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Yesterday the Blue Jays Tony LaCava shared his insights on the draft. Today he talks about the Blue Jays master plan, several current Blue Jays and various other topics.

LaCava grew up in Pittsburgh so football is in his blood. One of the all time great football players, Dan Marino, played on the same high school baseball team as LaCava. "We played together at Central Catholic. Dan was a real good baseball player, he was both a pitcher and a position player. He was drafted as a position player but he was a good pitcher, he went undefeated as a pitcher from his sophomore year on. He was dominant at that level, he was a gifted athlete, and I truly believe he could have played in the major leagues had he chosen baseball." The Kansas City Royals selected Marino in the fourth round of the 1979 draft. Obviously Marino never signed and went on to a very successful career as a quarterback, but he never could win a super bowl. Now LaCava is trying to one-up his old friend and bring a World Series ring back to Pittsburgh. LaCava, JP and the Jays have a master plan detailing how to bring a championship to Toronto. Last year JP Ricciardi told Batters Box that the plan never changed since his appointment as GM. LaCava tells the same story to Batters Box.

"When I signed on here (in Toronto) JP had a very specific plan as to how he wanted to win and we are right to the point where we are hoping to contend in 2006. When I got here there were some core players like Wells and Halladay that were the future and obviously we could draft around those guys. We also had some good players at the lower levels, high school drafts, that would take a few years to get here. JP felt that if we pounded the draft for three or four years with college players, who could get here in a couple of years, they would catch up to the high school guys and we would have depth, and young players, at the major league level. We were also hoping at some point that Rogers would increase salary to give us more money to work with and that came true when they bought the Rogers Centre and they made a decision to increase payroll. In some ways we were hoping for the perfect storm with all those things came together and we would be ready to compete. That was the plan when I signed on and so far so good. Hopefully this year the players will play to their potential and we will contend." All Blue Jay fans would agree with that last comment. In the same way that LaCava told us yesterday that the Jays would follow the same script for the draft, the script at the club level also remains unchanged. Some fans don't buy into the Jays approach but you have to admire their consistency. Having a plan means all levels of the organization know what to do in each circumstance, the amateur scouts know who to look at and the professional scouts know how to grade prospects. Consistency of mission is important in all organizations, even in baseball clubs. The message from LaCava with respect to the draft is the same as yesterday, don't expect changes. "Even though the farm system and the major league team has changed and our payroll has improved, we still need players to come through the system to get to AA or AAA in a reasonable timeline so they can play at the major league for us, or be used in trades like the Overbay trade."

The Jays might be consistent in their approach to the draft but that doesn't mean Baseball America approves. A couple of weeks ago Jim Callis from BA stepped into Da Box and described how the Jays dropped to number twenty five on their organizational ranking list. LaCava is not happy but not too worried either. "You would like to be rated high, I don't know if their methodology weighs probability as much as we do. I look at our system, especially the pitching side, and our projected starting rotations for our top three clubs and I don't remember being in a system where you felt you have a prospect at every slot. We are real close to that. All of them have a chance to pitch in the big leagues, and that's what you need with pitching, you need numbers, because of the high attrition rate. It comes down to how you value players, we value probability as well as depth. I don't think they (BA) ever rated Russ Adams or Aaron Hill very high either and they are going to be our middle infield. Which would you rather have, the number five prospect in all baseball, or a starting shortstop in the major leagues?"

Eight of the Jays top ten prospects are pitchers, would it be better to have some balance in your prospect lists? "You can never have enough pitching. From that surplus we were able to get Overbay. We weren't sure where Bush was going to fit on our club (in 2006). We had enough pitching to go get someone, and again that was the plan when I got here, and pitching is currency, that's how you get these trades done."

LaCava's other area of responsibility is the professional scouts, guys who follow signed players in other systems. "We have a plan, we have five major league scouts who are responsible for all 29 teams. Each scout covers one division plus one team from the AL West. They have reports on all major league, AAA and AA players. If JP wants to look at who we like the best, and how we rate say the Angels system, he can pull it up at any time. It's a good starting point to see if we match up with another club. After the draft we have amateur scouts pick up all the full season A clubs and sometimes have second looks at the AA and AAA teams. Two different looks or opinions at AA up."

One group who are closely watched by the professional scouts are potential major league free agents, sometimes in a very specific and targeted way. After the Jays signed AJ Burnett it was reported that the Jays had a scout at every one of AJ's 2005 starts. LaCava confirmed the story, almost. "Yes pretty much, we might have missed a start or two in April or May but after that we were on him and we had someone at all his starts." Was there a plan B? "We saw other starters, not as consistently but there were other free agents we tracked."

That level of scouting is tougher to do with a reliever like BJ Ryan. "You don't know when BJ Ryan is going to pitch but we saw him a ton and of course we played against him nineteen times." The Jays were not tracking Ryan as early as they were following Burnett. "We started kicking it around in June and then after that we were on him."

So how about 2006 Tony? "We have a few ideas for 2006. Obviously last year we committed to quite a few players so this year the needs aren't quite as big but we do have a list. But every club does this in some form."

One of this off-season's new Jays is Troy Glaus. I had heard through channels that the Jays were tracking Glaus very closely in 2004 before he became a free agent, but the Jays were unable to get Glaus last winter. "We did scout him closely in 2004. JP would know more than me (about the negotiations) and we did have discussions with his agent but it never got close. I think the turf was an issue right out of the gate." Coming over from Arizona with Glaus was Sergio Santos who the Jays have liked for a few years now. "We liked Santos since high school and he became available because he was undervalued, he tripped a little bit last year, but he was young for AAA and our scouts still believe in his tools."

Turning to the major league club it looks as though Dustin McGowan is headed for AAA with the signing of AJ Burnett. "Last year was Dustin's first season back from Tommy John surgery and each time out he looked better and better. We are real excited about him, he is a big part of our future. We will see what spring training brings but at this point he would probably benefit from spending time in AAA."

Another great arm belongs to Brandon League who had trouble pitching in 2005. Some time in AAA might help League regain his feel for pitching. "Brandon has a special arm, there are not too many guys have an arm like that. He needs to get his feet under him again in AAA. He jumped from AA to the major leagues and it was a little much and now he needs to regroup in AAA. We really believe in Brandon and his abilities and we are looking for big things from Brandon this year."

Another player who the Jays hope will step up in 2006 is Alexis Rios. "Rios has a lot of potential, if it ever clicks for him he is complete, he can do it all. Power is sometimes the last to come and we hope it comes for him this year. This is a very talented kid who went through some growing pains last year and we hope he takes another step this year."

If Rios does not start well Eric Hinske is the new outfielder waiting in the wings. "The way our roster is constructed right now, we are trying to figure out how to get him more at-bats. He hit right handed pitching very well last year. He will get some time in left field and we will see how that works out."

The Blue Jays have big expectations for Guillermo Quiroz in 2006, expecting him to platoon with Greg Zaun (note: excluding a Molina signing). Quiroz has lost time to injuries over the last two years and that has set back his development. "We have been told Quiroz is working hard this off-season. Two years ago he was one of the top catching prospects in baseball, and due to injuries that no-one would think of as chronic, he has been sidetracked. When you miss that much time you cannot react as quickly, the game is going too fast for you. We are not looking at his results in the fall league or in the winter league, we just want him to get his reps and hope he gets caught up. Spring training will be big for him, he knows he is facing a challenge and we think he will come up big."

The big concern for many Blue Jay fans is infield defense. Orlando Hudson was outstanding defensively and many fans think Glaus is a step down from Koskie. "I was with the Angels when we signed Troy Glaus and to me, when he is healthy, he is an above average defender. He was a shortstop in college at six foot five. He has had some injuries that have slowed him up the last two years but we expect him to be 100% and expect him to be at least as good as Koskie and, in my opinion, better. Orlando Hudson is probably the best defensive second baseman in all baseball but we think Aaron Hill will be a plus defender. The tradeoff was we didn't have anyone with Glaus' power and we don't think we would be hurt that much defensively and Glaus's power makes us a better club."

The other big debate last season was whether Russ Adams or Aaron Hill was the Jays shortstop of the future. LaCava says there was no debate inside the organization. "We never considered moving Adams off shortstop. We think they are in the right spots right now, Russ keeps getting better each year, he has come a long way and some of the errors he made last year he won't make this year."

Sunday LaCava had a problem, he was scheduled to scout a baseball game Sunday afternoon but his beloved Steelers were playing in the superbowl. LaCava had it figured out. "I will get to see my baseball game but I will be in front of a TV before the game starts." We know LaCava was happy with the football score, we hope he found a new Blue Jay in the afternoon too.

An Interview with Tony LaCava - Part Two | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Pistol - Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 09:30 AM EST (#140703) #
Nice job Gerry.

I thought the draft comment was interesting and wonder how many teams would attempt this. Go heavy with HS players for a couple years and then follow that up with heavy college drafts for the next few years. That way you have a majority of your prospects all arriving in the majors at the same time. It would seem to be a good strategy for those teams in the lower payroll tiers that have a smaller window of oppurtunity to win. Of course if you get a lot of prospects arriving at the same time it likely means there's a point where there's few prospects making it.

The other interesting comment is the 'probability' comment which I don't think I've specifically heard before (although you could have probably concluded that).

And that's pretty cool to have played with Marino in High School.
Ducey - Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 02:53 PM EST (#140725) #

I am not sure the perfect storm has happened. The highschoolers have not really panned out. League has stalled, Rios has been marginal, McGowan hurt, GQ has been hurt and now looks to be dropped, Perkins has been hurt...

Now that the Jays have a bit of a glut of pitching prospects in the high minors and that they will control the salaries of any that make it for 3-5 years, maybe it might be time for a change.

Maybe there will be more of a focus on college bats. More interestingly maybe this is a time when they should go with a larger component of high schoolers with the aim of starting the cylce over again.
Wildrose - Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 05:46 PM EST (#140741) #
Good stuff Gerry.

It's too bad your series is somewhat lost in the noise around the Molina deal, but what I found interesting was, LaCava's take on Glaus.

The opinions on his defensive ability are quite varied. Even the defensive metrics disagree, PMR and UZR, think he's terrible, other systems think he's closer to league average. Casual observation also really differs on this guy. It'll be interesting to see who's right.
greenfrog - Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 08:01 PM EST (#140746) #
Interesting. One thing I've wondered about is whether JP has pared down the Jays' scouting staff (I remember reading something to this effect a couple of years ago). Five major league scouts doesn't sound like a lot. Also, relying on amateur scouts sounds, well, a little amateurish. I'm curious how the more successful MLB franchises compare to the Jays in this regard.
Jonny German - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 09:17 AM EST (#140758) #
Also, relying on amateur scouts sounds, well, a little amateurish.

This is a bizarre statement... are you proposing that the GM and Assistant GMs should try to extensively scout all amateur players themselves?

Gerry - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 09:30 AM EST (#140759) #
Amateur scouts are full time employees who scout amateur (college and high school) players. The scouts themselves are not amateurs.
Thomas - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 10:36 AM EST (#140761) #
Great piece, Gerry. Some interesting tidbits in there, and it's an informative overview of LaCava's role.
Anders - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 06:09 PM EST (#140779) #
Amateur scouts are full time employees who scout amateur (college and high school) players. The scouts themselves are not amateurs.

Hilariousness at its best, once again on the baux

huckamaniac - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 09:46 PM EST (#140787) #
You mentioned that the Orioles gave Loewen a psych. test in the first part of the story. Do you remember what it was? Just curious. Also, I remember someone suggesting that videogames could be reviewed here, has anyone thought about reviewing books? I haven't read a baseball book since "Moneyball" and all the others (Alomar, Gruber, Pucket, George Foster biographies and "Ball Four") were when I was between 11 & 13, so I don't have much to offer here but I would be interested to see what others enjoy.
Gerry - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 10:33 PM EST (#140789) #
Loewen was the Orioles #1 pick in 2002. The Psych test would have been administered in April or May 2003.

The best baseball book I read this winter was Juicing the Game, by Howard Bryant. It's a great history of the game through the last 20 years.
Willy - Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 11:18 PM EST (#140792) #
Very nice pair of interviews, Gerry. It's satisfying to read a couple of items that are solidly informational rather than simply outpourings of speculative opinion.

For myself, I'm pleased that JP has a plan, and that so far he's been able to implement it quite well. Now let's hope it was a good plan.
best400 - Sunday, February 12 2006 @ 10:38 PM EST (#141034) #
It does seem that 5 pro-scouts is a little short, does anyone know how they distribute NL scouts, evenly or would a better emphasis be placed on the AL
Gerry - Sunday, February 12 2006 @ 11:11 PM EST (#141036) #

This interview with Blue Jay scout Kimball Crossley discusses pro scouting. the Jays are pretty typical in their staffing.
An Interview with Tony LaCava - Part Two | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.