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May 22, 2007

Wait 'Til Next Year

The Scouting Directors, AL Central

by Bryan Smith

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Last Tuesday, I started an attempt to identify the drafting tendencies of Major League scouting directors. Like football coaches, I surmised, any person of power in sport falls back to tradition when making important choices. This is basically a case study in making a mock draft without inside knowledge--I'm wondering what the past can tell us about the future.

In looking at the scouting directors, I'm analyzing them in multiple categories: Best Player Produced, Best Prospect in Minors, Notable Steals (any notable player that was drafted after round 5), Five-Round Strategy (total picks in first round divided by college and high school selections), and Strategy in a Nutshell (subjective look at the scouting director's choices). Finally, I use this information to look into the 2007 Draft Crystal Ball and determine if we can forecast choices merely based upon previous tendencies. Today, we continue the series, looking at the AL Central. You can find the AL West here, and the NL West here.

Chicago White Sox
Scouting Director: Duane Shaffer (Drafts Run: 1991-2000, 2004-2006)

Best Player Produced: Joe Crede (5th round, 1996)
Best Prospect in Minors: Gio Gonzalez (1st round, 2004)
Notable Steals: Mike Cameron (18th round, 1991), Mike Sirotka (15th round, 1993), Chad Bradford (13th round, 1996), Aaron Cunningham (6th round, 2005)
Five-Round Strategy: 81 total picks. 59.2% college, 34.6% high school, 6.2% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: Shaffer has about as much experience as any scouting director in baseball, and while I'm only giving him credit for 13 drafts, it's also possible he ran the room from 2001-2003. The White Sox farm system has been very volatile during Shaffer's tenure, from one of the game's best with Jon Rauch in the late 90s to one of the worst currently. Recently, Shaffer has drawn criticism for taking the "safe" choices in the first round, notably Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch. In reality, the players represent Shaffer's favorite kind of pick--college pitching. If he doesn't go in that direction, the White Sox have also chosen a lot of projectable outfielders and a good number of corner players with good power. However, Shaffer is a pitching-heavy drafter, and even with the depth the Sox system has found in pitching this season, he likely won't shy away in June.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: The White Sox choose 25th in each round this season, with no picks added or taken away. With Chicago's pick, I could see Shaffer selecting Nick Schmidt, Michael Burgess, Kyle Russell, or Kevin Ahrens; all seem to match his previous tendencies.

Cleveland Indians
Scouting Director: John Mirabelli (Drafts Run: 2000-2006)

Best Player Produced: Jeremy Sowers (1st round, 2004)
Best Prospect in Minors: Adam Miller (1st round, 2003)
Notable Steals: Ryan Church (14th round, 2000), Luke Scott (9th round, 2001)
Five-Round Strategy: 50 total picks. 54% college, 40% high school, 4% Latin, 2% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: Mirabelli's first three drafts with the Indians were a mess-- Brian Tallet represents the best player drafted in the first five rounds from 2000-2002. However, the Indians were patient with Mirabelli, and he's been more successful choosing college players than high school prospects. Mirabelli has had first-round picks in all shapes and sizes, from fireballers (Miller) to soft-throwers (Sowers), and from power hitters (Matt Whitney) to leadoff types (Trevor Crowe).
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: Because of how loaded the Indians' pitching staff is right now, you have to wonder if Mirabelli won't lean towards an offensive player at the top of his draft. If Whitney and Corey Smith haven't totally scared Mirabelli away from high school third baseman, Matt Dominguez makes sense.

Detroit Tigers
Scouting Director: David Chadd (Drafts Run: 2005-2006, Red Sox 2002-2004)

Best Player Produced: Jonathan Papelbon (4th round, 2003)
Best Prospect in Minors: Cameron Maybin (1st round, 2005)
Notable Steals: Brandon Moss (8th round, 2002), Cla Meredith (6th round, 2004)
Five-Round Strategy: 24 total picks. 79.2% college, 20.8% high school.
Strategy in a Nutshell: In his first draft with the Red Sox in 2002, Chadd chose high school players with seven of his first eight picks. Boston didn't sign two of the seven; the other five counted Jon Lester and Brandon Moss among them. Despite that relative success in a draft without a first-round pick, Chadd then became a "Moneyball" believer. Since 2002, Chadd has chosen two high schoolers in the first five rounds; one was a hit (Cameron Maybin), the other a miss (Mickey Hall). The Tigers have allowed Chadd to choose the best player available regardless of price in the last two drafts, a productive strategy given how much Andrew Miller and Maybin are already being counted on to augment Detroit's future. This was a significant change from his time in the Red Sox organization, when Boston didn't have first-round picks in two of Chadd's three seasons at the helm.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: For the first time in three seasons, Chadd does not have a pick in the top ten; Detroit's success last season means Chadd must wait until number 27. Unless Jack McGeary drops to 27 and catches Chadd's fancy, the Tigers will take a college player, probably either Jake Arrieta, Mitch Canham, or James Simmons.

Kansas City Royals
Scouting Director: Deric Ladnier (Drafts Run: 2001-2006)

Best Player Produced: Alex Gordon (1st round, 2005)
Best Prospect in Minors: Luke Hochevar (1st round, 2006)
Notable Steals: Ryan Braun (6th round, 2003), Brent Fisher (7th round, 2005)
Five-Round Strategy: 34 total picks. 47.1% high school, 41.2% college, 8.8% junior college, 2.9% Latin.
Strategy in a Nutshell: In his first draft with the Royals, Ladnier made the mistake of picking the player with the best radar gun readings. Colt Griffin was the first prep player to ever touch triple digits, and while a good PR story, he never should have gained the first-round consideration that his fastball drew. Since that draft, Ladnier has a much better track record as scouting director, only veering off the college path for very athletic (Chris Lubanski) and/or very polished (Billy Butler, Zack Greinke) high school players. Ladnier is also one of the scouting directors most open to taking pitchers with high picks, and since Griffin, Ladnier has showed more of an affinity towards polish than projectablity.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: Choosing second, Ladnier must decide between the draft's best high school pitchers and Matt Wieters. While Wieters has the power that Ladnier covets, Rick Porcello has shown enough enhanced polish this spring to earn a selection. With Hochevar and Porcello, the Royals would really be able to project the top of their rotation for when Dayton Moore's initial rebuilding effort is complete.

Minnesota Twins
Scouting Director: Mike Radcliff (Drafts Run: 1994-2006)

Best Player Produced: Joe Mauer (1st round, 2001)
Best Prospect in Minors: Kevin Slowey (2nd round, 2005)
Notable Steals: Corey Koskie (26th round, 1994), Chad Moeller (7th round, 1996), J.C. Romero (21st round, 1997), Willie Eyre (23rd round, 1999), Jason Kubel (12th round, 2000)
Five-Round Strategy: 78 total picks. 51.3% college, 42.3% high school, 3.8% Latin, 2.6% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: Probably the most respected scouting director in the industry, Mike Radcliff is the Tex Winter to Terry Ryan's impersonation of Phil Jackson. For non-Bulls or Lakers fans, that means that Radcliff is the quiet man behind the Twins' remarkable run of success in player development. Looking over Radcliff's 13 drafts as scouting director, I found his 2005 draft to best reflect his tendencies. In that draft, Radcliff focused on the following: college pitchers (five in 10 rounds), up-the-middle players (five in 10 rounds), and powerful corner infielders (three in 10 rounds). Radcliff has chosen more high school pitching than the 2005 draft would indicate, but his divide is pretty pronounced between high school up-the-middle athletes and college pitchers. It should also be noted that in a couple drafts, Radcliff loaded up on pitchers in ways I have rarely seen duplicated--but with mixed results.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: With the Twins success, Radcliff is adapting to picking at the end of rounds; this season, will be choosing 28th in each round. I can see Radcliff going in a couple different directions, but high school catchers Devin Mesaraco or Yasmani Grandal, shortstops Zack Cozart or Justin Jackson, and pitchers James Simmons or James Adkins all make sense.

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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