Padres International Signing Day Primer

The San Diego Padres work in the Dominican Republic has taken significant strides in recent years and could be poised to make an even bigger jump this year. No player is off-limits because of monetary concerns, according to international scouting director Randy Smith. As a result, things could get interesting on July 2.

We know that the international signing period lasts through the season, but as we gear up for the official start of this year with July 2 signing, how does the process all come together?

Randy Smith: To me, the international signing day is almost like the Letter of Intent day for college football. It takes a lot of legwork working up to the day to actually get these guys signed. A lot of it is dollars and cents but it also comes down to selling your organization and what you have to offer as an organization and them trusting the people they are dealing with – the scouts and me.

Guys are eligible to sign 365 days a year but July 2 is for kids who will obtain their 17th birthday by July 2 or by the end of the season. During the course of the year, we have signed guys out of five countries. You will primarily see us be involved in the Dominican and Venezuela.

We have talked in the past about the Padres new facility down there. Have you noticed a change in how people are viewing you?

Randy Smith: It absolutely changed the perception. We have been working hard on doing that with our work on the ground but the investment that Mr. Moores and the Padres put into the facility – it is by far and away the best facility in Latin America. It does make a substantial difference.

That does not mean a player will choose you over another organization just because you have the facility because most of these guys are looking not to stay in the Dominican. The goal is to get to the United States and the major leagues. It does have an impact on the interest we are getting from a lot of players. Everyone wants to see the place. Once we got it open in early April, a lot of people are seeing it.

Our first big workout, we had all the elite players from Latin America to begin with.

How many camps are you going through that lead up to this day?

Randy Smith: It is really hard to say. Every time I am there we do a fairly large camp. The guys are constantly looking for players and when I show up it is gathering the best 10 or 15 for one day and then gathering the next 10 or 15 with a couple of holdovers for the next day. We do that 20 or more times during the course of a year.

But our scouts are doing this pretty much daily. There is very little downtime in the Dominican. It is pretty much a 365-day process for scouts on the ground.

Is that a traditional workout with throwing, running, hitting and fielding?

Randy Smith: It is not reinventing the wheel. We run them and then throw them and do an infield. We try and do a simulated game.

In the case of our big showcase, we played two 10-inning games against our DSL players. We had the international amateurs pitching to the amateur players and the DSL team was playing in the field defensively. We actually did have games. We simulate it with live pitching – this way we can evaluate the pitching as well as the hitting.

Is there a ranking system that you put together kind of like the major league draft? Obviously, money becomes a factor but just the ranking of players?

Randy Smith: Yes, scouting is the same. We have our reports. We have our prep list. It is like recruiting in collegiate sports. You have to identify guys that you have an opportunity to recruit or do business with and that becomes your focus.

Your initial focus is wide but as you get closer to July 2 or their signing date the scope narrows. We have seen them all. We have seen all the good ones. It is a question of who you will end up on July 2.

Last season, the Padres opened up the coffers for you and you were very appreciative to Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers and down the list. Have you seen that same approach this season?

Randy Smith: Absolutely. We have not eliminated anybody due to signability. Obviously, everyone has a value and a value you place on them. As long as the value and the worth stay close together than that is a guy you target. If it is something outrageous than you probably aren't going to get involved.

This is a pretty good year, a real good year. I have been given the marching orders to not stay away from anyone based on the money. We are going after what we think are the better players down there and to maximize the resources.

You spend all this time scouting and signing guys – when does the reward come for you as the international scouting director?

Randy Smith: Well, there is a payoff on July 2 – just like there is one for the guys on the domestic side. On draft day, that is their first little good feeling day that you get the players you identified.

It ultimately comes when they get to the major leagues and become big league contributors. Domestically, that averages four or five years. Internationally, that averages six or seven years, even though guys do it faster.

You get satisfaction watching guys move up the ladder. You feel the peaks and valleys with them. To me, the ultimate goal is for us to win in San Diego. That means using the guys we sign internationally for ourselves or to acquire other players.

I felt pretty good last July 2 when they gave us the go ahead to get (Rymer) Liriano and (Jonathan) Galvez done. I am hoping we will have a pretty good feeling this July 2 as well.

You work long hours and spend a lot of time traveling, seeing games and you are hoping for a payoff at the end.

When you look at the system as a whole, how do you see the international market sprinkled in? We are starting to see some of those guys hit High-A and flourish. How do you see the progress in that department right now?

Randy Smith: For the most part, I think most of the guys are having pretty good years. I think they are capable of more. There is more upside in some guys.

(Rayner) Contreras is having a big year. (Jackson) Quezada is having a big year. (Felix) Carrasco rebounds from a year that was a disappointment to become an All-Star and win the Home Run Derby, which, quite frankly, I think put him in a slump afterwards because he struck out about every time after that. He hit 21 home runs in the derby and went pull happy.

I am really quite pleased. (Al) Angelucci, (Simon) Castro hitting 98 in his first outing in Eugene and then coming back and pitching better and still reaching 95. There have been a lot of good things. I think we still have a ways to go but we have made substantial improvement.

Do you mirror the draft at all in what guys you are targeting or is this separate because of how far they might be off?

Randy Smith: There are premium positions but we are talking about a 16-year-old kid and in most cases it is 11 months before they get their first official statistics. They have to wait till the next June before they are eligible to play in the Dominican Summer League. You have to wait a long time for a payoff.

The domestic draft and international signing day are two different things. We have philosophies but we are dealing with much younger players than Grady (Fuson) or Chief (Gayton) are dealing with in the draft.

You have to have a pretty good pulse on some guys you want. How fast do things change down there, as we hear rumors about the Padres liking this guy or that guy?

Randy Smith: I hope some of the rumors are true and hope some others are not. I have been in this rodeo long enough to know that things change so fast down here in the last week leading up to July 2. Teams may lose out on one player and jump on another one.

It is interesting. I am not sleeping well yet. Until they sign it – I will believe it then. Like Gregorious – that was a done deal. He is set, the family agreed and we have to send him back to get it all done and someone grabs him.

Last year, things rolled over into July 3 with Jonathan Galvez. Is that usual?

Randy Smith: Usually, the Dominican international player is pretty fluid on the second. They might be going back and forth with two or three teams but it starts narrowing down pretty quick. When a guy is holding out – the hold out might be a couple of days.

If you are not getting this guy, teams don't want to be empty handed after the signing period. If you can't get something done with one guy, you are jumping to someone else pretty quickly.

Last year, I think you had seven guys. Are you targeting that number now?

Randy Smith: We have signed 17 players so far this year and last year we signed a total of 34 on the whole year. We had six and Gregorious would have been the seventh one. Galvez we signed on the third. It goes fast and furious and just depends.

We have workouts scheduled on July 3! Even though the second is a big day, I have a big workout scheduled the next morning. We are still working for the rest of this year and '09. It doesn't end.

Has anyone down in the DSL confirmed some of the things you believed to be true or performed well in the early going?

Randy Smith: I am really pleased, considering the experience and age compared to other teams in the division. I am pleased with our progress.

Galvez is off to a terrific start. That is nice to see. Liriano, when it is all said and done, will break our Padres DSL record for home runs, if Galvez doesn't do it. Both are capable.

We have hit more home runs this year than we did all of last year. I think it is that these guys were all – 23 were first-year players. We had so many young guys.

(Jose) Paulino has shown us some improvement this year. He has gotten stronger and the ball is jumping off his bat a little more. (Jorge) Minyeti – I like what he has done.

The pitchers: Pedro Hernandez has been fantastic. 4-0 with no walks and 20 strikeouts. Unbelievable.

There are other arms that are going to continue to grow and show us stuff. (Luis) De La Cruz I like, a big-bodied guy with arm strength. (Juan) Chavez – the second good one he has had. He has had two of his last three with five innings and one run or no runs. He was a converted guy too.

We have two 16 year olds, although Liriano just had a birthday so he is 17 now, and (Juan) Herrera who we like. He is scuffling a little bit right now to find the strike zone and get comfortable at 16 while doing this for a living.

Is Severino Perez hurt?

Randy Smith: He was but should be ready to go on Friday. The one thing we have had is a little bit of an injury bug. Because the new complex got started late, we tried to rush things along. Some of the guys weren't as prepared because they didn't have as much time to work out. Perez should be fine.

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