05/14/2004 10:00 AM ET
Dodgers GM DePodesta talks draft
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The book Moneyball put Paul DePodesta on the baseball map and, in the minds of some, in the general manager's office of the Dodgers.
|Paul DePodesta was hired as the Dodgers' GM in early 2004. (Ric Francis/AP)
It also neatly pinned a handful of labels on DePodesta, and none is more persistent than the one regarding his draft philosophy. Any draftnik worth his weight in Baseball Americas knows DePodesta's take on the draft is diametrically opposed to the philosophy embraced by the amateur scouting director that DePodesta inherited, Logan White.
It has been written that DePodesta wants to draft college players, as the Oakland A's did religiously while he was their assistant general manager. Meanwhile, in two drafts, White has developed a reputation for successfully targeting high school players, like James Loney and Greg Miller, who quickly turn into prospects.
Draftniks convinced that DePodesta and White cannot coexist will be surprised to hear DePodesta's take.
MLB.com: You know what the baseball world thinks -- that the draft room isn't big enough for both you and Logan White. Can it work?
DePodesta: It's hard to encompass that in a sentence, but I'll say this: Logan and his staff have done a terrific job the last couple years. When you look around Major League Baseball, it would be foolish to come in and say we're doing something completely different. I want to build on it and make it even better, despite the fact that it's been at a very high level. His strategy has been a lot of high school players at the top, mixed in with a handful of college players. A blending of the two is probably realistic. You look at the elite players in the game today, it's a blend of both. The funny thing is, I don't feel our philosophies are as disparate as people make them out to be. We both believe the talent pool dictates which way you go. We have a lot more similarities than differences.
MLB.com: OK, then why were those Oakland drafts primarily filled with college players while recent Dodger drafts have been loaded with high school players?
DePodesta: In Oakland, it was borne out of necessity. With the limited resources, we couldn't take the risk. We couldn't sign Major League free agents to fill holes. We needed quantity. Oakland was not averse to taking high school players. We had a handful in our sights that were taken ahead of our time to pick. The reputation is largely based on circumstantial evidence. No one draft philosophy makes sense for everybody. The Braves draft high school players and they've won their division 12 years in a row. Oakland has taken college players four years in a row. There's not any one strategy that cures all problems. You have to look at each organization individually for what makes the most sense.
MLB.com: Signability obviously was a factor for Oakland. With the Dodgers under new ownership, what role will signability have for you?
DePodesta: It's a factor for just about every club. We're going to spend significant dollars in signing bonuses. This year we have two first-round picks and a compensation pick. Overall, our budget will be larger than last year. Signability comes into play for any club. You can't take anybody at any price.
MLB.com: How involved will you be in the draft?
DePodesta: I'll definitely be involved. That said, I told Logan I won't be grabbing the phone away from him to announce the selection. He's been hired to do a job. Ultimately, I'm responsible and I need to be involved. He's been trusted to run that department. I told Logan I'll be involved, but I promise to be informed. I've spent a lot of time listening. I've already seen quite a few players and I will continue to see more. I've told Logan that I want to be there for every meeting and be in on every call. I've promised him I'll be well informed -- I'm not just showing up on draft day. I'm not looking over his shoulder. I will be as involved as I would be in a meeting about our 25-man Major League roster. The general manager is ultimately held accountable and he understands that. He's welcoming that.
MLB.com: Do you view your background more as a player or scout?
DePodesta: A lot has been written about the computer coming up with guys we drafted (in Oakland). In reality, I saw a lot of them first-hand. I definitely don't see myself as an administrator. I see myself more as an evaluator than a former player. I've done more evaluating on a higher level than as a player, which did not go past college. The first year I scouted, 1998, I saw 200 games, both Major League and minor league games. In the 1999-2000-2001 drafts, I was involved peripherally. In 2002 and 2003 I saw a lot more live, I spent quite a bit of time. It's fun for me. Trades are fun, but this is the only time where you add 40 or 50 guys. And it's true, you have more of a personal or emotional attachment to players you have a hand in acquiring. I'm definitely fired up to get started with the Dodgers. Right now, you can count on one hand the number of players I've acquired. Now I'm going to be involved in adding 40 guys.
MLB.com: Do you view this as an opportunity to leave your mark on the roster?
DePodesta: Ultimately, I need to leave my mark everywhere. I'm not looking at two days of the draft to accomplish all of that. But I've told Logan these are the two most critical days on the calendar. You're acquiring the rights to 40 or 50 players that will be among your assets going forward. So, they are absolutely critical days for your baseball operation and it's essential for the general manager to be involved.
MLB.com: With this draft specifically, will the Dodgers focus on high school players or college players?
DePodesta: We won't take 20 high school players or 20 college players in the first 20 rounds. I think a blend is the right way to go. To what degree will be determined by the talent pool available in each round.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.