MadFriars' Interview with Chad MacDonald

With the departures Jason McLeod and Chris Gwynn, Chad MacDonald, who formerly oversaw scouting with the New York Mets, become the Padres new head of scouting and the amateur draft with the title of Vice-President and Assistant General Manager.

MacDonald, who worked with former Padres', now Mets, executive Paul DePodesta, took New York in a new direction with his emphasis on finding players that could have the most impact on the big league team as opposed to ones that seemingly had the less risk.

Along the way he built a scouting apparatus to ensure the organization was getting the most complete and relevant to make the most informed decision possible.

An early indication that this was not going to be a typical Mets draft was in the first round when they selected high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo followed by Oklahoma high school right-hander Michael Fulmer.

In rounds ten through sixteen the Mets again went for upside selecting players who were thought to have unbreakable college commitments, nabbing five of the six selected for $1.5 million dollars according to Baseball America.

We caught up with Chad to find out what he will be bringing to San Diego and what to expect from the Padres' 2012 draft.

You had just taken over when we last talked to you in December. Can you give us an idea of what you have been up too?

Chad McDonald: Mainly just trying to get to know everyone. You know you see people from afar and get to know them a little but its different when everyone is on the same team and working for the same goal.

We've been in San Diego the past three days with all of the scouts having meetings and just really talking baseball and how we are going to do things. Its really been an exciting time for the organization with some of the talent coming in from the trades.

Since you have been hired the new collective bargaining agreement came into play which limits the amount teams can spend in the draft. Last season the Padres, and you did this with the Mets too, really spent some money in the draft. How do you see this affecting your approach?

Chad McDonald: I really don't see it affecting the approach. To me, first and foremost, its always been about identifying players and getting the information that you need. Players still want to sign pro contracts and we will select them and develop a process to get it done. But it will always be all about scouting and finding the players.

Your predecessor Jason McLeod increased the number scouts and cross-checkers in the system. What type of system did you find when you took over and what have you added?

Chad McDonald: I think Jason did a great job in putting together a staff and after day three it really became apparent to me that we have guys that have a real passion for the game. We have a few extra picks this year because of the free agent signings of Heath Bell and Aaron Harang so there are many more guys in play for us.

A big part of our philosophy is to trust the area scouts, those are the guys that are going to have the most looks and information. The process is driven by area scouts.

My philosophy is if the first thing you need to do when you go to a ball park is to look at a stat sheet of the guy you are supposed to be scouting, we need to talk. Numbers are important, but there is so much more than just that. For example on a position player; can they hit the ball where it is pitched? Control of the strike zone, how they move in the field, interact with their teammates. So many things.

We have a really good group of young area scouts that are very driven and know how much this organization values their opinions. For us to build what we want too here, there guys are a very big part of that process.

We have a lot of quality cross-checkers in place as well too, so we like our process to identify quality players.

When you scout a high school player obviously for you to be considering them its not just going to be about numbers. In general, what type of attributes are you looking for in a player?

Chad McDonald: One reason guys shy away from high school guys is that they are tougher to scout. There are fewer games and sometimes you just don't get to see them hit because the other team won't pitch to them.

This is why area scouts are so important. They are watching them in summer league games, fall games and in other sports and it really falls upon the area scout to drive the process.

What do we look for? We want the traditional tool sets that scouts have always wanted but the key is can they translate into a major league skill set?

History shows us that there are quite a few players that had the talent but couldn't really take the next step.

When you are looking at hitters its more than just bat speed, its about pitch recognition, the ability to link at-bats, hit the ball to where it is pitched and do other things than just raw physical tools and numbers.

Last time we spoke I thought you made a really interesting comment to an often asked question. You said that you weren't really a high school or college guy, you wanted to get the best information and take the best player. How do you determine if you got the best information?

Chad McDonald: You can't really replace multiple looks and history with a player; to me that is the biggest factor. You don't want to judge him on his best or worst day but then again the guys you want are going to have far more better days than bad.

As for information there is so much that can get but knowing what is and is not important is the real skill because at the end of the day you have to have the instincts, or gut reaction, to be able to answer the question am I in or am I out?

That is our real goal here is to not paint by the numbers or have some rigid system. We want to be open to any player from any region of the country. Its also about being open to any type of information that we believe will help us do our jobs better.

The draft you did for the Mets last year for Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta was pretty different than the ones they oversaw for the Padres when they were here, particularly in terms of money spent and the number of high school players taken. What did you do to sway them?

Chad McDonald: I really think the world of both of those guys. Their work ethics are off the charts. They asked great questions which was a way to start great dialogues and really force all of us to examine how we went about finding the best players.

In a market like New York, or really anywhere, you want to get players that are going to be difference makers.

Do they have risk?

Sure but the key is how do you manage that risk. We came to the conclusion that it was important to not make up our minds until we had the best possible information, which in our world means seeing the whole country. That is how we ended up taking Brandon Nimmo, a high school player from a state [Wyoming] that didn't even have high school baseball.

We also took some players deeper in the draft that the Mets organization might not have taken in the past. With Sandy and Paul it was about building and implementing a process, building a team and trusting the information that they brought back to us.

One other thing on Paul DePodesta. He is much more of a baseball guy than has come across in some media portrayals. He is comfortable with numbers but equally so with scouting players. He knows what to look for and is very open to information, particularly how to get the best player while minimizing risk. He was right in the middle of the process and trusted its conclusions.

You have three picks in the first fifty-four next year. Obviously the seasons haven't started yet, but what type of preparations are you doing now?

Chad McDonald: I don't think there is any doubt that we are on the same page after the meetings that we just had in San Diego. Also a really big advantage for us is that our general manager Josh Byrnes was a former scouting director with the Indians.

He knows how important the process is and how important it is to trust the people that we have put in place. Josh is really comfortable talking about the amateur draft and really putting people in place to succeed.

We can't wait to get going.

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