Paul "d3p0" DePodesta, the Mets' Vice President of Player Development & Amateur Scouting, was kind enough to field questions from various Mets bloggers and Amazin' Avenue participated. Eric Simon and Matthew Artus represented AA on the conference call. See below for highlights, a picture of d3p0 and a full transcript of the call. Thank you to the Mets for making this happen.
Quoth Paul DePodesta:
On early round draft strategy
At the top of the draft, we get a little greedy. We want everything. For pitchers, that would mean command, power and plus secondary stuff. If they have those three things, those are the guys we’re shooting for. On the hitting side it’s guys who have both power and patience at the plate while also being plus defensively in the field.
On the Moneyball movie
I imagine I’ll see it at some point. To be honest, it’s a little surreal and a little awkward. As you noted, Jonah [Hill]’s not actually playing me, he’s playing a fictionalized character. It’s loosely based on the idea of me, or the idea of a dozen different younger executives with particular backgrounds. Hopefully it’ll be fun and an enjoyable movie.
On the importance of depth
As we’ve all learned, when you go through this 162 game season, you need an awful lot of players. You certainly need a lot more than your starting eight in the field and your starting five in the rotation. And often times divisions are determined by your sixth or seventh or eighth starters, or your ninth, tenth and eleventh position players who end up playing key roles on the club.
On his foray into blogging
On the spectrum of fan interaction there is a press release on one end and 180 degrees on the other end is bumping into someone at Starbucks and having them ask you about the team. I was determined to make it as close to a Starbucks meeting as possible. Some of the dialogue I’ve been able to have with fans over the last few years has been meaningful.
On drafting pitchers this year
One of the things you’ll probably see is that rounds two through five were all college pitching. Once we got to round ten it was mainly high school pitching. That was certainly a calculated decision made before the draft.
On whether or not he has a "man cave"
I wish I had a man cave, I don’t. It’s all common spaces here at the house. Maybe someday I’ll get there but not yet.
On minor leaguers who might contribute later this season
I think the one other one that hasn't been up yet, because the 40-man roster wasn't really on the radar is [Chris] Schwinden. He's starting in Triple-A and has pitched very well out of the rotation. Knock on wood, we won't have that need going forward, but he's certainly pitched well and could be a guy if we have a need at some point.
On manager autonomy
It's important that the manager have complete autonomy once the game starts. I think the reality is that often times in-game strategy can be largely dictated by personnel. If we have a bunch of guys who can really run, then our manager is probably going to run more. If we have a bunch of base-cloggers, he's not going to run. If we can provide a bullpen that is clear how to use, in terms of having a lights-out lefty or having a true seventh inning, a true eighth inning, a true closer, those are things that end up impacting how the team gets managed, but at the end they really go back to the personnel that's in place.
On player "makeup"
For me, makeup can mean an awful lot of different things. It certainly can mean work ethic, character, selflessness. I think there are a lot of things that we look for when we talk about makeup. Certainly in that quote, those were some of the things I was referring to. Some of the great players I've been lucky enough to be around over the years are guys that have tremendous ability but also outwork everybody else, too. I think that's part of what makes them great.
On preaching versatility to minor leaguers
That's a great question, and it's something we talk an awful lot about in player development. The reality is a lot of players, maybe most players, when they first get to the big leagues are in a role that they are unaccustomed to, or at least largely unaccustomed to. They get there as a bench player, they get there as a utility player, maybe they get there as a long guy, even though they've been a starting pitcher their entire career. So one of the things we need to try to do in our player development system is to prepare guys for that.
On evaluating players he hasn't personally seen
I can't go out and see every player. Neither can Chad MacDonald, and neither can [David] Lakey our national crosschecker. It's impossible for any of us to go out and see every guy. So a lot of what we do is reading reports and asking questions and then trying to make the best decisions we can. It's no different for Sandy: I mean, if he's making a trade at the major league level, he can't run around and see every player, especially when you're talking about minor league players or something like that. He needs to be able to ask the right questions of his evaluators and then make what he thinks is the best decision.
Michael Baron, Metsblog: I have a question about your evaluation of amateur talent. From both a pitching and a hitting standpoint, what are some of the keys that you look for, when you’re scouting, when you say "wow this might be a real find out here", what sort of things do you look for in order to make that determination?
Paul DePodesta: At the top of the draft, we get a little greedy. We want everything. For pitchers, that would mean command, power and plus secondary stuff. If they have those three things, those are the guys we’re shooting for. On the hitting side, it’s guys who have both power and patience at the plate while also being plus defensively in the field. In the absence of those things, which is generally the case even in the first round, you have to start balancing what you think is important.
There are very few players, if any, that actually bring everything to the table. As we move through the draft, we start making determinations. Is there a guy on the board that still has a plus breaking ball? Are there guys on the board with above average command or plate discipline. Those types of things. It’s an inexact science as we move through the draft, what we prioritize and when. Those are types of things we look for and how it changes through the course of the three days.
Kerel Cooper, On The Black: My question is about the movie Moneyball coming out this fall. Do you plan on watching the movie, and what do you think of Jonah Hill playing a fictionalized character of you in the movie?
Paul DePodesta: I figured this might get asked at some point [laughing]. I imagine I’ll see it at some point. To be honest, it’s a little surreal and a little awkward. As you noted, Jonah’s not actually playing me, he’s playing a fictionalized character. It’s loosely based on the idea of me, or the idea of a dozen different younger executives with particular backgrounds. Hopefully it’ll be fun and an enjoyable movie. The last time I spoke with Jonah, right before they started filming, the last thing I said to Jonah was to have a lot of fun. We had an awful lot of fun when we were in Oakland. Hopefully that comes through in the movie and nobody takes it too seriously.
Matthew Artus, Amazin' Avenue: Before the season you said that the second base job would continue to be a competition until somebody made it their own. The competition remains ongoing between Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner. I was wondering if you could speak a bit about what you’ve seen from their development at second as well as the organization’s depth at second base thus far.
Paul DePodesta: These are the problems you hope to have as an organization, when you get to the point where you have multiple guys that are playing well and you feel comfortable with. And I think that’s the situation we’re in now with both Justin and Daniel, and the fact that both those guys can play multiple positions too. On any given day, even when David [Wright] is back, those two guys could potentially be in the lineup in different spots.
As we’ve all learned, when you go through this 162 game season, you need an awful lot of players. You certainly need a lot more than your starting eight in the field and your starting five in the rotation. Often times divisions are determined by your sixth or seventh or eighth starters, or your ninth, tenth and eleventh position players who end up playing key roles on your club. One example is last year – Atlanta’s non-everyday players were outstanding and accounted for close to 1000 plate appearances. That’s meaningful. Hopefully we’re in that position once we get healthy. I’m just glad that both those guys have taken advantage of the opportunity that was presented to them.
Caryn Rose, MetsGrrl: As an early adopter of social media, when you started blogging, did you have any theories about social media that either have been reinforced or refuted as the phenomenon has grown?
Paul DePodesta: I certainly wasn’t skilled at it, nor am I still. The thing that really got me started on it was the idea that you could have this one-on-one conversation with our fans – with our stakeholders, basically. For me that was pretty powerful and wasn’t something we could often do. We had radio shows and things like that, but those were structured and weren’t terribly interactive. This forum allowed for us to be interactive and have a much more personal conversation.
On the spectrum of fan interaction there is a press release on one end and 180 degrees on the other end is bumping into someone at Starbucks and having them ask you about the team. I was determined to make it as close to a Starbucks meeting as possible. Some of the dialogue I’ve been able to have with fans over the last few years has been meaningful. Certainly for me and our organization at the time, and hopefully for them. It’s certainly something that I think is valuable.
Steve Keane, Eddie Kranepool Society: Looking at the recent draft, the breakdown of picks was nearly even between pitchers and position players. Was that the plan going into the draft? Looking at the complete draft, it seemed like there were clusters of picks that went especially towards pitching. Was this done because they were the best pick available at that time, or was this something that was planned ahead -- targeting pitching especially towards the middle and late rounds of the draft?
Paul DePodesta: To answer the first question about the 50/50 split -- to be honest I didn’t even know that, so that wasn’t necessarily our plan going in. I think that’s generally how it falls, even with our rosters. Most of our minor league clubs are going to be about 50/50 between pitchers and position players. In terms of clustering some of the picks around a certain position or around pitching, that certainly was planned. We felt there was a particular depth – an unusual depth – of pitching in this year’s draft. There were some moments where we wanted to take position players, where we felt like if we were going to get the position player we wanted we needed to take them now. And after that we felt there was going to be a pool of pitching to choose from. We attacked that pool aggressively and when that pool was exhausted we re-evaluated where we were and went back to some position players. One of the things you’ll probably see is that rounds two through five were all college pitching. Once we got to round ten it was mainly high school pitching. That was certainly a calculated decision made before the draft.
Shannon Shark, Mets Police: I’m curious about your home life. Do you have a man cave? Is there a big screen? Five screens? How do you deal with having a wife and kids and explaining to them "I actually need to watch a baseball game right now, it’s important"?
Paul DePodesta: "I have to watch this game for work." That’s a good thing to be able to say. The reality is I’m on the road an awful lot, so when I am not home it certainly can be difficult. I want to be as present a father as I possibly can be. Both father and husband. For those of you who don’t know I have four kids. I want to be able to spend time with them, especially since I am on the road so much. But I manage to get work done here and there. I definitely take advantage of late night when everybody is asleep and try to get as much work done as I can. I wish I had a man cave, I don’t. It’s all common spaces here at the house. Maybe someday I’ll get there but not yet.
Paul DePodesta: No, I don’t think I’d put that expectation on anybody. There are certainly some guys that we like that have a chance to move up relatively quickly. Our first two picks were high school picks so they certainly wouldn’t qualify as guys we expect to help us by 2012 or 2013. The batch of college pitchers we took after that, you never know. You need to get those guys in pro ball. Often times they’ll dictate to you how quickly they ought to move. Those four guys, they all pitched quite a bit this spring. A couple of them have already signed, another one is close. The reality is none of them are going to pitch very much this summer, just because they’ve already come close to exhausting what we feel is a healthy innings total at this stage in their lives. All four of those guys are really going to get going in earnest next spring. We’ll be a year into it and be able to make a better determination of how quickly they will move. We have some guys from last year’s draft that we’ve already begun to move. Matt Harvey is already up in Double-A, Greg Peavey started the year in Lo-A but we’ve moved him up to Hi-A. Hopefully a couple of those guys out of that group of four that we selected this year will be in a similar situation next year.