Tonight, Vice President of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta held a conference call with Mets bloggers.
Below is a recap of the questions and responses:
Michael Baron, MetsBlog.com: When evaluating amateur talent, from both a pitching and a hitting standpoint, what are some of the keys you’re looking for and what seems to catch your eye when watching players?
Paul DePodesta: At the top of the draft, we get a little greedy. We want everything. For pitchers, we look at command, power and secondary stuff. On the hitting side, we look for power and patience at the plate, plus solid defense. In the absence of those things, which even happens in the first round, you have to start balancing what you think is important. As you move through the draft you ask ‘is there a guy with a plus breaking ball? Above average command?’ Those types of things we look for and how it changes through the three days.
Kerel Cooper, On the Black: Do you plan on watching the movie ‘Moneyball’, and what do you think of Jonah Hill playing a fictionalized character of him in the movie?
Paul DePodesta: I knew sooner or later I’d have to answer this question. At some point I’ll see it. It’s a little surreal & it’s a little awkward and hopefully it will be fun and enjoyable. When I spoke to Jonah Hill I reminded him just to a lot of fun with the role because that’s how I remembered my time in Oakland.
Matthew Artus, Amazin’ Avenue: Before the season, you said the second base job will be a competition until someone takes it themselves. What have you seen at second base at the big league level as well as within in the organization?
Paul DePodesta: These are the probe you hope for in the organization – guys are comfortable and playing well, and that’s the situation with Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy. As we’ve all learned as you go through the 162 game season, you need an awful lot of players. One example is last year is last year, Atlanta’s non-starters were outstanding. Hopefully we’re in that position once we get healthy.
Caryn Rose, Metsgrrl: As an early adopter of social media, when you started blogging did you have any theories about it?
Paul DePodesta: I certainly wasn’t skilled at it, nor am I still. The thing that struck me was the idea you could have a one-on-one with our fans, our stakeholders and that was pretty powerful. This forum allows for us to be interactive and a much more personal conversation. When I first started, Some of the dialogue Ive been able to have with the fans is meaningful for me, and hopefully for them.
Steve Keane, Kranepool Society: Looking at the recent draft, it was nearly even in drafting in pitchers and position players, and it seemed there were clusters that went specifically at pitching? Was that planned? Was it your target in the middle to late part of the draft?
Paul DePodesta: In the early part of the draft, it wasn’t our plan – it’s just how these things roll. As far as clustering the picks are concerned, that certainly was planned. We felt there was an unusual depth in this year’s draft where we felt that later there would be a pool of pitching to choose from.One of the things you’ll see is rounds two through five was all college pitching, but the later rounds we drafted high school pitching. It was definitely calculated.
Shannon Shark, MetsPolice: Your home life – is there a man cave? A big screen? How do you deal with your family and having to say “I have to watch this game?”
Paul DePodesta: The reality is Im on the road a lot and when I am home, I want to be a good father and husband. I have four kids and I want to be able to spend time with them. I manage to get work done here and there and I definitely take advantage of late night when everyone is asleep. I wish I had a man cave – I don’t. Maybe someday.
Mike Silva, NYBD: Following up on the amateur draft question, do you think there are one or two kids who can help the big league roster in a year or year and a half?
Paul DePodesta: I don’t think Id put that expectation on anyone. There are a couple of kids who we think can be good in the shorter term. In the batch of college pitchers we took, you never know – you have to see how they do in professional ball. None of them are going to pitch very much this summer as they’ve come close to what we consider a healthy innings total at this point in their lives. We will be able to make a better determination next Spring on their ability to impact the club.
Michael Donato, Optimistic Met Fan: Regarding the minor leagues, is there anyone we haven’t seen yet who we can expect to see towards the stretch run who can make an impact on the big league roster?
Paul DePodesta: Due to the injuries, you’ve already seen a bunch of them. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was playing well in triple-A, but he came down with an injury. He was really having a terrific year. Aside from that, you’ve already seen most of those guys. I don’t know what August and September will hold – it will depend on how they perform and how the big league team performed. Right now, there isn’t anyone else knocking on the door who can make a significant impact. Maybe one other one who hasn’t been up yet, because he isn’t on the 40 man roster was Chris Schwinden - he’s at Triple-A and has pitched really well there.
Eric Simon, Amazin’ Avenue: Drawing from your experience in Oakland, LA and now New York how do you balance in-game autonomy for the manager?
Paul DePodesta: Its important the manager has complete autonomy once the game starts. The reality is that in-game strategy is dictated by personnel. For example, If we have a lot of guys who can run, the manager will run them more. I absolutely believe the manager controls the game 100% while its going on. His charge is to best utilize the personnel and our job is to provide him the best and most versatile personnel as possible so he can effectively manage them through the course of the game.
Joe Decaro, Mets Merized Online: What do you mean by ‘makeup’ in a player? Is it something you see int he draft, or is it developed over time? What about Jose Reyes and his makeup? Is he a championship player?
Paul DePodesta: For me, makeup can mean an a lot of different things: work ethic, character, selflessness. There are a lot of things we look for in a player’s makeup. Work ethic and ability is what makes them great as well as a tremendous distaste for losing. They want to be out there competing and doing what it takes to win. It’s a special kind of mindset and a lot of people don’t have that. There are plenty of productive players out there, but what separates guys is their will and passion. Its definitely something we look for in the draft. The minor leagues is a real grind and not a lot of players get through it. They deal with a lot of failure, fatigue and selfishness. A lot of people’s goals are not to win, but to get to the big leagues – it can be a difficult atmosphere. We look for people who can not just survive, but thrive in that environment.
Regarding Reyes, it’s not my place to comment. Ive been in NY all of ten days and haven’t seen much of him. I can say he plays with a tremendous amount of passion, which is a key. He brings up the players around them. Its obvious even when you watch him on TV.
Greg Prince, FFiF: Given how much the Mets have had to scramble as a result of injury, versatility has been important. How can you judge who can be versatile, and how easy is it to teach someone to play more than one position?
Paul DePodesta: Most players, when they first get to the big leagues are in a role they are largely unaccustomed to. Maybe they are a utility player, long reliever. What we try to do is prepare guys for that. That puts them in a better position to help at the major league level. For example, Jordanny Valdespin – he has been a second baseman, but he has played most of this season as a shortstop. This example provides a lot of value to the club. Valdespin has played well there, and he could prove to be an everyday shortstop.
Joe Janish, Mets Today: Much of your work must depend on the scouting of others. Is there a universal philosophy on evaluating ballplayers, and can you give some insight on evaluating the evaluators?
Paul DePodesta: You’re right – I can’t go out and see every player. None of us can. A lot of what we do is read reports and ask questions and then try to make the best decision we can. Same goes for Sandy – he needs to be able to ask the right questions of the evaluators and make decisions based on that at times. We try to get to know each others as evaluators – some people grade talent different. As long as you know their tendencies when heading into a discussion, you’re better equipped to process the response. We all have our own biases in what we tend to look for. If we all looked at this in the same way, we wouldn’t need anybody.