A's Front Office Q&A: Farhan Zaidi, Part Two

Last week, we spoke to Oakland A's Baseball Operations Analyst Farhan Zaidi about a wide-range of Oakland A's-related topics. In the first part of the interview, we spoke about the draft. In the second part, we discuss the A's philosophy on player development.

To read the first part of this interview, click here.

OaklandClubhouse: Switching gears a little bit, I was wondering what importance the team places on statistics when assessing players in the A's own system, in relation to the emphasis placed on scouting reports? In particular, I was thinking of Cliff Pennington who was promoted to Double-A [last week]. It seemed like his numbers didn't reflect how well he was swinging the bat this season, at least according to coaches and people around the Stockton Ports.

How much of the decision to promote someone like Cliff was based on numbers and how much did the coaching reports play a part in that decision?

Farhan Zaidi: That [scouting reports] is a big part of the equation. With Sacramento, we try to see them every once and awhile and get out to that stadium and watch them on milb.tv whenever we have a chance. At least with Sacramento, we do get a chance to see them.

With these other clubs, we might only make one trip out to see them a year. The numbers definitely mean something and they definitely play a part in the equation. You have to be performing at a certain level at least to be moved up. Certainly, if you have numbers that jump off of the page, we are going to start thinking ‘is this guy ready to be moved to the next level?'

At the other end of the spectrum, with someone like Cliff – who actually got off to a slow start, but then I think he had an OPS of 850 the last couple of months, so even statistically if you take out his slow start, he has been pretty good – but we kept hearing that Cliff was hitting the ball right at guys. Whether it was on game reports or when we talked to guys on the coaching staff [in Stockton], we kept hearing that this was a guy who was hitting the ball hard consistently and even when he doesn't have any hits to show for it, he has shown a good approach and has had good at-bats. I think with Cliff, given the fact that he was a guy who pretty much lost a year to injuries last year, he was a guy who we were probably looking to move aggressively this year anyway. The fact that his performance merited that move made it all that much easier.

OC: For a guy like Brian Snyder, who struggled at Double-A last year, but who is playing well there a second year, is he the type of player that you would look to move aggressively or does a lot of that depend on the pecking order in the system and who is ahead of him at Triple-A?

FZ: That's the most difficult part of Keith [Lieppman]'s job in managing the system is balancing the individual needs and individual player tracks for when you think they are ready and mixing and matching and having them all fit into the same puzzle. Every time you move a guy up, you have to find someone to fill that spot. At the same token, at the higher level, you are going to be taking playing time away from someone.

Every player in the organization is here for a reason. It's not just like we have five or six players and we want to move them no matter what. It's a big picture. You are concerned about the individual players and you are concerned with the make-up of every individual team. This is an organization that has always concerned itself with the performance of its minor league teams and we want our minor league teams to be competitive and we want them to compete for playoff spots. We think that is important to the individual player development. All of that sort of comes into the whole picture.

There are some times where the pieces fit very nicely and maybe there are a couple of guys at the same position who are both ready to be promoted at the same time and that makes it easier for that to get done.

Another thing that comes up that I hadn't really ever thought about before I got started working for the A's is you take a guy like Jeff Baisley who was in the Midwest League last year. He was having a good year last year and he was an important part of that team. If you just pulled up the organization team stats page, you might say, well, this guy is already 23 and he is doing well in the Midwest League, it is time to move him up. But he was really important to that team, and especially as the season moved on and there was a chance that Jeff would win the MVP and that he would drive-in 100 runs, there were development reasons to leave him there and have him have an outstanding season at the Midwest League and win that MVP award.

If you think the guy has the aptitude to make the jump to Double-A next year anyway, then maybe there is an argument for leaving him there for the whole season. That is something that I have learned on the job also because it is not totally obvious that you would do that, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. Just as you might have development reasons for why you move a guy, you might also have reasons for why you don't move a guy, not just that we don't have a spot at the next level for him.

OC: With the injuries at the major league level this season and at Triple-A, the Sacramento River Cats' roster has been filled a number of times with guys from Stockton as quick injury replacements rather than sending a guy up from Double-A Midland.

One of those guys was Nick Blasi, who was supposed to play in Sacramento for only a day or two, but due to more injuries has been playing regularly and hitting better than .300. What does a performance like Blasi's at an unexpected level do to his status within the organization?

FZ: He is a really interesting case, because I think he is really the exception to the rule. I think you are right that sometimes it is just easier to move guys, especially if you know it is only going to be a temporary thing, between Stockton and Sacramento. For a lot of these guys, it is really good for their development to get a taste of Triple-A ball, especially if you think they have the make-up where they are not going to take a step-back if they struggle at that level. Javier Herrera spent some time up in Sacramento in 2005 when he was with Kane County and he did quite well. We weren't ready to leave him in Sacramento, but I think it was good for him to be exposed to that level of play.

With Blasi, I think it was just a function of the fact that we had no outfielders at the major league level and that trickled down to Sacramento and so forth. Like you said, he just went there and is hitting something like .320 and he is one of the few guys there who can really play centerfield. He is taking advantage of that opportunity and he is making himself an important part of that team.

I think for the foreseeable future, he is going to be there. Obviously, at the mid-point of the season there is going to be some moving around and I'm not sure how that is going to affect him yet. He has certainly raised his stock in the eyes of the organization with his performance and that is just really the definition of taking advantage of an opportunity.

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