“When you try to force it you aren’t going to get maximum value.”
For MacDonald, who runs the Padres’ draft, “maximum value” translated into betting on upside in 2012 as San Diego spent over $6 million dollars on three high school pitchers with their first four selections.
However to characterize MacDonald only as a tools maven would be selling him short. With six picks in the first hundred, the Padres also chose three college players, but in the same breath he will tell you that its about the selecting the best player available, regardless if they are in high school or college.
All scouting directors will say they are about picking the best players available but all of them also have different definitions. While MacDonald will tell you that there are many factors that go into every selection the main component for him is striking a balance between risk and reward as in last year’s draft.
“Because all three of these pitchers have the ingredients to become front line starters in the major leagues,” said MacDonald on his rationale for selecting the prep pitchers so early.
“We know the history of right-handed high school pitchers[ supplemental first round picks Zach Eflin and Walker Weickel are right-handed and Max Fried is left-handed] but the Giants took Matt Cain with a late first round pick in 2002 and I think they are pretty happy with that selection right now.”
“I’m not saying our guys are going to be Matt Cain but all three have a chance to be very good.”
Last year you talked about that you have to let the draft come to you. f its a year for high school right-handed pitching, you take right-handed pitching.
Where do you see the strengths of the draft this year?
Chad MacDonald: The strength this year is probably high school bats but there is also talent at all of the other areas too; just never as much as you would like.
The key on this draft, and really any draft, is you have to be ready to make a knowledgeable pick on whatever comes down the road. Which means you have to have your scouts in place ready for any and all variables.
A great deal has been made about having to balance your draft because of the hard slot categories. Last year the organization did a good job in having the funds available to go over slot to pick up players whom many thought would go higher.
How much does that play into your draft selections when you get out of the first round?
Chad MacDonald: You have to go by talent first and then understand the draft pool and the accompanying costs that come with it. Because the system does not allow unlimited funds its a combination of taking the players that you want and understanding if you go over on one guy, you have to be able to go under on the next one and vice versa.
After the first round these picks come pretty quickly. So those are some fairly quick calculations.
Chad MacDonald: Well, yeah you have to be quick on your feet. [laughs]. But you know I’m also not alone because this whole process, and I can’t really emphasize this enough, is a team effort.
We have a lot of quality people here who are very smart and passionate about their jobs and they have just been fantastic. So we can make the decision quickly in what direction we need to go.
Its about a month away from the draft. Can you give us an idea of where the organization is in the process right now?
Chad MacDonald: It’s pretty intense. Our scouts are out there forming opinions, right now its about secondary and post-secondary looks. We are not eliminating people but there are also guys that we like more than others.
It’s a sprint to the finish, there are no off days and our scouts are going to as many games as they can. The one critical aspect is that we try to impart to our guys is don’t let one late bad performance overly influence your opinion.
For example, if you liked nine out of ten chapters of the book, its still a good book.
How much do you guys go back and look at last year’s draft and say this is an area we would like to improve upon or we need to do more of this?
Chad MacDonald: We are always self-evaluating and no one is more critical of me than myself. It’s more about making the process better because when you do that you are going to get better results.
That being said, I really like what we did last year. The players we selected are performing the way our scouts thought they would but you are always looking back on ways you can do things better.
You get so much information. What type of hierarchy are you using to rate the best player available?
Chad MacDonald: The biggest thing for me is at this time of year I can’t just go on what I’ve seen. It has to be a group effort which is why scouts are so critical to this process. Because if you don’t trust them you are not in a good situation and I trust my guys.
They delivered for us last year and they will again this year.
My job is more about asking the right questions. To know whether our scout thinks this guy has a chance to be really a good major league player.
The prep players have to be the toughest to scout. The players you are interested have probably never failed at anything athletically in their lives and if they get selected they are about to face much tougher competition?
What are you looking for off of the field from them?
Chad MacDonald: The human element, or makeup, is the big separator. Because as you said, right now we are not really following anyone who is failing. It’s very tricky and this is where we are really asking a lot of our scouts to get to know the guys off the field.
Are they going to be coachable? Will the persevere when things don’t go right? The ones that are a little softer in those areas aren’t the ones you are going to read about and see in all-star games and they won’t be the ones we will be selecting.