Mets Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Paul DePodesta stops by to take your questions as BP's industry chat series returns for 2012.
Paul DePodesta: Ok, everyone, I'm ready to go, so keep the questions coming.
Steve S (New Jersey): Hi Paul,
How do you think the changes to the amateur draft and international free agent signing periods will affect the organization's future plans and how aggressive do you hope to be in those areas this season? Thanks so much and keep up the great work!
Paul DePodesta: Steve, it will certainly be interesting to see how all the Clubs decide to approach the acquisition of amateur talent, both domestically and internationally. The changes made to the CBA were the most sweeping of any since I've been in baseball, and that has forced all of us to rethink our strategy. The bottom line for us is that we still have to do everything we can to get the player right, regardless of the actual strategy.
Brian (PA): What are Josh Edgins chances of making the club as the lefty specialist? And do you see him contributing to the major league club this year if he doesn't win the job out of spring training. Thanks
Paul DePodesta: Brian, we just re-assigned Josh to minor league camp, but that certainly wasn't owing to his performance. He showed that he belonged and that he isn't intimidated by the setting. Our goal now is to get him some upper level experience, and hopefully he can maintain the same approach. If he does, he has the chance to be a part of our pen for a while.
Gabe (Brooklyn, NY): Despite Brandom Nimmo not having a highschool team to play for, what made the Mets decide he was a can't pass on talent?
Paul DePodesta: Gabe, Brandon still played plenty of baseball, it was just Legion instead of high school. He also played in various showcases during the summer with the best high school talent in the country, and he performed well. Above all of that, though, was that we believed in the person. Chad MacDonald said it best when he said, "I don't know where the walls in CitiField are going to be, but I know Brandon is going to run through them." There is no doubt in our minds that Brandon will get the absolute most out of his ability, which makes it a lot easier to sleep at night after making the selection.
Russ (Manhattan): Recently the Mets contracted the GCL rookie league affiliate. Why was the decision made to this, rather than retaining it and contracting one of the two DSL teams instead?
Paul DePodesta: Russ, our DSL teams have players have all over the world, not just the Dominican, and often times we get players who are talented, but raw. Having the two teams affords us the opportunity to work with a number of young players to see if we can maximize their natural talent. Players in the US are much further along, and we generally have a better idea (not a perfect one, by any means) about how far we might be able to take them through player development.
Mick (Long Island): Historically, the Mets have not spent much on the draft. With ownership saying they want to build through the farm system for the next few years, do you expect the budget for paying draft picks to significantly rise as compared to past drafts where the Mets have been in the bottom half of team spending?
Paul DePodesta: Mick, this changed last year, as I believe we were as aggressive as we had been in a long time. However, the new rules in the CBA will limit what we're able to do. That said, you can expect us to be as aggressive as will be allowed.
rob (Danbury, CT): After he got a brief look in major league camp as a center fielder, are there plans to shift Jordany Valdespin into the outfield long-term or was that more of a one-time, contingency plan sort of situation?
Paul DePodesta: Rob, Jordany is athletic as anyone in the organization, so we thought it was the perfect time to see how he looked. He's already played some CF in winter ball, so it wasn't a completely new experiment. Most of his playing time will continue to come in the middle infield, but don't be surprised if we run him out there on occasion just to keep him fresh. Players with that type of versatility can be very valuable.
Harry (Nyc): Who are under the rader prospects Mets fans should keep a eye on this coming season ?
Paul DePodesta: Domingo Tapia and Rafael Montero. Both guys have a chance to emerge as our next group of top tier potential ML starting pitchers. They both have power stuff (Tapia routinely touched 100 mph last summer), and both pound the strike zone.
Stefano (Grosseto, Italy): Experience in the world of baseball, economics, mathematics/statistics, computer science: how would you rank these four backgrounds in terms of utility while working (or looking for a job) in a major league front office?
Paul DePodesta: I just wanted to get a question in from Italy! Stefano, dealing with human beings is a complex business, and one that we haven't figured out just yet. The skills you mentioned are helpful, but so are psychology, sociology, a medical degree, etc. The fact is that people from all different backgrounds and areas of expertise come together to try to make the best decisions.
Tim (Florida): Do you project either Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey to be a legitimate ace of a pitching staff (for instance Lincecum level production)?
Paul DePodesta: Tim, I'm not sure that "Lincecum level production" is a fair barometer... I'll be thrilled if both guys take the ball every fifth day in New York. If they do, we'll be happy with the results in the long run.
lipout1 (firstname.lastname@example.org): I go back to 1962 as far as being a Mets fan and I am actually quite excited for the new season. I see this very much like 1980 when Frank Cashen came in and rebuilt the Mets with building up the farm system and then bringing them up gradually and then adding some free agent pieces in Carter and Hernandez. It is tough to do that in the shadow of the Yankees but I feel that is where not only the Mets but baseball in general is headed. Do you sense a chnage in the overall approach teams are taking along these same lines? The new cable money throws a curve ball in there but I would be interested to hear your comments not only on the Mets but on baseball in general.
Paul DePodesta: Great question. Many teams have increased their focus on scouting in player development over the course of the past five years or so, but at the same time we're now seeing a plethora of monster contracts. It will be interesting to look back five years from now (or even 10 in some cases) to see how it all worked out and how teams continued to evolve their strategies. From our end, we're committed to building from within while also being as active as is prudent to add to the internal core. It's awfully difficult to build a championship-caliber club just with your own minor league players (though the Rockies basically did), but if we can build up a core, and we absolutely believe we can and we will, then we will have plenty of capacity to make strategic free agent or even trade decisions.
brian206 (NYC): Early in your career it seems as if you were portrayed as being strictly focused on stats and an Excel whiz. Now you are going to Wyoming to scout high school outfielders. At what point did you make the transition to incorporate more traditional scouting into your role? Was this done out of necessity to be able to have that dual skill set?
Paul DePodesta: Brian, it's actually quite the reverse. I began my career in Cleveland charting games and then became the Advance Scout for the Major League team. I did that for a couple of years, and also did some professional scouting, before taking the job in Oakland. I know that ruins the story a bit, but that's the reality.
That said, while I was scouting, I was acutely aware of my lack of experience. Because of that, I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing and attempting to somehow contribute to the conversation. The analysis allowed me to do that.
chiefsalsa (Logan, Utah): Paul, The Mets appear to be heavily reliant on pitching this year---and you moved in the fences! Didn't you guys just nullify your one strength for 2012?
Paul DePodesta: Actually, our real strength last year was offense... but that might make your point as well! The changes made at CitiField really didn't have anything to do with the current team or the current personnel. It was a long-term decision made in order to maximize what is already a great ballpark. We just didn't think it made sense to have the park play in an extreme fashion, either offensively or defensively.
HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): Are there any tenets of player analysis from the Moneyball bag of tricks which you think have turned out not as useful as they once seemed?
Paul DePodesta: Absolutely! Even at the time there were things that we tried that we laughed about just months later because of how simplistic they were or how outrageous they were...but we tried. And kept trying. We still haven't figured it all out, and we're constantly searching for new and relevant information that will replace our current models and processes. What we're using now isn't perfect, it's merely better than what we were doing before (we hope).
Spirou (Montreal): Hi Paul.Tell us a bit about Zack Wheeler.What's left for him to work on before he reaches the majors ?
Paul DePodesta: Spirou, like most young pitchers with big stuff, it's just a matter of consistency. He has a Major League repertoire right now. In fact, it's better than most ML starters. The difference is simply how consistently he's able to make the ball go where he wants and do what he wants. He's making progress and isn't far off, and we'll see stretches this year when he's locked in and looking like a big leaguer.
Nick (Lynbrook, NY): What was the reasoning behind the decision to both place Michael Fulmer on the Savannah roster and keep Brandon Nimmo back in extended spring training? Will Fulmer be on a strict innings limit? I'm guessing we will see Nimmo in Brooklyn?
Paul DePodesta: A lot goes into these decisions, and I always try to remind myself that they're temporary - we can change our minds tomorrow. Furthermore, whatever decisions we make are part of a longer term plan for each individual player. So, the short answer is that these assignments in no way change our expected timetable for either player. However, there are different experiences available that may prove valuable. For instance, Fulmer has the chance to join a staff led by Frank Viola that will have three accomplished college starters in the rotation. That has the potential to be a great developmental experience for him. We have similar thoughts in Brandon's case, but because we haven't made any final decisions yet, I won't share them now...sorry.
Edgy from the Crane Pool (Washington, DC): What is the model of good development personnel --- minor league coaches and instructors? Do you look for them to be adherents of a universal philosophy coming down from the top or to work with their own ideas and bag of tricks, under the assumption that it takes philosophical variety to reach and get the most out of a a variety of players.
Paul DePodesta: Great handle.
I actually believe it's a combination of the two. Organizational consistency is an important element of success. However, you have to maintain enough flexibility to create individual plans for each player. We can't be so rigid that we can't accept success if it comes in a different form, but there are typically common foundations to success.
Karl (Chicago, IL): If you could fully fund one long term research project, what would it be?
Paul DePodesta: I can't tell you that...
Chris (Boston): I've been very impressed with the Mets' use of social media, particularly Twitter. Do you have any plans to join Sandy Alderson (@MetsGM) on Twitter? Also, are you aware that Mets fans around the world have been coming together every weekday for the past few months to get a Mets-related hashtag to trend on Twitter (just curious if that sort of thing is on your radar)? Thanks!
Paul DePodesta: Chris, I actually have an account (@pdepo), but I have to admit that I've never tweeted. Our guys this year will be tweeting various reports from the minor leagues, and maybe I'll jump in there every now and again. I still need to find the time to get back to my blog as well.
James (Rockland County): Do you see this team competing within the next five years? You're in a division loaded with young talent (Washington, Atlanta) and big spenders (Philadelphia and now Miami). How does the Mets' strategy going forward compare to the strategy of other teams in their division?
Paul DePodesta: Five years? Geez, I sure hope so!!! We definitely believe we're a lot closer than that. There is no doubt that the division is a tough one, but we believe in our young core, and we'll continue to add to it. The key for us is to make decisions that put us in a position to be a championship-caliber club every year. That's the standard.
Steve (California): Paul, thanks for the chat. What I want to know is why don't teams, and the Mets specifically, give fans more access to the minor league system. For instance, why don't the Mets announce their minor league rosters now intead of making fans guess. When the major league team is so-so, many fans flock to following the minors.
Paul DePodesta: Steve, that's fair. We're definitely trying to get more information out there about the minor leagues this year, partly because it's the right thing to do and partly because I don't remember a time when a player development system as a whole has been more optimistic and excited heading into a season.
DanDaMan (SeaCliff): Paul- who on the Mets do you think offers the best hope to bridge the gap between "Linsanity" and "TebowMania" in New York? And what will we call it? If the Mets PR machine is working on this already, they should be. Thanks,
Paul DePodesta: My kids have all selected Duda, and they're usually right. Taking ideas for the nickname now.
Mick (LI): Paul, when you got here you famously said the Mets would be "moneyball with money". Since then, ownership cut payroll by the largest margin in MLB history for one season and let arguably their best player sign with a division rival over money and not because of baseball reasons. How big of a challenge has this been for you and do you have any regrets taking the position? I hope the answer is "no", because we need you! You're one of the very best at what you do.
Paul DePodesta: Thanks for the faith! Absolutely no regrets - this is New York!!! There would be no better place to do something special than right here, and that's our focus. A lot of the reports on our finances have been exaggerated. Ownership allowed us (even encouraged us) to be as aggressive as ever last year in the amateur market, and they continue to support our long-term vision.
Steve (California): Do you still need to look up how to spell "Nieuwenhuis" or do you have that down cold? Do you see him more as a RF or CF?
Paul DePodesta: It took a while, but fortunately, my iPhone started to recognize it.
Kyle (Los Angeles): So much is talked about the four top pitching prospects in the org, it's interesting to hear you talk about position guys like Valdespin. What kind of development path/timetable are you looking for from the higher profile position prospects, specifically Wilmer Flores, Puello and Lagares?
Also, I know it might be difficult for you to answer this question without being unfair to a player now in another org, but why was FMart exposed to waivers and lost for nothing, rather than traded (not even a bucket of baseballs and a half eaten ham sandwich)? Particularly since he had an option year left, it was a head scratching move for many fans.
Paul DePodesta: Kyle, we were disappointed to lose FMart, but often times it comes down to which player(s) you believe have the best chance to make it through waivers. The good news is that we're now at a point with our 40-man that players are actually getting claimed by other organizations. That's a good problem to have.
As for Puello, Flores, and others, it's important to remember just how young these guys are. Puello just turned 21 and Flores is still 20. At this point, if they move up a level per year, they'll still be in a good position on the age/time spectrum.
Scottie (Long Island): Hi Paul. As I'm sure you have noticed, the NY media and most of the fanbase are an extremely impatient bunch when it comes to building through the farm system. Do you think that the pressure brought on by the NY fans and media makes it more difficult to balance short-term and long-term considerations than it would be in other markets?
Paul DePodesta: Scottie, it's a challenge, but that's ok. That's part of the job for us. We have to withstand the urge to make short-term decisions just to appease people, because we know it will just do more damage in the long run.
lipout1 (Port wash): I have started a fan club. Calling it Dudas Dudes!!
Paul DePodesta: Good first effort.
Paul DePodesta: Thanks very much, everyone. Looks like my hourglass is running thin, and I have some games to attend!