Exclusive Interview: Director of International Scouting Marco Paddy

As our readers know, we put an emphasis on interviews here at FutureSox. Our latest interviewee, Marco Paddy, is a prominent part of baseball operations with the White Sox and this is his first time speaking with any outlet at length. Paddy joined the organization in November 2011 and now is the team’s Director of International Scouting in Latin America. Marco was kind enough to give me a call prior to heading back to the Dominican Republic to scout the Dominican Prospect League.

Marco Paddy and Rick Hahn with some of the 2014 international draft class. Photo credit to El Nacional

Marco Paddy and Rick Hahn with some of the 2014 international draft class. Photo credit to El Nacional

Brian Bilek: Before the Sox brought you to the organization, they were very bearish on the international market in Latin America. Obviously their scandal had a lot to do with that. What do you think changed from their point of view and where did you factor into it?

Marco Paddy: That’s a good question and I don’t really know what changed from their point of view but what I do know is that when I had the opportunity to join Kenny and Rick and come to Chicago they were very excited to have me come over and help them internationally. I think the most important thing for them was to have someone that they felt had the background and experience while having a history without issues. In Toronto, I was really able to help them build their system up. I think that was the biggest factor. When I met with those guys the first time it was a couple days before Thanksgiving, everything gelled, and all of a sudden it’s been five years.

Brian: Shortly after you joined the organization Rick Hahn was promoted to General Manager and he had mentioned a few times that they wanted to model their homegrown talent development like the Atlanta Braves. You of course were promoted to the principal position in the international game and Nick Hostetler, who also had experience with the Braves, was promoted to head up the domestic draft. What do you think the Braves did so well that the Sox have made a point of trying to emulate?

Marco: I spent 13 years with Atlanta. The one thing we did was we spent a lot of time working with younger players…a lot of high school players in the states. I can say that because I started scouting in the states before the international ranks. I scouted in Georgia and Florida and we signed a lot of high school kids and internationally, we obviously signed a lot of young guys. We had a system where we had plenty of young players and we were very patient with their development.

We had a team in the Dominican, a team in the Gulf Coast, a team in the Appalachian league and we still had to add a team in Eugene, Oregon just to accommodate these players to help them transition at the lower levels. That paid dividends for us. I would think when Rick talks about that, that’s something we’re working towards now. I know on my end we are signing a lot of players from a lot of countries: Mexico, Dominican, Venezuela…we’re all over. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Brian: When I spoke to Rick in January and I asked him if there there were any inklings or thoughts that you guys could potentially go past your pool into that penalty threshold but instead, he really harked on building up the system and bringing in a greater number of talents. Would you say that quantity was a point of emphasis for you these past few years?

Marco: I don’t want to say quantity only; I would say quantity of quality players. There are some players that are more advanced than others and you can put all your eggs in that basket but at the end of the day, scouting is no perfect science. Whether it’s in the draft or internationally, you really don’t want to put all your efforts into one player unless you have the ability to blow a budget and spend 25 million dollars.

We don’t think that’s the best way to go. There are very few players in that upper tier but there are quite a few players in that second tier who can be developed into what you’re looking for. I mean, when you’re talking about 15 and 16 year old kids, it’s so hard to determine exactly how their career is going to evolve. I think it makes perfect sense for us to operate the way we do. You can spend a million dollars on a horse but if he doesn’t win that race you only have the one horse.

Brian: Definitely. And expanding on the financials, that brings up the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that’s expiring.  How much insight do you have on any potential changes and how do you go about dealing with the CBA?

Marco: You know I haven’t really focused much on how they’re going to do it, I think I am more focused on being prepared to adjust once they make a decision. Trust me when I say, “I have no idea what they’re going to do.” The one thing we do know is who the good players are. We’re going to be diligent in getting to know these kids, getting to know their families and whatever process they determine we’ll be ready either way.

Brian: Talking about meeting the kids’ families, you’ve picked up almost a handful of guys who have family roots in the MLB. What does that pedigree mean to you when you’re looking at a 16 or 17-year-old?

Marco: We can only hope the ability is close. In the case of Fernando Tatis, I scouted his dad when he was 18-years-old in the South Atlantic League too. Really I think it’s really important that they understand the commitment, the dedication and what it takes to be a player. After that, you hope that the ability is somewhere around the level the bloodlines have.

We have [Josue] Guerrero too. I remember scouting Vladamir when he was 19 in the SAL League. Then I see him in the All Star Game in 1995. Josue Guerrero is his nephew and his dad plays so not only does he have the ability, he understands the commitment, he understands what it takes and once we shut it down [for the offseason] he knows what to do to maintain himself and be better when he gets back into action.

It’s big for me and it’s big for the organization. The bloodlines bring the abilities and they understand the process.

Brian: And Josue’s cousin certainly seems like quite a prospect as well. In any case, when you’re taking on any teenager there’s plenty of risk involved whether it is a bat or an arm. There are obviously more bats out there in Latin America, but you haven’t spent much on the pitching. Is that a product of the market or is that something you believe philosophically?

Marco: Actually, pitching internationally is the most fun but it’s so much tougher. The development of a pitcher has so many more things that can happen. We try to concentrate ourselves in position players. Obviously, if the right pitcher is there we’ll take him but I actually have a big smile on my face because we’re looking at a guy for next year that I think has a chance to be an excellent pitcher. However, they don’t come around that often and you really want to make sure it’s the right guy. There’s so much you have to go through and so many things that have to happen for it to happen. So yeah, we focus on the position players when you’re talking about players who sign for a million dollars or a half million dollars. Typically we want to spend that on a position player but again, if the right guy comes around, there is no doubt we will be on him.

Brian: When you say we, just how big is your scouting team out there?

Marco: I have scouts in each country. Fortunately, now I have the help of Doug Laumann who’s coming over to scout and do some work for us in the Dominican. I value Dougy’s opinion. I’ve known Doug since before I joined the White Sox and he has a track record of success so I use him as much as I can. He’s a great help in training scouts and evaluating players. He spent a lot of time with me this summer and he’ll be meeting me in the Dominican this week.

But that’s pretty much it, we have scouts in the Dominican, we have scouts in Venezuela and we have scouts in Mexico and Doug helps me figure out the bigger guys and the guys we’re going to spend money on. Kenny will definitely come around. I know Rick saw Adolfo before we signed him. But for the most part, we start the process early and we see the players early. So we’ll tell Rick and Kenny, “We got history on this guy, we’ve know him for a long time and we feel he’s a special guy.” Then they’ll usually give the blessing.

We are really proud of the way we managed our money this year. Not that we didn’t in previous years, but this year we ended up getting like nine guys for 2.9 million dollars and those are high caliber players. We just have to project the right way.

Brian: On the other hand, the year you signed Adolfo I believe you only signed four guys who had notable bonuses. So it seems like you think there’s a lot more value in the quantity this year?

Marco: As teams blow their budget, there’s less competition for a player. Last year, I want to say, there were fourteen teams that were out. This year there’s only going to be thirteen teams competing for players. That gives us a lot of flexibility because we’re not competing with 29 other clubs. We’re competing with thirteen other clubs or so. That will drop the money down because they can only offer $300,000 so if you offer $350,000, you’re ahead in the game. If everyone was in play, that player who we’re getting for $350,000, would probably end up getting four, five or six hundred thousand dollars.

Brian: So you seem to think there’s a lot of value in staying under your pool at the point when a lot of the other teams are in the penalty threshold because it makes depressed market?

Marco: Absolutely. It’s not a criticism against the other clubs who are going over the budget, but once a club is out for two years we have a huge advantage. We get to pick a guy every year. When I say a guy, I mean a guy that’s going to cost a half-a-million dollars or so, we have a chance to compete for that player. For instance, Kansas City is a club that wasn’t considered a high spender and they went over last year so they’re out. In the meantime we can get a guy, or three, or four or nine like we did this year.

What’s tough is for the most part, the clubs who are going over are going over with Cuban players like [Adrian] Morejon got 11 million dollars. In our case, we just kind of stayed in our lane. It’s a lot of fun to be honest with you, because you know the team’s that went over and could only spend $300,000 and you could offer $350,000 and $325,000 and get the guy when that player would normally get more than that. It’s a lot of fun.

Don’t get me wrong, people view the high spenders as the ones who are doing a better job but I can tell you right now, when our players start working through the system, you’re going to find out that these guys are just as good as the guys that other teams paid an excess amount of money for.

Brian: Then just to close out before I let you go, at Future Sox, part of what we do is evaluating the progress of the development both domestically and internationally. You’ve been with the club for five years now but the first guys you signed are just hitting A-ball. We really don’t have enough of a sample to evaluate your work yet. If you were Kenny Williams, how would you evaluate the new system and pipeline in Latin America at this early point?

Marco: That’s tough, it takes a lot of time. I mean, I’ve been a scout since I was 19-years-old and I worked as an area scout and internationally and it takes a lot time either way. It’s not like up in Chicago where you pick up Sale and Rodon and they show up right away. Yelmison Peralta is the first guy I signed with the White Sox and he just got to Winston-Salem this year.

What I’ve learned when you’re building a system is you’re not going out there to outbid anyone. We are building the system up. We’ll tell Kenny and Rick that we think this guy can play in the major leagues. Maybe it’s with us, maybe it’s not. We saw that with Tatis. These guys are equity. I don’t mean to sound insensitive but they’re part of a process.

Brian: Kind of like the Dave Dombrowski way of thinking, draft and sign all the power prospects you can and when you trade them for Miguel Cabrera in his prime, you can worry about the minor leagues later.

Marco: Absolutely. Our job is to bring in quality players and when Rick and Kenny need to acquire a player, they can use some of the guys we got. It’s not going to happen all the time though, but it’s a part of the process. I’ll tell you what though, a year or two from now, you’ll really see what we’re capable of.

Past all that, character is huge to me. When I came to Chicago, Kenny, Rick and Jerry Reinsdorf really showed me the character in Chicago. That’s important to me.

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