Chief Gayton: It is kind of ongoing. When you see a player that you have interest in, the bio is created and the information gathering process begins right away.
It could be that you see a kid as a sophomore in high school and you gather the information and enter him in the system. Now you are gathering all the pertinent information that is required to submit names and building a book on each player. You can have kids in your system for years, depending on when you saw them play and if they went to college.
It starts coming together after some of the major events. The Perfect Game event in the fall – you get a look at a lot of the top kids in the country, and that is kind of the final major look we have prior to the actual scouting season when we begin the evaluation process.
We are constantly evaluating but there is a "follow" system and an evaluation system. On the "follows", you have "follow" reports. Generally, after January 1 in the year we will be selecting the player – that is when the evaluations will begin coming in.
How much does it change from the first time you put the names on the list until draft day?
Chief Gayton: That is not the board per se. You are working off a "follow" list going into the season. All clubs are. You have lists in your computer system and scouting system. We put together books and so forth. We have rankings.
This year, we had rankings of about 560 kids going into the year. Now, we have more in the system. But, in terms of actually ranking them we were in the 500s.
It all changes once you start evaluating. There is more than one process leading up to the draft. You have to be able to prioritize players going into the year, and you are constantly prioritizing throughout the season up to the draft. There is a lot of computer-generated stuff, but we all have who we like better than this guy and this guy.
Kids ranked in our system – there is probably 700-some kids in our system that is are all ranked so if the commissioners office called and said, ‘You are selecting. We are moving the draft up to tomorrow,' we could essentially start selecting.
The guys on the top end are averaged in. That is computer generated. All the time, when you come into the draft and actual preparations for the draft, that is when you start really get in-depth and having serious discussions about players, studying video, taking the medical information and the psychological, the evaluations, the subjective – college player with the analytical and try and combine it all. It is an in-depth process.
For instance, say 60 names are ranked; we will still go back and review it and constantly look it over. The top 60 names – that will take us three days. It is constantly discussing what we saw and the evaluations.
What are the main factors you look at, especially when we know that the top kids demand the attention, but what are the factors when you are looking at a kid in the 15th-round?
Chief Gayton: When you start getting into the 15th-round there are so many scenarios. Was he a high profile kid that priced himself out? The kid that we liked better but the school is worth more than what we would be willing to give him with bonus versus school. There are so many factors.
We spend a great deal of time all the way to the last player, but the majority of our time is spent on 60 guys. Those 60 players will probably take us through five rounds. That is what some people don't understand when they look at rankings from any publication. The top 100. Well, if you have each club and every club has a few extra kids in their top 100, well that is 60 different players alone. Now, mom and dad are mad because they were ranked in the top 100 of ‘a' publication. There are 30 clubs that are selecting and we all trying to be successful but all doing different things.
We might actually player in the top 50, but he does not go until 150. We selected a kid at a certain position – say a first baseman or third baseman or shortstop – we are not going to come back with our next pick and take another one at the same position.
The draft – one way to look at it – is like a deck of cards. It is constantly changing depending on what somebody does with the hand that they are dealt. One move might create 30 new moves by the rest of baseball. You are constantly adjusting and that is what is fun.
When you are setting up the board, obviously there is strategy involved. You are trying to get as many kids as you possibly can. You have to be smart. If you take – and I don't want to use names – if you take a kid you like and he might have been there (with the next pick)...sometimes there is risk. You risk losing him to another player. You don't take him here, is he going to be available with your next pick? That is tough.
You take Cesar Ramos and we liked the Drennan kid. If you take Antonelli, well then maybe you don't take the guy who might have been next on the board. It makes it interesting.
Yet, on draft day, you guys are picking so quickly. What is it one minute per pick after the first round?
Chief Gayton: We have spent so much time preparing that you don't need that much (time). Most of us struggle with five minutes between selections in the first round. That is a slow pace for us. You are not trading. It is your selection, and you know who you want to take. If someone takes a player right in front of you, then you still have plenty of time to make a decision. It is not like you have to call a timeout – which we used to do when it was fast and someone got nabbed right in front of you – to regroup.
We will bring the scouts in and they will spend four or five days – with all of our scouts in the draft room, which has worked out great. It is something Grady started doing in Oakland in about '94. I was a young scout and had been in there before. It was really neat. I had no responsibilities other than to show up and present a player when need be. Now, I help with the process, and it is fun. Having never tried to put it together, you didn't know how it was going to work. It is awesome.
When does the reward come for you? All this time spent scouting and you get roughly 15 hours of actually selecting a player. When does the reward come in for you as the scouting director?
Chief Gayton: There are different rewards because it is neat to watch people develop – the staff developing the kids. That is a reward. It is an unbelievable feeling.
The first time we had all of our scouts in and made our first selection – which was 2006 with Antonelli. As soon as we were off the line, the place erupted. Everyone was so pumped for each other and it gave me goosebumps. It was so neat to see that reaction and took me by surprise. Everybody was excited and happy for each other that so and so got the player. That was cool. I get satisfaction out of that.
That is team. That is part of the chemistry you have to have to be successful in anything.
Then, of course, you get satisfaction out of signing the players. It is not always easy, but it is not supposed to be easy. We always want the road to be straight with no bumps or curves to it but rarely does that happen, and, quite honestly, we need those twists and turns and obstacles to start forming who we are as individuals and as a team. It is always nice when you don't have a lot of obstacles, but you run into them when negotiating contracts, and once we sign them it is moving on to the next guy and trying to sign all of the kids we targeted. There are rewards to that.
Ultimately, it is getting players we feel have a chance to be big league players and impact the organization, barring injury and other setbacks, hopefully, that is what you are doing. Sometimes it takes longer than other times but going out and seeing your kids and seeing them have success and seeing player development – which is huge – huge.
The kids you introduce to the organization and the feedback you receive from player development because they want to work with good players – good people. We have been giving them that. There morale is much better too. That, from a scouting/player development aspect, is a key ingredient to the overall success.
We have a great thing. Grady has done a tremendous job bringing both departments together. It is one philosophy. There is an investment we have as a whole that is very exciting.
To me, that is the satisfaction you get. I have been in San Diego only parts of seven days this entire spring. I hear people say often we had a long road trip – well, our road trip doesn't end. When you come off the road, you are still working. I still go into the office. You are trying to get your laundry done and mow the yard real quick. So, you always are going, and this time of year we start hitting the wall. It is a grind. You are flying every day. I have flown three and half hours today and waiting for the game to get rolling. Then you do it again.
As scouts, we want to see kids have success. We live and die with each game report, just like any fan does. That is an investment that we have as individuals and a team – our scouting department and player development. We are one.
I am kind of sappy, I guess. I know we all need each other to have success. The longer that you do it, the more you realize the importance of the whole process in the development of the player and the presentation of the player in the development of him.
I had to call our scout because even though Luke Carlin was selected by Detroit, he played one year there and our scout, Jim Bretz, liked Luke out of college. When Luke was let go, he called up and said, ‘I really like this kid and want to sign him.' So we signed him and Luke has been part of our organization for five years. That is pretty cool. (Our scout) made the effort and believed in the kid and picked up the phone, even though, for one reason or another, the player was released.
I can tell you one time I was driving down the road and I can't remember the player – some of the guys have driven 40,000 miles this spring. There are days when we drive 400 miles. You listen to the radio and here some guy got called up. You think, ‘Wow, I remember the first time I saw that kid play. He was 16 years old. We hung with him, were fortunate enough to select him, and now he is a big leaguer.'
That is unbelievable. Most of the time we experience those moments by ourselves as scouts. When some of that was happening with me – you are out on the road and you found out by the radio. You didn't always find out by your team. Things happen in a hurry.
Do you go back and make a report card of your previous drafts?
Chief Gayton: We are always self-evaluating, individually, and as a whole. We have discussions. I was with Grady in Texas, and we were talking about some kids after the game – kids that we liked and kids we have liked the last three seasons working together. ‘Well, this guy is kind of like this guy, and he went in the first round to this club. This kid is scuffling, and he went in the first round to this club.' We were honest with some of our discussions as to why some guys were doing well and why some guys were scuffling and why it is taking them a little longer to get their feet wet.
We are evaluating how we saw players before, how they are doing – because it is not all about who you evaluated in your system, it is about who you evaluated – period.
Grady and I will get together within the next week in San Diego and we will talk things over. There are so many different stages and steps that are ongoing. It is pretty amazing when it all comes together. That is satisfaction and gratification too.
Do you guys also talk to Randy Smith's group and the signing of international players when it comes to your own draft strategy?
Chief Gayton: No, you don't know when you get into a bidding war with other clubs. It might be that you like somebody but they went to another organization. There is awareness as to what is out there. Grady has his finger on the pulse, and Randy and him talk a lot. Randy might have a player he would like to sign so Grady and him will communicate.
Most of what I do and the free agent scouts do – 99 percent of it is the draft. We don't sign a lot of players after the draft. We might sign a few. There are some kids who, for one reason or another, slip through the cracks. They fit a need and their scout believes in them. They get an opportunity and can take advantage of it.
Again, there is awareness of the players Randy has identified, but that is more Grady and Randy communicating because each year this is what we have to work with.
Where are we strong? Where are we weak? Where have we had success? Where haven't we had success? If we haven't had success, why is it and how do we address it?
It is all real positive. It's fun. We are at a good place right now. The big club is struggling, and I am responsible for that too. If there aren't players in place, I feel that and the organization feels it. You keep plugging away and hope that what you are doing is going to make a difference. Quite honestly, the last few years have been incredible. We have had extra picks. That really helps. We have extra picks again this year, and you have to capitalize on it. You don't want to take risks that take us out of our box.
What would you say is the strength of the 2008 draft class?
Chief Gayton: It is always going to be pitching – primarily right-handers. In terms of position – first base is a pretty good position this year in the early rounds. There are some interesting kids. There are actually a lot of interesting right-handed relievers for those interested in doing that. Some teams have been aggressive in going after those kids. This is a good year if you are not afraid to do that and get a pretty good arm that is having success. There are kids with big velocity that can get it over and at least one secondary pitch that they can get hitters out with as well.
Is there a weak spot in the organization that would fuel you to make a selection of a player based on need?
Chief Gayton: That is a good question. I think that shortstop is an area of concern – it always is. Those are athletic kids that can play that position and if it doesn't work at short you can do some other things with them.
At one time, I thought that you could always go out and get corner guys on the major league side. Early on, I shied away from corner outfielders. It hit us pretty hard. You don't always see that. All it takes is one injury – like the Tagg Bozied injury. He was hitting well – you are going, ‘Wow, that kid was real close to being called up at the time.' You think you might be healthy in a certain area and an injury here and a setback there and you are not. The draft – take as many positions as you can get.
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