Draft Dish: Feb. 15

The NCAA finally has passed legislation that will usher in a national
start date, making scouting director’s jobs just a little easier.

Scouting directors, the Padres’ Bill “Chief” Gayton once said, are the
world’s best travel agents. Not only do they have to know the cheapest
flights, best hotel deals and most efficient ways to rent cars, they
have to put together a schedule for their spring travel. Different
organizations handle the current setup differently, grabbing games here
and there as college games begin to dot the schedule in late January
and early February.

This situation won’t last much longer. Starting in 2008, all Division I
teams will start their seasons at the same time in late February. The
series and tournaments that will kick off the season will draw plenty
of scouts eager to get a start on the runup to the draft. (High school
baseball has no national organization that governs scheduling.)

Under the current structure, different organizations begin the scouting
season with differing approaches. For the Tigers, scouting director
David Chadd had his first draft with the organization in 2005. He
wanted to review the process with his entire staff, so the Tigers’
scouting department convened for three days of meetings during
instructional league play in the fall. They reviewed the team’s draft
philosophy and went over ways to be more organized while seeing players
they had just drafted and signed play.

But Chadd’s staff changed since then as he added a pair of veteran
crosscheckers in Ray Crone (formerly of the Red Sox) and Jim Olander
(Indians). To really kick off the year, Chadd decided on a small-group
approach, rather than convening his whole staff again.

“We’re going to get all our crosscheckers together in southern
California,” Chadd said prior to the first weekend in February.
“Obviously the weather’s a factor, and the games should be pretty
good–California at UC Irvine, Long Beach and (Southern California),
and Texas is at San Diego.

“We’ll sandwich our meetings around the games and generally set our game plan for the year.”

Now in his fifth season as the Dodgers scouting director, Logan White
has had the luxury of time to build a staff, implement an approach and
develop a rapport with his scouts and top crosscheckers, such as Gib
Bodet and Tim Hallgren. His familiarity with his surroundings allowed
White to fire up his staff and organize them for the spring via a
conference call.

“By this time, our guys know me pretty well, know what I look for in a
player, what the red flags are,” White said. “When you have guys like
Gib, who has so much time in the game, and Tim, who was a scouting
director (with the Rangers), I have a lot of help. I feel like I can
out-man other clubs because of the experienced staff I have, and it’s a
low-maintenance group.”

White believes in having his area scouts get out for games in the first
week or two of the season and echoed the comments of many scouts the
last few years who point to the Minute Maid Classic in Houston as the
unofficial kickoff to the scouting season. The college tournament, now
in its ___th year, regularly features top talent, and the 2006
field–with Houston, Rice, Texas, Texas Christian, Texas Tech and
Tulane–was no exception. Texas center fielder Drew Stubbs, the
top-rated position player in the class, was the main attraction and was
on White’s screen, considering the Dodgers pick seventh overall in June.

Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik was scheduled to have his
staff at the Minute Maid event as well, thanks to its guarantee of
games (thanks to the retractable roof) and quality players. But he
prefers to organize his staff in person, so the Brewers brought all
their area scouts and crosscheckers to Arizona in early January for
meetings and to coordinate schedules.

“We actually input the schedules of our area guys in January, and we
really go over everything soup to nuts,” Zduriencik said. “One of the
great parts of it is, we have our hitting and pitching instructors come
in and it’s really a mini-clinic for our scouts. We can go see junior
colleges playing in Arizona that are just starting exhibitions and go
over the things we look for, and if there’s a disagreement, we can have
a debate about it. It’s been a helpful process for us.”


• Scouts in California got two early treats with excellent pitching
matchups. In late January, Cal Poly’s Gary Daley and Fresno State’s
Doug Fister dueled in the season opener for both teams, attracting more
than 30 scouts. Daley, a potential first-round pick, got the better of
the matchup in a 6-3 victory, striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings.

• The next weekend, while California’s Brandon Morrow was lighting up
radar guns against UC Irvine, Southern
California’s Ian Kennedy and Long Beach State’s Jered Hughes tangled.
Hughes got the better of the matchup, keeping his 90-92 mph fastball
down in the zone and retiring 12 straight at one point in Long Beach
State’s 4-2 victory. Kennedy struck out seven in five one-hit innings
before giving up four hits and three runs in the sixth, after fog
rolled into Blair Field. Hughes, Kennedy and Morrow are all projected
first-round picks.

• Stubbs had a fine weekend for the Longhorns in the San Diego series,
going 5-for-11 with a home run, four RBIs and three stolen bases,
though Texas was swept in the series.