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“The draft is what we work for,” says Jon Lalonde, Blue Jays Scouting Director. “We spend 364 days a year getting ready for it.”

Major-league baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, held every June, is unique among the major sports drafts. It’s the only one not televised (though there’s been some talk of it lately), and it’s the only one to go an exhausting 50 rounds. Every so often, an Orlando Hudson or Chris Woodward (43rd and 54th round, respectively) will make it to the bigs, though rarely (especially as a double-play combination).

A good draft replenishes your farm system and provides future stars; a bad one can send shock waves throughout your organization for years. The stakes are incredibly high. The first five rounds are where you often find your future stars, but Jon thinks the real make-or-break decisions come after that.

“In the first two or three rounds, everybody knows about those players,” he points out. “There are no surprises, for the most part. When we get excited is from about the 5th round to the 15th, where you can make some key decisions and score some great players. Those are the rounds that can make a good draft great.”

The first player chosen, though he has the highest profile, normally isn’t much of a risk. “Your first-rounder should make the big leagues; if he doesn’t, you're disappointed, especially with the money you're investing,” Jon observes. Sure, injuries can sink the best-laid plans, but otherwise, nabbing an Eddie Zosky or a Joe Lawrence is just painful. The same goes, to a lesser degree, for players taken in the next few rounds.

“But from the 5th to even the 20th round, you can really make hay,” Jon says. “If you get a player the scouts really like, and you've done the research, and you get him in one of those rounds, that's what makes a draft a success. Players like Joey Reiman [Pulaski catcher/first baseman, .301/.416/.422 in 206 AB, taken in the 16th round in 2003] and Ryan Roberts [Auburn third baseman .278/.370/.440 in 248 AB, chosen in the 18th round] -- we were doing cartwheels when we got those guys.”

So let’s talk about some of those lower-round guys. How about ….

1. Jamie Vermilyea (9th round)

“Our area scout Tim Huff was a big fan of the young man, really pushed him in all our meetings,” Jon informs us. “We looked at the statistics – out at the University of New Mexico, which is traditionally a very strong hitter's environment, Jamie had been very successful. Again, you combine that success with the opinion of Tim Huff, who is a very good scout, his recommendation on the player's toughness and ability, and you say, ‘This is a guy who has a chance.’”

Was he ranked higher than the ninth-rounder he eventually became? “Certainly, if we had to take him earlier, nobody would have been disappointed. It just happened that the way we played the board, that's where he fit into our scheme. Draft day takes a lot of twists and turns,” Jon points out. “To predict where someone is going to go is quite difficult. So that's where we felt most comfortable taking him, and it worked out very well. Because he played at a smaller school, maybe we were able to get him a bit lower than if he played at an SEC school or some other traditional baseball power.”

2. Vito Chiaravalotti (15th round)

“We had an area scout up there [the University of Richmond], but he was easier for everyone to scout, because he was on the same team as Tim Stauffer, who was the fourth overall pick,” Jon explains. “So all of our scouts got a chance to see him, and we all liked his ability as a hitter. He'd had great success there, had shown leadership, was a good athlete – he was an all-state swimmer in high school. When you combine those things, you come up with a very solid player. Fifteenth round was where he fit into our mix, but if somebody had taken him tenth, it still would have been a great pick.”

3. Matt Foster (13th round)

The Blue Jays surprised a lot of people by reaching into the ranks of the Navy to grab southpaw Matt Foster. “Left-handed pitching is hard to find,” reasons Jon. “Matt was a lefty with a very good arm. Sure, the Naval Academy is not a traditional baseball power, but the Major League Scouting Bureau had him evaluated quite highly.”

The X-factor with Foster was his service commitment – this was one of those deals “where you sign him, but you know you're going to lose him right away for a year. It was similar to 2002, when we took Chris Leonard, who we knew had just had Tommy John surgery. Talent-wise, he could have been a second-rounder, maybe even a sandwich pick, but because of the injury, he slid a little bit. We took a chance, knowing that if he comes back and pitches the way he's capable of, it'll be a very good pick.

Foster stuck around till the 13th round, which pleasantly surprised the Jays. “Our scouts had him rated much higher than where we took him. He was still on the board, he was a left-handed pitcher and you have to figure he has good makeup, coming out of Navy,” Jon laughs. “Discipline shouldn't be a problem. He's doing his commitment right now, and we'll have him back in the middle of next summer. Sometimes you just have to be creative.”

And what about that first-round pick? After the draft this past June, Sportsnet aired a clip of the Blue Jays’ draft room, which showed the tension building as the clock counted down to the Jays’ spot. Tulane slugger Michael Aubrey was reportedly high on the team’s list, but when he went to Cleveland, the cameras showed J.P. Ricciardi getting excited. Within minutes, Aaron Hill was property of the Blue Jays.

Jon wasn’t involved in the first-round draft selection, but he agrees that had the choice been between Aubrey and Hill, it might have been a tough one. But he also says of the LSU shortstop: “We had him evaluated very highly, and that's why we were so shocked to see him fall. That could have been one of those contingencies where you have to call an audible; you love Player X, but Player Y, who you didn't anticipate would be there, is still available.” Hill tore up Auburn and did very well at Dunedin, and already looks like Toronto’s shortstop of the future.

Jon simply loves the draft. “The atmosphere is hectic, but a lot of fun,” he says. “It can be very emotional -- we all like players, we get connected to them, and when we don't get the ones we want, we get upset. When we do get the ones we want, we love it. It's a huge adrenaline rush. Once it's over, you feel like you could sleep for about two weeks.”

Baseball America called the Jays’ 2002 draft the best in baseball. Now, after the stunning performance of the Auburn Doubledays and some terrific player debuts at Pulaski, one wonders what they’ll make of the Class of ’03. “Obviously, the success of our draft this year was borne out by the success that Auburn and Pulaski had, and that's two years in a row we feel we've done well,” Jon says. “We're just really excited, and we're going to keep on doing the same things. Time will tell if it's the right way to go, but so far, the results have been outstanding.”

Although no one can argue with the results so far, still there are more than a few people who do question whether the Jays’ way is the right way to go. Plenty of clubs still grab high-school pitchers early and often, and view an emphasis on statistical analysis with outright disdain. Anyone who’s read Moneyball, particularly the chapter detailing the showdown between Billy Beane and his scouts over Jeremy Brown, knows that the philosophical gap between those two camps is tremendous.

Which camp do the Blue Jays fall into? Perhaps surprisingly to some, Jon reports that “we try to take the best from both worlds. Traditional scouting has been successful for a lot of years; some great players have been found that way. What we try to do is take advantage of some information that maybe wasn't available in the past, to shape our decisions and make better decisions.

“That's not to say that we're right and everybody else is wrong, or that there's a right way and a wrong way to do it,” he adds. “That's just the way we operate. It's been very productive so far, and maybe it will continue to be that way. It's about trying to integrate information. I don't think a computer will ever tell you who the best player is.”

Jon himself was not a sabrmetrician from day one. “A couple of years ago, if you asked me, I would have said I was in the traditional scouting camp,” he says. “I looked at tools -- I went to scout school, where they preach tools, and you look at physical ability. Since J.P. came on, it's been an educational process. I've learned a lot more about the other way of evaluating, and I try to marry them both together, to find that happy medium.”

Not everyone was able to make that marriage work, however; the baseball world took notice over the past several months as the Blue Jays let go many scouts, including a number who had been with the organization for years. Perhaps the highest-profile departure was that of Tim Wilken, the onetime Scouting Director who helped bring Shawn Green, Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells into the organization, among many others.

On this serious and controversial topic, Jon adopts a considerate approach. “Change is never easy,” he notes. “Obviously, with J.P. coming in, he wanted to implement his views, which ran contrary to some of our traditional views. That played a part, and finances played a part. We had a very large department compared to the rest of baseball, and we had to make some adjustments.

“There are some very good people who aren't with us any more, but I still consider them very good friends and excellent scouts. Change was mandated, and we adapted to that change. We did the best we could with it, and the staff that's in place now is great. At the senior levels, we have J.P. and Keith and Tony LaCava, and we have great area scouts to go forward with. I'm really excited about what we've done, and where we're going.”

Jon has good reason to be excited, as do Blue Jay fans generally. And some of those fans must surely now be wondering: how can I become a part of this amazing experience? Are there opportunities in the scouting department in Toronto or elsewhere? What advice can the Jays’ current Scouting Director offer to fellow Canadians who want to follow his path?

He starts with some cautionary words. “I think the industry in general is going to smaller staffs,” he advises. “I don't have anything scientific to back up that opinion; it's just my feeling about the trend.” As for entering this field, “there's no road map for getting into it.

“You have to work hard to get a foot in the door, and continue to work hard. One of the negatives is the sacrifice in time. I don't have much of a social life or a family, which means I'm able to be here for long hours and long periods without days off, especially during the season.” The job, like the game, is extremely demanding. It is not for the casual or the merely curious.

But Jon is also very clear that if there’s a better job out there, he doesn’t know what it is. “If you're a baseball nut like I am, there's nothing you'd rather do. I'm here late, but I'm here watching baseball, so that doesn't seem like work.

“I played until I couldn't play any more; then my goal was to stay involved with the game on some level. I found a curriculum in school, in sports administration, that I felt would point me toward that goal. I was able to get good grades, which helped me get a job; then I worked my tail off. I was here on weekends. I tried to show everybody the desire I had to advance my career, and it's worked out.”

So what’s the bottom line? “My advice would be to study hard, set a goal, look for people who will help you, and do volunteer activities that will help keep you on that path. Once you get the smallest opportunity,” he adds, “you can make it happen.” Jon Lalonde of Wyevale, Ontario, is living proof of that.
Jon Lalonde Part 3: Draft and Follow | 28 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Jordan - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#88311) #
My thanks again to Jon Lalonde, who took several hours from a busy schedule to talk with me via e-mail in the morning and with Kent in person later in the day. I should add that Jon is extremely gracious, overly modest, and a very bright guy. The Jays are well-served by his presence.

I also thought I should add one more item of dialogue that didn't fit in with the flow of the story:

Q. Have you ever read Batter's Box?

A. It's a great site. It offers a different perspective from what we're used to reading in the papers, on the team and on the game. I've enjoyed reading several pieces, including Keith [Law]'s article, which was very well done.
Craig B - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 10:46 AM EDT (#88313) #
This line kind of jumped out at me, as I remember hearing/reading somewhere about Vito's lack of athleticism!

A natural knee-jerk reaction that people have with anyone who is a first baseman, actually. First basemen, because they play a position that's a popular place for dumping fat, slow guys, are viewed as non-athletes because of their position. Vito wasn't just all-state; he was named New Jersey High School Swimmer of the Year and was a national age-group champion in the 100 backstroke. And 6-3, 220? Oh, man... fuhgeddaboutit!

Then you get his numbers. Look at his college numbers from before 2003 (his senior season was rough, he hit only .306/.398/.528)

173 G, 641 AB, .337 AVG, 46 2B, 48 HR, 119 BB, 90 K

A very nice line, even in the relatively weak Colonial conference.
_Jordan - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 10:53 AM EDT (#88314) #
Craig, just to round out that thought, Vito was reportedly playing hurt through parts of his senior year in 2003.

Vito 2001: 1131 OPS
Vito 2002: 1192 OPS
_EddieZosky - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 11:06 AM EDT (#88315) #
Would somebody care to explain what the knock against Vito was, apart from the "relatively weak" conference he played in?

With those numbers and those intangibles, I don't understand how he could fall so low?
_Ken - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 11:19 AM EDT (#88316) #
I think these 3 pieces have been my favourite so far and it seems like the interviews keep coming.

Great job guys. It's remarkable how much you've done with an internet site. The detail with which the jays are covered is unmatched and I look forward to the minor league season ending reports next week.
robertdudek - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 11:51 AM EDT (#88317) #
Anyone drafted as a first baseman, unless they are young and have phenomenal power, gets downgraded. This is because most future big league position players are drafted as shortstops or outfielders. As these guys progress, some of them can't handle the position defensively but can hit - they shift to less demanding positions.

The guys who start out at first base find themselves competing against a constant flow of guys who can hit (shifted from other positions) as they go higher up in the minors. You'll find 3Bs who lack range, catchers who are not regarded as adequate defensively and outfielders who can't run that well - those guys will eventually become first basemen or else fail to become big leaguers.

I like Vito - maybe he can buck the trend and follow Jay Gibbons' path to the majors (in the Jays' organization, not a rule 5'er).
_Ryan Day - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#88318) #
I'll add my "bravo" to the Box staff, too; these articles are great. Almost all of the articles here are great.

I'm so used to the off-season passing by with weeks between even the most insignificant Blue Jays information. To get such unique, detailed, and, dare I say, significant articles here on a regular basis is just fantastic.

One thing that wasn't touched on here, and something I really haven't seen explored anywhere, is the overall impact of Ricciardi's "purge" of scouts. How have scouts been re-distributed? What are they doing/not doing now that they weren't before?

Late-round success stories like Vermilyea & Vito suggest that the approach is working, but I'm curious about the differences between then & now. (Y'know, beyond Griffin & Elliott's "Ricciardi callously and cruelly fired scouts who can no longer afford to feed their families and have to sell their organs just to make the rent" spiels)
Mike Green - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#88319) #
Jordan, terrific piece of work. One question that I have arising from the article concerns any changes to the way scouts report concerning offensive prospects since JP arrived. The traditional approach was a 20-80 scale for a number of skills, but not including strike zone judgment (in a Baseball Primer article, one scout described strike zone judgment as primarily a development issue, as opposed to a skill).

My sense is that Jay scouts are now reporting back on strike zone judgment, as well as the other traditionally evaluated skills. Have I got this right?
_Jabonoso - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 12:41 PM EDT (#88320) #
Great work, thanks to Jon and to you for the time and effort.
Is this it? or more is coming?
I loved the Dick Scott part, the sandwich picks part and I think that the "purge" re-engineering part is well covered ( actually from sentence one ).
I would love to know more ( maybe is coming ) about the last picks, the real draft and follow, like if there is money to "convince" Depoy, Burt, et al, to sign or it is just a gamble.
When Van Gaalen and Marlow will be proud jays? etc.
If there is more detail about the Scott vs Lalonde tug of war about the needs versus best talent choices, please let it be public.
Another area of interest could be the drafting of players with more than one position ( pitchers who are also short stops, Of's than can play infield ) one would think that is in extended spring training where a final decision is made, but it is reported that the decision where they are scheduled to play is made since day one ( by whom? )
Craig B - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#88321) #
in a Baseball Primer article, one scout described strike zone judgment as primarily a development issue, as opposed to a skill

I remember that. One of the most interesting (teasing) parts of _Moneyball_ was DePodesta talking about how the A's had done some research showing that this wasn't the case, that only the rare player learns strike zone judgment as a professional.
_Jordan - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#88322) #
Mike, that's a very good question, and I suspect you're right, though I'm not able to say for sure. It wouldn't at all surprise me if the 20-80 scale has been adapted by Toronto, Oakland and a few other organizations (Boston, I would imagine) -- they're open to innovation in almost every other area, so why not here as well?

On the other hand, one could argue that most of the traditional scouting categories (hitting, hitting for power, speed, etc.) are concerned more with pure physical abilities, whereas strike-zone judgment is more of a learned skill, something that doesn't come naturally. The theory might be that athletic gifts, such as the ability to whack a pitch over a fence, don't belong in the same category as the trained batting eye that tells you if the pitch is worth swinging at. It's the old talent vs. skill dichotomy.

However, that would put us into some murky waters. Some people get upset at the idea that "physical talent" is of a different (and lesser) value than "learned skills." Rightly so, I think, because that would introduce all sorts of unpleasant implicit assumptions, some of which already make the rounds:

- untrained Latinos have oodles of raw talent, but don't have the patience or dedication to learn the strike zone;
- common descriptors of strike-zone knowledge like discipline and judgment imply a certain moral edge to those who've mastered it;
- white athletes are hard-working, scrappy and smart, while non-white athletes are physically gifted and hugely talented.

Anyway, that's off-topic; I note it as a sidebar more than anything else. Enlightened organizations like the Jays most likely recognize that a skill is a skill is a skill, wherever it came from and however it's honed. I would expect that strike-zone judgment is now considered one of the essential criteria scouts are asked to report back on. But it would be interesting to see the extent to which this takes place around baseball.

Jabonso, thanks for the kind words (and to everyone who's offered them). This is indeed the last installment of our chat with Jon Lalonde -- I should have tracked the arc of the series better. But as you point out, there's still a lot of ground that could be covered; if circumstances allow, maybe we'll have a chance to chat with Jon again later this winter.
Mike Green - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#88323) #

I find the traditional view on strike zone judgment to be completely silly. Yes, ballplayers do develop better strike zone judgment (and more power) as they get older; but the starting point matters tremendously. A hitter who walks 20 times and strikes out 160 times, per 600 PA season, as a college player is likely to always have problems, whereas a hitter who walks 100 times and strikes out 60 times is not likely to have problems.

Without even dealing with the numerical side of the game, I would want to know whether a hitter is prone to chasing the low outside curveball in the dirt, or the fastball up and out of the strike zone. I would want to know whether a hitter is able to foul off tough pitches and take close ones.

The scouts do all of this for the power side of hitting (even though development plays a significant role in this too). They look at the mechanics of the swing and attempt to assess the hitter's power, current and potential.

The irony is that power is somewhat less important than the ability to get on base.
Craig B - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 01:51 PM EDT (#88324) #
Anyone interested in traditional scouting, by the way, should read Kevin Kerrane's excellent _Dollar Sign On The Muscle_, which I have to remember to give to Coach because I promised it to him months ago.
Mike Green - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 05:39 PM EDT (#88325) #
I second Craig B's recommendation on "Dollar Sign on the Muscle". One learns from it, and is entertained to boot.
_Jabonoso - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 05:52 PM EDT (#88326) #
One good example of late in life strike zone judgement learning is Sosa.
One good example that it is very difficult to learn it is A Gonzo ( and Mondesi and hordes of players...)
One good example that an above average skill could take you real high is Rios ( he was a hitting phenom in high school, no baseonballs but his contact skill was extraordinary )
One good example that atheticism alone can go nowhere: Negron ( I saw this kid playing winter baseball at 17 against older guys and I thought just for the likes that he was the second coming of Beltran )
he is fast and strong but no real abilities ( skills ) to play the game at the level we have been hoping.
Craig B - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 07:48 PM EDT (#88327) #
I think Jabonoso has hit the nail on the head here.

You can't predict what a young player will do. Outcomes are so different, and a guy's makeup is so important in that. A guy like Miguel Tejada or John Olerud, who have incredible natural talent, still need to apply themselves in a particular way to learn how to play the game. For every Tejada or Olerud, there's a Willie Greene with the same talent but without the ability to learn and apply what they learn.
robertdudek - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 07:54 PM EDT (#88328) #
I recently finished reading Whitey Herzog's You're Missing a Great Game. One of the things he notes was the massive natural talent of David Green. Green had a pretty good year in AAA as a 20-year old and a great 200 PA campaign as a 21 year-old in the same league. He never developed into even a solid player. He only lasted for 3 seasons and change, playing less than 500 games at the big league level.
Mike Green - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 10:27 PM EDT (#88329) #
David is no relation of mine. Neither for that matter is Willie who can't spell the name correctly.
Coach - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 10:44 PM EDT (#88330) #
To get such unique, detailed, and, dare I say, significant articles here on a regular basis is just fantastic.

Thank you, Ryan. I'm sure I can speak for all our contributors; it's a labour of love. Our access to the Jays, unusual for a fan site, is a credit to everyone we've met -- the front office, the media department, the coaches and players have all treated us with respect. So have many of the writers and broadcasters who cover the team. It's been an amazing rookie season.

We don't claim that anything here (apart from the interviews) is "official" Blue Jays information. It's mostly informed opinion and educated guesses; sometimes we swing and miss. That said, Jordan's analysis of the farm system is arguably the best available anywhere. I'm eagerly anticipating his 2003 reviews next week.

How have scouts been re-distributed? What are they doing/not doing now that they weren't before?

I would say that they probably aren't looking any more for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The strong impression I get from Jon Lalonde is one of practicality and efficiency. His department isn't going to waste money, time or manpower trying to "discover" a player in some remote sandlot. Their efforts focus on young men who are more likely to help right away. Conscious of return on investment, the Jays are unwilling -- for now -- to pay huge bonuses to kids whose potential may take several years to develop. This may change, slightly, once the rebuilding job is complete and the organization is self-sustaining. If and when the big club is winning and the entire system is well-stocked, they might be more inclined to take a few risks, maybe even a high school first-rounder.
Gerry - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 10:56 PM EDT (#88331) #
Interesting series of articles. If there is a follow-up I would be interested to know:

1. When John was promoted to Director of Scouting was it because he is a good administrator, or because he is a good scout?

2. Can you learn to be a scout by attending scout school, or do you need to come to school with some other skills?

3. On draft day, when two scouts are arguing in favour of "their" player, does John have the final say?

4. How do the Jays use the Central Scouting reports they get?

5. The Jays have changed a lot of scouting personnel this past year. In the article John mentions the Jays have a limited budget and they have had to make some choices. What are they doing differently now, compared to twelve months ago?
Coach - Friday, October 10 2003 @ 11:23 PM EDT (#88332) #
Gerry, I think I can answer your #3, and I tried to answer #5 in my last comment. Jon wouldn't be making those close calls on draft day, J.P. would. Remember that if it's any of the top 150-200 players, it's likely that Chris Buckley and Tony LaCava have also seen them, along with the national cross-checkers. Jon gets a vote, Keith Law gets a vote, and of course the area scout's input is considered, so it's really a consensus among seven or eight people, not an argument.

My guess is that if a scout is really passionate about a player who is still available in the late rounds, that's where they might just take a chance, even if the senior evaluators haven't seen him.

Josh Boyd wrote a six-part series in BA about his experience attending scout school. Unfortunately, if you're not a subscriber, only the first installment is available, but it was very interesting. Run by the MLB Scouting Bureau, the goal of the school is to "attract and prepare qualified people for a career in scouting." Presumably, a big-league club decides if you're "qualified" and it's not open to just anyone with a cheque and a pulse, like, say, umpiring school.
_A - Saturday, October 11 2003 @ 02:45 AM EDT (#88333) #
it is reported that the decision where they are scheduled to play is made since day one (by whom?)

From my experience talking to two guys on my high school team who have been highly regarded among GTA prospects, the decisions are made quite early. By about 15/16 kids are attending showcases and mini-camps to evaluate talent and give feedback relating to the part of their game that needs improvement and a projection for where they could play in an ML system, and at times even a predicition for where they could go in the draft.

The two players I had a chance to play with varried emmensely in their projections. The first was the best center fielder I saw playing in Toronto-South. His instincts were amazing, his speed was very good (the ball always seemed to just float in the air as he ran to it...probably because he always took the right path), his arm was a cannon and the bat was fierce. Regardless of this, he was told he wasn't tall enough for a spot in the OF, instead he was projected as a catcher. He made one helluva catcher at the high school level because of his work ethic, but putting him behind the plate is wasting a great talent.

The second player is your typical ML build: 6'2, 175lbs. Coach referred to him before when talking about Lalonde's scouting ability, but in terms of projection, that frame allows him to play anywhere he pleases. I'm confident he'll be a pitcher somewhere for many years to come. His downfall might be a Halladay-like problem of mechanics that are *too* perfect (he has more consistancy with the heater than a pitching machine), but that change-up will get better with time.
Coach - Saturday, October 11 2003 @ 10:21 AM EDT (#88334) #
Adam, let's not forget that our friend, who will probably end up about 6'4" and maybe 200, isn't likely to hit enough to play anywhere else at the next level. I like the pitching machine comparison; he'll need to go inside more and mix in a high fastball as he faces better hitters. But as you know, effective wildness is easier to teach than control. :)

Our other friend "projects" as a catcher not only because of his height; his strong, accurate right arm, quick feet and lefty power are all very desirable attributes, and if you could measure intensity and leadership, he's an 80. Any coach that gets to know him will make sure he's in the lineup somewhere when he isn't behind the plate. Tony La Russa would love him.

You're right, these decisions are made early. A few Blue Jays farmhands, old and new, come to mind. John Olerud was the best pitcher in the Pac 10. Scouts, including Pat Gillick, preferred his bat, which turned out OK. He might have needed three years in the minors as a pitcher, but that swing was major-league ready. Brian Grant, who has struggled through his first two pro years against older players, was an all-state shortstop and excellent hitter, who (like many high school stars) did a little pitching. The Jays drafted him for his arm, and it's too soon to tell if that was a mistake, but let's just say it wasn't their best pick.

Shaun Marcum has a similar profile to Grant, though he was a more mature college player. He sparked the offence as the shortstop for this year's "Cinderella" team in Omaha, also closing for them. It was his potential on the mound that the Jays liked, and so far, so good; he was awesome in the Auburn bullpen. I guess the reasoning for taking away his bat is that it's hard enough to learn one facet of the pro game, without being distracted by the other. I don't know if Marcum was used as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner, but it would make sense to me. However, I'm conditioned to make my players as well-rounded as possible; more of you will be coaches (or scouts) than big-leaguers. If I was in the developmental business, perhaps I'd understand why they try to make everyone a specialist.
_Wildrose - Saturday, October 11 2003 @ 10:55 AM EDT (#88335) #
"Dollar sign" is truly a great book, but its a bit dated.(early eigties?)It would be a great project for someone to revisit,update, and contrast with some of the new scouting methodologies.
_NDG - Saturday, October 11 2003 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#88336) #
No real comment, just wanted to say this was a fantastic piece. I find the quality of writing on site very good, so much so that I've stopped reading the sports sections of newspapers. Unfortunately this has lead me to draft Havlat, Gaborik and Comrie all on the same fantasy hockey team. I blame the guys on the top left corner for this!
_Steve Birnie - Saturday, October 11 2003 @ 08:38 PM EDT (#88337) #
Good news, NDG. Havlat signed today. Good thing, I've got him in one of my pools as well.
_jason - Wednesday, October 15 2003 @ 09:51 PM EDT (#88338) #
"I would say that they probably aren't looking any more for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The strong impression I get from Jon Lalonde is one of practicality and efficiency. His department isn't going to waste money, time or manpower trying to "discover" a player in some remote sandlot. Their efforts focus on young men who are more likely to help right away. Conscious of return on investment, the Jays are unwilling -- for now -- to pay huge bonuses to kids whose potential may take several years to develop."

I think this is going to be a problem in the future for all the more enlightened organisations; Kevin Towers touched on this in his interview with Baseball Prospectus. I agree with the thinking because it makes good economic sense. And because it makes good economic sense, it will soon be copied, being copied the supply of these types of players will decrease, the demand will increase, along with the bonus money required. So where is the next under-repesented, misjudged or scout prejudiced against cohort?

Tremendously informative piece Gideon. I was glad to here that the input of scouting had not been thrown out the window. Not that I think they are infallible, but that is a whole bunch of wisdom to toss out with the bathwater. Furthermore, the way some go on - and the way it comes across in "Moneyball" - scouts are archaic, going the way of the dinosour, etc. etc. They need not if they are adapable to a different way of thinking.

Jon Lalonde Part 3: Draft and Follow | 28 comments | Create New Account
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