Rays organization to direct the Angels in 2004. Bane's first choice was Weaver, an indication more of the organization's large scouting budget than Bane's objective. With one of the game's deepest farm systems, Bane will take big risks, going with high school players early and often, and paying big dollars for late-rounders (see: Adenhart, Mark Trumbo). The team also stays in the south with their picks, focusing on California and also drafting from Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: Free agent signings Gary Matthews Jr. and Justin Speier cost the Angels their picks in the first two rounds, but Bane will look to strike with the 58th overall selection in the supplemental first round. If a Scott Boras client falls, Bane will nab him. Otherwise, expect Ryan Dent, Christian Colon, and Tanner Robles to all draw interest from the Angels.

Oakland Athletics
Scouting Director: Eric Kubota (Drafts Run: 2002-2006)

Best Player Produced: Nick Swisher (1st round, 2002)
Best Prospect in Minors: Kurt Suzuki (2nd round, 2004)
Notable Steals: Shane Komine (9th round, 2003)
Five-Round Strategy: 38 total picks. 78.9% college, 18.4% high school, 2.6% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: If Billy Beane is the prince of Moneyball, surely Kubota sits at his round table. While he wasn't one of Michael Lewis' major characters, Kubota has done well as scouting director, earning respect across the majors in spite of the A's new-school approach. In his first two drafts, Kubota did not take a high school player in the first 15 rounds. In his last two, high school players have been the notable selections amongst the first five rounds. No longer is this team one of the five most college-dogmatic drafting organizations in the majors, even if the Moneyball draft produced Swisher, Blanton, and Mark Teahen.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: Because the Giants choose in the first half of the first round, the A's get a second-round pick for Barry Zito, and do not choose until number 26. I still see them going the college route in the first round, and if they continue a long-standing relationship with Augie Garrido's Longhorns, OF Kyle Russell could be available. If not, maybe LHP Nick Schmidt, RHP Sean Morgan, or RHP James Simmons.

Seattle Mariners
Scouting Director: Bob Fontaine Jr. (Drafts Run: 2004-2006, Angels 1987-1999)

Best Player Produced: Jim Edmonds (7th round, 1988)
Best Prospect in Minors: Jeff Clement (1st round, 2005)
Notable Steals: Edmonds, Damion Easley (30th round, 1988), Troy Percival (6th round, 1990), Orlando Palmeiro (33rd round, 1991), Todd Greene (12th round, 1993), Scot Shields (38th round, 1997)
Five-Round Strategy: 77 total picks. 58.4% college, 33.8% high school, 6.5% junior college, 1.3% Latin
Strategy in a Nutshell: Fontaine comes from a baseball family -- his father Bob Sr. was one of the great scouting directors of the draft era. Fontaine is without question an old-school director, though he has been leaning towards the college side since his second draft with the Angels in 1998. Fontaine drafts a lot of pitchers, a lot of shortstops, and a lot of center fielders, and has had good success at each position. Fontaine has also been masterful in late rounds, as his steals list would be much longer if I decided to include fringe Major Leaguers. The Mariners had a good draft in 2006, but with Bill Bavasi's tenure likely coming to an end after this season, Fontaine could be entering his last draft with the Mariners.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: The Mariners choose 11th in the draft this season, and by most draft boards, that should leave them with a high school player. As there aren't any high school shortstops or center fielders that merit that selection, I'm going with another high school pitcher for Fontaine. An affinity for southpaws could lead to Madison Bumgarner, his affinity for velocity towards Indiana's Jarrod Parker.

Texas Rangers
Scouting Director: Ron Hopkins (Drafts Run: 2003-2006)

Best Player Produced: John Danks (1st round, 2003)
Best Prospect in Minors: Eric Hurley (1st round, 2004)
Notable Steals: Ian Kinsler (17th round, 2003)
Five-Round Strategy: 20 total picks. 50% college, 45% high school, 5% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: Hopkins was promoted to scouting director when the Rangers added responsibilities to Grady Fuson's job description; more likely, Fuson still ran the Rangers drafts until he left the organization. Now, the show belongs to Hopkins by himself. What's interesting is that in the first draft Hopkins ran -- when Fuson was still with the organization -- and the last draft for which he was solely responsible, the Rangers landed prep southpaws in the first round. The Rangers have gone pitching-heavy in Fuson's tenure, compensating for their long-standing Major League weakness.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: The Rangers choose twice in the first round, and their system could use the splash Hopkins' draft should provide. Texas 6'6" righty Blake Beavan or another southpaw, Josh Smoker, would work well with the first pick. They could also go with more polished Maryland lefty Brett Cecil, or choose a raw Texas player, 3B Kevin Ahrens, with the 24th pick.

Bryan Smith is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bryan's other articles. You can contact Bryan by clicking here

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