Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 8:45 AM
Amiel Sawdaye took over as Boston’s Director of Amateur Scouting in January 2010, kicking off his ninth year in the Red Sox organization. He served as the Assistant Scouting Director from 2005 to 2009 after previously holding the title of Scouting Assistant. Sawdaye made a big splash in his first year heading up the Red Sox scouting department, spending $10,664,400 in overall bonus money, the fourth most of all major league clubs in 2010 and the most ever spent on a single draft by Boston. He allotted $3.9 million of that number on seven players at the August 16 draft signing deadline, including highly-regarded draftees Anthony Ranuado, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle, and Garin Cecchini. Boston's draft class has graded out well by most draft analysts, and Frankie Piliere, National MLB Analyst for AOL Fanhouse, even went so far as to anoint the Red Sox the "big winners" of the 2010 Draft. Following the deadline, I had the opportunity to touch base with Sawdaye about his new role, the top players in Boston's 2010 draft class, and his approach to the signing period.
Mike Andrews: Congratulations on taking over the reins as Scouting Director earlier this year. For those of us who don’t know, can you please explain the role of Scouting Director in terms of how much of your time is spent actually scouting out on the road vs. how much time is spent overseeing the team’s amateur scouts and reviewing their evaluations? How does the role of Assistant Scouting Director vary?
Amiel Sawdaye: This varies from team to team and person to person. Each organization will have a different philosophy as to how much they want their Scouting Director and Assistant Scouting Director on the road. For me, I try and see about 75-100 players per year. I like to get more looks on fewer players, especially the guys that we like. This allows me to have quality reports on all of the top players and also spend some time reviewing reports. I am a true believer that reading and taking notes on each submitted report is the best way to remember all of the players. It does get very time consuming, but it becomes well worth the work when we are in the draft room. As for the ASD, that role differs across Major League Baseball. Only half of the teams even have an ASD – some spend more time in the office and others spend more time on the road. Our ASD, Gus Quattlebaum, has a lot of experience as an evaluator and therefore brings a very important dynamic to our staff. He will spend a good chunk of time in the office, but will also be called on to see many players. That’s similar to the way we had it before I became Scouting Director. It allows for continuing development in the field and in the office.
MA: A lot of onlookers seem to love Kolbrin Vitek’s offensive approach, but question whether he can stick at third base. Can you discuss your thoughts on Vitek’s defensive abilities, and what other positions he may be capable of playing as a pro?
AS: Vitek is a very good athlete and has played many different positions throughout his career. Obviously, he spent his junior season as a second baseman at Ball State. We felt his athleticism, arm strength, and work ethic would help him make the transition to the corner. He shows good reactions and instincts and can make certain plays look easy. As with anything else, this transition will take some time. Obviously, there are a lot of adjustments that you have to make when playing pro ball (wood bat, playing every day, etc.), but he has taken to most of them very well. Right now, we see him as a third baseman, so we have not discussed any other positions.
MA: Bryce Brentz got off to a rough start with Lowell this summer, but has been looking quite impressive over the last two weeks. In your eyes, what will be the most important adjustment that Brentz will need to make to become a consistently successful professional hitter?
AS: Bryce is learning a lot of things in his approach. Although he was a very good college player, he came to us with somewhat of an unrefined approach. We knew that he had the tools, athleticism, and bat speed to make adjustments, and we are starting to see those adjustments happen this summer. While his numbers have not been indicative of his overall success, Bryce has gotten much better at recognizing pitches, staying back, letting the ball get deeper, and driving to the opposite field. He continues to square the ball up in games and has done exactly what our player development staff has been teaching him. Early on, he was very pull-oriented with some effort, but he is starting to become much more consistent. Once again, there are a lot of adjustments that a player must make when getting into pro ball and these are just a few for Bryce. Generally, your first season out of college is more about getting acclimated and learning what to do rather than overall results.
MA: What differences did you see in Anthony Ranaudo from 2009, to the spring of 2010, to the Cape League this summer? Were there mechanical issues this spring?
AS: I think the most glaring difference in Anthony was his consistency. At 6’7”, it is sometimes difficult to control and repeat your delivery. After getting injured early in the spring, he had some troubles repeating and shrinking his delivery and finding a consistent release point. Self admittedly, he needed more innings to get adjusted. Unfortunately, at LSU he ran across a few tough games and did not get the requisite innings that he needed to work himself out of the funk. However, in the Cape Cod League, he was handled very well (on a pitch count) and he was able to get consistent work in. I saw him once in the spring and twice this summer, and each time was better than the last. By his final outing, he was definitely the Ranaudo of old – driving a low-to-mid 90’s fastball downhill, showing a hard power curveball, and an advanced feel for his changeup. Mixing pitches and locating his stuff was extremely effective during the summer.
MA: Can you tell us about Brandon Workman’s secondary stuff?
AS: In addition to Brandon’s power fastball that has the ability to get swings-and-misses, he possesses some exciting and projectable secondary stuff. Brandon has a plus cutter that can be a wipeout pitch at times. It was his most effective pitch at Texas this spring, sitting in the high-80s and getting a lot of swings-and-misses. However, he just started using this pitch more in the past year. His curveball was also mixed in this season, but was inconsistent throughout the year. It probably had more to do with the fact that his cutter was so good that he was able to get outs with that pitch. In fact, last summer on the Cape he was predominantly a fastball-curveball guy and possessed a plus 12-6 breaking ball. We feel that the curve has a chance to continue to develop next year and become a consistent true weapon for him.
MA: If the decision were up to you, what would be the determinative factors in whether Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini start 2011 with a full-season affiliate?
AS: Fortunately, the decision is not up to me and they are in great hands now with our player development staff. Both Coyle and Cecchini possess a lot of redeeming qualities that will allow them to compete for a job with a full season club. However, because of the lack of experience in pro ball, spending a summer in 2011 in the Gulf Coast League or in Lowell would also not be the worst thing in the world for them. Needless to say, we are very excited to get a chance to watch them in the Instructional League and spring training.
MA: What do you see as Henry Ramos’ greatest strengths, and what areas of his game will he need to develop the most as he climbs the organizational ladder?
AS: Henry is an excellent athlete who excelled in many sports outside of baseball – especially soccer and tennis. This is one of his greatest assets, and he is now just scratching the surface of what he can become as a baseball player. He has had a remarkable first year out, especially for a player that did not always play baseball full time. Just like any other high school player, he has a lot to develop but he shows very good projection with solid arm strength, good plate discipline, plus raw power, and good defensive abilities. He will be very exciting to watch in the next few years.
MA: You’ve described sixth round pick Kendrick Perkins as a unique combo of power and speed, but also a player that’s “not raw by any means.” Can you elaborate on that?
AS: I think that many times when you draft somebody who does not play baseball full time, they get pigeon-holed into a category as a “raw player.” The rawness usually comes from a player who does not have a plan at the plate or understand the game very well. That is not Kendrick. Kendrick is a perfect example of a player who has many exciting baseball skills, but has not given his full attention to the game. As many of you know, he spent every summer getting ready for football, as opposed to playing baseball throughout the year. While this may have taken away from some of his development, his full-time commitment to baseball should allow his current tools to progress. He's strong and fast – built like a power running back or tight end – and those skills translate well to baseball. He recognizes pitches well with good bat control and has big time raw power, but has some mechanical adjustments needed in his swing that will help him reach his potential.
MA: Could you compare and contrast the skill sets of Chris Hernandez and Matt Price?
AS: Two completely different pitchers. Hernandez has been a very durable left-handed starter for the University of Miami, who went out and consistently produced at a very high level. His fastball moves in every direction, even when he is not trying to make it move. His cutter generates a lot of mis-hits and should excel at the next level. He is definitely an advanced college pitcher who knows his craft well and has some of the most impressive mound presence out of any pitcher in the draft.
Price is a lean, projectable right-handed starter who is just starting to realize his potential as a pitcher. Early on this year, he was moved in and out of the rotation by Virginia Tech, but ended up as one of their more reliable starters with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a plus changeup, and an improving breaking ball. He is a very good athlete with good arm action – he has a chance to really blossom into a solid mid-rotation starter. While he didn’t have the same consistent success as Chris, he did show flashes of dominance in the ACC with a lot to dream on.
MA: Most of the reports we’ve read on Lucas LeBlanc indicate that he projects as a five-tool player with each tool projecting at about major league average, but none projecting as stellar. Would you say that is an accurate assessment at this point?
AS: That is a pretty fair assessment, however, we think that Lucas can really have an impact with his speed and defense in addition to his bat. He is a plus runner with a live, athletic body and has a very good chance to stay in center field. He shows plus raw power in batting practice with a very simple and efficient swing. As you know, finding players to stay up the middle and/or patrol center field is sometimes challenging, so we are very excited to have an athlete with his potential in our system.
MA: Of the 25 prep draftees selected after the 13th round, only two signed, which is not unprecedented and did not appear to be unexpected on the surface. I know you probably can’t name names, but were there serious negotiations with any of these picks at the deadline? In general, with these types of later-round high school picks, are they selected in the hope that one or two of them to have a major breakout summer, do you consider some of them backup picks where the budget can be reallocated in case other higher choices fall through, or is there some other thought process?
AS: We had negotiations with a lot of players after the 13th round, but in the end we could not meet their asking prices. We select all of the players with the intention of getting to know them and hopefully signing them. It really varies from player to player - sometimes the price comes down, sometimes the price goes up, and sometimes it stays the same. In the end, it becomes a risk-reward equation – we get to know them, they get to know us, and we both have to weigh what it is worth to come to a fair agreement.
MA: As we all know, 2011 will be the last draft under the current CBA. How will that fact come into play in your approach to the draft next year? There has been a lot of talk about major overhauls to the draft process, and a special committee has reportedly been formed to look into issues such as a hard slotting system and a worldwide draft. I understand that you may not be able to comment on those issues at this point, but do you anticipate that the scouting directors around the league will get a voice in how the draft process will be transformed?
AS: We will take the same approach into the draft year after year - select and attempt to sign the best players on the board. Obviously, our budget will only allow us to sign up to a certain threshold, but we will try and infuse more talent into the organization and make the most informed decisions by the deadline. I have not heard about if and when the scouting directors will get a voice in the draft process, but like many other scouting directors, I have spoken at length with our General Manager and I’m sure he'll have a strong voice in the transformation process.