Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks on the Draft

In part two of our four part draft series we talk with Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus. Jason a.k.a. "Professor Parks" is the National Prospect and Player Development Writer for BP. If you do not already follow Jason Parks on Twitter (@ProfessorParks) you should.

Jason shared his thought on the 2014 draft and a few new Padre prospects.

As someone who produces mock drafts, and big prospect boards, how do you actually go about watching the draft?

Jason Parks: I'd like to think I am different than the other prognosticators. I will go out and watch as many high school showcases as I can. I don't watch a ton of college baseball, mainly because I don't like it. I know that is an outlier opinion in the industry but I would much rather go to all the different high school showcases (Perfect Game, Under Armor, Wood Bat Classic etc…) than watch a college game.

A lot of these high schoolers I get to know and interview them since they were sophomores. It is a cool thing to watch them grow.

However, because I am not affiliated with any team, I do not really care where they go. Whether a player goes fifth overall or 50th overall it doesn't matter to me as long as they go to a team that will help them grow and I will get to see them play in the minors. The logistical thing of when and where I get to see them usually matters more than what team drafts them.

With the draft being about selecting the "best player available" why is there such a huge difference even in the first round? Is it just a different drafting philosophy or are teams prospect boards really that different?

Jason Parks: It is not always about the best player available. Teams will say that but its not always the case because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). With the new CBA and the allotted pool, the draft becomes a strategy game. It is not just "this is the best player available, here is our slot money, no negotiations." Teams will look to save money even in the first round and draft a player that they believe will sign for under slot, because that will give them a better chance to draft and sign a player who talking with you already know will want a way overslot figure.

So leading up to the draft it is not just how good a player is, but also what is his figure. All scouts now not only evaluate a player, but also talk with the player and family and figure out his price tag.

In this sense teams not only have to figure out who they deem the "best player available," but they have to have a budget for their first ten rounds. Even in the seventh through tenth rounds you might see a team purposefully not take the best player available because they know they cannot afford to pay him, but instead will look to the next tier because they will sign for at or under slot.

Right before the draft teams will have final figures from players/families/agents, and for the most part those numbers are fairly set. You will almost never hear a player give one number and than ask for a dramatically different number. When that happens, it looks really bad on the player.

As Padre fans know Karsten Whitson was one of these players, but even if the Padres thought he was worth the extra money they had already allocated it to other players. There is too much politics and strategy in the draft. I would much rather every player get x amount depending on where they get drafted and then right to baseball.

Final part of this. Because of football, where every "big board" looks similar to Mel Kiper's, fans think baseball is the same way. When you look at Keith Law's or Kiley McDaniel's big board you get the idea that this is what it looks like for all 30 teams, but it is not. For one, they do their boards based on talent, while teams have to include price tag. It doesn't matter if you are picking at #20 and Kiley's board shows that the number four prospect is still available, if you know that that player wants six million and you only have a slot for two.

The other part is drafting philosophy. Every front office has one. Some teams have a preference for high school or college players, or look for a specific trait at the plate. Every team has a different philosophy, and it is hard to say which one is right or wrong.

What do you think of the Padres' draft?

Jason Parks: The Padres frustrate me. They have a lot of really REALLY smart people. I have learned a lot from AJ Hinch, and he is probably one of the smartest people in baseball.

Their front office is full of guys that I have great respect for and know they are great baseball minds. But man, there drafts just automatically make me second guess nearly every pick. The 2011 draft, taking Spangenberg? I mean really? The Padres can say what they want about the money saved helping them sign others, but it must be frustrating as fans to see that pick when there were other players like (George) Springer and (Sonny) Gray linked with the Padres at ten.

Now the Padres have done a lot better at drafting after round one, but I just do not understand how they draft the players they do specifically in the first round.

I take it that means you are not a big fan of the Padres' selection of Trea Turner?

Jason Parks: I am not a big fan of the Trea Turner pick. I think he has a good chance to play at the highest level, but I do not think he will ever become an impact player.

He has the chops defensively to stick at short, and that alone might be enough to get him to the majors. There are very few true shortstops in the major leagues. There are a ton of people who play shortstop, but there are very few true shortstops. So a player who can legitimately play and stay at short automatically has inherent value. Sadly, this is probably going to be where most of his value is.

His other standout attribute was his speed, but speed on a player does not impress me that much. Speed is a catalytic tool and something that is great to have, but I care more about bat to ball ability. If you can't sting a baseball you will be exposed at the major league level. It doesn't matter how fast you are, if you can't hit it doesn't matter. Look at Billy Hamilton, he is (one of) the fastest human, and yet pitchers are not afraid of him.

I think Turner could have more power than a Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton, but pitchers are going to come right at him and expose him unless he shows them that he can hit. Turner has more gap to gap power, and has a chance to keep pitchers more honest than other "fast guys," but I don't think he will hit enough to really strike fear in a pitcher's eyes. He will be a contact and speed player. Could he become a major league baseball starter? Sure.

Do you think Turner was the Padres' best player available at #13?

Jason Parks: Maybe, each team has their own philosophy. My question though is… was there something else to the pick. Are the Padres going to try and sign Turner for under slot and use the money saved for Gettys or someone else? This is a draft that is deep but lacks the high end, cant miss, talent that many other drafts had.

I think Turner is a legitimate late first early second round player, and someone you could find starting in San Diego in a few years.

My biggest issue with the pick is that when you pick in the first round you want a game changer. You want a player that unless you are the Yankees or the Dodgers you cannot get any other way. While I think Trea Turner can be a major league baseball player, I do not think he is that impact player that you would want to see from a first round pick.

Whenever Padre fans hear "toolsy, athletic high school kid out of Georgia" we automatically get shivers and flashbacks to Donavan Tate. Is Gettys in the same boom or bust mold as Tate was?

Jason Parks: He is more so. I liked them both. I've been watching Michael Gettys for the last few years. I have seen numerous showcases where he played, and he has great talent.

He has all the physical tools you want. He also has "Bama Bangs" if that matters, total SEC hair. He has an absolute cannon for an arm. I don't like to throw elite grades for anything with high schoolers, but he might have the strongest outfield arm I have ever seen from a high school kid.

I actually like him more on the mound than I do as a hitter. The only reason for that is in the countless games I have seen him play, I have never seen him square up anything at the plate. In BP, he can send waves all over the field. He can hit to all fields, with great power, and show the type of tools that make teams drool. But if he could actually hit he would have been a top five pick in the draft, and possibly the best position player in this draft class. He has all the tools a team wants and can play a position that teams covet, but he doesn't have natural bat to ball skills.

We have seen over the years that this is the hardest thing for a developmental staff to teach. In fact depending on the player it might be impossible. You can make adjustments, but hitting is a natural neurological thing. Some players have it and some don't. From my standpoint he has never shown me that he has it. We have seen it with guys like Bubba Starling and Donavan Tate that big time athletes without the natural hitting skills don't really turn out.

Gettys is an absolute boom or bust pick. I am glad he was taken, I think it was an excellent pick for the Padres. If a team had taken him early in the first round like a Tate or Starling it would be a different story as he has such a high chance of failure. But drafting him where they did, it was a risky but good pick by the Padres. If he succeeds he really can be the steal of the draft. I don't believe he will, but I will be more than happy to be wrong, and hope for the best.

What are your impressions on Nick Torres

Jason Parks: Torres is probably my favorite pick by the Padres in the draft. He is not that elite athlete like Gettys, nor is he a high ceiling or bust pick. I realized through the years that while the high ceiling athletes are great, the ones who fail are the ones who do not have a natural hitting ability. We get too wrapped up in how big of an athlete they are, and what position they play, instead of the real question… can they hit.

Torres is a guy that hits the ball hard, and consistently. This wasn't the best draft for college bats, but he has one of the best true hitting skills of any collegiate player. It doesn't matter to me if he profiles as a left fielder, if he can hit.

He doesn't have great power, arm, or fielder, but he is a guy that will come to the plate, have a great at bat, and more often than not put the ball in play. There was a reason he hit in the middle of the order at one of the best baseball programs in the US. Sleek fielder he is not, but he can become an above average hitter at the plate.

How do you go back and grade a draft? Is it done by number of players who reach the majors, or just how big of an impact they had?

Jason Parks: The way I look at it, all players are forms of currency. They are mutual funds, that have to mature. You can push them off before they are mature for other commodities, and then it doesn't matter.

For example you can trade a bunch of draftees for a solid MLB player, and whether or not those draftees end up making it to the big leagues or having any impact, they had value for you, and that value is tied to the traded player. Obviously that can come back to haunt you as once you trade a player they are gone. It doesn't matter how good of a player you drafted if you trade him early before he has value and get little in return. Every team is afraid to make the Mark Texiara trade. The Rangers got five prospects four of them ended up becoming all stars.

When I look back at the 2009 or 2010 draft I look at how many players are adding value to their team. What became of those players, especially in the top 10 rounds. If a sixth round pick becomes a solid pitcher out of the bullpen or bench player that is adding value. A team is able to pay those players less than a veteran, and can use the money that was saved to add a bigger starting player. So even if a player, like a Nick Vincent, doesn't become an ace starter or closer, he gives solid value to a franchise and helps in more than just what his numbers are.

In the first round or two, I really want to see a difference maker. When a first round pick becomes a middle reliever or a fringe starter, it is a win as there are still some first rounders that never make it that far. But you really want to see that difference maker, that will be a starter on your team for the next seven or more years.

Going back to the Trea Turner pick, I don't doubt that he will eventually make the majors, but I don't see him as that difference maker. Turner is a type of player that you can find as a free agent.

While many of us scowl at the Donovan Tate pick, it was a gamble that didn't pay off, but I applaud them for the pick. If Tate were to hit, he would have become an absolute difference maker, and a guy you could not find on the open market.

Tomorrow John chats with Jim Callis from

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