Heading into 2006, the Dodgers had the best farm system in baseball.
And while most of their prized prospects were still considered at least a year away, Los Angeles reaped the benefits of its talented system faster than it originally envisioned. Led by catcher Russell Martin, the Dodgers rode their youth to the postseason, securing a wild card berth in a remarkable year for the club.
The Dodgers’ postseason run–spurred on by injecting impact talent from within–earned them Baseball America’s 2006 Organization of the Year award.
Los Angeles got big contributions from nine rookies on its roster over the course of the season, as righthanders Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito, lefthanders Hong-Chi Kuo and Eric Stults, first baseman James Loney, outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp and Martin all played a hand in their success.
Billingsley, Broxton, Kuo, Stults, Loney, Kemp and Martin are all homegrown products–and with the exception of Kuo (who signed out of Taiwan in 1999) were all drafted by Logan White.
“The draft is a very precarious system–it’s unpredictable and imperfect,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti says. “To have any kind of success at it is tough to do. But what Logan’s been able to do since he’s been here is reap talent for the organization, and reap it from beyond the first few rounds.”
After his brief playing career ended in 1987, White landed an associate scout job with the Mariners before being hired in a full-time capacity by the Orioles in 1990. He became West Coast supervisor for the Padres, then did another stint in Baltimore prior to coming to L.A.
“This is a guy who’s a GM prospect,” says Roland Hemond, who was the GM of the Orioles when White did his first tour there. “He’s of the ilk of the Doug Melvins, the Dave Dombrowskis and the Walt Jockettys of the world. He’s an exceptional leader, and he’ll be the first one to tell you you’re only as good as the people around you.”
White, who was hired as the Dodgers’ scouting director by former GM Dan Evans in 2001, was recently promoted by Colletti to assistant GM for scouting.
Aside from the draft, a major part of White’s new title includes renewing the Dodgers’ commitment in Latin America, particularly their academy in the Dominican Republic. The organization was one of the original pioneers in the Dominican and Mexico, but efforts to scout and sign players have been less fruitful in recent years.
The Dodgers’ presence in the Dominican had become so lax that they now share their complex there with Tampa Bay–which also provided them with more revenue–and the last major signing came in 2001, when the club inked shortstop Joel Guzman as a 16-year-old to a deal worth $2.25 million.
It will be White’s responsibility to spearhead the team’s efforts there, and he has already made several trips to the country with team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt and Colletti over the last year.
“Part of (the dropoff) is simply because the competition is so much stiffer than it was 15 or 20 years ago,” White says. “We certainly recognize that we haven’t been what we used to be and we are making an effort to bring back some of that luster. It’s a very vital part of our organization and to just let it whither away just doesn’t make any sense.”
White’s philosophy as a leader was born during his days under Hemond in Baltimore, where he learned to have a strong foundation of people in the scouting department who trusted one another, took responsibility and were accountable for whatever decisions they made.
“You have to make sure all their voices are heard,” White says. “We’re scouts, which means all we want to do is give our opinions and have someone listen. The hardest thing for me when I became a scouting director was making sure I adapted to my scouts rather than the other way around. Some are high-graders, some are low-graders, some just love everybody they see and some don’t like anybody. So you take all those personalities into account and work with their strengths.”
And place responsibility directly on their shoulders.
White’s philosophy in the draft is to take high-ceiling, potential impact players while weighing the risks against the rewards. He won’t just take a player because of the tools alone.
Unlike a lot of clubs, the Dodgers do not give psychological evaluation tests to amateur players they target in the draft. They rely on each area scout to evaluate the makeup of each player they sign, and it is that scout’s job to assess the amount of risk involved with the player’s makeup.
“This is a people business,” White says, “and as such, figuring out what a player’s ceiling is between the tools and the makeup is a huge undertaking. And we want our scouts to be challenged here. Assessing the makeup with the criteria we have in place certainly does that.”
White’s drafts have played a direct role in the Dodgers’ success since 2002–which is arguably the best crop so far–when his department nabbed Loney and lefthander Greg Miller in the first round and righthander Zach Hammes in the second. They were followed by Broxton (second), outfielder Delwyn Young (fourth), lefthander Mike Megrew (fifth), Stults (15th) and Martin (17th). The next year, White took Billingsley (first) and Kemp (sixth).
“Every one of those players is currently on their 40-man (roster),” a rival scouting director says. “You kind of have to wonder what kind of magic he’s using in that wand of his.”
But rather than wizardry, Dodgers special adviser Tommy Lasorda has a different explanation of White’s success.
“He’s the most underrated scouting director in baseball,” Lasorda says. “Nobody really knows the value of this guy. He travels more than anybody. He’s a workaholic that spends endless hours away from his family. But luck is a factor of design–he’s been able to do what he’s done out of nothing but hard, hard work.”
And sticking to his guns.
Colletti is the third GM White has served under in five years as scouting director, with the most scrutinized relationship coming when Paul DePodesta was named GM in 2004. White had already become known for taking high-risk, high-reward high school players, while DePodesta was graduating from the Moneyball school in Oakland.
“The difficult issues were more industry-wide than just us,” White says. “That was the time when you had statistical people versus traditional scouts, Ivy League versus the so-called ‘old school’ way of thinking.
“I’ve watched a lot of people do this a heck of a lot better than I do, but it’s about being true to the people you’re around and having that give and take. It’s sticking to what you believe in. I think the expectations outside the organization during that time was tougher than anything.”
It wasn’t as tough when Colletti came in before the 2006 season. The two had never met, even though Colletti spent the previous 11 years with the Giants–the Dodgers’ fiercest rival.
“We hit it off right away,” Colletti says. “After just a few minutes of speaking with him, I believed in him. Now he’ll have the chance to grow with more emphasis on the big league club and with more of an international focus.”
Not that this award is a one-man accomplishment. As the name states, it recognizes the accomplishments of the entire organization. Colletti points out how much White’s drafts have helped the club, but he also heaps praise on former farm director Terry Collins and his staff for developing prospects into major league talent.
“It’s always an honor when you’re recognized for something like this,” Colletti says. “You’re talking about an awful lot of people achieving an award where literally everyone is involved. I believe scouting and player development is the lifeblood of an organization. But you can’t have one without the other. Logan and his staff could draft all the talent in the world, but if Terry and his staff didn’t develop them, where would we be?
“This award speaks for everyone in the organization, from the bottom all the way up.”