Q&A with Padres Jason McLeod

Jason McLeod is the San Diego Padres' Assistant General Manager overseeing player development and scouting. Always an interesting person to speak with on all things related to players in the system and upcoming draft, this year his insights carry an additional weight.

In the off-season, the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox for four prospects, three of whom ended up in most of the off-season Top Ten rankings; Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes.

Before returning to San Diego in 2009, McLeod, a graduate of Rancho Buena Vista High School, worked for the Red Sox scouting department for seven years and since 2005 oversaw all of the Boston's drafts including those of Kelly, Rizzo and Fuentes.

We caught up with Jason to find out how the organization views the ranking of prospects, the recent infusion of talent and some of the story lines that will go into spring training.

We know internally that the organization makes their own lists what type of criteria do you guys use when establishing a hierarchy?

Jason McLeod: We really don't make any lists that go down from one through 30, although we Will Do different types of groupings by position and for some of our upper-tier prospects. Mainly we rely on evaluations by guys like myself, Randy Smith, Chris Gwynn and others that go out and see every team sometime during the year.

Many fans always write to us that players that have just been drafted or have only been in the system a short time are frequently rated higher than players that have not only been with the organization for awhile but have also succeeded.

We understand that many of these rankings have to do with ceilings but how do you separate someone that has a very good chance of contributing to the major league club, say Cory Luebke, from someone like Matt Lollis who is a few years away?

Jason McLeod: There is a tendency to give more leeway to a younger player as something to dream on. With Luebke we feel very good about him and think that he is ready to pitch in the majors while someone else like a Matt Lollis or a Keyvius Sampson can ooze more potential and sometimes get pushed up the board by their tools farther than they should be.

How does the organization look at the various rankings by different publications?

Jason McLeod: We always look and see what the outside opinion out there is. Every team in the majors scouts other organizations but they also read the reports to see what else is out there. What is written in Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MadFriars.com isn't really going to affect how we do our scouting, but on the other hand, it is information that we pay attention too. It's always good to be up to speed on what is out there.

You seem like you have quite a logjam at first base in Triple-A Tucson with Kyle Blanks, Anthony Rizzo and Matt Clark – and Double-A isn't any easier with Cody Decker and Allan Dykstra. How do you see that working out?

Jason McLeod: As always, it is a good problem to have. Both Anthony and Matt will come into spring training and try to make a case for themselves to get those at-bats at the Triple-A level. In a scenario where you have all three of them it is going to take some juggling because all three of them need regular at-bats. Until Kyle is fully healthy, he is going to see more time at DH. At Double-A Cody certainly has earned his shot there, so again a few of us will have to sit down sometime during spring training and work it out.

This off-season you moved Cole Figueroa, does that mean we could see Dan Robertson getting more reps at second in San Antonio?

Jason McLeod: It is something that we are going to expose him too more during spring training, but he hasn't had enough time there yet to be at the position every day. Offensively, we like the skill set that he brings; hitting, his patience and his ability to make something happen on the basepaths. Down the road, this is the type of role that we see for Daniel; someone that can play quite a few positions. Also, we have to figure out whether Logan Forsythe is going to be in Double-A or Triple-A, and that can also impact what we will do at that position.

A few pundits have speculated that Casey Kelley was rushed a little bit into Double-A after having less than 100 innings pitched in A ball do you believe that? Also why do you think he struggled at Double-A Portland?

Jason McLeod: I don't think he was rushed especially if you saw him in '09 when he really just diced through both levels of A ball. I didn't see him last year, but I do know he struggled with some nagging injuries, especially a badly split nail on his pitching hand which prevented him from getting a really good feel on his breaking ball. Also it was his first year pitching full time so that also had some effect along with not pitching the second half of '09 to play shortstop.

Just saw him recently and he's really excited about being in the National League, and I think you will see some much better numbers out of him this year.

Donavan Tate played well at instructs do you see him on track for the starting center field job in Fort Wayne?

Jason McLeod: I think he is. From the Instructional League until now, he has the most confidence that I have seen since we drafted him. He performed will in the Instructional League and then we sent him down to the Dominican Winter League to work on some more things too.

I think he is really anxious to get out there and break away from Arizona and get to Fort Wayne and get 500 at-bats. The evaluation process with him really isn't going to start until we can get a full season out of him. Right now, I really don't care what he hits or how many times he strikes out but want him to have a full, healthy year. You can't really start developing until you play.

Many of the publications are down on Cedric Hunter but the organization did add him to the forty man roster. What does Cedric have to do this year to put himself in contention for a big league job?

Jason McLeod: He kind of becomes a forgotten man because all he does is hit [laughs]. I think he kind of flies under the radar a bit because he is not a power or speed guy and most of his value is tied up in his ability to hit and play good defense. Ced needs to put up another good year and continue working in the same direction that he was last year. I think he has what it takes to become a major league player but whether it is as an everyday player I'm not sure. He's good enough to play center field and left. In the end, I just see him as a professional player; one who is good enough with the bat and that can play defense.

Jedd Gyorko had a nice debut last year but his power numbers fell off in Fort Wayne. Do you see him hitting for more power down the road; specifically enough to stay at third?

Jason McLeod: I do. He has very good hands at the plate and in the field. In an environment like PETCO Park, I could see him hitting a ton of doubles into the gap. He has plenty of pull side power but most of his hits are either up the middle or to the opposite field. I could see him hitting 20 to 25 home runs, but his biggest challenge will be to stay in shape so he can take advantage of his abilities.

Who is your sleeper this year?

Jason McLeod: Down the line I would have to go with Tyler Norwood. a big right-hander that we took in the 19th-round of last year's draft. I also really like Jeudy Valdez who we put on our 40-man roster this year. Finally, I would have to go with Daniel Meeley who was with Fort Wayne last year.

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