One of the game’s longest-tenured scouting directors has lost his job. Royals general manager Dayton Moore announced Tuesday night that Deric Ladnier, the organization’s scouting director since August 2000, was being reassigned. Farm director J.J. Picollo, promoted on July 3 to the title of assistant general manager for scouting and player development, will run the Royals’ drafts, joining a small group of those in the industry who hold both titles.
Moore told media outlets Tuesday that he simply decided he wanted Picollo to run the draft for the organization. The Royals also have made one other change in their scouting department, reassigning West regional crosschecker Spencer Graham. Ladnier has been offered a position as a pro scout, while Graham has been offered a spot as an area scout. Both men have not yet decided whether to accept their new positions or move on outside the organization.
Ladnier’s tenure encompassed eight drafts, and the Royals have remained one of the game’s least successful franchises. His first draft in 2001 included a pair of expensive flops in first-round picks Colt Griffin and Roscoe Crosby, signed for a combined $4.15 million with no big league return. The Royals have gotten four big leaguers with from Ladnier’s other first-round picks, with righthanders Zack Greinke (2002) and Luke Hochevar (2006) and infielders Alex Gordon (2005) and Billy Butler (2004) providing key pieces of the Royals’ present and future. Meanwhile, 2007 first-rounder Mike Moustakas led the low Class A Midwest League in home runs in his first full season.
However, none of the four big leaguers has emerged as a franchise player, and 2003 first-rounder Chris Lubanski has stalled in the high minors. The Royals had a well-regarded 2008 draft class, though first-rounder Eric Hosmer, a first baseman who signed for a $6 million bonus, is in limbo pending today’s hearing on the grievance filed by the Players Association regarding the Aug. 15 signing deadline.
Ladnier told the Kansas City Star, “There is accountability on my part. Obviously, there’s a direct reflection of the players we’ve brought into the organization. We haven’t had the wins at the major league level. Ultimately at the end of the day, I think we all get judged by that. Maybe we’re not where we need to be. The reality is we haven’t won.”
One reason for that is the lack of depth of the Royals’ drafts on Ladnier’s watch. The Royals have never picked lower than 14th since he became scouting director, yet the big league team still lacks both impact talent and homegrown depth. The 2001 draft produced two token big leaguers in Mel Stocker and Angel Sanchez, who have combined for 30 major league at-bats; the ’02 and ’03 drafts have so far yielded only one player, 27-year-old rookie shortstop Mike Aviles, who was picked after the first round and has become a big league regular. Meanwhile, the ’04, ’05 and ’06 drafts have not produced either big leaguers or significant prospects among players drafted after the first two rounds. (The 2006 class could still change this, but there’s no late-round sleeper who has shown himself as a future regular from any of these draft classes.)
Picollo now joins the Phlllies’ Mike Arbuckle, the Padres’ Grady Fuson and the Cardinals’ Jeff Luhnow as front-office executives with titles that encompass both scouting and player development. Both the Phillies and Padres have separate scouting directors, while the Royals and Cardinals now do not.
Ladnier had the fifth-longest tenure among scouting directors. Roy Clark (Braves), John Mirabelli (Indians), Bill Schmidt (Rockies) and Jack Zduriencik (Brewers) all took over as scouting directors with their current organizations in 1999, with 2000 being their first drafts with those organizations. Mirabelli remains involved in the Indians draft as assistant GM for scouting operations while Brad Grant functions as the scouting director.
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