The first part of our conversation with Mark Conner focused on pitchers in the top part of the draft class. In the second half of the discussion we had while Mark was at the Tournament of Stars, we turned our attention to the other side of the game.
MadFriars: Will you give Buddy Reed a chance to get back home to Gainesville and get things sorted out, then look to get the contract worked out with him?
Mark Conner: You know, he’s had a long year. I know with what that team at Florida had on the roster, I’m sure the combination of being tired from the long season and disappointed on the end result, we’re trying to give him a few days to get his legs underneath him, and then we’ll try to get everything worked here in the next little bit and get him in a Padres uniform very soon and run him through our minor league system. I’m excited to get him on the field and let our player development staff work with him because he’s an extremely talented individual.
And when you look at him, for a guy who’s been a starter in the SEC, he’s still pretty raw. How do you look at a player like that and measure him against a different player who faced a lot more high-end competition before he got to his freshman year? What do you look for to see what’s still there for him compared to a player who received a lot more intensive coaching early?
Mark Conner: This is the thing about Buddy, and maybe any of these guys in his situation who are not baseball-first athletes who in college become baseball-first players. We definitely see a player who has a lot of upside and ability to mold still. There’s teaching to be done to help him get the most out of his tools. The one thing, he has ability, and he was able to perform in the SEC on that ability alone. But actually getting that ability to develop into skills as well, those are some of the finer things that player development has to do.
His peripheral tools – his ability to run, throw, play defense – are well above average already. And then you start talking about the ability to hit and hit for power, those are things I think with him coming to the pro game, he’s going to have the ability to be Buddy Reed. I’m not saying Florida didn’t let him do that, but we’re going to have the ability to teach him and pull out every bit of ability that he has. There’s a lot more growth. And some of the guys who are maybe more polished players and have a higher floor with their abilities – Buddy Reed’s ceiling is tremendous. There’s another player that has more now ability, and that’s something we have to look at and see which player do you believe in as a person. And our area scout there, Chris Kelly, and our regional supervisor, Chip Lawrence, sat down with him and got to know him.
The good thing from our standpoint was that AJ met him in high school [Note: the Rangers selected Reed out of high school in 2013.] We have a lot of history with our group knowing him. Ultimately, when it came to him, he’s a player with a lot of tools and upside that we believe in as a person. And once we put him in player development’s hands, there’s a chance for a lot of good.
Boomer White was a guy who, when you took him, everyone said he’s not going to sign, or they’ll have to go way over slot, and then he signed well below. Is that a tribute to your area scout?
Mark Conner: Steven Baker is our area scout down there – and the process that we have is led and driven by our area scouts. Our guys do a fantastic job of getting to know the players and who wants to play. The biggest thing is who wants to play professional baseball and who’s ready to accept that challenge and become a big-leaguer. I’ve never met one kid who said, oh I just want to play college baseball or high school baseball – the all want to play in the big leagues. And it’s about finding out where they are at that moment of their life and having a good read on the kid and understanding where they’re at mentally and getting them to be open. Sometimes, things work out in a way where the perception of the outside world and what we do is two totally different things. With Boomer, he’s a tremendous college player and he’s ready for the challenge of professional baseball and honestly, in my opinion, Boomer’s going to come out and show up, and he’s going to hit his way to the big leagues. And regardless of where he got picked and what his signing bonus was, all that stuff doesn’t matter now, because the information from Steve Baker and the relationship he had, he was able to find out that he’s ready to go out and play. And I’m excited to have him because he’s one of the guys I love to watch hit. Guys who love to play the game and love to hit, I like those guys.
You called him as a second baseman, right? Do you think that’s where he’ll stay, or as you look at him, do you think he profiles more at third?
Mark Conner: Honestly, I don’t worry about the profile personally. I look at him as, he’s a hitter and a baseball player. The one thing I know, with how good our player development staff is, they’re going to develop him defensively to one of those two spots. Ultimately, a big thing about where he winds up in the big leagues is going to be a roster situation. If we’ve got a defensive second baseman, or thirdbaseman, he’ll go to a different stop. But to me, he’s probably going to end up at one of those two spots. Could he eventually be one of those utility players who could also play some first, who knows. But I do think he has enough tools and skills to play second base, and I think he has enough to play third.
As you look through those 11 through 40 picks, you took some guys who were top-round talents who clearly aren’t going to sign at those dollars. How do you balance loving what a Bishop is, or what the Ole Miss kids are, or we could take a guy who’s a good organizational fit as you go round-by-round later in the day?
Mark Conner: First of all, understanding that if a player’s signability is outside of that $100,000 range, it is us believing in the player and wanting to cultivate relationships with them. And with the money that we have, there’s a chance that we can get them the money they were looking for and have the ability to sign them. We’re not done with that process yet. A lot of it is, once we finalize Buddy Reed and get the top ten done, you start figuring out how much money you have and how you can allocate it. We have players that we definitely want to continue the conversation with and we’d love to add to the Padres organization.
But the other side of it is, understanding from the player development side, players that are going to sign for under $100,000 and what our roster needs are. It’s also, who do we want to bring in. Because from our vantage point, there’s a big leaguer in every round and we don’t know which one it’s going to be right now, but these are guys our area scouts and regional supervisors and others have seen and like and have interest in, so it’s kind of a fine balance. We’d love to sign them all. Financially, it’s not going to happen, but we to have options to sign the guys we can.
It sounds like Tre Carter is pretty close to signing. Do you have others in line?
Mark Conner: I’d rather not say anything about where we’re at. Once we get Buddy done, we’ll assess and see where we’re at. I don’t want to say those guys are close because, until the process is done with any of them, you never know for sure. But once we get Buddy done, we’ll look at the next moves from there and we’ll sign a couple few guys.