Batters Box recently had the opportunity to check in with Jon Lalonde before June's draft. Lalonde and the entire amateur scouting team are at their busiest right now preparing for the draft. Obviously Lalonde was unable to comment on specific players and in truth the Jays draft board has probably not been settled yet. Many college teams are still playing and trying to qualify for the college series. Meanwhile cold weather high school players have recently started playing their seasons.
I don't think there are many surprises in his answers but he does leave the door open on high school pitching and also suggests, but does not absolutely say, that his budget has not been cut back.
Jon, your scouting team has been very successful over the past few years and now we see the results with all the pitchers arriving in the big leagues. Does that mean that 2009 will be more of the same and we shouldn't expect many changes in approach this year?
Our evaluation process in preparing for the 2009 Draft will be very much the same as it has been in the past. We review our decision making process often to ensure we're being as thorough and efficient as possible. I believe the continuity we have in place now in the organization is truly an asset. That starts at the top with J.P. Ricciardi and with quality people like Tony LaCava and a number of our scouts having been in their roles for an extended period. We have an excellent group of scouts and the experience we've gained together is beneficial.
There were reports the Jays added to their scouting staff last season, did that include your team and how does that change things?
We did add to our scouting staff in the offseason. While, the majority of the additions were to our professional staff, we also did benefit on the amateur side. Primarily we were able to add two quality veteran scouts to our group in Rick Ingalls who has covered southern California for us this spring and Bob Fontaine who was added as a National Crosschecker. Rick is from southern California and most recently served as a National Crosschecker with the Seattle Mariners. Bob was most recently the Scouting Director in Seattle and has been in the game almost 40 years. Both of these gentlemen have been tremendous additions and I think they will have a significant impact on our Draft.
Evaluate this draft class. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses?
I think this class is comparable to others overall. I think when we look back 10 years from now this group will have produced its fair share of Major League players. In general however, I think this class is deep in pitching, and particularly starting pitching prospects versus the last few years. The area that appears to be the weakest this year, especially when comparing this class to last year's group, is college hitters.
There were reports that the Jays were scouting some highly ranked high school pitchers, could the Jays take a high school pitcher in the first three rounds?
We have seen more of the highly ranked high school pitchers this year than in the past. Whether or not that results in our selecting any of these pitchers remains to be seen. We evaluate each player independently and our philosophy continues to centre around taking the best available player.
In this years draft the boards show Strasburg and then everyone else. There appears to be little consensus after #1 or maybe #2, Does that increase the number of players you have to scout and keep on your board?
The volatility or uncertainty at the top of the Draft really doesn't affect us a great deal. Selecting 20th as we are this year, we understand the need to be thorough and open minded. The last thing you want is to begin assuming certain players will be selected well before your turn because you read it or hear it somewhere only to have that player available when you do pick. We have tried to be as thorough as possible so that we're prepared for all conceivable scenarios when the Draft begins.
The major league budget is reduced this season, has your draft budget been cut back too?
We've been very fortunate in that management and ownership understand the importance of the draft to the Club's long term future. We've always been in position to take and sign the players we believe in and that will be the case again this year.
Batters Box thanks Jon Lalonde for his time and we hope the picks falls his way in June.