Scouting Directors Meet Without Draft Resolution

Given the multimillion-dollar fireworks display that came on the Aug.
15 signing deadline that Major League Baseball instituted for the 2007
draft, you might have expected a guillotine to await some of the
scouting directors at the annual scouting director meetings in Denver.

On
the contrary, there was little substantive conversation regarding the
eye-popping signing bonuses that teams like the Yankees, Tigers,
Orioles and Royals awarded to some of their draft picks who held out
until the final hours before the deadline.

“We talked about this
year’s signings, the procedures and protocol and things like that,”
Tigers scouting director David Chadd said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of
substance to it, though. I think at our level, being scouting
directors, everyone understands that the bonuses are more of a product
of what ownership allows. There wasn’t a lot that could be said or
talked about at our level, at least from my point of view.”

To
that end, the title of the 30 men who met, along with MLB officials,
was misleading. When it comes to the amount of money their teams spend
on each draft choice, especially in the early rounds, scouting
directors are usually at the mercy of their superiors. They’re provided
with a budget, and unless they were Chadd or a handful of other
scouting directors whose ownership approved signings over the
recommended slots, they draft accordingly.

After Detroit dropped
more than $7.3 million in the draft, including a $3.58 million bonus
(as part of a $7 million major league deal) on the 27th overall pick,
Rick Porcello, Chadd might not have been the most popular person among
his budget-strapped peers at the meetings. But rather than slapping the
wrist of those clubs that chose not to abide by the commissioner’s
office slotting system, the sentiment among those in attendance was
just more of the same head-shaking at the flaws of the current
structure.

“Until there’s a hard-line slotting system, the
bottom line is it’s not going to work,” said an American League
scouting director who wished to remain anonymous. “Do I point a finger
at (Yankees scouting director) Damon Oppenheimer or David Chadd because
they took players our ownership prevented us from drafting? No.

“I
can’t tell you that I would not have done the same thing if I was
afforded the same resources some of those other guys were permitted to
work with.”

Instead of quibbling over how the draft did or
didn’t work, discussion turned to what the residual effects would be
moving forward. Now that the industry has been through the first draft
with a hard deadline and greater pressure to reduce payouts, there was
plenty of speculation of what the 2008 draft will look like.

“Next
year, does every agent in the world tell the small-market teams, ‘We
don’t want you picking our players,’ or does everyone sign on August
14th?” a National League scouting director said. “You’d like to think
that there are enough kids who want to get their professional careers
started (who believe) signing for X amount is a pretty good way to do
it . . . But we’ll find out next June.”

Three other items on the agenda were:


Increasing the recommended maximum bonus for players drafted after the
fifth round from $123,300 to closer to $175,000, as well as moving the
signing deadline up from Aug. 15 to July 10. No changes were made to
either element. The signing date is written into the Collective Bargaining
Agreement, which can be amended with Union consent, but otherwise doesn’t expire until 2011.


How MLB and the Major League Scouting Bureau can improve the operation
of high school showcases. The bureau already has hosted at least two
showcases at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., a trend
that will continue, and MLB has interest in taking an active role in
the organization and operation of other events, such as the East Coast
Showcase and Area Code Games.

• How to ensure that USA Baseball
gets maximum participation from as many of the best college players in
the country on its annual college national team, and possibly including
a series of games between Team USA and teams from the Cape Cod League
during the team’s domestic schedule each summer.

Classes Take Shape

With
college summer leagues done and the showcase circuit entering
hibernation, the 2008 draft class is beginning to take shape.

It
was a good indication of the mediocrity of the college class when a
first baseman (Miami’s Yonder Alonso) ranked No. 2 in the Cape Cod
League (BA, Sept. 10-23) and sophomores (Missouri righty Kyle Gibson
and Southern Cal’s Robert Stock) ranked third and fifth. After the
college national team’s top two position players, Team USA didn’t boast
another everyday player that finished the summer as a consensus
first-round talent.

“It definitely looks like it’s light on
players, period, at least in the upper echelon’”the highest profile,
top-of-the-board type of players,” an AL scouting director said.
“There’s not very good college talent in that first, second, third pick
range. If you’re picking 25th, you might have a better chance at a
decent college guy (whose value matches the pick), but the upper
echelon of this class is not that good.

“The same in the high
school ranks. Once you start getting into that 20 to 40 range, there
are some that are real good, but I don’t think it’s a good year to be
picking in the top 10 for value, when you consider what you pay for
those players. If you have to pay $1 million-plus, I don’t see that
many guys that you would want to give that money to.”

Scouts
always wish more talent was on the horizon, but the ’08 high school
class does provide some prospects with upside that scouts might be more
willing to pay by June.

No prep prospect did more for his stock
this summer than Georgia shortstop Tim Beckham. A fluid athlete with
ease in his actions and thump in his bat, Beckham, along with the Miami
pair of corner infielders Harold Martinez and Eric Hosmer, separated
themselves from the rest of the lackluster crop of high school position
players.

Hosmer, meanwhile, was the MVP of the Connie Mack World
Series in Farmington, N.M., and shows a sound approach, raw power and a
swing and defensive game at first base reminiscent of Angels first
baseman Casey Kotchman, a fellow Floridian.

After Beckham,
Hosmer and Martinez, pitchers dominate the class. Tim Melville’s been a
marked man since he teamed up as a 15-year-old with Stock and ’06
first-rounders Josh Vitters and Blake Beavan on the U.S. youth team in
2005. He missed most of his sophomore season with an arm injury, but
the time off appeared to serve him well this summer, as he held his
velocity late into August when he again joined Team USA’”this time the
junior squad’”during international competition in Mexico. The
righthander from Wentzville, Mo., has a clean delivery, feel for his
secondary stuff and a fastball that was still touching 94 mph during
his last appearance stateside in Joplin, Mo., last month.

“He’s
the guy. He’s going to go quick,” said an NL crosschecker in attendance
at the junior trials. “Melville stands out over the rest.”

Lurking
in the field of high school talent are a handful of excellent athletes
that could click as potential impact prospects, though the gap between
their present and their potential is substantial. The California trio
of Aaron Hicks, Isaac Galloway and Anthony Gose has electrifying tools.
Football studs Xavier Avery, a running back who committed to Georgia;
Alabama outfielder Destin Hood; Sarasota, Fla., quarterback Casey Kelly
and Virginia product and Florida State signee Kyle Long, the son of NFL
Hall of Famer Howie, have endless upside with immense holes in their
swings.

Draft | #2008

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