Draft brings out best in scouts
Peavy among middle-round revelations on Draft day
Major League Baseball is going to put a bright new face on the First-Year Player Draft next week as the lights of ESPN will shine on the event and there will be Hall of Famers and other baseball notables in attendance.
All of this is as it should be and, very frankly, it's about time for baseball to dress up its annual selection of high school and college players.
When the Draft is held Thursday at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida, you are certain to notice Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Tommy Lasorda, Jim Palmer and Dave Winfield along with the likes of Felipe Alou, Andre Dawson, Dwight Evans, Barry Larkin, Tony Oliva and Darryl Strawberry.
These famous baseball figures will be representing their respective teams as the early rounds of the Draft unfold.
It figures to be a good show, but far from the spotlight at the Disney complex will be the real story.
That story has to do with the scouting departments of 30 Major League teams that have been working with amazing dedication to come up with the best possible talent.
It is the scouts, the guys in the field, who will determine the success of an organization in the Draft. It has always been that way and it always will be that way.
Just ask Kevin Towers, the general manager of the San Diego Padres who knows a thing or two about the Draft. He should. He was the Padres' No. 1 selection in the secondary phase of the June Draft of 1982 as a pitcher out of Brigham Young University.
The Padres have one of the best pitching staffs in the Major Leagues today, and the leader of that staff is Jake Peavy, who was selected by the team in 1999.
You had to figure the Padres were going to have a good Draft in 1999 in that they had three first-round selections due to the loss of free agents. Furthermore, they had six of the first 49 selections in the draft.
So where was Peavy taken in the Draft? He went in the 15th round after more than 400 names had been called.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
"The scout who really deserves the credit for our draft of Peavy is Mark Wasinger," says Towers. "Mark begged us to draft Peavy and then to sign him.
"Jake was headed for Auburn University, but Mark insisted we sign him and we did so for $100,000 and a college scholarship," Towers said. "Jake wasn't a big guy in high school and lacked real strength, but Mark said he was one of the most competitive players he had ever seen."
It's a story that is as old as the Draft -- an area scout sees something in a player in his local area and knows he has seen something special even though he may stand alone in his evaluation.
It's the reason the Padres have one of the best young arms in the game today in Peavy.
It's the reason Towers is one of the top general managers in the game. After his playing days in the Padres' Minor League system, Towers started his post-playing career as a scout for the organization.
When he became the general manager of the Padres in 1996, Towers knew scouting and he knew scouts.
And one of the Padre scouts he knew very well was Wasinger, a former infielder who had been drafted by San Diego the same year as Towers. They reached the Double-A level as teammates in the Texas League and Wasinger went on to a brief career in the Major Leagues.
"Mark was a very competitive player, but he was somewhat conservative as a scout," recalls Towers. "That's what struck me about his reports on Peavy. He kept saying forget the size of the player, this guy is competitive and he will be a winner.
"Mark Wasinger [now with the Boston Red Sox] is the real reason Jake Peavy became a member of the Padres in the 1999 draft, and it has proven to be a great Draft for us," says Towers.
Peavy, now 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, became an instant success for the Padres. He had a combined record of 9-1 in his first year at Peoria and Idaho Falls with 103 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Towers says he didn't get a good look at Peavy until 2000, when the young right-hander was pitching at Fort Wayne, Ind.
"I went in to see our Fort Wayne club and Peavy was sitting behind home plate charting the pitches in that he was due to start the next night," Towers said. "I was amazed at how calm he was for a 19-year-old and how much he knew about the game.
"Most young guys would be nervous sitting near the general manager, but he was very calm and told me he was amazed the hitters were having trouble adjusting to pitches. I knew we had a special player."
Who will be the special players who will come out of the Draft of 2007? And will there be a special player that will come out of the 15th round?
Only time will tell. Time and scouts like Wasinger who had the courage of his conviction; and general managers like Towers who had the good sense to listen to a dedicated scout.
Sure, the cameras will roll at this year's Draft and some famous former players will be on parade and on display.
I'll be thinking of those scouts who drove the back roads and spent more nights away from home than they care to remember. And then had the courage to put their jobs and reputations on the line by saying this young, skinny high school guy can play in the Major Leagues.
You won't see that on television, but that's what this year's Draft is really all about.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book -- Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by SportsPublishing, LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.