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The Draft Roundtable, II
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
05/12/2004 11:54 AM ET
The Draft Roundtable, II
Gayton, Mirabelli conclude draft talk
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Padres Scouting Director Bill Gayton said teams have to work with the cards they're dealt in each draft class. (courtesy Padres)

What exactly does the 2004 draft class look like? What do scouting directors do in the final weeks leading up to the draft to ensure they make the right selections on June 7 and 8?

In Part II of MLB.com Radio's Draft Roundtable, hosted by Jonathan Mayo, Padres Scouting Director Bill "Chief" Gayton and Indians Assistant General Manager John Mirabelli discuss the trend of drafting more college players and how that may play into the strengths of this year's draft class.

Listen to the Draft Roundtable on MLB.com Radio

MLB.com Radio: We've got an email from Gary in Texas. 'Gentlemen: How does a team know with a high percentage of accuracy before the draft that a high school player will sign with their team rather than go to college?' John, lets start with you. Is there a way?

Mirabelli: There are very few players, certainly very few premium draft picks who aren't represented by some sort of agency. You're going to have direct communication with those guys, obviously. I think the most important thing, though, is for your area scouts to have already built and established a relationship with the family, particularly with the high school kid. Your area scout has to get in a comfort zone in a relationship where there's going to be direct and very forthright answers to the questions we're asking. You put that together with the information you're getting from his advisor. To make that high probability decision, I've got to have something firm and concrete before we select a guy. If we don't like the answers, if we can't get the right answers, then we'll go to someone that gives us a direct answer.

MLB.com Radio: Chief, you said more than likely, you're top pick is going to be a college guy. You guys were very college heavy last year. Is that why a lot more teams are going towards that college-focused drafting philosophy? And over the last couple of years with the success certain teams have had and all the attention it's gotten, have you seen a perceivable shift in the way things are done, not just by you, but with your colleagues around the scouting industry?

Gayton: There's definitely a new trend, but we have a long-term plan. Short term, we wanted to get a little older. We wanted some of the kids to move through our system and kind of knock on the door. We've kind of addressed where we were when I arrived over here in San Diego. We're kind of positioned, we were ahead of the trend somewhat, and we went real aggressive with some bats. It's so difficult to develop a postion player. We're at a point now where we're going to open it up a bit more. We will go with some high school kids if we have the proper information. We rely solely on our area scouts. They're extremely important in the process, so if they've established the relationships, can give us the answers that we need, it certainly makes it easier to select a high school kid. I know there's a new trend, but I don't think that personally you can rely on statistics like you can with Major League players and minor league players. There are too many ifs involved. There are guys we see who have big numbers, but there's not a chance in the world they're going to go out and have success once they put wood bats in their hands. You have to definitely evaluate first, and then use the statistics as a tool, and maybe as a guide to potentially separate a player.

MLB.com Radio: John, I know in Cleveland, you guys have done statistical analysis for a while, and this sort of ties into an email we have from Jim in Oklahoma City, regarding the risk-reward about high school vs. college guys. What has been the reaction of scouts to this theory of drafting college players only, who have more proven stats, or so the theory goes?

Mirabelli: A couple of things. We've never used statistical analysis any more than what Chief just mentioned, as far as the amateur scouting is concerned. We use it as a minor tool to separate some players here and there, but from the amateur scouting perspective, my perspective, there are not any common denominators that I can see beneficial in using statistics. This college trend that's going on, I think it's kind of gotten blown out of proportion. Teams have been drafting college players for a long time. Way more college players than high school players. I just think recently, that it's a confluence of circumstances where certain organizations in their timelines are looking for...they're going toward college players. I think it's going to change and balance out here in the not-too-distant future. The media has almost portrayed this as some kind of holy war of college teams vs. the non-college teams, or the scouts vs. the stat teams. I just think these processes have been going on in the scouting industry for a long time. And that is, there's many different ways to skin a cat. It's getting a lot more attention now, but I really don't think it's changed all that much in the past 50 years, to be honest with you. I think the scouting process, there's a trend there certainly, but I think it's all going to balance out in the end.

MLB.com Radio: I guess a lot depends on what the draft class looks like. In the final minutes of this roundtable, what can you tell me about this draft class in general? From what I've been hearing, it seems like it's pretty college heavy, just in terms of where the talent is, especially college-pitching heavy. Will that skew things even more, where people who don't necessarily realize that will look at it and [say], 'Look, everybody's going college.'?

Gayton: We have to play with the cards we're dealt. Those cards, and the investment, are dictated by the strengths of each individual draft. This year, it is college heavy, college pitching heavy. There are very few position players in college and/or high school. You're going to see some clubs try to grab the position players because there are so few of them. You win with good pitching, but at the same time, if you don't have position players in your organization, you really feel the impact at some point. You have to really be careful if you slice half the talent pool you're selecting from by eliminating high school players. We didn't draft a high school player until the 26th round, I think, last year. We're aware and we want to open that up again. We should get to the point where we can select a good high school kid. What we're ultimately trying to do is minimize the mistakes that we make. I think you are going to see a lot of the college arms going off the board early.

MLB.com Radio: John, I'll give you the final word. Anything you want to add to this year's assessment of this year's draft class?

Mirabelli: The selections are going to be based on the function of what the strength of the draft is, not based on a trend toward college players. When I read these draft reviews and what people should take in the draft, they never quantify it by saying you can only select from the pool of talent in that given year, whether you should take a high school righty or this kind of college guy. This is the pool of talent we have in the year 2004, and it is strong on college pitching. I think it's deep. I'm not sure how many impact, top-end guys there really are in this draft. I think there are a lot of good pitchers, both high school and college, a lot of good arms, a lot of Major League arms. I'm just not sure it's really rich at the very top end of the draft.

MLB.com Radio: Thank you very, very much. I want to ttell you how much I appreciate you taking time out of your crazy schedules, driving to exotic and not so exotic locales, I'm sure. Good luck the rest of the way.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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