By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor
Well it has been a long and to be frank, pretty boring offseason to date, so we hooked up with Eddie a bit sooner than we usually do to start the new year off, in part because we've had so many of the same questions from fans about the up and coming draft, the lack of power hitters in the organization and some player updates and reports on some of the prospects heading into the 2009 minor league season.
So, lets dig right in and see what Eddie had to say in response to quite a few Angelswin.com member questions in the first Eddie Bane Connection of the 2009 season.
Q: (Angelswin) - Looking forward to kick off the 2009 Bane Connection with an assortment of questions, but first off, on behalf of the entire Angelswin.com community of Angels fans, we hope the Bane family had some good times over the Holidays.
A: (Eddie Bane) -1st things 1st guys. Take the time folks, if that is your belief and say a prayer for Chuck and his family at their loss of Chuck’s father. Awfully hard spot and the Christmas, Thanksgiving, holiday time has to be especially tough. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours Chuck.
The Bane family had a nice Christmas just as always and hope all the Angel fans did also.
Chuck: Thank you Eddie. The Angels organization and yourself have shown tremendous support after the passing of my father. The call I received from Tim Mead on behalf of the entire Angels organization 2 days after my father passed was heartfelt and truly appreciated.
Q: (Angelswin) - (3 part question) So this is your first chance as the Angels scouting director at having 4 high picks in the 2009 amateur draft. Having two picks in the late 1st round and two more in the 1st round-supplemental sandwich picks and one more in the 2nd round, you must be licking your chops having the chance to draft some top tier talent? How do you see the talent shaping up for this year's draft? Is it a deep pool or shallow? Is the talent more in college or in high school? Is there is a certain position or type of player that there is more of in this draft? Has the budget to sign our draft picks swelled to commensurate to the number of high round picks that we have?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Yes, we have adjusted our budget to reflect extra picks. The best thing about working with Arte and the Angels is the fact they never take money away, and always add when we need it. Tough to think what would have happened if Arte had said no when we presented him with the thoughts of signing Morales or let’s say Trumbo. But, he never did. He always said to just sign the player. His belief is that you cannot play without players and this is the best way to develop new talent.
This will be a deep draft. It always is. HS will be a focus, but we never overlook college talent either.
We are excited about having as many as 5 picks in 1st and sandwich round. We will not work any harder, as that would be impossible, but every effort will be made to get the best player possible in addition to keeping the same attitude about getting more Reckling and Tobin types.
Q: (Angelswin) - Now that we have these higher round picks, does our draft strategy change much? The fans have been knocking at the door loudly for a college hitter (close to the big leagues) with both power and on-base skills, much like we witnessed from Mark Teixeira in his brief stay with the Angels. The fans have been sending me quite a bit of emails voicing their displeasure that the organization's last developed power hitter was Troy Glaus. Do we have some of these types on your radar in preparation for the up and coming draft?
A: (Eddie Bane) - I would say the last power hitter we developed was Kendry Morales and that was in 2008, but that is just me being a smart aleck. Those power hitter types are one of the things we look hard to obtain and the fans are correct. But, you read a lot about a player like the hitter that was traded from the Brewers to the Indians last season (Matt LaPorta) and people write about his power. This young man is 24-25 years old and does not have near the power of Mark Trumbo who is younger. Let it play out and we will see what happens. As I said above we are not going to get the Longoria types out of college as we are not going to ever pick that high. Those are easy drafts and we are not presented with that option if ever.
Mark Teixeira is a wonderful hitter and even more appreciated after watching him closely, but I really really admire the way Arte Moreno handled our negotiations with Tex and his agent. The Angels did it the right way.
Q: (Angelswin) - The organization has put a premium on scouting and drafting pitchers, and in doing so, it seems like there's been a lack of quality corner infielders and outfielders panning out in the system (save Trumbo & Morales, possibly). I'm curious if there's a concern within the org that they haven't been able to find some power-hitting players to fill what are traditionally powerful spots (1B, 3B, LF, RF), and if they're looking to reverse that trend?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Exactly, one of our goals is to develop a bit more corner power. That being said, I hope the Angels fans noticed that we lost 3 pitchers in the Rule V draft held recently at the winter meetings. When you break that down it means that 3 different clubs felt that the Angels had 40 players who were better than that organization's 25 man roster. We always get ranked highly by the publications (rightfully so) that rank prospects, but when other clubs are even taking notice then you know you are doing the right thing. That being said we also hate losing O’Day and the other 2 pitchers. Our scouts found O’Day after the draft, one of the other pitchers, Miguel Gonzalez was found by Bo Hughes pitching in a Sunday Los Angeles area senior league and Mosebach was a fairly high draft. Pretty spread out examples of great scouting.
Our power at 1st, 3rd, LF and RF would be as follows. 1B’s with plus major league power are Morales and Trumbo. 3B’s with plus major league power are Sweeney and Jimenez with Brandon Wood in the immediate picture. The corner outfield is a spot that we have to do better. We will
Q: (Angelswin) - Mark Teixeira brought a new dimension to our offense, a combination of both power and plate discipline...an approach seemingly different to the organization's "contact ball" philosophy and something no current Angel prospect seems to possess. Many Angel fans would like to see more of our hitters approach their plate appearance the same way. Has his presence and example perhaps changed priorities for the player development staff to encourage players into a more patient and disciplined approach at the plate?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Teixeira was a great example to all young hitters. One of the things though that contributed to Tex’s greatness was that for the 1st time in his career he had a great great bad ball hitter right after him in the lineup in Vlad Guerrero. As a former pitcher that is one of the hardest adjustments you make on the mound.
I certainly respect what, let’s say the Padres are doing down south. They have a hitting philosophy that would seem to be much different than ours. They are looking for the “professional hitter”. The Angels want aggressive Howie Kendrick types that can drive balls to all fields. As a Howie Kendrick grows he will learn to have better at bats and that will happen shortly with a hitter as good as Howie. The problem is when you take those college hitters with “good eyes” then you find out later that they cannot hit and you are struck with a hitter that can’t hit. Not a good proposition.
Q: (Angelswin) - Which scouting directors and other teams' player development philosophies do you respect most?
A: (Eddie Bane) - One thing I do know for sure, and I have never been accused of having a lack of ego, is that other organizations really respect and admire what the Angels do in scouting. Other SD’s tell me all the time how envious they are with the freedom and resources that we have because of Arte and our group.
As far as other clubs go I would not answer that because I would not want to slight anyone, but you have to admire the way Eric Kubota and his scouts in Oakland have changed a bit and now will take the high school player if he is the best guy. Both Jason McCleod and Damon Oppenhiemer with the Red Sox and Yanks respectively have made Boston and NY much more threats than they were in the past. One of our goals here is to be as well versed and dominant in southern California as possible and we work hard everyday in SoCal to try and accomplish that goal.
One of the things that has happened since I came on 2004 is that the so called “Moneyball” philosophy showed some cracks and now all the clubs are back to drafting high school players and that makes it much harder on the Angels than in the past. Much harder now to get a Trumbo or Adenhart.
Q: (Angelswin) - Each team must go about player development in a slightly different way...more or less emphasis on certain things and different methodologies of teaching certain skills or even teaching certain skills that others ignore. Any examples of things other teams have taken from the Angels and incorporated into their programs and vice versa?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Chuck and readers; again I wont name certain clubs, but we have had reps tell us that their team is going to emulate the “Angels Way” all throughout their system. We just lost one of the greatest baseball instructors in the game in Bruce “Jeter” Hines (went to the big leagues with Wakamatsu) to the Mariners. Smart hire by the M’s as they will pick Jeter’s brain about how we do things with the Angels. If we can get a high school young man to see a minor league spring training day and compare it to his possible college experience then we will never lose that player to the colleges. Those legendary days of the Bull Durham type bus rides just do not happen much any longer.
Q: (Angelswin) - How much attention (if any) does the scouting staff pays to sabermetrics, and if the organization would consider itself more of a marriage of traditional scouting techniques and sabermetrics, or more focused on old-school/traditional "what I see and word-of-mouth" scouting.
A: (Eddie Bane) - We don’t employ “word of mouth scouting” ever in the Angels organization. We are very cognizant of the players stats and pay attention to how they are doing. That is just not the difficult part of scouting. Neither is pointing a radar gun or stopping a watch. The hard part is telling whether or not a young man will hit or if a young LHP will be the one of 10 guys with an 87 mph fastball that will one day be the one guy of the group that throws 94 with command. That is how Tom Kotchman gets Will Smith types in the 5th through 8th round. Kotch and all my crosscheckers put all the stats and other numbers in front of me and then you put the meal together and hopefully it tastes good when you finally get to try the food.
Q: (Angelswin) - How would you (Eddie) rate our drafts overall for the past 5 years? Which years have been the best in your opinion?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Some publications like to grade a teams draft on June 8th for a June 5-6 draft. Fortunately we do not do that. 2004 looks like a supreme draft because of Weaver, Adenhart, Trumbo and a few other star types. It also had the role players that you should get in any draft such as Freddy Sandoval and Ben Johnson. When all is said and done 2005 will show up huge in my opinion. We drafted a lot of high school players that are just now getting into their comfort zone. Wait a year or 2 for that one and see what you think. In my mind the others are too early to judge, but others want to grade them right now. That is OK with me. As long as they have an interest in the Angels I can handle it.
Q: (Angelswin) - Do you ever read Baseball America or other minor league publications for constructive criticism? If so, do you take their opinions to heart or?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Shoot Chuck, we all read everything written no matter what we say. I have friends at BA, etc. and I know they have a job to do. As I said I put a little more credence into the fact that other clubs pick 3 of our pitchers from our minor league teams that they think can help their big league teams. But, of course you watch what the publications say. Last issue BA got after me a bit for not spending as much money as some other orgs. Fair enough. We took a shot with Harvey and Zach Cone, but they did not sign. I like to take educated risks. Not crazy risks, but educated risks.
I am a very big boy and as people that know me understand I am really good at giving the needle of sarcasm, but I can certainly take it also. It just does not bother me because I am very confident in what we are doing here.
Q: (Angelswin) - Brandon Wood had a pretty tough time down in the DWL and got released by his team...anything to read into this? What are his chances to start the year in the major league lineup? How much emphasis do you place on winter ball stats and performances? Does it matter if the player performs higher than expected (like Pettit and Morales) or worse than expected (like Wood) or does the performance not really matter at all?
A: (Eddie Bane) - It matters to the people in the Dominican and matters up to the 1st day of spring training. Then you better be impressing Mike, Tony and the major league coaches. Hopefully success in winter ball comes because of hard work on your game and if that is the case then winter ball is important. Brandon, Chris, Mark Trumbo and Kendry all worked hard in winter ball. Some had stat success and others did not. As long as they put in hard, long work on their game then that is good enough for the Angels.
Q: (Angelswin) - The Arkansas Travelers should have a nice roster this season to follow up a Championship season in '08. Looks like their catcher will be Hank Conger as all the reports on Hank's shoulder are good. He recently let me know that he's feeling fine and the extended catching he did in the Dominican instructional league went well. Will the Angels be cautious with him behind the plate like they were in '08 in Arkansas or will they let him catch the majority of the games there?
A: (Eddie Bane) - We want Hank to catch all the time. That is up to Hank and he knows how I feel about it. Get out there and catch. Everyone has talked with Hank from Mike and Tony, through the major league coaches and every minor league coach in the organization. That is because he is one of the most talented players in the game. He has one of those swings. Beautiful swing and the lefthanded swing is breathtaking. (Sorry, sounds like I am talking about a lady, OK back to baseball). I got some heat from Bill Shaikin and the people at Baseball America for saying I would take Hank Conger over any catcher in the minor leagues. They thought I was kidding. I was not! Hank would be in the 2009 draft if he were coming out this year. Can you imagine the numbers he would have put up last year at USC. This young man drove in 88 runs in about 80 games last season between the Cal League and 2A and was coming off an injury. When healthy and catching, Conger is on a very fast track to a team that is contending for the World Series every year. Important prospect and an important year.
Q: (Angelswin) - Roberto Lopez....great season in Orem, but at 24, seems somewhat old for that league. Is he on a faster track to move up? Where can we expect to see him next year? What are the Angels scouts saying about Roberto Lopez?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Funny, but some like us to draft college guys and the when we do they say they are too old. Just kidding. Roberto had a great year. Hitting .400 in any league, at any age is tough. He is better than we thought or we would have drafted him higher. Roberto needs to put in extra time on defense, wherever that is, and work hard to be adequate with the glove. He can do it though for sure. Great makeup, champion intelligence. He will get himself as high as he possibly can and hopefully that is in the big leagues. Fluent in at least 2 languages. Really nice package of life skills in addition to baseball skills.
Q: (Angelswin) - Speaking of possibly skipping a level, could we see any prospects skip a level in '09? If so, which Angels farmhands do you think may qualify for a fast track to the big leagues?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Be nice to see how high a level Lopez can handle. Jordan Walden and Sean O’Sullivan are both getting on the major league depth chart here shortly. Scioscia and Butcher will get to see them in spring training. Jacobo can hit also and let’s see what he has along with Andrew Romine.
Q: (Angelswin) - What are Eddie Bane's picks both on the pitching and hitting side for breakout player of year in 2009?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Let’s say Matt Sweeney for the hitter and Robert Fish and Mason Tobin for the pitcher's.
Q: (Angelswin) - Any prospects changing positions or roles (such as converting from a reliever to a starter or starter to a reliever) entering the 2009 minor league season?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Matt Sweeney will be taking a break after being injured for almost 2 full seasons. This young man has one of the best bats in the system. We need to see him on the field.
Q: (Angelswin) - OK, last one. A year has gone by since the last time we've asked for the best tools of the Angels farmhands. So let's have you rank them again entering the 2009 season as with new improvements from our prospects & new draftees of the class of '08, we'll most likely have some new names here.
A: (Eddie Bane)
Best Fastball Velocity: Jordan Walden
Best Changeup: Nick Adenhart
Best Slider: Jordan Walden
Best Curveball: Nick Adenhart
Best Sinker: Mason Tobin
Best Control: Sean O’Sullivan
Quickest to the big leagues: Nick Adenhart or Anthony Ortega
Best Hitter for Average: Matt Sweeney, Hank Conger or Kendry Morales
Best Power Hitter: Mark Trumbo
Best Plate Discipline: Chris Petit
Fastest Baserunner: Peter Bourjos
Best Athlete: Peter Bourjos
Best Defensive Catcher: Bobby Wilson
Best Defensive Infielder: Andrew Romine
Best Defensive Outfielder: Peter Bourjos then Clay Fuller
Best Infield Arm: Andrew Romine because of accuracy included
Best Outfield Arm: Peter Bourjos because of accuracy included
Like always, thank you for your time Eddie. We look forward to circling back with you towards the end of February to early March to see who's making noise in spring camp. As an update too, our 2009 Angelswin.com Top 50 Prospects List will be published on January 19th. We'll alert you when it's live to get your reaction. Here's a teaser - #1 went to a local kid from Huntington Beach that you drafted and praised in this very interview.