MadFriars' Interview: Jim Callis

Jim Callis is Executive Editor of Baseball America, regarded by nearly everyone in baseball as the last word on the minor leagues, amateur baseball and one of the best available sources for the draft. We caught up with Jim again this year to get his views on the Padres' 2013 draft.

How has the draft evolved over the past few years since the new CBA?

Jim Callis: The rules are a lot different. It went from a system with "slotting," where MLB would scold a team for going above slot but there were no other repercussions. Now we have a system where every team has an assigned bonus pool, and if you go even 5% over that pool you lose a first round pick. If a team was willing to go 15% above the cap they lose two first round picks. For most teams even 15% is less than a million dollars, so there really is not much flexibility.

In essence we went from a system that saw a drastic difference between what teams were willing to spend, to a finite system that really evens the playing field. Even teams that continually would spend less in the draft, namely the White Sox and Mets, now spend their allotted budget. I would be really surprised if we ever see a team go even 5% over and lose a draft pick.

Is trying to find creative ways around the finite dollar amount a reason why the Padres would spend a third round pick on a player (Verbitsky) who was not in BA's top 500?

Jim Callis: Not necessarily. There is a chance that that was what the Padres were going for when they drafted Verbitsky. Then again, he could also get slot. We will not really know until they announce the bonus.

At the same time BA is not perfect. We do miss on guys from time to time, and there are also teams that are just really high on a guy for one reason or another. A team will see a player a lot more than BA will. You can even sit with different teams during the draft and a guy that one team has evaluated to go in the second round; another team has him going in the tenth.

A lot will depend on the bonus Verbitsky gets. While we did not have him on BA's top 500 list, we did have him on our New York list. He is a pure arm strength guy. Some teams really believe in his arm strength and he could end up being a good pick. The Padres were one of those teams. Whether it was a move to save money or not, I think the Padres really liked Verbitsky and got their guy.

Is there any chance the Padres sign Connor Jones, Chris Okey, or Garett Williams?

Jim Callis: I don't think so. Is it impossible? No, but would almost require a miracle.

Connor Jones told teams that he was going to college. So he is pretty much unsignable. In the past even when guys were considered unsignable, a team would take a flyer on them and see if they can throw a couple million at him to sway his decision to go to college; similar to Austin Hedges a few years ago. Now that is no longer the case with the new CBA, but a team will still take a flyer on him.

BA's rankings are not the be-all end-all rankings, so a player's ranking doesn't necessarily mean he should be drafted by that number. However, when guys like Chris Okey and Garett Williams who were consensus second- or third-round draft picks instead fell into rounds 30+… that tells me their signability is incredibly low. Chances are, if they were willing to sign for second or third round money that is where they would have been taken. Instead it would probably take close to seven figures to sign any of them, and no matter how much money the Padres save with their other picks it probably will not be enough to sign Okey or Williams.

While the big three will require more money than the Padre are allotted, they might be able to get enough to sign 25th round pick Tony Rizzoti who is a draft eligible sophomore out of Tulane. I do not know what his asking price is but it could be around 400-500k. He was thought of as a pretty good draft pick before he had a few back spasms during the season. Fiscally, the Padres could use the money they might save from Verbitsky to sign him, but outside of Rizzoti I do not see them signing any of the other big name picks.

Dustin Peterson is receiving a lot of comparisons to his brother. Do you see the similarities between the brothers, and who do you think will end up being better?

Jim Callis: I think they are fairly similar. DJ (Peterson) played a lot of third in high school before moving over to first in college. Third will more than likely be where Dustin ends up.

The big comparison between the two is that they are built fairly similar, and are guys that can hit for average and pretty good power. When you draft either of them you are primarily buying the bat. Neither of them would be classified as great athletes. Dustin is kind of a fringe runner which is why he will not be able to stay at short. He also has a fringe arm, which might even cause him to move to second.

As far as comparing the two, obviously Dustin will not have a chance to put up the same numbers in college that DJ did. Our reports do have that Dustin is farther along at his age then DJ. In general the younger brother is usually touted as a better player than the older brother. Just for the Padres, Glenn Hoffman was a solid prospect, but it was Trevor who was the highly touted player. I am just accustomed to comparing two brothers and always hearing that the younger brother is the better player.

Does it help or hurt Hunter Renfroe that he is in the College World Series instead of starting his minor league career?

Jim Callis: I definitely don't think it hurts him. Really he is only losing a couple weeks of development time which in the long run will not make a difference at all.

To me college baseball is very similar to short season ball. You will have some guys who will make the majors and some who will not be drafted. By the time you reach the College World Series you are facing pretty good pitchers, most of whom either were drafted or will be drafted after their junior year.

If the Padres were to throw him straight into the Midwest League (Fort Wayne) then it will delay his time slightly, but I am not convinced the Padres would not start him in short season (Eugene) for a few weeks first.

What is your opinion on Renfroe? While a lot of teams really liked him, quite a few pundits were tossing around the term "one year wonder." What side of the coin do you fall on?

Jim Callis: Even the teams that might of thought he was a one year wonder still liked his potential, they just did not rank his as high as other teams. We had him drafted in the 11-15 range, and if the Padre had not drafted him chances are he wouldn't have made it past the next few teams.

The idea that he was a one year wonder isn't completely true. He didn't play much his freshman year, and was not a full time starter his sophomore year. However he was thought of as a great prospect coming out of high school in Mississippi. The issue is that Mississippi does not have a great track record of players succeeding in pro ball right out of high school because of the level of competition they faced is extremely low. This is why a vast majority of the best prospects in Mississippi go to college, and don't play their freshman year, because it takes time adjusting to the vastly better competition.

From a tools standpoint you are looking at a prototypical right fielder with plus raw power, plus runner, and a plus arm. He will swing and miss some, but he has a nice swing that should help him make consistent contact in the upper levels. He also had a great year at the plate. So no matter if you are looking at him from a tools perspective or production, Renfroe showed both of them.

Is there any player outside of the first few rounds, that will sign, that you are high on?

Jim Callis: Jake Bauer in the seventh round is the first name that pops out to me. He can flat out hit, and will be a very intriguing player as he moves forward.

Obviously on the off chance they can sign Okey, Williams, or Rizzoti they would immediately become one of the best prospects the Padres drafted this year.

Looking at the draft, there are a few intriguing guys, but not one or two names that really stand out. Trevor Gott out of Kentucky is an interesting guy. He can really pitch and has a strong fastball. He has a chance to move pretty quickly through the system as a closer.

For the most part the Padres drafted players where we thought they would be drafted with the exception of Verbitsky and maybe VanMeter. I do the Midwest region and was the guy who evaluated VanMeter. He is not a real physical guy. He is 6'1" 165 lb, and most of the scouts I have talked to think he is not ready for pro ball from a physical standpoint. However he is a guy who can really really hit. Some teams really liked him which is why he went in the fifth round.

He was crosschecked by a number of teams and most teams had him ranked higher than the 479 that BA ranked him. He will probably end up as a second baseman, but many think that his bat will eventually be one that can produce at the upper levels. He is a prototypical left handed hitter, and can really become an offensive second baseman.

How do you think the Padres did overall with their draft class compared to other teams?

Jim Callis: They did a solid job. We do not put grades on draft classes for the first year, so we have not even begun to compare one team to another. The Padres did have one of the top picks in the draft, and got arguably one of the best players in the draft in Hunter Renfroe. He is a proven college bat with a high floor, and there are not too many of those type of players in most draft classes.

What really jumps out to me about the Padres is the bats they drafted. Dustin Peterson can really hit. Jordan Paroubeck has plus power and can become a really good hitter. Mason Smith has good speed and can hit. Bauers can hit, VanMeter can hit…. Really, a lot of guys with above average hitting ability.

I know a lot of the people who read MadFriars who think that any non-pitcher they draft is a hitter. However what happens is a lot of time teams will draft athletes who they just HOPE can hit. Guys that might have high ceilings because they are athletes, but that the teams hope they can teach the players to hit. This time the Padres drafted all proven hitters.

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