Zduriencik shares thoughts on draft
Brewers director of scouting chats with fans online
Brewers director of scouting Jack Zduriencik chatted with fans online about Milwaukee's selections in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, including fifth overall pick Ryan Braun, as well as past selections and players in the Brewers' Minor League system.
Jack Zduriencik: Welcome to the chat, everyone. We're online and ready to go. I appreciate the fans here in Milwaukee -- they've been very supportive and their patience over the years has been impressive. What we're trying to do is turn this thing around at the Major League level and that starts with what we're trying to do at the Minor League level. This is a process. We've said from Day 1, at least since I've been here, that this thing doesn't get turned around overnight. It takes time. I think we're impressed with some of the things Dean Taylor did with the Major League club, and we all have to be impressed with what Doug Melvin has done with acquiring talent at the Major League level. It seems that we're getting close to seeing the results of years of hard work. Let's go ahead and take some questions.
Base_Ball: Do you have a preference between drafting college kids vs. kids right out of high school? How much more prepared are the players that have gone to college? Do they start at a higher level in the Minors?
Zduriencik: Each case is an individual case. Each player has to be evaluated on his abilities. And to say where players start, the general consensus is that a college player usually starts higher, but that's not always the case and I think when you look at the high school kids that we have in our system, in terms of Prince Fielder and David Krynzel for that matter, some of our kids are playing at a very high level at a very young age. Our philosophy is that the sooner a player can begin his pro career, the sooner he has a chance to become a Major League player. It's not always where you start -- it's where you end up.
brewerfreak: I was wondering when will Ryan Braun be starting his career with the Brewers?
Zduriencik: We will begin negotiations with Ryan as soon as he finishes his career at the University of Miami. They are in the Super Regionals starting tomorrow at the University of Nebraska. Should they get beat, then we would begin negotiations as soon as he returns home. Should they win, they qualify for the NCAA College World Series, and then we would have to wait until his team either wins or is eliminated from that World Series.
brewerfreak: Will Braun play third base or will you guys move him to the outfield?
Zduriencik: We have every intention of playing Ryan at third base. We have seen this player a lot this year and we have seen the progress he has made from the transition from shortstop to third base, and you have to be impressed with what he has done. Again, it takes time any time a player switches positions. The positive here is that he is a very good athlete, he has played third base all year and he certainly has the skills to become an everyday Major League third baseman. He will get every opportunity to succeed as a third baseman in our Minor League system.
brewcrewrulz02: Do you think it will be more difficult to sign a college player like Braun than a kid from high school? And when you get him signed, where will be start playing?
Zduriencik: I think where he starts depends on how soon he signs. Should he lay out for a period of time, then he would probably begin at a lower level. Should he be willing to get his career under way right away, then we would consider Single-A West Virginia. Again, it depends on how soon he signs. Rookie Helena is always a nice option for him. It depends on how well negotiations go after he completes his season and how quickly we get him into a contract. In our discussion with Ryan prior to the draft, he gave us every indication that he wanted to play sooner rather than later. He expressed what he felt was the value of getting his career started and he was excited about being a third baseman that has been projected for the Brewers -- playing with Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy is intriguing to him. There are no promises made, and you don't know how negotiations will go. I've been in this thing a long time and I have a feeling that Ryan is very sincere about playing right away. Also, this morning I noticed that Troy Tulowitzki has signed. I saw also that Ryan Zimmerman has signed. That might give you an indication of the college players ahead of him and behind him wanting to get their careers started as well. So I would suspect the negotiations will go smoothly and we just have to be patient until his college career has ended before we get a chance to sit down with him and his representative.
NoEmail_Spam: Jack, first thank you for your work in really upgrading the Brewer organization the past few years. OK, so who were the three big draft steals this year?
Zduriencik: That's difficult to answer because you must realize for me to make those comments when we have just begun negotiations with players could put us in a difficult situation. My basic premise is always not to comment on players until they are signed to a professional contract. We're going to submit some information today to the media department as our signings begin, but the protocol is to submit them to the Commissioner's office first.
NoEmail_Spam: How close was your decision to draft Braun over Cameron Maybin, or who was another consideration at the fifth pick?
Zduriencik: I think the names were out there on who we were looking at. I had read several media reports on possibilities of guys that were in our mix. But we kind of got a feel as we got close to the draft on what other clubs were doing. You never really know, but you get a sense. But I can say that when you sit in a draft room -- this is true of any sport -- there are always favorites among the scouts. The East scout is going to make a strong push for an East player, the West guy will make a strong push for a West player and the central guy will do the same. It's my job to decipher all the information, to see the big picture and make the best pick in my assessment for the Milwaukee Brewers. And that's why we selected Ryan Braun.
tybud4454981: Love the draft Jack. Where do you see Braun starting? Double-A?
Zduriencik: I think it's dangerous to push a player too high right off the bat. If you ever err, err on the side of caution because you have to realize that all of these kids are making the transition from aluminum to wood bats. It's a whirlwind when you consider College World Series possibilities, first-round possibilities, players' dreams coming true. And I think you're always better off to let the dust settle, let a player get his feet on the ground and allow them to have success. It's very easy to move a player up once he's had success. For example, Rickie Weeks even started in rookie league because he held out for a month and a half, then went to Single-A Beloit. And look at the success he's having now. Again, it depends on how quickly a player signs.
Base_Ball: Obviously Jemile Weeks has a lot of talent, but how much potential does he have compared to his older brother? Also what are the chances that he will elect to accept the scholarship to Miami instead of going pro?
Zduriencik: I don't like to make comparisons. Jemile is Jemile and Rickie is Rickie. It's a nice story, but Jemile was drafted because of his own abilities. Obviously, he has a scholarship to Miami and shortly we will sit down with him and his family and discuss the possibilities of starting his career now.
NoEmail_Spam: Realistically, how many of the 49 picks would you like to sign now, and how many as draft and follow picks?
Zduriencik: We took in the low 20s in terms of draft and follows. A lot of those are kids we have every intention of watching this summer and some of these kids that we took as draft and follows may have the intention of signing a contract sometime this summer. For those that haven't heard of "draft and follow," it affects two segments of players. One, being a high school player going to junior college. The second being a first-year junior college player returning to JC for a second season. In both cases, we retain the rights to that player until the 2006 draft. We're allowed to begin negotiations with the player once his last game of JC is complete. The rights are exclusive; no other club is allowed to talk to or gather information about that player. If we do not sign that player, either by his choice or ours, then he goes back into the draft and is free to be drafted by anyone. This is how we got Manny Parra, Dana Eveland, Tim Dillard. We just signed Darren Ford out of Chipola Junior College in Florida and Lorenzo Cain out of Tallahassee JC in Florida. Those are examples.
Base_Ball: How did you get your start in baseball? As a college kid who would like to work in the baseball business, where should I start?
Zduriencik: It's different for a lot of people, especially depending on your background. In my case, I played college baseball, I coached high school and college baseball and had a career as a Minor League player. I was approached about becoming a scout, so the transition was relatively easy, but there are a lot of avenues to begin a scouting career. The main one, of course, is to get connected with a scout in a territory and maybe begin as an associate scout or a part-time scout to learn the business. That could develop into a full-time scouting position. You don't have to have been a pro player to be a good scout. On our staff, we have scouts that have played in the Major Leagues, scouts that topped out as Minor League players, and some scouts that have been college coaches or college players. One of the best scouts I know in the industry never played college baseball. But it is about pursuing a dream and gathering whatever experience and applied knowledge and innate ability to be able to recognize and uncover talent.
NoEmail_Spam: Tell us about right-handed pitcher William Inman -- what he throws, and who he is similar to.
Zduriencik: His high school season is still in progress, so we won't even begin to sit down with this guy until he is finished playing. To make comments about a player who we have not even begun negotiations with would not be in his best interests or our best interests. The key here is we have recognized his abilities and that's why we selected him in the third round.
Base_Ball_3: I am a long time Brewers fan and I am very appreciative of the direction the team seems to be headed. I was wondering how the scouting reports differed between the three college third basemen chosen in the top five picks?
Zduriencik: It's a unique year in that I can't recall in my 25 years of scouting, three third basemen going in the top five picks. That being said, only one has signed. The other two are still playing (Miami's Braun and Nebraska's Alex Gordon), and you can watch them on TV this weekend and make your own assessments.
Brent_Chabbas: Who would you consider your greatest Milwaukee draft success thus far?
Zduriencik: I think they're still in the making. I think you have to wait for Major League careers to be established before you can judge fairly. Minor League careers are nice, and they are important, but the bottom line is what they do up here, and we're looking forward to seeing these kids become big leaguers some day.
creeg: How does it feel to see guys that you drafted make their debuts in the big leagues, as well as watching their progress from college or high school ball through to the Majors?
Zduriencik: You're happy for the kid and his family more than anything else because you spent so much time with these people and you realize the hard work they put in it. Quite frankly, when we draft them, regardless of where, you expect them to be big leaguers. That's the reason they're signed.
clarky96: Do any of the draft picks have a shot at playing in West Virginia this year?
Zduriencik: We're just beginning negotiations with these kids. Allow them to go get their feet on the ground and let Reid Nichols make the decision on where they should be moved. I'd obviously have some input, but once they are signed it's Reid's final call.
Base_Ball: How many non-drafted players do you anticipate signing?
Zduriencik: It depends, and that's another difficult question to answer right now. The first thing you want to do is sign the players who were drafted, guys you have under control. If any of these negotiations take time, you get a sense of that right off the bat from our area scouts or supervisors who are trying to sign these players. Therefore, sometimes your needs at the Minor League level will dictate how many players you sign that haven't been drafted.
brewerfreak: Was Dave Kyrnzel ready to come back to the Majors?
Zduriencik: He almost made the club out of Spring Training and he was having a very successful season at Triple-A. He was brought up in an emergency situation, and we'll see how it plays itself out. If he's here, he deserves to be here.
Base_Ball: Who has been your most pleasant surprise as a late-round draft pick in years past?
Zduriencik: I think the biggest surprise has been a player who wasn't even drafted -- that's Mike Adams, who has been at the Major League level and probably will be back before the year is over. And Vinny Rottino, another undrafted player, who is having a nice season at Double-A. I think we've been played with some lower draft picks like Parra and Eveland, Steven Moss, and look at Ty Taubenheim.
brewerfreak: What do you think of Vinny Rottino this year and do you think he'll make it to the Majors any time soon?
Zduriencik: I love Vinny Rottino. I love what Vinny has done, I love how he's approached the game and I can see Vinny being a Major League player someday, right here in Milwaukee. He is a great success story.
Base_Ball: What is the average number of players from each draft that can realistically be expected to make it to the Major League level?
Zduriencik: In Pittsburgh one year we had 12. Normally, it's anywhere from three to six or seven. But, there are a lot of guys who sign pro contracts that end up working in the industry as scouts, coaches, front office people. The thing is, you sign them to become big league players. Any given year, you never know.
Base_Ball: Can you tell us a little bit about Jorge Core and the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy?
Zduriencik: He's going to go to Junior College in Florida and we'll watch his progress this summer. If we don't sign him -- he's a draft and follow -- we'll watch again next year.
Base_Ball: Kevin Roberts is a pitcher and a second baseman, I know you drafted him as a pitcher but will he have the opportunity to play both positions in the Minors?
Zduriencik: Probably not. We drafted him because we liked him as a pitcher. We think he has more upside there and I think he does as well. The intriguing thing is you get him away from playing second base and make him a full-time pitcher, and see what happens.
Michael_Guenther: I really like what Braun could bring, but why not go with Maybin, I hear he was your No. 1 choice and has been called the best high school outfielder since Ken Griffey Jr.?
Zduriencik: Had he been our No. 1 choice we would have selected him.
NoEmail_Spam: Do you think there will be changes in the next collective bargaining agreement that will change successful teams like the Red Sox, Marlins, and Cardinals from having so many high draft picks like they did this year?
Zduriencik: It's hard to say because I'm not involved in that end of it. But I think if you look at the process of compensation picks, and it's an uneven playing field.
peavey: Is there a draft pick that stands out in your mind as one that you're exceptionally proud of making? Are there any that you regret?
Zduriencik: Of course -- both ends. Jason Kendall stands out as a good one. When I took him in Pittsburgh, people thought he was a small, undersized catcher that people shied away from. He was a late first-round pick, somewhere in the early 20s, and we had him about fifth on our board.
marsupial: Was there any consideration given to drafting some of the players who "slipped" after asking for more money than their projected draft position warranted?
Zduriencik: You consider all options. Some of it depends on how unrealistic their expectations are. But I wouldn't comment on any particular player -- just in a general sense, all clubs have a budget to work under. The bottom line is how unrealistic some of the demands are by some of the players.
Base_Ball_3: Of the draft and follows from last year, who signed this year and who are you particularly excited about?
Zduriencik: The two guys we mentioned -- Cain and Ford. They are two pretty good-looking athletes. In Ford's case, he is an absolute flyer. In Cain's case, we think he's going to develop physically and be a guy that will be interesting to watch as his career unfolds.
cmow: Does the Minor League success of Rickie Weeks, a college draft pick, have any impact on selecting a college player like Braun at No. 1?
Zduriencik: Ryan Braun will be Ryan Braun. Rickie Weeks will be Rickie Weeks. Again, you take the best player that you feel is the best selection for the Milwaukee Brewers at this point in time. In all of our assessments and looking at the big picture, as well as his talent, this pick made sense. I have to get back to work. There's a lot going on here, but I appreciate all of your questions. Hopefully some day we can sit here as a group and be proud of what is going on on that field behind us. Our whole goal is to bring a championship to the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.