Scouting Director Madison talks Padres draft

Jaron Madison enters June looking at his first draft as the scouting director for the San Diego Padres. What are the philosophies and key characteristics he is looking for in the next wave of prospects?

You come back to the Padres where the roots of your scouting career developed under Bill Gayton, Jason McLeod and Chris Gwynn. What was the application process like, and did you feel like this was your opportunity to lose given the history and people involved?

Jaron Madison: I definitely had familiarity with the people who were here. Not only Jason and Chris and some of the scouts that were here, but also the philosophy and environment of being in San Diego. I have always considered San Diego my home. I worked for them as a free associate scout when I was trying to get into the business.

It was always home – a family to me. You are a piece to the puzzle and you really do matter. That was important.

I knew people here, but I did not, by any means, think that I had this job. I actually took it as if I was the underdog. I was prepared. I treated it like I didn't know people here. Obviously, I didn't know Jed or some of the other people involved in the interview process. I got prepared, researched the team, researched what was going on in Boston, and then knew my own philosophy that was developed from the different organizations I worked for and the different scouting directors I worked for.

Jed Hoyer is a big proponent of building through the draft and overall player development. How important is it to hit on the first-round pick?

Jaron Madison: It is important, but not just the first pick but also all of our picks throughout the draft. We want to get athletic. We want to build a team that plays in Petco Park. We have to take advantage of the spaciousness of our park. We know it is big. We need players that are versatile – not just offensive. They need to be able to take away runs as much as they can create runs. It is important from the first pick through the 50th that we stick with our philosophy and try and select people who fit what that philosophy is, which is being more dynamic and being a force on both sides of the bat.

It is definitely important to get the first one right. Like the first one, we want to get the second one right, the third one right, all through the draft and sticking with our philosophy

What are the characteristics of a player that can be bred to play in Petco Park? We talk about athleticism but you can see that in a lot of places. Is there a specific trait where it becomes evident?

Jaron Madison: On the offensive side, you say athleticism and you are thinking speed and strength. Athleticism is the ability to make adjustments with your body and to control your body. Having life to your body. That is truly what athleticism means for Petco Park. You need to have life to your body. You can't be stiff. You have to be able to make adjustments. You can't be a guy that can just hit. We need you to be able to move around in the outfield to protect some of the biggest gaps in baseball. We need you to be able to cover those gaps in the outfield. The way it is setup, you don't score a lot of runs and you have to limit the runs you give up with good defense. Athleticism in general where you can get more out of your natural tools and there is upside and life to your body.

You mentioned doing your homework earlier, what is your assessment of the state of the San Diego Padres farm system?

Jaron Madison: Honestly, I can't speak since I haven't seen all the teams. This summer, I will spend time visiting all of the affiliates and scouting our system so I have a good feel for what is there.

In the last few years, we have made some changes and gotten more athletic. We obviously have some guys that can hit. They might not be as complete players as we might like, but there are players in the system that are very interesting. They might be a few years away but just like you have seen with Will Venable, Kyle Blanks and Mat Latos, there are guys like that coming up through the system in Chief (Gayton) and Grady's (Fuson) draft but it is a matter of waiting and seeing the development.

I honestly can't speak on the state because I haven't seen the system in three years.

Do you look at the overall depth within the system and how does that factor into the picks you and your team makes?

Jaron Madison: That will be something that is discussed. Not so much that, ‘We need a shortstop so our first pick needs to be a shortstop. We are in the business of drafting the best player available but there is an eye on our organization's specific needs.

Corner outfielders and corner infielders – we are pretty good with. But who knows? Chase Headley might go out and put up big numbers for the next few years and get to a point where we might not be able to afford him. We need to build that pipeline. We need to build depth through the system. If a player gets to a point where we cannot afford them, we have players who are ready to take their place.

That will be part of the draft strategy and philosophy – talking to Randy Smith about what is in the organization, where the strengths and weaknesses are and what we can address through the draft. And Randy handles the international side and that goes hand-in-hand with what we are trying to do on the amateur side as well.

Currently, the Padres farm system lacks depth at catcher. Is that something that you are cognizant of and plan to aggressively correct?

Jaron Madison: Every year in every organization, catcher is a position that everyone struggles with. Teams would love to have six or seven true prospects at the catching position. That just doesn't happen. Even when you look at the landscape this year, there aren't a lot of catchers who will be frontline starting catchers.

You have to do your work and evaluate these catchers but keep in mind that since there are only a few of them, keep in mind that since there are few of them, you might have to be more aggressive in getting some catchers. Or maybe looking at players who play other positions that maybe can move or are interested in being a catcher. Maybe a player can go from shortstop to behind the plate. You need to be creative. It comes back to athleticism. You are looking for players that are versatile. Maybe if a shortstop has soft hands, he can transition to behind the plate. You have to be able to get creative.

What is the correlation between the international market and the strategy for the draft – does one affect the other?

Jaron Madison: They are a little bit independent, but it is still nice to have an idea of what is going on over there. If their prospects are corner infielders and we invest heavily in corner infielders, it does not mean that we are not going to invest in corner infielders but maybe in the amateur draft we can address some other areas of need. If the best player out there is a third baseman, we are going to take that guy and develop him and, if necessary, see if he can go to another position. Logan Forsythe came in as a third baseman and moved to second. Guys who can move around are always attractive.

You do keep an eye on what is going on in international scouting. You don't want to go after the same kinds of players.

Under Grady Fuson, the Padres veered more towards college players than high school picks. Can you talk about your overall philosophy regarding college versus high school talent?

Jaron Madison: There is no preference for high school or college. High school players you can get into the system a littler earlier so you can develop them the way you like. But we are in the business of taking the best player available. We are looking for guys that can impact the game. If that player comes from high school – great, we can spend more time with him. If he comes from college – that is great too since he might be closer and be able to move quicker.

There is no clear-cut philosophy that we are going to stay away from high school players or just draft high school players. We want to take the best available player.

Jed Hoyer spoke to us about having all the relevant information at your fingertips to make the right assessment on a player. Talk about your approach in the evaluation and information gathering process.

Jaron Madison: It starts at the ground level with the area scouts. They are truly the heart and soul of the entire process. They are on the front lines – not just evaluating what players can do on the field but also getting a feel for their makeup, what their strengths and weaknesses are as people. Do they have aptitude? Can they make adjustments? Are they coachable? Those are all things we rely upon the area scouts to tell us. They do a really good job of getting to know the family, gathering information, going to the houses and meeting with them, asking questions, talking to coaches, parents, other teammates – trying to get a feel for the kid. There is no exact science to getting to know a kid.

Once a high school or college kid goes to pro ball, sometimes they have never been in a situation where they have had to provide for themselves. It is an adjustment period. If we can get to know these kids – their mental, their medical, their family history, the support network – know that they are smart kids – those are things we rely on the area scouts to tell us.

As long as we felt the information to feel like we know a player, at the end of the day, we can make good decisions.

If there are players we can't gain as much access to or gain as much information, we are going to feel a little bit more unsure about who that player is.

It is important for our area scouts to get out there and meet players, get to know them and talk to other people who can truly tell us what that players character is all about.

We see people grading the draft days after it happens. As a member of the scouting department, what constitutes a successful draft and how soon can you properly evaluate its success?

Jaron Madison: There are so many things that go into whether a player makes it to the major leagues or not. The makeup, aptitude and are these guys able to stay healthy. So many things go into it where we hit or missed on this guy. As long as we stick to the process and can say we took players that fit our philosophy and we did our due diligence to mitigate risk in getting to know these players, I think the day after the draft you can feel like it was a successful draft.

Will all of these guys go on to play in the big leagues? No, absolutely not. Ten percent of these guys get to the big leagues for a couple of days. You can say that five years from now we are going to look back on this as a success, but I think if we do our job and process and gather all the information, we will feel like we put ourselves in a position to have a successful draft.

Every two or three years, we look back at the players we took and re-evaluate that. Maybe we were too high on this tool. Maybe we were light on this guy who went out and overachieved. It is a constant process of analyzing ourselves and our draft. There is no set three-year or five-year period. At the end of the draft, we know we did everything we could. We put ourselves in a good position with as many of those players as possible. We can then feel like we had a successful draft.

So there is no true number on major leaguer starters out of a specific draft?

Jaron Madison: I don't think you can put a real number on it. We would like to hit on all of our pitchers. That is not going to happen because of injuries, makeup or not being able to make the adjustment to pro ball. There is no percentage you can give. One draft we might go out and go after high school pitching. The next year, we might go after more bats. There is no clear-cut number that if we get 10 percent of these guys to the big leagues it is successful.

When draft day comes, how do you envision things happening. Is everyone in on the process?

Jaron Madison: The area scouts have worked their butts off and gotten to know these kids. They have evaluated them and provided information. We have compiled all the information with the statistics, background and makeup. Maybe they captured video or saw something that someone else didn't see – all the information is taken and we go through it all. All of the information is crunched in and analyzed and used to make our decisions.

We will work our butts off in the next few weeks, spend hours and hours in meetings watching video and analyzing and talking to scouts to make the decisions. When draft day comes, it will be a relief because we know we ironed it out. We have done all the work to make good decisions. Now it is about making it happen. I am looking forward to draft day coming. This is the fun part. We are putting all the work in, spending all this time traveling, sleeping three hours here and there, but when we get to that point, we will know we have done everything we can to bring quality players and people into the organization.

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