As Scout.com's National Baseball Expert, McDaniel covers both the major and minor leagues providing in-depth scouting and analysis of MLB Draft prospects.
He does extensive scouting around the Southeast in addition to seeing a great number of top prospects across the nation.
We caught up with Kiley McDaniel to talk about the draft process.
How has your job changed since becoming Fox Sports’ National Baseball Expert?
Kiley McDaniel: Its been different, but fun.
Last year I was working under [ESPN's] Keith Law and really focusing on the draft. Now I have gone to everything from professional games to high school games and am definitely in touch with a wider range of people now.
Some of what I have to do now is track down scouts from areas I am not able to get to. At this time of the year it is no longer about seeing guys, but rather going over the guys that you have seen and trying to track down the few that you haven’t.
You really have to prioritize your time. Is it better to go on a trip to see a couple of guys, or stay at home and write reports for the ones you have already seen?
I definitely have more responsibilities and it is more of a challenge, but I know I am up to the task, so it is a great opportunity.
In football nearly every website has a mock draft as the players are seemingly always on national television.
Baseball is different as there are very few mock drafts, and often they can be completely different after the first few picks. What separates your draft from some of the others?
Kiley McDaniel: Mock drafts all depend on the pundit.
I worked under Keith Law, so we would both go on the road quite a bit. The guys at Baseball America on the other hand make most of their drafts from their office and rely on scouts to give them the information.
I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. By now most of us are stuck just trying to analyze the thousand players that could be drafted in this years' draft. But I am hopefully going to sneak out to see a conference tournament.
Which tournaments are you planning on attending?
Kiley McDaniel: I will make it out to the Big East Tournament, and then try to see a few high schoolers while I am in the area. I will probably make one more tour of the Florida high schools before the draft.
In the end it all depends on what type of scout you want to be. Do you want to be a scout that goes out, sees players and makes their own opinion, or do you want to be someone who relies on the opinions of other players?
For me I think it is better to create my reports and then also see what other scouts write about them and ultimately use that information to formulate my rankings and mock drafts.
How does the process of talking to scouts work? Do they hide information for their ballclub?
Kiley McDaniel: Scouts are an interesting breed. A lot of it is built off credibility.
If a scout has never seen you before they are usually pretty reserved as to what they are willing to tell you outside of the basic information. The more the scouts see you, and especially if you did your research and come to them with the answers and allow them to fill in the questions they are usually pretty forthcoming with the information.
Great example is a scout friend of mine will get a call from person X who will just say “Who is in your area and tell me about them,” the scout will not say much.
However if I come to him and say “I have seen 8 of the 10 guys in your area and here is what I have on them,” the scout will tell me if I have any misinformation and tell me about the other two.
How early do you start preparing for the next draft?
Kiley McDaniel: Actually I am working on a piece right now for the 2014 draft.
You might think I am crazy for writing this so close to this years draft time but I have actually found that when you talk to a scout and you ask them, "Hey you cover the Northeast…” and you want to start asking him about this years draft even your best friends are going to be hesitant to tell you about guys for this year as they are working for their clubs.
For all I know I could be asking about a guy that this club thinks is a secret and that they are the only team in on him. So if he were to be forthcoming about it the information could get back to another team and they can steal them.
However, if I were to ask them about next years' draft that is not a secret. They will tell you who the top guys are, here are their strengths and weaknesses. Since they will not be drafted for over a year, and the scouts will not tell their bosses who they like for awhile, they will tell you everything.
So while everyone is focused on this years draft, it is a perfect time to learn about players for next year.
Of course at the same time, quite a bit of the information we get on a player might be wrong or the tools might not develop as much as they think next year. But that is what happens anytime you project rankings a year out. It is just fun and a way to get an early look of guys that I need to keep track of, and compare the names that I get to the names of players in summer tournaments so I already have an idea of who to keep an eye on.
I don’t think I am trying to tweak the formula but this is something that just makes sense to me. I always like being a step ahead.
How much can a good or bad showing in the conference tournaments or College World Series effect a players draft ranking?
Or is the first round, at least, already pretty set?
Kiley McDaniel: It is actually really set.
When you go to a conference tournament you will rarely see the amateur scouts there. Most of the time you will see the pro scouts there. The way it works out the amateur scouts, who are the ones who watch high school and college, will have big meetings a few weeks before the draft.
The meeting will be with everyone from the scouts to the General Manager and VP’s, and is usually at the clubs spring training facility. They sit in a big room for hours and just go over names to make a giant list.
Usually by the time the conference tournament has started most teams have already started their meetings. Since amateur scouts are at the meetings talking to cross-checkers and area scouts who will represent them in the room, none of them are available to go to the meeting.
Since these scouts are busy ranking players, the teams will usually send out their pro scouts who focus on minor league and major league scouting. The pro scouts will go just to have another pair of eyes on the player, but also for the front office to keep tabs on a player without having to leave their meeting.
Last year I went to a conference tournament in Miami and Gainesville and all I saw were a bunch of pro scouts that I had not talked to in awhile since I was covering amateur baseball all year.
When I talked to them it was mainly “My boss told me to come see the tournament and watch these three players.” Normally what they see is pretty good, but very rarely are they going to see something that is going to change the entire teams opinion.
It is just a little quirk that you don’t really notice unless you recognize and talk to the scouts. But to answer your question, yes, the rankings are pretty set as teams are stopping earlier and earlier to try to get their rankings built before the draft.