Baseball Prospectus continues its new industry chat series as readers get a chance to interact with Paul DePodesta, the New York Mets' Vice President of Player Development & Amateur Scouting. DePodesta was formerly a front office assistant for the Padres, and general manager of the Dodgers in 2004 and 2005. He also attended Harvard University and graduated cum laude in 1995 with a degree in economics.
Paul DePodesta: hi
Metro (NYC): Paul,
Thanks for doing this chat. We all know the Mets system has been much maligned for a few years now. In your eyes what is the biggest strength and weakness of the system?
Paul DePodesta: After arriving here and getting a chance to read the reports, talk to the staff, and see the players for myself, I don't think the system has been treated fairly. Our guys in Latin American - Ismael Cruz, Rafael Perez, and Rafael Landestoy - are as good as they get in baseball, and they've done a tremendous job. In the draft, there are a number of young players already contributing to the ML Club (Davis, Niese, Thole, Parnell), which is the ultimate goal anyway. Every system could be stronger, especially in starting pitching, and that's certainly our challenge going forward.
Joe D (Connecticut): Hi Paul, This is great of you to do for the fans. I was wondering what kind of balance you seek between high school and college talent throughout the draft? Do you lean one way or the other?
Paul DePodesta: Great question, Joe. Much has been made of the college player over the last decade, but I'm always seeking the best player and/or best bet on the board. That strategy will lead to a blend of college, junior college and high school. Additionally, we have two teams in the Dominican Republic full of high school age players, and we view our system as one big pool of players, not separate entities.
Lenny (Brooklyn ): what are the current strengths and weaknesses of the mets minor league system? what us a realistic timetable to create a top system?
Paul DePodesta: Signing amateur players is an inexact science at best, and the baseball draft is so different than the NFL or NBA drafts that I think it causes unrealistic expectations. In the NFL and NBA drafts, you expect those players to make an impact on your team in a matter of months. In the MLB draft, many players won't get there for years, and most (yes, unfortunately, most) won't get there at all. Believe it or not, if a team gets one solid ML player out of a draft, it's basically keeping pace with the pack. If you can get two, you're winning. I've challenged our guys to do better than that and do it consistently. Nevertheless, it's a process that will take a few years at the minimum.
ScottBehson (Nyack, NY): How does your front office "team of rivals" (you and Alderson, Ricciardi, Krivitsy, Ricco and maybe Minaya) divide up responsibility and/or collaborate on major decisions?
Paul DePodesta: Scott, though Lincoln did an amazing job of cobbling together his cabinet, many of us have had the benefit of working together before, which is an enormous advantage when taking on a big challenge. We know what to expect from one another, and most importantly, we completely trust each other. Similar to the "Team of Rivals" though, we all come at problems with a slightly different perspective, which I believe strengthens the decision-making process.
Reds Fan (NYC): Petco and Citi are frequently thought of as quite similar parks. But are they? You're probably best positioned to speak (albeit in I suspect guarded fashion) to the differences of the two parks and the implications for roster construction.
Paul DePodesta: Both parks are certainly pitcher friendly, but I think they arrive there rather differently. For instance, is it a pitcher's park because of the outfield dimensions, because of the amount of foul territory, does it play differently for LHH and RHH, etc? Understanding those differences will be critical to formulating a strategy for creating a distinct home field advantage.
Rob Castellano (New York): Paul,
As a fellow economics major, I'm always interested in trying to identify the market inefficiences within the game. Obviously the most famous example was on-base skills, more recently it was defensive proficiency; where do you see the market gap(s) of late?
Paul DePodesta: Rob, one of the things that makes this job challenging is that much like Mr Market, the inefficiencies shift from time to time (and may even revert to what they were five or ten years ago), so we have to create a framework that allows us to deal with whatever inefficiency may present itself today.
Ricky (Baltimore): To what extent do you continue the player analysis practices from your Oakland A's days now that you with the less budget-conscious Mets?
Paul DePodesta: Ricky, every market deserves its own strategy. What we created in Oakland was for Oakland and not necessarily for anyone else. When JP went to Toronto, he adjusted it to fit Toronto and the AL East. When I went to LA, I attempted to adjust for that market (though apparently, not very well :-)) and again in San Diego. That said, there is a foundation that remains the same, and we'll continue to stay true to that. One of the best parts about being in market like New York is that the playing field has expanded dramatically - we have the ability to take advantage of more opportunities. That comes with some headaches, but it's a trade-off that's well worth it.
Azeem (Queens): Hey Paul, I was wondering what you thought of Jenrry Mejia and what his ceiling is? I think he has potentially three plus pitches and a bright future ahead of him.
Paul DePodesta: I think Jenrry Mejia is a stud. There's no doubt about his stuff - it's electric - and he's also a tremendous worker with great energy. Bright, bright future. Very glad he's a Met.
Norm D (Florida Panhandle): Mr. DePodesta, I know the 2011 season is phase one of the Mets rebuilding transition, and practically all the supposed professional baseball prognosticators don't give the team any chance. I however, i am more optimistic about the team. What is honest opinion about the teams chances to make the post season?
Paul DePodesta: Norm, I'm with you. At the core, this is a very talented team. Like nearly everyone else, we need to stay healthy, and we have some great competition within the division, but we expect to be competitive.
aCone419 (Atlanta): I was flabbergasted (in a good way) by the openness that you showed in your blog with the Padres. Any chance we see something similar with the Mets? Why don't more front office types reach out in that way?
Paul DePodesta: Unfortunately, I've been swamped in the new job for the past few months, so I haven't been able to write at all. In fact, this chat is the best I've been able to muster. Nevertheless, at some point, I would like to get back to it. I enjoyed the conversation with the fans, and I thought it was important to be able to share some of our thinking, to the extent that it was appropriate. One of the more difficult aspects of these jobs is making very public decisions with very private information. We're certainly not always smarter, but we almost always have access to more information... information that we can't always share publicly. I thought the blog was a good way to toe that line and hopefully create better understanding.
Paul (UWS - Manhattan): Good Morning, Mr. DePodesta - and welcome to NY.
In having joined the franchise in November, do you feel that you have a good feel for the structure of the organization as a business unit(which seems to be in a tentative state)?
With a "strong" draft said to be coming this June, have you given any thought as to how you'd like to go about the strategy for the Mets?
Thanks for your time - and best of luck in 2011 and beyond.
Paul DePodesta: Simply put - best player on the board. We agree that this is shaping up to be a strong draft, and we're excited about it. We're the Mets - it shouldn't be any other way.
Jon (Ithaca): What do you see in Young that allows him to overcome his relative inability to strike hitters out (lately, as he's gone from close to 9 K/9 to 6 K/9)? He hasn't been striking guys out this Spring either and at a certain point, the low batting average against is no longer a fluke. Or, do you expect him to regain his ability to K more batters as he begins to recover? He's an intriguing pitcher as you're not completely blown away by his stuff, but he does the job more than adequately. I really like the low cost moves with him and Capuano.
Paul DePodesta: Jon, CY is just different. His batting average against should always be toward the low end, as he's traditionally been an extreme fly ball pitcher who has also generally been among the leaders in pop-ups. Simply put, he just doesn't give up as much hard contact as your typical pitcher. Add in that he's very bright and extremely competitive, and you end up with good results. Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, and this would apply to Capuano also, they manage the game very well and do their best to limit damage. Everyone gives up runs, but it's easier to win when you're giving up ones instead of twos and threes.
Zach (Washington, DC): What kind of statistical analysis infrastructure existed in the Mets organization when you arrived? How long will it take to develop a new foundation into something closer to your ideal? Will the systems used for this 2011 season be the same as 2012, etc?
Paul DePodesta: Zach, the infrastructure here was quite good. A number of the younger guys in the office that you probably haven't heard much about - Ben Baumer, TJ Barra, Ian Levin, Adam Fisher, Jon Miller - all do an excellent job. We really had to hit the ground running when we arrived in November, as the off-season had already begun, and those guys collectively got us up to speed very quickly.
TejsmellslikeCurry (NYC): Paul,
Much has been made of a recent report which shows the Mets have been BY FAR the most aggressive in promoting minor leaguers (potentially before they were ready) will the organization make any adjustments to this? Is it confirmed that Vaughn and Ceciliani will open in Savannah?
Paul DePodesta: Nothing confirmed at this point. While we can have a particular philosophy regarding promotions, I believe promotions need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I believe there's a careful balance to be struck between challenging a player and allowing him to build confidence through success. Failing all the time or succeeding all the time get old, so we'll do our best to find that balance.
Tommy (Queens NY): Morning to you Paul, personally what prospect that has flown under the radar has intrigued you the most as say a potential sleeper ?
Paul DePodesta: Tommy, if I mention him now, he won't be a sleeper anymore! There are a few guys I like that don't seem to have gotten a lot of popular attention. Two of them are Aderlin Rodriguez and Darrell Ceciliani. Both played for short-season clubs last year, and I suspect both will be in full-season this summer and will be given a little more exposure. Rodriguez has big power and is just beginning to come into his own. Ceciliani is a throw-back type player - good at-bats, good runner, plays CF, doesn't wear batting gloves. It's easy to root for both of them.
Daniel (NYC): I know you have been asked this MANY times but is there any reason for us fans to believe that the Mets will begin to spend more on the draft then they have? 2008-2010 they were in the bottom 5 in baseball in draft spending. Any chance that actually changes?
Paul DePodesta: Daniel, sometimes the spending numbers are misleading, because a lot of it has to do with where you're picking. If you're in the top five, a place we hopefully won't be...ever, you're going to spend money, because those slots are expensive. That said, I think my history in LA and San Diego shows that I like to be aggressive in the draft and take some shots where it's appropriate. I also think it's possible to overspend on amateur players, because there are only so many big leaguers out there. You get to a point of diminishing returns. I'd like to have my toes right up against that ledge.
Robert (Queens): What are your thoughts on Wilmer Flores?
Paul DePodesta: Two days ago during a minor league game played on Field 7 (a field that is built precisely to the dimensions of CitiField - walls and all), Flores went oppo to deep right center field. Oppo. Right-center. In CitiField. He's 19. Like him! Seriously, he can really hit.
James (NYC): Hey Paul, what are your impressions so far of the players competing for the 2nd base job?
Paul DePodesta: James, one of the things we have to keep reminding ourselves, and by "we" I mean all of us in the front office and our field staff, is that our Opening Day roster is just that - a roster for Opening Day only. We can change it the next day and the day after and the day after. Though there's a certain cache to the Opening Day roster, it's really just one day in a long season. All that means is that the 2B job will probably continue to be a competition until somebody makes it their own, and I suspect somebody will.
MatthewA (Bronxville, NY): Do you have any concerns that the financial troubles encircling the Wilpons may hold the organization back from executing (and/or paying for) a new draft strategy?
Paul DePodesta: MatthewA, no I don't. The draft/international free agents is about investing in the future of the organization, and we all recognize the importance of that.
Brian (jacksonville): In Moneyball, there was a sense that the philosophy of the A's was that High school pitchers especially in the early rounds were too risky to take. How do you feel about high school picks in the early rounds/especially high school pitchers now? thanks
Paul DePodesta: Brian, pitching in the draft is one of the great questions. There is no doubt that pitchers, both college and high school, are more risky than position players, as there is a greater likelihood for injury and/or poor performance. However, to win at the big league level, you need very good starting pitching, so you can't just ignore them in the draft. I think there's a time to take your shot on high school pitching, but the draft will dictate to us when that should be, and that changes from year to year.
Danny (Lake Oswego): Paul. You did a great job of assembling talent while you were the GM with the Dodgers. Fellow GM's have acknowledged that it was you that was the architect of a team that could and should have won that Division for years. Any chance you return to a GM role?
Paul DePodesta: Danny, flattery will get you nowhere...except a place on the chat! Successful teams are built over many years and involve lots of different people. In LA, I benefited greatly from the work Danny Evans had done before me and certainly the job that had been done in player development and scouting. I think any GM would tell you that what was in place when they assumed control had a lot to do with their success. As far as the GM role, I've been fortunate to be offered some opportunities in the past few years, but I've declined. At this point, I've had the different titles on my business card, and I realized that wasn't what drove me. As long as I have the opportunity and autonomy to help implement a vision for a franchise, I really don't care what my business card says. I had that in San Diego, and I feel like I have that now in NY.
Gerald Schifman (NYC): Paul, what does Chad MacDonald bring to the organization as the team's new scouting director?
Paul DePodesta: Chad's a terrific evaluator, has great energy, and has experiences that range from bat boy to area scout to assistant director to director of international. His perspective is invaluable.
Demy (NYC ): Do you agree that parts of the Moneyball thesis are outdated, since most organizations are now adjusting for perceived market inefficiencies?
Paul DePodesta: Demy, I think I perceive Moneyball very differently than most people. To me, Moneyball has nothing at all to do with on-base percentage. In fact, it has very little to do with statistics. In my mind, Moneyball is about constantly questioning the efficacy of your belief system and trying to uncover value where it's not readily apparent. I don't think that mindset will ever be outdated in any line of work.
Wells (San Diego, CA): Paul - which Padres front office employee do you miss the most?
Paul DePodesta: I miss Wells. Oh, wait a second...
Running out of time here everyone, so I can only answer a couple more. Sorry not to be able to get to so many of them!
Ryan (Austin, TX): What is your opinion on Cesar Puello and his power development? Lots of scouting websites believe he will grow into it, but his production has yet to match his tools.
Paul DePodesta: Ryan, Puello has big power. It's a spectacle when he takes bp. The good news is that he's really trying to establish himself as a good hitter first, knowing that the power will start to play in games in due time. He did that last year and also managed to steal 45 bases. He's a potential five tool guy.
Daniel Williams (Orange County NY): Mr.DePodesta, it is great to have you and your computer in the Met front office. Welcome to New York.
It seems like having a manager on the same page as the front office in terms of how to utilize players, develop them and max out probabilities for in-game strategy, is something that is being stressed. I am mainly thinking of the "guidebooks" Sandy handed out to all managers in the Met system.
Since you are involved with the player development, how much does being on the same page with the manager translate throughout the lower levels on up to AAA, compared to the interaction with the Major League manager? Less focus on in-game strategy and more on establishing what area you'd like a certain player to concentrate on so he has it when he reaches the Majors? For example, let's just take the AA team in Binghamton: Is Wally Backman going to be told not to bunt the 2 hitter because you want said player to develop on-base skills and hitting to the opposite field?
Thanks and best of luck with the player development, Metland is waiting for that World Series banner.
Paul DePodesta: Daniel, more than the specifics of game management, the best organizations are the ones that manage to create organizational consistency from top-to-bottom. Technically, I'm in charge of player development, amateur scouting, and international. However, my real job is make sure that these departments actually become one big department and connect seamlessly to the Major League team.
NM (NJ): What is your take on defensive metrics? It seems to be a somewhat-spotty area in the sabermetric world.
Paul DePodesta: Last one! I think that whenever you think you can measure something, you'll tend to place too much emphasis on it. I'm sure the same thing happened to fastball velocity once everyone started using radar guns. That doesn't mean I don't think there's some really interesting work being done on defensive metrics. In fact, the industry has come a long way in the last decade. However, there's still a ways to go.
rick vaugh (DC): What would you be doing professionally if you'd never gotten involved with baseball? A few off-hand guesses is appropriate.
Paul DePodesta: Ok, last one...for real! Tight-rope walker, sumo wrestler, international man of mystery...
Paul DePodesta: Seriously thanks again for all the questions. I really appreciate the interest. Hopefully, I'll get back to writing sometime soon.