If your mind's picture of Paul DePodesta is Jonah Hill typing "all stats and no play makes Jeremy Brown a dull boy" into 1,000 consecutive rows on an excel spreadsheet, you may have missed his work with the Padres. D-3PO worked mainly in player development and scouting with San Diego. So unlike J.P. "Special Assistant" Ricciardi, DePodesta's new title describes his job, not merely fills his business card.
DePodesta also wrote a blog (who does that?) during his time with the Padres, which I have skimmed for insights into his player development philosophies. After the jump are some relevant quotations.
On draft strategy:
Every year presents a different crop of players, and consequently the first evaluation is a macro one. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this draft class? It's commonplace to say, "This draft isn't very deep." That's usually true, though it may also be our subconscious managing expectations. Either way, a more detailed analysis can greatly inform a team's strategy for a particular draft. As I've mentioned before, due to the fact that baseball's draft does not immediately impact the Major League level, teams don't necessarily have to draft for need. This allows for more flexibility in the process on an annual basis.
One of the biggest complaints about most drafts is that certain players were "overdrafted". I'll be honest - I don't really believe in that concept. First of all, our knowledge in terms of where players will be selected is imperfect to put it mildly. Remember, it only takes one team out of thirty to step up and take a player, and then he's gone. There are no do-overs. We may really like a guy, think we can get him in the 4th round or so, and then he's gone in the second. It happens all the time. Therefore, I believe that if you like the player and want him in your system, just take him. My litmus test is how I'm going to react when I hear another team call the player's name: a) a grimace with a head bob, b) an audible "Gah!" with a twist of the neck, or c) nauseous. If (c), then take the player if he's available.
On the "ceiling" of draft picks:
First, some perspective: fewer than 10% of all the drafted players become solid Major League players (not stars, simply solid). Therefore, if a player reaches the Major Leagues, even as an extra player, that is a HIGH ceiling. Do we want to draft players who will not only make the big leagues but also have a chance to be a cornerstone player? Absolutely. However, that level of "ceiling" or "upside" is rarified air. Furthermore, it's not always so obvious during the draft process.
On "safe" picks:
There's always a balance between impact potential and safety. However, the reality is that none of these picks are "safe". We're trying to predict the future performance of human beings five or even ten years into the future, at which time they'll be playing under circumstances that they can't even imagine right now (we hope). Safe? No chance. The business of baseball in general is a constant tug-of-war with uncertainty, and the other side of the rope never pulls harder than in the draft.
First and foremost, as a matter of practice, we do not target command over velocity. Every pitcher is a unique blend of skills - athleticism, delivery, repertoire, command, movement, velocity, durability, etc. Though it may appear that we have a particular preference, it is the balance of all of these factors and more that drives our decisions.
So, to summarize his last three seasons:
-Up to May 14: .221/.260/.316 with one homer every 83 pa's
-Post May 14: .278/.325/.483 with one homer every 23 pa's
Is there something about May 14 that we should know? Any astrologers out there that can shed light on this?
Sometimes it makes sense to leave a player at one level for the entire year to let them enjoy success. These players, however, were performing at such a high level that it was time to challenge them at the next level. There is a fine line between challenging players and rushing them, but we feel that all of these guys are ready.
On David Eckstein:
a winning player
The Padres have a Scouting Director and a VP of Scouting & Player Development. I am neither.
On the perils of amateur scouting:
As I approached, I thought I heard a voice. It was only when I reached out my hand to grab the door handle that I heard the voice loud and clear. It was a scout, inside the port-o-potty, on his cell phone reporting what other teams were in attendance at the game. Out of respect for his effort (and sacrifice), I kept walking.
The point of this is that organizational consistency is absolutely critical for any successful venture. I don't care if you're building cars, running a platoon, or rating debt; consistency and the resulting discipline and cohesion are fundamental elements of high achievement.
On New York:
I don't know how much he'll remember of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Broadway Show, Grand Central Station (I haven't told him we're doing all of these things yet), or the Stadium, but I'll remember every minute of it.