No Gain, No Bane


Eddie Bane visits Rookie-A Provo in July 2004, one month after his first Angels draft.

 

The Angels announced Wednesday that scouting director Eddie Bane’s contract would not be renewed, and also that three scouts had been let go.

The scouts were Jim Bryant (Alabama-Mississippi), Bart Braun (south Florida), and Jeff Scholzen (Utah-Colorado-South Nevada).

Fan sites are rampant with rumor and speculation, much of it baseless.

I’ve read plenty people claim Bane was fired because Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick failed to live up to early hype, but neither was drafted by Bane. They were drafted by his predecessor, Donny Rowland.

Others have claimed that Bane was fired because his “high risk, high reward” philosophy has supposedly failed to deliver top prospects.

But “high risk, high reward” didn’t begin with Eddie Bane. It didn’t begin with Donny Rowland, either. It began with then-general manager Bill Stoneman.

In an August 26, 2003 Los Angeles Times article about the firing of Rowland, Bill Shaikin wrote:

Stoneman said the Angels have not wavered from the philosophy he directed Rowland to follow, that of drafting high-risk, high-reward prospects, particularly high school players.

Under the previous management of general manager Bill Bavasi and his scouting director, Bob Fontaine, the Angels emphasized the selection of college players who might sign more cheaply and reach the majors more quickly, even if their potential might not be as great.

But Bavasi and Fontaine tabbed the majority of Angel players who appeared in Game 7 of the World Series — outfielders Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon, pitchers John Lackey, Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez, catcher Bengie Molina and third baseman Troy Glaus, the World Series MVP.

Media reports claimed that Rowland was let go because of “a behind the scenes rift” with Stoneman that “led to his downfall,” according to Baseball America in February 2004.


Bill Stoneman, Dominican academy manager Charlie Romero, and Kendry Morales
at Kendry’s first game press conference in Rancho Cucamonga, May 21, 2005. Morales was one example of Stoneman’s “high risk, high reward” philosophy.

 

Now media reports are suggesting the same between Bane and current general manager Tony Reagins. According to Baseball America, “Sources inside and outside the organization, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated tensions between the two had increased over the last year or two.”

Tensions between a general manager and scouting director are nothing new. The book Moneyball alleged a rift between Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and his scouting department, although Beane told Baseball America the claim was false.

Only two weeks ago, it was reported that Bane was one of five candidates for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ general manager job. Logan White, the Dodgers’ assistant GM in charge of amateur and international scouting, was another candidate. Former Padres GM Kevin Towers got the job.

I was a bit surprised to hear Eddie was a candidate — not because I thought he wasn’t qualified, but I wondered how the Angels would react to it. The Diamondbacks needed the Angels’ permission to talk to Bane, and presumably received it, but I wondered how the Angels’ front office would react if he didn’t get the job. Would he be perceived as a threat? As someone whose loyalty should be questioned?

Others have applied for jobs elsewhere. Joe Maddon was the bench coach when he was hired to manage Tampa Bay. Bud Black was the pitching coach when he was hired to manage San Diego.

But they left. They didn’t stay, which would have meant someone marked as a prime managerial candidate elsewhere would be in the Angels dugout, where some might perceive him as a threat, if not disloyal.

I’ve worked at companies that fired you if they got wind of you interviewing, or even just applying, for a job elsewhere.

The Angels are a highly disciplined organization, and that discipline starts with manager Mike Scioscia. No slight intended against Tony Reagins, but the common perception among many observers is that Scioscia calls the shots, and it’s Tony’s job to administratively implement Scioscia’s program. Whether it’s true or not, I can’t say, but I do think it’s fair to describe the arrangement as collaborative.

I’m pretty certain Bane’s drafts had nothing to do with his termination. At least, they shouldn’t have.

As noted above, high risk/high reward originated with Bill Stoneman. If Reagins wanted to veer away from that philosophy, he could have, and there’s no evidence to suggest he did.

Most people tend to focus on the June amateur draft as the sole measurement of a scouting director’s success, but that’s wrong. The draft only applies to amateurs in North America. It doesn’t apply in the rest of the world, where almost anything goes. And many players have gone on to big league careers who were not drafted — they were overlooked and signed as undrafted free agents.

If a scouting director wants to make himself look good, he calls a safe projectable name in the first round, an amateur likely to have a decent but not spectacular career in the majors, and soon has a success story he can claim as his own.

In my opinion, the real test of a scouting director is how he does in the later rounds, how he does in international scouting, and how he does with undrafted free agents.

Baseball America in May 2003 analyzed the first ten rounds of the 1990 through 1997 drafts to measure the success of players by round, and also by high school versus college players. I doubt it’s changed much since then, but in any case it’s quite revealing in helping to predict what we should expect out of a draft.

The article found that 34.9% of first rounders were “flops,” meaning that one-third of them never made it to the big leagues. 20.3% got there for “a cup of coffee,” meaning a token appearance. 18.3% were “fringe” players, e.g. utility players, backup catchers, long relief men, etc.

That leaves only 26.6% — roughly one in four — who were “regulars” (14.0%), “good” (8.3%) or “star” (4.3%).

I’ve read posts on fan sites where people complain that the Angels haven’t produced their own Albert Pujols. Well, it’s really hard to produce an Albert Pujols. Only 4.3% of first-round draft picks become “stars,” and overall only 0.9% of draftees in the first ten rounds become “stars”. That’s 1 out of 100.

And that doesn’t take into consideration whether the drafting team had a higher position in the draft order because it stank the year before. Teams draft in reverse order of winning percentage in the prior season. Persistently competitive teams, such as the Angels in the 2000s, will draft lower. And if the general manager signs a star free agent, his team might have to cough up a first-round pick in compensation, which means the scouting director doesn’t even get a shot.

Bane had seven drafts during his Angels tenure, so that’s about 70 names in those ten rounds he called. Generically speaking, his odds of finding a “star” were less than one percent, considering the Angels were usually one of the last teams in each round to draft.

Due to signing free agents, the Angels lost high-round picks in many years:

2004 — Lost their second (for Bartolo Colon) and third round (for Kelvim Escobar) picks.

2005 — Lost their first round pick (for Orlando Cabrera) but got a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds (Trevor Bell at #37 overall).

2006 — Lost their first round (for Jeff Weaver) and second round (for Hector Carrasco) picks but got a first-round (Hank Conger) pick for losing Paul Byrd.

2007 — Lost their first round (for Gary Matthews, Jr.) and second round (for Justin Speier) picks but got a supplemental first-round (Jon Bachanov) pick for losing Adam Kennedy.

2008 — Lost their first round pick (for Torii Hunter).

Should Eddie be blamed because Bill Stoneman gave up high-round draft picks for Jeff Weaver and Gary Matthews, Jr.? Of course not.

Let’s be clear how important those first-round picks are.

Using the BA analysis, by round here’s the statistical probability of a player being a “regular” or better:

1st 26.5%
2nd 9.4%
3rd 6.2%
4th 3.9%
5th 5.4%
6th 5.0%
7th 4.0%
8th 4.6%
9th 2.1%
10th 3.2%

So if you’re unhappy with the talent depth in the Angels’ farm system today, you can point the finger at that feel-good instant gratification some fans felt when the Angels coughed up first- and second-round draft picks to sign veterans.

I’ve preached for years that instant gratification has consequence. We see that today.

So what’s a scouting director to do when he’s robbed of a sure thing?

High risk. High reward.

That’s where Eddie Bane shined.

Let’s look at his first draft, in June 2004.

With his first-round pick, #12 overall, Bane selected Jered Weaver. Although Weaver was the consensus best college pitching prospect in the nation, the eleven teams ahead of the Angels passed because Weaver’s advisor was Scott Boras and therefore considered unsignable.

But the Angels took the risk.

A year went by, and it went down to the final minutes the Angels had his rights before Weaver signed. A few minutes more, and he would have gone back into the pool. It was this year-long waiting game that was partially responsible for Major League Baseball moving up the signing deadline from one year to mid-August, about two months after the draft.

Weaver might fall into that “star” category one day, as he’s pitched in 2010 like a Cy Young Award candidate.

Bane had no second or third round picks. In the fourth round, he selected Patrick White, a star Alabama high school football player whose raw tools projected to make him a star baseball player too. White didn’t sign.


Nick Adenhart was one of the first “high risk, high reward” players drafted by
Eddie Bane.

 

In the 14th round, Bane played high-risk high-reward again. He selected Nick Adenhart, who BA had profiled as the top high school pitching prospect in the nation before blowing out his elbow in his final start, requiring “Tommy John” surgery. The Angels signed Adenhart for a reported $710,000 signing bonus, about half what he would have received in the first round but much more than any other 14th rounder would ever receive. The Angels assumed the risk of damaged goods, overseeing his rehab and waiting a year until he could begin to pitch again. Nick might be on his way to “star” status too if not for the accident that took his life in April 2009.

In the 18th round, Bane selected Mark Trumbo, a Villa Park high school graduate already committed to USC. Trumbo received a reported $1.4 million bonus to lure him away from college. Six years later, Trumbo hit 36 homers this year for Triple-A Salt Lake, but it remains to be seen what he’ll do when he’s given a full-time job in the majors.

The high school players from Bane’s earliest drafts — Trumbo, Hank Conger, Peter Bourjos and more — are just now starting to arrive in the majors, so it’s too early to judge their long-term success.

Of course, there’s also his pick of Mike Trout at #25 overall in the June 2009 draft. Plenty of teams passed over him, yet he’s already one of the consensus top prospects in all the minors.

As for international scouting, Bane signed Cuban defector Kendry Morales at age 21½ in December 2004. Morales received a six-year major league contract and a reported $3 million signing bonus. When he arrived in Anaheim in 2006, he appeared in 57 games and posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .234/.293/.371. In 2008, his numbers were .213/.273/.393 in 61 at-bats as he spent most of the year at Triple-A. Impatient people declared him a “bust.” But in 2009 Morales posted a line of .306/.355/.569, well on his way to “star” status.

But not many top prospects from Latin countries have emerged from the Angels’ system since Kendry, and I think this is one category where maybe the scouting department didn’t produce as well. Current prospects Alexi Amarista, Luis Jimenez, Fabio Martinez-Mesa and Jean Segura might change that trend; left-handed pitching prospect Alex Torres was sent to Tampa Bay in July 2009 in the Scott Kazmir trade.

Bane can’t held to blame for Kazmir, or for the signings of Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui who have entered their declining years. He can’t be held responsible for the disappointing performance in the bullpen by Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney. Those were decisions made by others, and it should be noted that according to the Angels’ 2010 Media Guide professional scouting is overseen by Gary Sutherland, the Special Assistant to the General Manager, not Eddie Bane.

I’ve no doubt Eddie will find another job, and soon. He’s too talented a baseball man to be on the open market for long.

By the way, one final note about Albert Pujols … He’s a first-round talent, but he was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the June 1999 draft and given a $60,000 signing bonus. As I wrote upstream, the best scouts shine in the later rounds.

1 Comment

Weaver was the anthithesis of high risk/high reward. Everyone said his ceiling was no better than a #3 starter but that he was almost a guaranteed ML pitcher. It seems to have turned out better than this, but exactly the OPPOSITE of high risk/high reward.

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