This past Monday, the White Sox announced that their Assistant Scouting Director, Nick Hostetler, had been promoted to become the Director of Amateur Scouting. Hostetler will replace Doug Laumann, as Laumann takes a role as a Senior Advisor to Scouting Operations. Hostetler, who has been a scout of many different capacities, has been with the White Sox since 2007 but got his break with the Atlanta Braves when he was in college. Nick embraces the foundation the incredibly successful Braves organization had given him as he takes on a role that is the pinnacle of the scouting career path.
Future Sox was fortunate to speak with Nick soon after his promotion, providing this exclusive in-depth interview about his new role with the club.
Brian Bilek: About a year ago, I was told about your prominence in the draft process and that you were likely to be to the successor of Doug Laumann. Is it safe to assume you took on a bigger role this past June with the 2015 draft?
Nick Hostetler: Yes, I definitely did. I took on more of a day-to-day operational role. I did our rounds from the fourth until the end. Doug [Laumann] handled the first pick and I took it from there. Of course we didn’t have our second and third picks so there were a lot of guys going from pick 8 to 112 but I definitely got my feet wet and got preparation for the future.
Brian: For basics, what does the new job title change in your day-to-day role with the club?
Nick: Well it’s more communication for sure. I am big believer in communication and communicating on a daily basis with our scouts. Really not much is going to change from a baseball role. Whether you’re a part time scout or a director, the field is your sanctuary and the goal is the same.
Brian: What overall changes in approach do you see in future drafts that might have your ‘signature’ on them? What makes your style different than not only others with the White Sox, but versus other teams in the league?
Nick: I have a lot of the Atlanta Braves scouting in me. I learned a lot from Paul Schneider and Roy Clark and I got really close with Dayton Moore of the Royals. Those roots and the foundation are there for me. I have been around a lot impressive people. In terms of me personally, we’re not going to switch and go high school, high school, high school. I am big believer in best player available. The others in the organization feel that same way. I am believer in what the analytics prove and to ignore them would be doing a disservice to the organization. Instead, I think we should incorporate them more and more with what our eyes see. We can only move to be better and get ahead of the curve instead of being on the curve. I am going to use everything possible and look for advantages to get a more productive staff.
Brian: Sometimes, a team can be productive by simply finding the “diamonds in the rough.” With so many college programs that could have viable talent and so many high schools outside of your typical hot beds, how do you cast your net of scouts to find talent that isn’t already well followed? Without getting into the proprietary stuff, do you have a plan in place geared towards overlooked draft prospects?
Nick: I think we have a great mix of scouts here. We have guys who have been here for a year or two and we have guys who have been here for thirty years. Our young guys bring ideas and our veteran guys are going to tutor those younger guys. Towards approaching the country, I think we have the structure in place. As far as casting the net of scouts, I love the staff and there might be a few changes that I’ll make but we’re in a good place right now. We just want the rope going in the right direction.
Brian: You’ve been very straightforward with your predilection for high school players. Is that philosophy founded in finding the highest ceiling players or more towards your experience in that realm of scouting?
Nick: Well, the things you learn in your first years are very important. To argue with Atlanta Braves model, theirs scouts and their success in the ‘90s is tough. You have to keep all options open as the game changes and I think there is a juggle that you’re going to have to do but we’re never going to sacrifice a feeling on a guy. It’s not targeting a high school or a college guy specifically, but it’s having a feeling on a guy and trusting your scouts.
Brian: The system has performed better in recent years at producing pitchers than hitters, and maybe a lot of that is a result of using the higher picks on arms. But what might you be looking for going forward in the draft that you think can put more potentially productive hitters into the system via the draft?
Nick: Well Brian, I am glad you made that point because it’s a good one. Your big, middle-of-the-order hitters come in the top of the draft. We haven’t used those picks on bats recently. Rodon, Fulmer and those guys were the best players available. I definitely think that Tim Anderson was too. So yes, I would love to have more bats but I am not going to pass on a pitcher that could affect us more. Hitters are tough to project. You have guys you just fall in love with and if he does something particular you know he can be special. I think our approach with using analytics towards, and it sounds elementary when I say it, but you have to put the bat on the ball. It’s a risk-reward thing but I want more contact guys in our system.
Brian: With the current collective bargaining agreement that started in 2012, the allocation of funds in the draft process have almost superseded taking the “best player available” in some cases, to open the door for a lot financial maneuvering to get the best group of draftees. In what way has the slot system changed the job of a scouting director? Does it give the GM and more financially driven executives move involvement?
Nick: It does give them more involvement. There are good things and bad things in this Collective Bargaining Agreement but this gets those guys involved. I think Rick Hahn is one of the smartest minds in baseball, Kenny Williams built a World Series team and Buddy Bell has more gold gloves than I have gloves. I want as many opinions as possible and that’s what this Collective Bargaining Agreement does. You use all of your resources and I believe we’re going to be in a better place if we do that. We’re really striving towards being ahead of the curve as opposed to on the curve.
Brian: Being so involved in this past draft, you guys obviously got Fulmer but losing the second and third picks lost you some of your bigger name draft picks. Who are some players that may have been overlooked by fans from this last draft that you guys feel were a great value to you?
Nick: Well, if you don’t like your draft at the end of the process you messed up. You usually find out it went bad a year or so later. We were happy. We think we got a lot of good guys this time around. Corey Zangari is a guy who has been great for us so far. He came on a little slow and since then he’s been cutting down the strikeouts, hitting the ball hard, walking more. Our cross-checker Mike Shirley loved this kid and he was hammering him home so we’d spend the big money on him. Zack Erwin is just throwing strikes too. He really deserved his recent promotion. Daniel Mendick has been brought up multiple times to me and his defense is just stellar at shortstop. Jackson Glines is coming along but he got a late start to finish school at Michigan. He had more than three weeks off of baseball but he’s a great senior draftee. His walks-to-strikeouts is big. The way he moves in center, Brian, I am telling you, he catches balls he shouldn’t, just incredible instincts on this kid.
Brian: What is your involvement in player development with your draftees after the draft? Do you give way to Nick Capra, Buddy Bell and the player development team and immediately move towards the next draft or do you take up a role in the draftees’ progression through the system?
Nick: We’re definitely involved. Buddy and Capra and everyone on the development side want our input. They would ask about our individual players and where they should be assigned, they would call scouts for their opinions. They’ll ask about certain things and what we saw with that player. What’s important, and what we did in Atlanta, is working hand-in-hand with our player development team.
Brian: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you play college ball?
Nick: Well, I was born and raised in NE Ohio played my freshman year at Youngstown St. before I stopped because of injuries. I got into scouting right after that. I was a bird dog. I worked for free and I made $5,000 for my first summer’s work. The difference was that I have been blessed with the great mentors I had. Being around Paul Schneider, Dayton Moore and Roy Clark and Doug (Laumann)… I was blessed. Doug has given me full reigns and without guys like that I wouldn’t have this opportunity.
Brian: Well considering you didn’t play professionally and you don’t have an Ivy League education, it was probably tough for you to get into baseball. How did you get your break?
Nick: That’s true. Jim Martz was a scout with the Braves and he took a liking to me and put me in front of some very impressive guys. The Braves had a great group there. Dayton Moore and JJ Picollo, who is Dayton’s guy in Kansas City, really impressive people. Young guys who want to get into scouting often ask me how to do it and I just tell them you should just get around guys doing it and just start listening and paying attention.
Brian: I’ll let you go here but I found it interesting you’re active on social media. You’re on Twitter, you have an impressive LinkedIn page… Most high-ranking officials in a baseball organization operate under what is basically anonymity. Is this just a product of your youthfulness or something you plan to continue?
Nick: I think there’s value in social media, but I don’t like the situations that come with it but again, if you handle it responsibly it’s great. For scouts it’s great. Colleges put their rotation on Twitter and their changes to it. It’s used in the draft process too. I’ll look at guys we’re considering taking and check over all of that. I want to know what I am getting. Kenny and Rick have instilled in me that you have to know what you’re putting your name on. I want to see what guys are saying. How they talk to their friends, how they handle criticism, etc. If Baseball America criticizes a guy I don’t want him asking about why his ranking isn’t higher. That shows he can’t handle adversity.
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