Billy Gasparino: I would say the overall volume of work this time of year is still pretty high as a scouting director, where as a crosschecker, I was used to relaxing and just taking some time to recharge the batteries.
Where now, as a Director, it's still pretty busy with personnel and computer changes or trying to use technology to help us, and whatever comes up day-to-day.
Aside from backfilling your position, have there been many changes on the staff this winter?
Billy Gasparino: We filled my spot with Kurt Kemp, who is a long-time scout out west. He worked for the Braves for a while. He was a farm director for the Braves for a long time and most recently a pro scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We really think he's going to be a great addition to the staff and brings a lot to it. His unique perspective as a farm director and his scouting experience is going to be really valuable. We feel great about that one.
We let go of two area scouts and then hired one new person, Russ McNickle, in the Georgia area and then put one of our office guys, Sam Ray, who was Jaron's assistant, up in Northern Cal, where he's from.
That was really our major staff changes as far as scouting. We promoted Eddie Ciafardini from our video coordinator to my assistant. And we rearranged some areas, we tried to add a guy in the Southeast to get a little stronger there and cover it better just because there are so many players coming out of that region. So nothing major, just little tweaks here and there.
How much of your time is spent making sure your guys in the scouting department are on the same page as the player development side?
Billy Gasparino: It's hard to put a percentage on it because it feels like a daily or weekly task.
It happens more organically because when I go to the office, I'm talking to Josh and A.J., and when I see Randy, I'm always asking how players are doing and what's working and what's not. We constantly as a front office staff have meetings, and I feel like you learn a lot from those meetings from the pitching coaches and hitting coaches and Randy and all the guys with access to all of our players.
So you're constantly thinking about it and in an indirect way, talking about it. It's definitely important to us. We all realize player development is going to have to be on the same page and we really need to work well together.
And it helps, Chad MacDonald, our Assistant GM, helps bridge that gap as well as AJ Hinch. So we have some guys who bridge the two departments, who oversee both.
How many players would you see in the cross-checker role, and how do you expect that to change now that you're director?
Billy Gasparino: I would probably see around 150 players before, given a little more or less depending on the year.
Now I hope I would see as many, but I don't think I will just based on the fact there's more meeting time, more management, and I'm just trying to use the staff and be a good manager, rather than just go see as many players as I can. My guess is it would knock down to about 120.
As a national evaluator, you're trying to see quantity. Sometimes, even if I didn't get the best look, I'd just have to move on to the next guy. Where, as the scouting director, I'm hoping – especially with those top guys – if I feel like I need another look, I can go back and do it and spend that day, instead of always having to move on to the next player.
How much does the current state of the system impact how you approach this year's class, especially after you went so young with last year's class?
Billy Gasparino: Not really. You have to just take the draft for what it is each year and be open-minded and take what it gives you.
So, we're really not trying to force a strategy on a draft when we don't know what type of player's going to be there. We go in open minded, and if it's a college-heavy draft and more experienced, great. If it's a younger, high school upside draft, great. We just want to take advantage of where we see the strengths and where we see the value in every part of the draft.
We have been preaching hard to the guys, let's get value out of every round. Those tenth round-plus guys, if you can hit on one or two of them, it can really make your draft and your organization and farm system deeper. But as far as the type of player, let's stay open minded and see how the draft unfolds.
What does your schedule look like over the coming weeks?
Billy Gasparino: Our first event is in Puerto Rico next Wednesday and that kind of kicks off the scouting season. Junior Colleges start that weekend, and then we'll be out and running. We have junior colleges early, then college intrasquads, then the Florida high school guys start early, like February 7th or 8th, and from there, the DI's start February 15th.
We already have a target list based on the summer and fall events we work hard at. But on the other hand, we let our area guys kind of lead the process and really start things off by identifying the guys they want us to see.
We'll really let them work this first month with any new names or if anything's changed and kind of work off our summer and fall list until they start bringing us new guys. Our area scouts are huge to us, so we let them lead the process.
When you schedule individual workouts, what do you normally look to do in that setting?
Billy Gasparino: We'll do a little bit more than usual because there's not a lot going on and we want to try to use our days and be productive.
We try to target five to ten guys we want to get an early start on and get an extended workout, shake their hands and get to know them a little bit, just to give us the edge coming into the spring.
You never know what's going to happen. Sometimes you get to a game and get two walks and a hit-by-pitch and you're like, "Man, I saw the guy swing one time!" The high school guys are the most difficult because the college guys play all the time and you can see, but the high school bats can be difficult.
So, are you having fun?
Billy Gasparino: I am. I'm ready for the season to begin and get out and see games. We've spent a lot of hard work in the offseason just preparing and fine-tuning things and we're hoping that really pays off and makes us more efficient in the spring.
The thing I was lucky for, Jaron did such a great job putting the staff together and I got to spend a couple years with them beforehand, so there's just a huge comfort level with the guys I work with, and I really respect them and enjoy working with them. That part of it has been just really easy and fun.