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Weekend Column: Ranking the Scouting Directors

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Since I’m without baseball once again today, here’s a fun look at where I rank the scouting departments, taking into consideration the fact that a few scouting directors haven’t even had a draft yet. These rankings are based on the entire drafting process, including the resources and effective use of resources of each department. Departments don’t have to be given a large amount of resources, but effectively using what you’re given should be priority number one.

Here are the rankings with their scouting director listed and small writeups on each:

1. San Francisco Giants, John Barr: I couldn’t be more impressed with what Barr and company have done in their two years in office. They’ve been given their fair share of money to spend, but they put on a show with the 15th-largest budget in the 2009 draft, getting four players that were considered first round talents at one point or another. It was an easy decision to put them at the top.
2. Baltimore Orioles, Joe Jordan: Jordan’s a little controversial to some, but he gets results. He was able to sign a high volume of talent, has a proven track record, and he also has the support of his front office. He also carries more sway in his front office than most scouting directors do, a testament to his success. This was another easy choice behind Barr.
3. Tampa Bay Rays, R.J. Harrison: The AL East is going to get much tougher than it already is, and you’ll see that in my rankings. Having two of the top three doesn’t hurt. Harrison is the quintessential example of how to draft with a plan. He knows the players that fit into the Rays’ development program, and he drafts those players. The department goofed up a little by not signing LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger, but that was a blip on the radar of their enormous success. He’d be number one without that slip-up.
4. Colorado Rockies, Bill Schmidt: Know what I said about the AL East? Add the NL West to that. Having two of the top four should make things interesting in a division that always seems to be pretty competitive. Schmidt is the longest-tenured scouting director for a reason. He’s pretty much responsible for the success the Rockies have had late in the decade. On top of that, he probably had the top draft bar none in 2009, moving him up a number of spots.
5. Detroit Tigers, David Chadd: This one’s going to surprise some people. Chadd has had a very solid run as scouting director in Detroit, and that’s largely gone under the radar. He’s added star power in Cameron Maybin, Rick Porcello, and Jacob Turner, but also added in solid contributors and trade bait in Clete Thomas, Matt Joyce, Casper Wells, Burke Badenhop, Andrew Miller, Ryan Strieby, Scott Sizemore, etc. He’s been very successful, and that’s been part of the reason why Detroit has stayed so competitive.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates, Greg Smith: The days of the cheap Pittsburgh Pirates are over. Greg Smith, formerly of Detroit, came aboard as Neal Huntington’s scouting director in 2008, and he’s run two excellent drafts thanks to large budgets and taking advantage of good situations in later rounds. The core of the next competitive Pirates team has been drafted by Smith, and people will start realizing his shrewd drafting in a few years.
7. New York Yankees, Damon Oppenheimer: Despite setbacks with Gerrit Cole and Scott Bittle in 2008, the Yankees have had very successful drafts under Oppenheimer, filling their roster and giving general manager Brian Cashman plenty of chips to trade. The weaker system right now isn’t due to Oppenheimer’s failures, as he’s drafted plenty of talent, but more due to graduations and trades.
8. Oakland Athletics, Eric Kubota: Kubota has plenty of years under his belt, and he’s been a major part of the reason that Oakland has had such good farm systems in recent years. Granted, general manager Billy Beane has restocked with trades, but Kubota’s drafts have also been very productive. They find solid talent in every crevice, and I give Kubota a lot of credit for trusting his scouts.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Hallgren: This higher ranking is due to the fact that Logan White still oversees Hallgren and company, but Hallgren himself has had very successful drafts. He’s responsible for most of the top talent in the farm system right now, despite only having three drafts under his belt. His 2009 draft was also very good considering he didn’t pick until the supplemental first round, netting an excellent pitching prospect in Aaron Miller.
10. Minnesota Twins, Deron Johnson: Johnson pretty much inherited an excellent drafting and developing system in Minnesota, and he’s done a solid job of keeping it going. They’re never going to be known for drafting flashy names, but they get talent that actually produces. Getting Kyle Gibson so late in 2009 was an absolute steal, and they always add in solid arms in later rounds. Only a lack of balance hinders a higher ranking.
11. Cincinnati Reds, Chris Buckley: I’m much more bullish on Buckley and the Reds than a lot of places, and that’s due to Buckley’s balance in his drafts. He adds big talent, but it’s balanced between high-ceiling and high-floor talent, and also between pitching and hitting. He finds hitters pretty much everywhere, and he’s found solid pitching, too. He’s run some excellent drafts, but the lack of high-impact talent keeps him from the top ten.
12. Seattle Mariners, Tim McNamara: Whoever legendary former scouting director Jack Zduriencik picks as his scouting director gets my automatic approval, though not a guaranteed top ten ranking. McNamara only has a single draft under his belt, but it included getting an excellent hitter in Dustin Ackley, along with a number of solid talents, though there was almost no pitching involved. He could be higher next year.
13. Boston Red Sox, Amiel Sawdaye: Sawdaye comes in first for the new scouting directors, mainly I believe in the group around him. He was the assistant for former scouting director Jason McLeod, and I expect more of the same when it comes to excellent drafting. However, I just can’t put him higher until I see the results of his labor this draft season, so this is a fairly generous ranking.
14. Los Angeles Angels, Tony Reagins: This is much higher than Reagins would have come in a year ago. However, it’s looking more and more like the Angels are committed to a draft and develop program that was a lacking before. They’re signing their players, adding real talent, and Reagins has been the head of the turnaround. If they revert to old ways, though, he’ll drop quickly.
15. Houston Astros, Bobby Heck: Heck has spearheaded a new way of drafting with the Astros, a team that would have been dead last in my rankings two years ago. He’s moving up this list quickly, and I like his unique system of finding live arms through private workouts. He needs to work on finding solid hitters, but with a couple more successful drafts, he could be the best drafter for arms beyond the first round.
16. Cleveland Indians, Brad Grant: I think Grant is definitely somewhere in the middle of the pack. His drafts are solid, but never excellent or bad. He gets solid first-round players, but the rest are mainly unproven or still have a ways to go. A lot of where his ranking might be a year from now is where Alex White goes from here, as well as where his 2010 draft heads.
17. Milwaukee Brewers, Bruce Seid: Seid was in a great position in his first year as scouting director last year, having three extra picks. He also was in a solid position to build on success, having moved up after being Zduriencik’s national crosschecker. His first draft was solid, but I’m in a wait-and-see pattern here, as I’d like to see what kind of draft he runs without so many extra picks.
18. San Diego Padres, Jeron Madison: Madison is also a first-time scouting director, and I also think he’ll do just fine based on his work under good scouting directors and his new front office, all Boston transplants, including former scouting director Jason McLeod. I don’t think he’ll necessarily be as successful as Sawdaye in Boston, mainly because he has to adjust to new bosses and his budget likely won’t be as large.
19. Kansas City Royals, J.J. Picollo: Picollo had a very solid first draft, but I generally don’t like it when a scouting director is also the head of player development, and that’s what Picollo is. He has good people on the scouting side, but with only a single draft under his belt, I’m reluctant to move him into the top half, as he had to spend a lot to get three good players and very low-ceiling guys after that.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks, Tom Allison: Allison had the benefit of a lot of extra picks last year, and most of the Arizona drafts in years before that were not very productive. However, I like what he did last year, making the most with a limited budget and a large number of picks. Let’s see how he does this year, as he could move up by ten spots.
21. Chicago Cubs, Tim Wilken: I know Cub fans are very loyal to Wilken, while others are very critical of him. I fall somewhere in the middle. He does a good job, but there are some holes that have been formed in their system due to a lack of balance. They haven’t gotten big production from their picks, but they haven’t picked at the top of the draft much, so we’ll see what happens. He’s experienced, and he’s not one of the worst by any means.
22. Philadelphia Phillies, Marti Wolever: Wolever looks for a particular type of player that fits into their player development mold, but I wonder if he leaves some on the table. He’s very much a risk v. reward type of director, going for risky arms and bats, hoping that some will stick. That’s worked for a few players, but they generally have a tough time getting surefire production. Anthony Hewitt is the best example of that.
23. Florida Marlins, Stan Meek: Meek’s really down here because of the Marlins’ lack of a budget for his drafting. They stick to slot more than most, and while they get good production from unlikely places, they don’t always get production from the people they should. I liked their pick at the top in 2009, Chad James, but beyond that, I just didn’t like the other names. Meek has a lot of experience, and I like his talent evaluation, but there’s more to being a scouting director than that.
24. St. Louis Cardinals, Jeff Luhnow: I’m starting to get down to teams whose draft strategy I just don’t like. Though I like Luhnow, I don’t necessarily like the way his drafts have been going. He capitalized on Shelby Miller falling to him last year, and Robert Stock looks solid so far, but his drafts have just been horrible for results, and the players he gets are either low-ceiling or high-bust rate.
25. Texas Rangers, Kip Fagg: I find it tough to put the Rangers down here, as they’re known for their farm system. However, with Fagg being in the director’s chair for the first time, and their general lack of truly hitting on picks beyond the first round lately, I’m not sure about their drafting future. Fagg could easily move up to the top 15 next year, but there’s just not the precedent for success that there is in Boston and San Diego for those first-time directors.
26. Atlanta Braves, Tony DeMacio: It pains me to do this, because I would pretty much model my scouting department after the Braves’ scouting department of the ‘90s if I was in a director’s chair. DeMacio is a first-time director as a Brave (he ran 6 drafts with Baltimore), and I don’t like the trend that 2009 showed in Roy Clark’s last draft with Atlanta. Are they going to go cheap again in 2010?
27. Washington Nationals, Kris Kline: This is another spot that is purely for the question marks. Kline is a first-time director with a lot to prove, and a lot of his ranking next year will be based on having a number one pick, even though I’m not sure he’ll be a major voice in who they pick. It will take some time to see if Kline is truly a successful scouting director, simply because most of his budget will be at the top of the draft.
28. Toronto Blue Jays, Andrew Tinnish: Another first-time director, I put Tinnish below the other first-timers, mainly because of the lack of scouting infrastructure that was in place before he was promoted. No matter what he does, the huge number of scouts that were hired will create some first-year hiccups, and we’ll see how well Tinnish takes advantage of all the extra picks.
29. Chicago White Sox, Doug Laumann: Laumann’s only down here because of his lack of resources, along with the fact that he’s already been fired from this job once by Ken Williams. He takes some risky players, though he’s had some good success, but this department will always be low to me until they get some resources. Sorry Doug.
30. New York Mets, Rudy Terrasas: I have to go with the director that was almost on the chopping block at the end of season in 2009. Terrasas is in a difficult predicament, having few resources and picking hit-or-miss players, making his job even more difficult. The few resources he’s given are sometimes wasted on players that have no future as Major League players. For that reason, he gets the last spot on the list.

All these rankings aren’t a reflection of the scouts, or even the directors, and their ability to be great judges of talent. There are great, world-class scouts and crosscheckers in every organization. This is simply a snapshot at where departments are now, and where they’re headed.