Scout’s Honor

Earlier in the week, the Angels fired international scouting director Clay Daniel. No reason has been given publicly, although Sports Illustrated reports that Daniel may have been dismissed due to his scouts in Venezuela skimming money from bonuses paid to signees.

Of course, whenever something like this happens, the lunatic fringe shifts into high gear on the fan boards. Several are alleging that Daniel was fired because he failed to sign anyone of consequence — never mind that players like Ervin Santana and Kendry Morales were signed while he was in charge.

Others are predicting doom because this happened just before the amateur draft next Tuesday. What they overlook is that international players are not subject to the draft — only players in North America. So Daniel’s departure will have no impact on the draft.

Daniel was hired after Bill Stoneman took over as general manager. Under the previous regime, international scouting had withered. The Autrys deeply cut international scouting in the 1990s to save money. Disney kept in place Bill Bavasi and his regime, and also the Autry-era budgets, so no real effort was made to expand international scouting until Stoneman took over.

Not only did the Angels expand their scouting in Latin and South America, but Daniel personally grew their scouting program in east Asia and Australia. In recent years, players from Europe and Africa have passed through the Angels’ system. Stoneman, Daniel, former scouting director Donny Rowland and his successor Eddie Bane all deserve the credit for their vision and foresight.

Which brings up a related subject.

A couple weeks ago, someone named Andy Seiler posted a blog looking at recent Angels drafts. Mr. Seiler’s qualifications are undefined, much less any personal access at all that would suggest he knows the decision-making process by the Angels’ scouts, yet some on the Angels fan boards seized on this article as clinching proof of the general ineptitude of the Angels front office.

Seiler’s conclusions had several flaws. The biggest is this fallacious assumption: “… It’s quite easy to see [Bane has] been completely hamstrung by a tight budget.”

Huh?!

Seiler makes the mistake of confusing budget with actual money spent.

Let’s say we decide to go to Las Vegas for the weekend. We budget to spend $1,000. But we get some good deals, the expensive show we wanted to see got cancelled, we’re too full to eat that last big meal. So we spend only $750.

Seiler would conclude we were “hamstrung by a tight budget,” when in reality we just didn’t spend as much as we had planned.

As I’ve written many times over the years, the Angels have what they call a “high risk, high reward” philosophy towards the draft. Because the parent club does so well every year, their draft picks are towards the bottom of each round. (Draft picks are in inverse order of prior year’s success.)

Major League Baseball establishes bonus “slots” for the first round, i.e. what they suggest each player’s signing bonus should be. #2 should get less than #1, etc. In reality, that’s not how it turns out, because you get teams like the Yankees who will spend what they feel like. You’ll also have guys like Jered Weaver fall to lower picks beacuse they’re considered too expensive to sign. That’s how the Angels got Weaver, although it took them a year to sign him for a bonus much higher than his slot indicated.

So much for the “cheap” allegation.

When you don’t have a draft pick in the first round — which often happens to the Angels, because they lose those picks as compensation for signing free agents like Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter — of course your total dollars spent will be lower because you’re not picking a first round draft pick. Should you give that million bucks to a 5th or 10th round guy just to prove to people you’re not “cheap”? Of course not.

“High risk” also means you might not sign a guy. One example is Matt Harvey. The Angels selected Harvey in the third round of the 2007 draft and offered him $1.5 million, which was lots more than any other third round pick got. Harvey said no and went to college. When Harvey is eligible again for the draft in 2010, he’ll be a first-rounder and will get a bigger bonus — assuming he doesn’t blow out his elbow or otherwise flop. That was his risk, not the Angels’. In any case, it’s clear that the Angels were willing to spend the money — money that others weren’t willing to spend.

Seiler also overlooks the great job done by Angels scouts to find amateur talent overlooked by other teams. Will Smith (7th round, 2008) and Trevor Reckling (8th round, 2007) are looking like steals. Ryan Chaffee (3rd round, 2008) might have been a first-round pick if not for subpar numbers in 2008 due to a broken foot.

Going back to 2004, the Angels selected Nick Adenhart in the 14th round although he’d just blown out his elbow. Adenhart was going to require more than a year of rehab, but the Angels paid him $750,000, lots more than any other 14th rounder got — it was 50% of what a first-rounder would have received that year. The same goes for power hitter Mark Trumbo, selected in the 18th round that year.  He got a bonus of about $1.4 million — again, way more than anyone else in his round got. Trumbo fell that far because all the other organizations assumed he was a lock for USC. The Angels ponied up the money to buy him out of his commitment.

Seiler also overlooks how much the Angels spent over the years in international scouting, which as mentioned above is not subject to the draft. Young-Il Jung, for example, signed out of South Korea in July 2006 for a reported $1 million bonus. Hardly “cheap” or “hamstrung”, as alleged.

I’m sure Mr. Seiler’s intentions were sincere, and he put a lot of effort into his article, but he reached the wrong conclusions because he simply wasn’t familiar with how the Angels operate. I’m far less forgiving of people who call themselves Angels fans but look for any excuse to seize on inaccurate or trivial data to bash the team. You have to wonder where their loyalties truly lie.


UPDATE June 8, 2009 — Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wrote this excellent article on the intricacies of the draft that further exposes the flaws in Mr. Seiler’s assumption that spent money equates to budgeted money.

1 Comment

Shame on Seiler for having an opinion other than yours. The internet isn’t big enough for differing opinions, especially on something as earth-shattering as the Angels and their scouting budget.

Stephen, do you ever tire of being a pompous know-it-all?

I agree with your assessment that Seiler is way off base in his comments, but this just smacks as another holier-than-thou posting from you.

And as much as you’d like to believe it, you are NOT an insider. You’re just another armchair expert with a blog, albeit a fairly decent one.

I also love the fact you completely gloss over Daniel’s firing. That’s actually big news, but since it may reflect poorly on the Angels you’d rather troll out a red herring and complain about another blogger.

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