New York Yankees Vice President of Amateur Scouting, Damon Oppenheimer participated in a live chat with Yankees fans on June 15 about the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft and Yankees prospects.
Damon Oppenheimer: Hey gang, we're about to get started here. Thanks for joining us.
tm2012: What is the most significant trait you look for in a prospective player?
Damon Oppenheimer: The most significant trait that I'm looking for is Major League tools. It's hard to be a Major League player if you don't have the right tools.
alm81: How much do you base your selections of high school players on statistics?
Damon Oppenheimer: Stats about high school players is a very minor aspect. If you see that a guy has exceptional stats, it helps a little. If you see a red flag such as a hitter with a lot of strikeouts or a pitcher with a lot of walks, that might play a part.
jrod809: What about Cito Culver excited the Yankees most?
Damon Oppenheimer: There were a lot of things that excited us. Very rarely do you get a 17 yeal old, athletic, switch hitting shortstop. He has great tools, makeup and performs. He's a great shortstop and can hit. You have to take risks on guys like that in high school because if they do that in college, they don't make it down to pick 32.
alm81: What is the most obscure place in the United States you have gone to see a player?
Damon Oppenheimer: This job has taken me to every state in the US. I've been to Hawaii and that's a long way from New York. Internationally, I've been to the border of Haiti to see a player in the Dominican Republic. I've also been to Alice Springs, one of the most remote places in Australia to see a player.
bronxblues: What have been your biggest successes and failures during your tenure?
Damon Oppenheimer: Obviously, from looking at last year's World Series team, you'd have to look at the success of Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Brett Gardner. Looking at this year, we can look at some former players who are having successful years with other teams, including Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson. My very first first-rounder ever was CJ Henry, who you could look at as a failure, but I look at as a success because he helped us acquire Bobby Abreu and get our team a lot of wins.
csamma: Is a player's attitude just as important as his ability?
Damon Oppenheimer: His makeup is an important part of the whole package. He can't play in the big leagues without ability. So ability is still more important, but the attitude is right there behind it.
meliss8907: When scouting pitchers, do you tend to look for speed over variety of pitches?
Damon Oppenheimer: The higher you take a guy, the more complete a pitcher you are looking for - complete meaning velocity and other pitches. As you move down further in the draft you are looking to get one or the other.
meliss8907: Are there specific leagues, (ie. Cape Cod League) that seem to develop better players?
Damon Oppenheimer: The Cape Cod League is really important to our evaluation. It is generally the better college players in the country playing on a daily basis and using wood, so it gives us an accurate depiction of what the player will represent. Some other leagues we scout are the Coastal Plains League, Northwoods League and the Alaska League to name a few.
dannayboy: Which player drafted are you the most excited about?
Damon Oppenheimer: Obviously the first. Culver is exciting to us because our first round pick and has a great package of tools and athleticism. We've got a great group. There's a really great group of athletes that we were able to get in this draft and it's a really young group, so we're really excited.
nike29: What advice can you give to someone who would like to be an MLB scout one day?
Damon Oppenheimer: It helps to have played to the highest level of baseball that you can. There's a difference in terms of feel that those guys have. If you don't have that, spend as much time looking at professional players as you can. You should know that this job is about hard work and being on the road.
bronxblues:What's the best thing about your job?
Damon Oppenheimer: The most satisfying thing about my job probably occurred at the World Series last year. When you're a part of the celebration and you're getting hugs from guys like Joba, Robertson and Gardner and they are thanking you for giving them the opportunity to be Yankees. That is pretty satisfying.
bronxmissles: How come the Yankees usually draft catchers?
Damon Oppenheimer: Catchers are a premium position as they are hard to find. When you find one that you think can be a major leaguer, you have to jump on it. We didn't draft one this year because we have quality catchers throughout our organization.
tkcmo39: Do you prefer college players over high school players?
Damon Oppenheimer: No. I just prefer the best players available. Actually, we'd rather have them young so that they can learn the Yankee way. Culver and Gumbs are both young and have a chance to learn the Yankee way really quickly at a young age. With the way our player development system is structured, I'd actually rather draft guys out of high school.
Damon Oppenheimer: These questions are great. Thanks. I've got time to take two more.
sirvlciv: How organized is your draft board before the draft occurs? Do you have a very clear order of players, and strike them out as they're taken, taking the best player still available at your draft spot?
Damon Oppenheimer: There's probably two weeks of preparation put into the final draft board. The names are strategically placed on the board by ability and as teams make selections, we take them down and generally select the next available player on the board.
gm3131: Good afternoon. Do you place an emphasis scouting talent from the New York area?
Damon Oppenheimer: I don't put any more emphasis on New York than I do anywhere else. History shows that the large majority of baseball players will come from the sun belt, so we do spend a large amount of our time covering the sun belt states. However, I do feel like it is our duty to cover the New York area, probably more than most other teams.
Damon Oppenheimer: Thanks to everyone for joining us.
Damon Oppenheimer: Great questions.
Damon Oppenheimer: Go Yankees!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.