There's the general manager, assistant general manager, director of player personnel, scouting director, two scouting coordinators, an assistant to the GM, three cross checkers, fifteen area scouts, and three part time Canadian scouts involved in putting a draft together. Preparing for the draft is a yearlong process. But in that year's time who does what in the Jays organization?
GM and Asst GM: J.P. Ricciardi and Tim McCleary are involved in the draft process providing strategy and direction and see as many amateur players as their schedules will permit. Ricciardi will almost certainly see the player that the Jays will pick in round one, or in the case of Aaron Hill as noted in Chasing Steinbrenner, will take a quick look at and then get as far away from the player as possible as to not tip who the team is most interested in.
Director of Player Personnel: Tony LaCava is very involved in the draft. He helps with the planning and strategy in the preseason and then during the season he will see somewhere around 75 amateur players in preparation for the draft. LaCava's focus is primarily on the more elite players in the draft.
Scouting Director: While JP Ricciardi is the man that sets the philosophy and is ultimately responsible for the draft, the man that Ricciardi puts in control of the Jays draft is Jon Lalonde.
This year's draft was Lalonde's second draft as scouting director. While it's still early, the returns on the 2004 draft are promising. Zach Jackson is already in AAA, David Purcey, Chip Cannon, Curtis Thigpen, and Casey Janssen are in AA, and Adam Lind is having an impressive year in Dunedin.
So what exactly does a scouting director do? A combination of a lot of things. The biggest job is overseeing the scouting operations - hiring the right people, making sure scouts are seeing the right players and utilizing their time and money effectively.
Lalonde also serves as a scout. He says that he spends about 150-200 days on the road each year and will typically scout players drafted in the top 10 rounds.
Oh yeah, and he makes the picks on draft day.
Scouting Coordinators: The Blue Jays have two scouting coordinators, Andrew Tinnish and Alex Anthopoulos, who Lalonde calls "the lifeblood of our operations". They facilitate a lot of the communication between the scouts, cross checkers, and Lalonde. Additionally, they do a great deal of research into players, both medically and statistically.
So for example, a scout may talk with a scouting coordinator about a player they like later on in the draft. The scouting coordinator would then do further research on the player and if things are positive from that research they'd let Lalonde know to keep an eye on that particular player.
It's also common for the reverse situation to happen as well. Lalonde might see or hear of a player and have a scouting coordinator dig further into the player's profile.
Asst to the GM: Once spring rolls around the team brings in Keith Law to help with the draft preparation. Law works with Lalonde and the scouting coordinators, often bouncing ideas off of one another and trying to find ways to separate similar players, often through statistical analysis. As Lalonde notes, "we see the players through one light and Keith can offer an opinion or angle that we just don't consider, but makes a whole lot of sense".
Law also looks at the draft from a global perspective, trying to get a feel for where players will go in the draft and what teams may be interested in particular players. Additionally, he also provides scouting support in New England in the spring and summer.
Cross Checkers: The team's cross checkers, Tom Clark, Tim Huff, and Mike Mangan are scouts that don't have a specific geographic to scout, but rather will scout certain targeted players that either the scouts or Lalonde or scouting coordinators want to have another set of eyes on. Lalonde says that cross checkers will generally see players selected through at least the 15th round of the draft.
Area Scouts: Area scouts, as the name implies, are scouts that are assigned to a particular geographic area in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. In all there are 15 full time area scouts and 3 part time Canadian scouts, listed below:
Tony Arias Andy Beene Matt Briggs Tom Burns Billy Gasparino Joel Grampietro Aaron Jersild Alvin Morrow Brandon Mozley Ty Nichols Demerius Pittman Jorge Rivera Tom Tanous Marc Tramuta Kevin Briand Greg Brons Jim Fanning Jean Marc Mercier
These scouts are responsible for all players in their regions, whether the player is in high school, junior college, or college. Generally the scouts make their own schedules, however, there are times when they are given specific assignments.
During a scout's peak season in the spring it's not uncommon for them to see up to 3 games in one day, and typically they'll scout 40-60 games each month. If there's a tournament setting it's possible that they'll see more that that (since they can see multiple games in the same spot on the same day).
At the park the scouts will evaluate draft eligible players in a number of categories. Each category will get a numeric grade on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, with increments of 5.
Here's how Lalonde views the grades:
80- Hall of Fame caliber performer 70- Perennial All Star 60- Above average player capable of All Star performance 50- Average Major League player 40- Below average player that would be exposed in extended ML time 30- Not a Major League caliber talent 20- Typical Batter's Box Roster member
In addition to the numeric grades for particular skills the scouts will also add comments to the evaluation to try to add some color to his grades.
The Blue Jays have a Lotus Notes scouting software program from IBM that they use where the scouts can enter in their evaluations on their laptops following the game. Once they do that they will then dial in to Toronto and download the player evaluation into the team's main database.
Draft Days: Leading up to the draft the team brings together the area scouts and the core front office team to sort through the players and come up with a ranking of all of the prospects. Then on the days of the draft the team also brings in all of the area scouts so the full amateur scouting staff is on hand in Toronto for the entire draft giving input on players throughout the draft. (For more details on the workings of draft day head to Jordan's excellent article from last year: Decoding the Draft).
So once the draft is over the staff can relax until the fall, right? Nope. Once the draft ends the summer seasons start up immediately and everyone starts the yearly cycle over again. Tomorrow I'll take a look at the standouts from the Cape Cod League which just concluded.
One of da Box's traditions is to fill out a personal profile. Here's a look at Jon Lalonde:
Position (baseball): Catcher / Third base / Left field
Born (town): Midland, ON
Resides: Mississauga, ON
Major-League Comp to Little League Career: Joe Girardi
Favourite Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Favourite Player (current): Roy Halladay
Favourite Player (all-time): Gary Carter
Best Game Attended In Person: Saw Reed Johnson hit a lead-off and walk-off home run in the same game to beat the Cubs back in 2003. I watched it with my Dad and it was a great game at a time when the Club was really playing well.
Baseball Book: Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. I used it for a book report in 11th grade.
Favourite Play in Baseball: I love a close play at home because how a catcher handles a throw and blocks the plate tells you a lot about how skilled and tough he is.
Favourite Ballpark: I like Rogers Centre a lot, it's underrated especially with the new turf and screens. The one that comes to mind at the Major League level is Kansas City. In college baseball I love going to Texas A&M.
Striding-To-The-Plate Music: Given to Fly by Pearl Jam
Three Unshakable Baseball Beliefs:
1) Pitchers should hit - I'm not a fan of the DH.
2) Sacrifice bunting before the 7th inning is not a good strategy.
3) Good ballplayers make adjustments, poor players make excuses.