DePodesta, White May Not Be An Odd Couple
by Jim Callis
CHICAGO--As baseball marriages go, on paper, Paul DePodesta and Logan White seem as good a match as Alex Rodriguez and the Texas Rangers.
When DePodesta, one of the game's brightest executive prospects, took over as Dodgers general manager on Feb. 16, he inherited White as his scouting director. The recent draft tends of their clubs couldn't be more different.
DePodesta comes from Oakland, where he was the top assistant to Billy Beane, who presides over the draft with a heavier hand than most GMs. In the last two years, the Athletics have had 28 picks in the first 10 rounds and spent all of them on college players. They haven't selected a high schooler before the 19th round.
White, an Orioles crosschecker before coming to Los Angeles in December 2001, was allowed a free rein with the draft by former Dodgers GM Dan Evans. In his first two drafts for the club, he has had 22 choices in the first 10 rounds and used 16 of them on high school players. White hasn't tabbed a four-year college player before the seventh round.
DePodesta and White appear to be exact opposites, leading many baseball people outside the organization to wonder how they could possibly co-exist. But while others worry about his job, White doesn't.
"What's going to surprise people is how well Paul and I get along," White says. "I think we'll learn a lot from each other."
Waste Of Moneyball?
Based on the initial returns from their clubs' 2002 and 2003 drafts, DePodesta could learn a lot from White. No one wrote a fawning best-seller about how the Dodgers built their team and revolutionized the draft, but they have outdrafted the A's the last two years.
Before anyone points out the first half of the word "Moneyball," consider that Oakland spent roughly $14 million on those two drafts, compared to $11 million for Los Angeles.
"Moneyball" author Michael Lewis may have fallen in love with Oakland first-rounders Nick Swisher and Jeremy Brown, but scouts sure haven't and both players were exposed in Double-A last season. The A's had seven first-rounders in 2002, paying a total of $7.6 million to Swisher, Brown, Joe Blanton, John McCurdy, Ben Fritz, Steve Obenchain and Mark Teahen. Only Blanton came close to making the Top 100 Prospects list.
That June, White's first seven picks included just two first-rounders. James Loney and Greg Miller—both of whom rank ahead of Blanton on the Top 100—plus Zach Hammes, Jonathan Broxton, Mike Nixon, Delwyn Young and Mike Megrew cost $5.5 million.
All told, Oakland's 2002 draft cost $9 million to Los Angeles' $6.5 million. And very few, if any, teams outside of the Bay Area would take the A's crop over the Dodgers' two years later.
It's still early, but it looks like Los Angeles had baseball's best draft in 2003. For $4.5 million, it grabbed Chad Billingsley, Chuck Tiffany, Xavier Paul and Andy LaRoche, among others.
At the same time, Oakland paid $5 million for a group headlined by first-rounders Brad Sullivan and Omar Quintanilla. The A's might have done better than their hyped Moneyball draft, but they didn't do as well as the Dodgers.
Shared Affinity For Data
Whether Los Angeles outdrafted Oakland in the last two years and has a better farm system—we rank the Dodgers second, the A's 17th—is, for now, a subjective opinion. DePodesta prefers cold, hard facts.
Which is fine with White. He believes in analyzing data from past drafts to find ways to do his job better. The Dodgers have done studies similar to the one Baseball America did last spring, which showed that high school picks yield a higher percentage of above-average big league regulars and stars than college choices.
"Paul likes research and reasons, and I'm into statistics and analysis too," White says. "He's open if you can prove to him what you're saying is accurate. I'll have information to show him."
Though he has loaded up on high schoolers in the last two drafts, White says it's a misconception that he favors them almost exclusively. He has gone that direction as other clubs have focused on collegians, letting talented prep players fall to the Dodgers.
White says he wouldn't want to cut the draft pool in half, ignoring either high school or college players. For his part, DePodesta allows that he won't necessarily be as gung-ho for collegians as he was in Oakland.
"Different circumstances call for different solutions," says DePodesta, who credits the job White and his scouts have done to replenish the Dodgers system. "Certainly, what we're trying to create here is a philosophy that suits the Los Angeles Dodgers. I don't think there's just one way to do things. I'm going to try to keep an open mind."
Says White: "My sincere feelings are that we'll hit it off real well. We've talked about how our philosophies mix. I think everyone is visualizing he's going to tell me to take all college players. He's been pretty open. We haven't sat down to talk about all of the particulars, but we're going to get along tremendously. We just may surprise the industry."
You can contact Jim Callis by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.