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Diamondbacks Director of Amateur Scouting Deric Ladnier discusses Day 2 of the 2019 MLB Draft

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The topics coming out of the Day 2 conference call include not only the players, but also the topic of developing pitchers, the incorporation of analytics in the draft, and potential draft strategies that were potentially in play on Day 2.

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Once again we have audio from Deric Ladnier’s conference call following Day 2 of the 2019 MLB Draft, courtesy of the Snake Pit’s Jack Sommers. Sorry for the one-week delay, had some things pop up IRL that required my attention but now here you go and enjoy.

I didn’t transcribe every answer since most of the second half of the call were questions that followed up what was asked on Day 1 (link below if you want to read that).

Click here for what he said for Day 1

  • 3rd Round Pick 1B Tristin English: “Big right-handed hitter, we actually have had him turned in as a 2-way player. He’s not going to be doing that. We drafted him as a first baseman/right fielder, big power. During this past season at the Cape, we actually tried to sign him out of the Cape but he didn’t want to sign so we ended up drafting him.”
  • 4th Round Pick SS Glenallen Hill Jr.: “Twitchy athlete, plus run, plus power, did have some swing and miss which is obviously a concern but with the upside of the athlete someone we can get in here and start slowing things down for him we just feel like he’ll have the chance to be an impactful outfielder. Kind of like some of the other guys we’ve taken. Legitimate power, legitimate speed, can play defense. Fits all those tools for us and obviously we’re glad to get him where he got him.”
  • 5th Round Pick RHP Conor Grammes: “Big arm, had him up to 100 MPH. Two plus pitches, he’ll need to refine his mechanics a little bit because pitching is somewhat new to him.”
  • 6th Round Pick LHP Andrew Saalfrank: “Average fastball, maybe a tick above, but the one thing we really like about him is plus curveball. Any time you can get a big bodied lefty that can spin a good breaking ball, it’s an out pitch, it’s a weapon for him. He’s got a change-up. We feel he’s got some upside plus he’s left handed in a big body, great makeup kid.”
  • 7th Round Pick 1B Spencer Brickhouse: “Big power, really controls the zone well. We saw him a lot this year, they had another kid: Bryan Packard, that was drafted off the team. He reminded me of a kid I drafted when I was in Kansas City, Clint Robinson. Defensively, going to need some work, not the most nimble guy at first base, but you’re drafting the power and ability to control the zone.”
  • 8th Round Pick OF Dominic Canzone: “He can play center field because he can really run, but you know he’s one of those guys you know can go left field, go to right field, got some pop. Just a really skilled player, a well-rounded college athlete.”
  • 9th Round Pick RHP Bobby Ay: “Good fastball, good slider. Beginning of the year, just OK reports but as the year progressed, his stuff got better. Velocity got better, slider got better. You feel like he’s one of those college kids that’s not finished yet, he’s at 185 lbs at 6’3”. We felt like physically there’s more development for him and we still feel like an arrow up for a starter, so you take the risk there.
  • 10th Round Pick C Oscar Santos: “Converted shortstop, super athletic. Has to work on catching and throwing, but he’s really athletic and he’s got power. He’s a raw, crude, upside catcher from Puerto Rico.”
  • Asked about having more money to work with: “We did, we still have some flexibility going into tomorrow (Day 3). Last year we took Blaze Alexander (11th round) and signed him for $500K, we still have a bucket to play with. It’s not you’re trying to save money on picks, you’re just looking at how much you have left over as there are still a lot of players that haven’t been selected that have high bonus demands. Over the course of this night, we’ll make a lot of phone calls, sometimes the expectations lower themselves because people realize there’s a chance I’m not going to sign or get drafted. We’ve seen it happen a lot, we think it will be a unique opportunity to capitalize on it.”
  • Balancing out the selections between 2 high school upside and college guys: “This year it seemed like over all of the years past, the college hitters went a round earlier because of a limitation of how many there were. As you watch the draft unfold you start looking up and wondering ‘Where are all the college bats? Oh, they went yesterday’ so we prioritized that before the start of the draft this morning.”
  • Question of if there was a conversation over taking a player with high bonus demands (e.g. RHP Matthew Allan) in the 3rd: “You have to weigh do you want to spend every last dime on one guy or do you want to capitalize and spend it on a couple or three guys. We just felt it was better for us to try to go and use that money wisely with a bigger pool as opposed to putting it all in one.”
  • The decision on when to change a pitcher’s development from starter to reliever: “We look at all of these guys as starters and they ultimately separate themselves as they develop through the minor leagues. At some point in time, you have to make a decision when a guy is throwing 100 pitches in 4 innings every time he goes out there you realize he’s not able to harness the ability to throw consistent strikes. If you make them starters, their stuff will tick backwards and they’re going to be pitching every 5th day instead of once every 7 days. We factor in all those things when trying to develop pitchers, but we want them to throw strikes will all of their pitches and the only way we can teach them is by starting them.”
  • Using analytics to help evaluate pitchers: “We talk about rise on fastballs, spin rates, and that’s the analytics aspect of it because we have all the data on these guys. We have a guy who’s throwing 98 and if it doesn’t have good spin rate and it doesn’t have swing and miss, that factors into our decision.”
  • Difference between Day 2 of last year’s draft: “As you develop your research and development part of scouting we have different techniques, more investments in the process, different ways to measure it so they can counterbalance each other. As I said last night, we’re using all of these aspects, which is fascinating for someone who’s been doing it. For a long time we used to go out with a stopwatch, a radar gun that didn’t work, and say ‘I like this guy, I’m going to draft him in this round’. It’s a lot different than it used to be and I told my wife that it’s like I’m going back to school and I’m getting another education in something I thought I mastered and I hadn’t. It’s actually kind of refreshing, kind of stimulating to be able to look at things from a different perspective, have a different opinion, and make a different type of decision that you may have made differently 20 years ago.”

Closing thoughts

  • Ladnier is a believer in genetics, in the case of sons of former successful MLB players like with Glenallen Hill Jr. He distinguishes the body types between the two players: Sr. was a big bodied outfielder that produced about average starter results whereas Jr. is a short and speedy middle infielder who will likely be moving to center field due to that speed.
  • On the topic of pushing all the bonus money into a small set of players, like the New York Mets have done with RHP Matthew Allan, Ladnier sounded somewhat uncomfortable with that idea personally. He sees not being able to sign a player as a wasted opportunity and wasted money overall since in Rounds 1-10, any player who doesn’t sign gets his pick value subtracted from the pool overall.
  • He also called high school pitching as the riskiest demographic in the draft, especially right-handed pitchers. Coupled with the belief of not putting all their eggs in one basket with a $16M pool, they would have likely passed on Allan at 93rd overall anyway.
  • He then answered with getting as many good players as he could with the bonus pools the teams were afforded. It’s definitely a good philosophical question in terms of how to best optimize a team’s bonus pool? Try to grab as much elite talent as possible but then pair it up with a bunch of low bonus seniors, hoping that the elite talents all pan out, like the Mets or try to just focus on the best possible players on the board like the Dbacks did and give yourself the most number of chances at landing an MLB contributor. Neither approach is right or wrong.
  • He also doesn’t anticipate any problems signing any of the players in the class from Rounds 1-10. Walston, Hill, and Malone are the toughest three signs in the class in my opinion, but Malone has already taken a full slot deal at 33 while my prediction for Walston is he’ll sign for full slot at 26 ($2.653M). The Dbacks may need to go a bit over to ink Hill, but not significantly over as I think $500K gets the job done.
  • When asked about what was special about the draft, Ladnier responded with the number of selections (7) on Day 1 as something he’s never had previously. As stated in the Day 1 answers, the team made sure everything was thoroughly executed from top to bottom due to the potential of a franchise-altering draft like 2009. That year’s draft produce A.J. Pollock (17), Chris Owings (41), and Paul Goldschmidt (246) while the team would trade for Patrick Corbin (80) a year later.
  • When asked if Grammes will be a starter or reliever early on, Ladnier said that he will begin his development as a starter. I still think he projects as a back-end reliever due to high velocity, the lack of a 3rd pitch, and underdeveloped command due to splitting time between 3B and the mound in college. The decision could come down to his performances at both A ball levels. In my opinion the key will be looking at walks, not strikeouts.
  • When constructing the short-season roster, they stack the roster with a lot of pitchers. Most of the pitchers at that level will likely see multiple-inning outings early on with game situations potentially changing the innings counts for the relievers.
  • Ladnier stated one of his first looks at Canzone came in a game where he was there to watch Tommy Henry, who the Dbacks picked up 74th overall the day before.
  • English had already finished his undergraduate college degree before his senior year of eligibility and the Dbacks attempted to sign him out of summer ball as a hitter but he wanted to go back to college for a year. A year later, the Dbacks ended up taking him with the 93rd pick in the draft. A couple years ago, they had him as a pitcher but he’ll be playing 1B/corner OF in the Dbacks system.
  • I do find it refreshing that Ladnier talked about the analytics side of it. His background has been in traditional scouting, with two decades of experience in amateur scouting. As stated in the quote above, he described the process of incorporating analytics in the draft decision process as going back to school. The Diamondbacks are a small to mid-market club, so every edge they can gain from the top to bottom goes a long way. At the same time, it’s a reminder that you constantly have to adapt, learn, and grow skill sets to stay ahead: a lesson that can apply beyond the game of baseball.