Transcript Of Paul DePodesta's Conference Call With Bloggers

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.

Highlights

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.

D-3po_medium

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.

Mike Silva, NYBD: Is there one or two kids that may be able to help the big league roster in a year or year-and-a-half, similar to what we saw with Pelfrey and Joe Smith in prior drafts?

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.

Michael Donato, Optimistic Mets Fan: In the minors, is there anybody we haven't seen yet this year, besides Lucas Duda, who has been up and down,  we can expect to show up towards the stretch run or as the minor league season starts to wind down that we can expect to have some sort of real impact on the team or that Collins suggests he can use this year?

Paul DePodesta: Like you said, due to some of the injuries, you've already seen a bunch of them. Certainly Tejada, Duda, even Dillon Gee -- he wasn't supposed to be there at the beginning of the year -- and fortunately a handful of those guys have played well, and I'd include Justin Turner in that mix as well. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was playing terrific in Triple-A, and he ended up coming down with an injury that he's still working through at this point, but he was really having a terrific year. Aside from that, you've probably already seen most of the guys.

I don't know what August and September may hold; certainly it will depend on how some guys have performed between now and then and probably even more importantly, how the major league team has performed between now and then. I wouldn't say there's anybody right now that's knocking on the door that you guys haven't seen quite yet that we expect to play a significant role. I'd be surprised if there's not another guy or two that's come up and made a contribution, but in terms of us really counting on them, you've probably seen most of them already. 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.

Eric Simon, Amazin' Avenue: Drawing from your experience in Oakland, Los Angeles, and now in New York, how do you balance the need for a manager to have in-game autonomy with the desire to have certain organizational philosophies implemented on the field and in the dugout?

Paul DePodesta: 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. So like I said at the beginning, I absolutely believe the manager controls the game 100 percent while it's going on. His charge is really to best utilize the personnel, and our job, on the other hand, is to try to provide him the best and most versatile personnel possible, so he can effectively manage them through the course of the game. 

Joe DeCaro, Metsmerized: In San Diego, you said "Makeup is often what separates the championship players from the rest of the pack. Nobody on talent alone is a championship player." Expand on that a little and explain what you mean by makeup. Is it something you look for early in the predraft process, or is it something a player develops with the rest of his game over time? Also, in your opinion, how does Jose Reyes rank as far as makeup goes and being a championship-type player.

Paul DePodesta: 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. They also have a tremendous distaste for losing and also play the game with a lot of passion -- they do everything with a lot of passion. They want to be out there, they want to compete, and they want to do what it takes to win. And they're willing to make sacrifices today that they know might not pay off for them not only tomorrow but maybe not in a year, maybe not in two or three years, but eventually will pay off for them. I think that's a special kind of mindset and certainly not everybody has it. 

And there are plenty of players in the big leagues who are extremely talented and who work pretty hard and are very good and productive players, but I think what will cut off and separate guys is that will combined with that passion. And in that sense, it's absolutely something we look for in the draft. The minor leagues are a real grind, a real grind. Not a whole lot of players get through it, and it's not always just because of talent. They deal with an awful lot of failure, they deal with a lot of fatigue, they deal with a lot of selfishness on the part of other players -- everybody's goal isn't necessarily to win, it's to get to the big leagues in front of their teammates, in front of the guy that's playing next to him. It can be a difficult atmosphere, so we absolutely look for guys who can not only survive in that atmosphere but really thrive in it and do well where others might get capsized.

In terms of Jose Reyes, it's probably not my place to comment. Since I've been with the Mets, I've spent the bulk of my time on the road; I think I've been in New York for all of ten days and have only gotten to see a handful of games live, as opposed to TV, but I can tell you this: he certainly plays the game with a tremendous amount of passion, one of the keys I was talking about earlier. He loves to play, and I think he brings up the people around him, and I think that's pretty obvious, even when you're just watching on TV. That's certainly an admirable quality.

Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing: Considering how much the Mets have had to scramble to fill in for injuries, versatility seems more important than ever. Taking the long view, how do you sell versatility to a minor league player who may have it in his mind, "I'm a second baseman, I'm a left fielder"? How do you judge who has the most potential for versatility and in a general sense how hard is it or how easy is it to teach more than one position?

Paul DePodesta: 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. It makes them more attractive and more versatile for us, because they have a better chance of actually helping us at the major league level but also putting them in a position so that it's not the first time they've ever had to deal with playing different spots or experiencing different things. Take Jordany Valdespin for instance: he played primarily second base and this year he's playing almost exclusively shortstop. I think that's largely because most middle infielders, when they first get to the big leagues, they have to be able to play some shortstop. They have to be able to be a utility guy first, and it certainly gives them a lot of value to a club and gives them a much better chance of breaking with a team if they can go and play shortstop for 15 days at a time. Fortunately, Valdespin's played extremely well, and if he continues to do so may prove himself able to be an everyday shortstop. Those are things we try to explore. In Triple-A, we try to give guys days where, even if they're everyday players, we try to give them days where they're just going to pinch hit, so they understand what that's like and so they can create some sort of routine around those types of days. Because in many cases when they first get to the big leagues, that's the role they're going to be asked to play, to come off the bench in the seventh inning and face a reliever for one at-bat, usually in a spot with a guy on base or something like that. So, we're doing our best to try and expose those guys to those situations, in hopes that they'll be better prepared for them when they actually get there.

Joe Janish, Mets Today: I imagine that much of your work depends on the reports and scouting of others. Is there a universal philosophy in evaluating ballplayers and can you gives us some insight into how you choose to evaluate the evaluators?

Paul DePodesta: You're right; 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.

One of the things we did this year in our draft meetings -- both our regional meetings and even our main draft meeting -- we'd be sitting around with scouts from a handful of different areas and we'd say, "Okay we just talked about these five players, let's put them in order." And we'd go around the room and sort of take a vote. Say, "Hey, where do you have them?" And whenever somebody says "Jeez, I didn't see any of those guys," we'd say, "Well, Welcome to life as a scouting director, we didn't see them either. Make a decision. You've heard the discussion in the room, you've seen the video, you've been able to see some of the reports, what do you think?" It's certainly a big part of what we end up having to do, and you do have to rely on those other evaluators. 

In terms of those other evaluators, I think we all try to do our best to get to know each other as best as we possibly can, not only as people but as evaluators. Everybody looks at players a little differently. Some guys are high graders, some guys are really tough graders. Some guys like fastball velocity, other guys are more concerned with command. As long as you know those tendencies going in, when you're having a discussion about a player, then you're better equipped to process his response. The same goes for all of us; we all have our own biases in terms of what we tend to look for. And we actually think it's good that we have staff members that look at players a little differently, because if we all looked at them the same way, we wouldn't need everybody. But I think we have much more dynamic discussions when we have guys who see players a little differently.

Hat tip to Alex Nelson and myself for transcribing the call.


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