Padres Scouting Director talks MLB Draft

In part II of our conversation with San Diego Padres scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton we find out the strength of this draft, how this year's class measures up to last year's, how strategy plays into picking 23rd, learning from past mistakes, and much more...

Looking at this year's draft class as a whole, is there a position you feel is deeper than most?

Chief Gayton: You are always going to have right-handed pitching. I don't think that will change from year to year. Now, sometimes there is a balance but the depth this year is in high school – overall right-handed pitchers. There are always just a handful of lefties.

I have heard that the catching depth is pretty good in this draft.

Chief Gayton: There are some catchers out there. And that is something there is value in too – if you need to make a trade, most teams don't have enough catching. Some of the catchers have immediate value if you are doing a deal.

At one time we had Kottaras and Colt – we drafted Colt knowing he could hit for power and he was going to be of interest.

High school catchers are a risk. The percentages aren't very good for a high school catcher to reach the majors and impact an organization.

Talk about this year's draft class versus last season's. Some scouts I talked to said last year's overall draft class was one of the thinnest in terms of depth in quite some time. How does this year's class compare?

Chief Gayton: There is a lot of depth. It comes down to value. A lot of times what you get at 23 may be similar to what you get at 40. It should be deep. It is not a bad year to have a lot of picks. You wish there were more college guys. You can't do anything about that.

Every year they are out there but it is a matter of whether the present tools are closer to the future tools. That is essentially what you talk about when looking at really good talent going off the board early in the draft. The really good talent tends to have more advanced present tools. The risk comes when there is a big gap between the present and projected future tools.

Take Joe Mauer – he was an extremely polished receiver. Things came natural for him. He was going to hit and probably come into power so with his advanced skills there wasn't as much projection involved. Anything beyond what you projected is going to be a bonus.

When you're picking towards the lower half of the first round, does that change your draft philosophy any? Does it alter your strategy?

Chief Gayton: Everything we do – we are slotting them in an order we are comfortable selecting them at. When we go in we are going to spend time with who we think is the number one overall selection all the way down to the last guy we have evaluated. Picking where we are there is not going to be as much time spent with the guys who are most certainly supposed to go off the board but we must be prepared in the event a certain player slides down to our selection. There are many ways that you can set up the board and each year you do things a little different. It just depends upon discussions and how we want to set this board up. Are you weighing them to who you really want or are you slotting them in an order you see them possibly going. Basically it is a combination of both. We have several meetings and if this is the group of guys who will probably be there, lets make sure we have them in the right order.

Are there any mistakes you've felt you made in past drafts that served as lessons learned for the upcoming draft?

Chief Gayton: Almost every selection is a lesson learned. When you feel good about something you can be humbled in a hurry. There is no one in particular. There is so much more involved than what the public realizes. Are you making the right evaluations? Will you have the available monies to sign a player and so forth? That is the part that really kind of gets you.

It would be nice if every organization had the same amount of money and you said, ‘Go get them.' Then you would really know what scouting staffs could scout and what organizations are living off a little bit more money than the strength of the staff. I always felt if it was an all-even thing you would see who is really strong from an evaluation standpoint.

Now that you've had an opportunity to see what some of the guys have done, how happy are you with the 2006 draft the Padres had last year?

Chief Gayton: Extremely happy. One of the beauties with how we are structured now is the ability to converse with Grady. He has such a great feel for evaluation and is the overseer of the minor league system. Grady and I worked together a long time in Oakland – almost ten years. There is chemistry we have and to have him oversee both departments and having his strong evaluation skills, makes it that much easier to make the correct decisions. When we sign players there is already a plan in place to make them better and help develop their skill set. With the philosophy and plan that is in place it takes a lot of pressure off you because you know that these players are a good fit for what we are trying to accomplish with the overall plan. We have a different type of conversation than what you might normally have because he has a little different take on players because he does head both departments.

We are out in the boonies – every team probably in baseball is here. Is the guy a fit – we probably already know whether he is a fit or not without really watching. Our scouts have supplied us with all of the necessary tools to come in and hopefully evaluate the talent that he possesses.

You owe as many looks as you possible to your scouts. We are trying to put in our two cents as so called cross checkers. It is not easy. You have to look at most of these guys and make a decision one way or the other from one look. It would be great if you could get multiple looks, but it does not work that way when you are chasing down players in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. There are a lot of really good high school kids in the north – in the cold weather states – so it makes it entirely different than some years in how you go about running down players. When you start running out a schedule and you have a bunch of guys that could go off the board in a hurry you end up having to scramble. And then – you still have to clean up a lot of the colleges. I still have about 20 key college players in some of the best programs in the country to see. You have to rely on more conference tournaments. It is not that we haven't seen them as an organization because we have had plenty of looks but I, personally, haven't seen some of them. The conference tournaments are key and the all-star games as well.

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