Post-Signing Day Q&A: Jason McLeod (Pt 1)

With Aug. 15 in the rear-view mirror, we figured it was a good time to catch up with Red Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod for an exclusive Q&A regarding the draftees the Sox did—and didn't—sign at the deadline. In part one, McLeod evaluates the players the Sox signed, reveals which players are likely to play in the GCL and explains the Sox' side of the Jaren Matthews drama.

Now that it's over, how do you feel with what you were able to accomplish with this year's draft?

Jason McLeod: Tired. [Laughs] We're happy, we're excited. We're excited [to obtain] the skill set that we value and we feel really good about the bats. With [David] Mailman, we felt like he was an advanced, polished high school hitter. [Anthony] Rizzo, we really like his power potential. He's got a pretty easy approach and the power is there. And then with Will Middlebrooks, there's not a lot of downside to that projection. He's an exceptional athlete, as you've heard and read about with the football playing skills. And this kid is not a football player who happens to play baseball. He's a really good athlete who happens to be a beautiful ballplayer that [was] a quarterback on a state championship team and an all-stat punter for three years in a row. In the state of Texas, that's saying something. And in addition to that, he's a skilled baseball player and one who still has a lot of upside [and] projection.


How about Drake Britton?

Jason McLeod: A kid that we really followed closely for the past year [starting] last summer on a showcase circuit. Coming into the year, he was kind of a priority guy for us. And he didn't have a great spring—he battled, still showed the good stuff, but for whatever reason, he didn't have a lot of strikeouts. I think he put a little pressure on himself, draft pressure. And the fact [was] they didn't have a very good team [at Tomball High School in Texas]. I think he was just trying to strike everyone out. This summer, he got up to 94 [mph]. Got to see him throw on the side as well and we felt like he was back to the kid we saw last year coming into the year. And we're excited that we were able to add him.


And the other pitcher you signed late, Austin Bailey?

Jason McLeod: Just extremely, extremely competitive. This guy is balls to the wall. Another very good athlete. Stuff-wise, he gets it up to 93 as well. He's probably not going to be a huge power guy, but more than anything, this guy's a winner and he just really, really competes. He loves being in the moment. He loves the action. He's just a guy you really want on the mound. He thrives in that situation.


How many of these negotiations were completed before Wednesday? Did any go down to the last second?

Jason McLeod: Drake and Will would have been on Wednesday, I think. Rizzo and Mailman, those guys were on Tuesday. And I think Bailey was on Tuesday. We worked most of the summer on these guys. We wanted to make sure we had them right.

Using Lars Anderson as an example from last summer for us: We did take a lot of guys with, quote unquote, signability [issues] or [who were] tough signs. But we use the summer as an opportunity to get to see these kids play more, get to know them better and really, truly make a better evaluation. It just worked out well last summer for us. Lars [was] a tough sign guy—again, he had a good spring, he led the state of California in home runs—so we got to get to know [him and] he got to know what the Red Sox are about. So we kind of tried to use that model again this year and were eventually able to sign [players] we feel very good about.


There were various reports that the Sox had signed Ryan Dent weeks earlier. Were those erroneous and was there any particular reason for the delay?

Jason McLeod: Obviously, we had no deal with him. Ryan is a talented kid with a great opportunity [to attend UCLA] and he made it known to organizations what he would be looking for to sign. And we were very happy. It's just a natural evolution [through] the summer, trying to get them signed. And [Thursday], he got into his first game [with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox]. He'll get some at-bats and be in instructional league. And at the end of the day, talent-wise, we are certainly very happy with how it ended up and how negotiations went to get them signed.


Aside from Ryan, do the new signees have a chance to play before the short-season leagues end?

Jason McLeod: That's hard to say. I think with those position guys, I'd say maybe there's a chance they could play. The GCL season runs out on [Aug.] 26th, so there's a chance those guys could play. The pitchers, I would say no, you wouldn't. We're going to see them to the instructional league. You might see a Will Middlebrooks get a couple at-bats.


You signed 10 of the first 14 high schoolers you selected. Does that fit into what you expected upon drafting those players?

Jason McLeod: I don't think we had any preset determined number. Obviously, we took the kids based on talent. And for those summer guys, we get to evaluate the more in the summer. We were able to sign the guys that we really deemed worthy of signing this summer. We didn't really have an [attitude of] ‘OK, we took X amount of guys, let's sign as many [as possible].' We tried to put evaluations on these players and we'll sign them if we deem that they're worth signing.


What happened with Jaren Matthews, who was reported to have signed with you but is now hoping to go to college?

Jason McLeod: I think we're still—I'm still a little fuzzy over what's going on, to be honest with you… whether it was Jaren getting caught up in the deadline as well or [that he] may have had second thoughts. I think right now we're trying to determine a course of action, because we did report the agreement to the commissioner's office. We're kind of in limbo right now to see what happens.

I think the bottom line for me is, first and foremost, you want guys who are ready and want to play. And again, I don't know what's going to come of the situation yet. Obviously, we like Jaren Matthews and made the offer. We thought we had an agreement in place. I know there's information out there swirling about whether [there's an] NCAA violation against him because he lost his eligibility. I certainly hope not, and we're not an organization that's going to try and hold it over him—‘You have to go play for us.' If he's not ready to play, then I don't think he should play. And I'm not sure he's ready. So we'll try to work with Jaren and hopefully this won't come back to haunt him from the NCAA.


(Part two of our Q&A with McLeod will appear Tuesday)


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, CLICK HERE.

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