The White Sox were kind enough to invite us to a conference call alongside other bloggers with Director of Amateur Scouting Doug Laumann. Laumann has overseen each draft since 2008. His first round picks so far are Gordon Beckham, Jared Mitchell and Chris Sale. Already two Major Leaguers and Mitchell's biggest problem is a fluke injury. Not too shabby. Most of the questions revolved around draft strategy and the inner workings of scouting and evaluation, but there were a few player specific comments. Many of Laumann’s responses are paraphrased due to recording equipment failure on my end.
On picking high upside guys with contact issues like Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker
“I think there is a tradeoff. Typically where we have picked in the past and especially here in the last couple years further down the line, I know with Jared we were picking in the low 20s and this year we were picking in the 40s, to find the one player with the athleticism and the total package, (typically they won’t fall that far in the draft).”
You evaluate athleticism. The idea is that with the lack of baseball that some of them have played particular instruction and repetition will help them catch up to that level. You draft tools and hopefully it all comes together. Laumann mentioned Jared Mitchell had made a lot of progress before his injury.
“As scouts the only thing we can look at is tools. It’s hard to predict the consistency.”
Was there a California theme in this year’s draft?
“I think it just might be a coincidence.”
There are a lot of factors that go into that, including weather. It was a bad spring in the East and Midwest.
Random quote that I laughed at
“Each year it seems there’s less and less that happens on the first day (of the draft).”
Taking the best player available and signability
Ideally you always get the best player available, but there’s a point you have to temper that. The team puts a value on a player and sometimes that player wants that plus two million, for example. Signability has to match up with where the Sox value them as a player and if it doesn’t, typically the Sox won’t select that player.
Walker was a little over slot, but they valued him as a player. Laumann mentioned Brandon Parrent (30th round) as a lower pick that wanted more money, but the Sox gave it to him because they valued him as better than a 30th round pick. He also mentioned recently signed Jeff Soptic (3rd round) in a similar manner. (Soptic signed for 40K over slot)
The Sox are obviously happy to have the first seven rounds signed, but it doesn't sound as good for eighth round pick Ian Gardeck and tenth rounder Ben O'Shea. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to make a whole lot of progress with them.”
Matching player with value was a theme because as Laumann said they’re “Not drafting in a vacuum.”
“Maybe someday they’ll get the system fixed where you can get the player and not have to worry about (other things like signability).”
Pitchers and catchers
Always love pitching prospects. Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams would be “tickled” if the Sox took pitchers in the first ten rounds.
“Catching is hard to find. You can never have enough catching prospects.”
Laumann mentioned having four prospects in the full season affiliates (Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley, Mike Blanke, Miguel Gonzalez) and trying to have a legitimate catching prospect for each of the six affiliates. Laumann said he wouldn’t call it overdrafting the position, but it certainly sounded like a high priority.
On exclusively taking college players early in the draft this year
I didn’t quite get the type of explanation I was hoping for (maybe my question wasn't clear), but Laumann said that with the money they’re paying players they have to be really sure of the players they take. He did, however, mention that he has to see a potential first round pick himself because he is most confident in his own scouting and “This is pretty much my job on the line.”
Pitchers that leave and do poorly like in the Jake Peavy trade
He didn’t want to imply the Sox have harder working or better people, but sometimes it’s that they noticed something in a pitcher’s delivery or makeup that allowed them to get through to that player better. Who the players are around and the opportunities they’re given largely determine their level of success.
He compared Dexter Carter to Gary Majewski, saying the Sox are starting to see signs of getting Carter back to where he was before the Peavy trade. (Majewski did well with the Sox before being traded to the Dodgers in 2001 and bombed with the Dodgers that year, similar to Carter with the Padres. He came back to the Sox and they got him back to where he was with them and went on to pitch for a few years in the Majors.)
On drafting players with weaknesses that the organization is good at correcting
“We try to work hand in hand with our player development.”
You can’t have a disconnect between amateur scouting and player development so scouts will ask questions regarding players with player development that go something like this: Is it something that you can fix? Is it something you can make better? Is it something you can make him more consistent with? How easy is it to fix?
If a scout notices a guy is over striding, for example, they can see if they can fix that and make him a better pitcher.
Laumann brought up Daniel Hudson as an example of ‘fixing’ a guy. He didn’t have a lot of success in college, but the Sox recognized some things in his delivery and once he got with the Sox pitching people he made the necessary adjustments and it worked out. Obviously it doesn’t always work that well, but that’s the idea.
On a similar note, Laumann brought up the organization’s philosophy of drafting power arms as much as possible. They always want to draft power arms, but they have to determine if a hard thrower is simply throwing just to light up a radar gun or if he can maintain that velocity once he learns to actually pitch, command his pitches and if they can teach secondary pitches if he doesn’t already have them.
The situation in Latin America
“We’re getting close.”
“Kenny has made an investment personnel wise in Venezuela and in the Dominican to get some former players that we have on the ground in those areas. We think it’s very important to have people that have an investment in the White Sox so we know they’re doing the right thing and understand the system over there.”
As a result, they have a lot of younger guys with less scouting experience. They’re trying to integrate current scouts with them to teach which players the Sox are looking for.
Laumann has been to the Dominican the last couple years and will go again this summer, but admitted they haven’t made much of a splash yet. Unfortunately, the way the system is set up right now makes it hard to be competitive with the bigger market teams that are willing to spend more money than the Sox are. The Sox had interest in several players, but they didn’t value these players as highly as the offers they received from other teams.
On a possible international draft
Laumann said ideas are being thrown around and he’s been surveyed about it, but the commissioner’s office isn’t sure yet. A combined fully international draft is a possibility as well as a separate international only draft later in the summer than the current June draft. He is in favor of having something in place to leave the playing field balanced. Laumann said players are being signed at an alarming rate.
Agents will often only show top foreign prospects to the teams that are known to pay the big numbers. Sometimes you won’t see a player because another team promised two-three million and knows you won’t pay that.
FutureSox would like to thank Doug for taking the time to talk to all of us and White Sox Manager of Public Relations Marty Maloney for setting this up. Also, check out the other sites present at the conference call: South Side Sox (Jim Margalus), Gaper's Block (Jenny Zelle), The Sports Bank (Paul Banks) and South Side Hit Girl (Cheryl Norman). If I forgot anyone, please let me know and I'll add you.