As some of you know, Athletics Nation, along with several other A’s blogs, were invited to take part in a special interview session during FanFest with Bob Melvin, David Forst, and Mike Gallego. Nico, Alex Hall, and I represented AN. We had a 15 minute, press-conference style session with each person, where the field was opened up to pretty much anything. What follows is the transcript of the session we had with David Forst, the A’s Assistant General Manager. My own comments will follow.
Q: Let me start by asking you about your new shortstop. This is a sexy and cool guy. So I know, a lot players translate well, some of them don't translate so well
David Forst: Literally and figuratively.
Q: Yeah, exactly. And I don't know how much you saw of him personally or not, or how much you absorbed through reports from others, but I'm curious about is what specifically you see him in that made you think ‘you know this guy, can really translate well to America and to the major leagues'
DF: Sure, I did not actually see him myself. We have a number of guys who have seen him, back through the WBC in 2009. A lot of our pro scouts, our international guys, the last couple of years. Well, part of it is based on the numbers. His offensive numbers do translate well based on what other Japanese players have done. But the reports, not only the scouting report, but from other players who have played with him, I think we mentioned somewhere back that Bob had talked to Ichiro and to Hideki about him. The guys who have done well over here are the guys who show some leadership over there, who have the personality, who aren't as affected by the off-the-field things they have to adjust to, which are huge. We saw with Yoenis, too that's there so much that foreign players have to deal with aside from just baseball. So, we felt like he would be able to handle that stuff, so his talent would. Defensively, that's the hardest thing for us to predict. We don't have the same metrics that we have on the offensive side. But our reports are good - the hands, the arm strength, which are the things that you look for from a scouting perspective that we feel pretty good about.
Q: So, at this point, are you more curious to see how his glove and arm play out as opposed to the bat?
DF: For sure, yeah, like I said, it's a little more on the... but we do think he can play the position.
Q: Talking about defensive metrics, how do you evaluate it? It seems like it's hard to get reliable metrics...
DF: You know, the key on defense is having everything match up. I mean, if you're looking at Range Factor or UZR, the stuff that takes into account the Field f/x stuff and SportVision data, the key is to have everything match up. If you have conflicting reports, that's when you sort look at your scouting reports and get a little worried. I only feel good about defensive stats when it seems like things are aligned across the board.
Q: How about the draft - there's another one coming up this year! Last year, you took a lot of high school hitters and infielders. Any idea yet what you might be targeting, or is that more out there?
DF: Targeting, no. We wait until we get closer to sort of see. We got together with Eric Kubota and his guys a couple weeks ago, just to sort of go over the list. It's a lot deeper in college players this year, both in pitching, and in position players. We certainly didn't set out to take a whole bunch of high school guys last year, that's just where we felt like the talent was. But it is deeper on the college level. I mean, you never really know who you're targeting really into until you get in the room.
Q: Not any particular guys, but just in general, are there any positions.. general positions...
DF: Uhh, yeah, I mean it's hard to say. We obviously traded away a lot of pitching. We have pitching here, and then there is a little bit of a gap after guys like Peacock and Sonny, there's a gap down to A-ball. Having traded Cole and Trienen, we've sport opened that gap up a little bit. I mean, it's hard to say anything; obviously, you always need good pitching every year.
Q: Another draft question: how will the new slotting parameters of the new CBA affect the A's drafting strategy in the upcoming draft?
DF: We got to see it a little bit last year how it played out. Obviously, the team that has the bigger pool of money have to strategize on how to maximize that. I mean, picking where we do now -- 25th down there at the bottom -- you don't have that opportunity to spread your money out as much as other teams. I thought the Astros did a great job last year with that first pick: taking Correia, getting a deal, then being able to get 2-3 other basically 1st round-type talents down lower. You can only do with what you're given. We don't expect to exceed our pool and pay a tax for it, so you have to use your slot money in the most efficient way possible. If that is ultimately overspending on someone in the 1st round then cutting back elsewhere, we'll see, but you don't know that until you see what's really left at 25.
Q: Regarding John Jaso, is he a guy you've been targeting for awhile, one of Billy Beane's holy grails? Or did he just kind of fall into your lap?
DF: He's been on the target list for awhile. You look at what he did in the minor leagues, the type of offensive player he was, he's certainly the type of guy historically we have coveted. He had a year in Seattle where he really finally broke out offensively. As we watched him a lot over the course of the season, seeing him in our division, he was certainly a guy we thought about towards the end of the season and all offseason. We had to figure out a way to see if Seattle would part with him, and it obviously took a long time for Jack to come around, and getting Morse was the piece that he needed, so that worked. But he was a guy, when he was with Tampa... in fact, one of our pro scouts, Craig Weisman, was an amateur guy with Tampa when he signed Jaso orignally out of the draft, so we've kind of had our eyes on John for awhile.
Q: Did the Nationals specifically ask for A.J. Cole back? Or did you guys evaluate the minor league system, and see... everybody's been saying his statistics were not really on par last season as some people expected them to be... so did the Nationals ask for him back, or did the A's...
DF: Yeah, they did. It was a case where that really is what got us in the conversation. And Mike Rizzo had said a couple times over the last 12 months how disappointed he was in having given up A.J., so Billy sort of knew in the back of his head that that was going to get us in the door. And when things matched up, we knew Seattle wanted Morse, and obviously Rizzo knew we didn't have any interest in Morse, we were able to say ‘Hey Mike, are you still interested in A.J.?'
Q: Both of the young starters have a combined innings in the minor and major leagues last year of 150IP+. How mindful are you of their workloads going into this year?
DF: We're always aware of it. It's something we constantly talk about. Curt does a great job of keeping track of these guys on a start by start, 3 starts by 3 starts basis. But it's certainly not a situation where we're going in saying we're going to cut pitcher A off here. Our trainers do a lot of work in between starts, and they do a good job of keeping track of historical comps for each guy. So, whether it's Jarrod -- we increased his workload significantly last year -- or Brett, who had a limited workload because of the injury... I think we have the best feel for them just because our trainers have their hands on these guys after each start. I expect that we will continue to talk about it and be aware of it, but I don't imagine we'll have a limit set up to start the season.
Q: Was there ever any consideration this offseason to add a relatively low-risk, short-term veteran starter, along with signing Bartolo?
DF: Well, we signed Bartolo didn't we?
DF: Sure, obviously, we're aware that what we accomplished last season was based a lot on our good starting pitching depth, and the fact that we ended up using 7, 8, 9 starters who were effective. The fact that Travis is still here, obviously he can fill that role, and we expect a full season out of Brett. We felt like adding Bartolo was probably as much as we needed to do. At the same time, it's just not easy to add those veteran guys when on paper, you have a rotation like we do -- it's not necessarily an attractive place for a veteran to come to fight to make the team. We feel like with A.J. and Dan in the 5-6 spot, with Peacock and Sonny at AAA, and Travis here being a swingman, we feel like there is depth there to get it done.
Q: Did you consider Shaun Marcum?
DF: No, we have not talked about Marcum?
Q: It seems like Billy has wanted to keep the team relatively intact this offseason. I'm curious, how much of that was based on numbers, and how much of that was based on wanting to keep the clubhouse culture intact?
DF: Yeah, there's no doubt that clubhouse culture is important, and it starts with Bob. That's one of the most important things. He set the tone for these guys and they kind of followed his lead, which isn't the case everywhere. But, there's been a lot of made of Jonny leaving, and Brandon Inge, but you're never going to keep all 25 guys together. Well, I think it's a combination of both. We like the mix we have of personalities, combined with guys that take it seriously on the field, but also a bunch of guys who should continue to get better. Whether that's about age or getting a chance to play every day, or what the guys have done performance-wise, this team should not have guys that necessarily regress. They should continue to trend upwards.
Q: Speaking of wrapping up here, bringing back Colon after what happened last year... was there any hesitation about the suspension that he had or was it like yeah, we want that guy back?
DF: I think we're sort of on record as saying if guys serve their punishment, their suspension, all we can do is follow the rules. We talked a little about that with Manny last year. Same goes for Bartolo: with 5 more games coming, he'll have served his suspension and he understands what he did and it's not up to us to further punish guys. Bartolo was outstanding while he was here, both the guys on the field and the guys in the clubhouse respected him and there's no doubt in our mind that he's a good guy to have around this team.
There weren't too many surprises here. That said, I did not know the A's had a working Field f/x installation at the Coliseum. It was also interesting that Forst didn't discount the metrics themselves so much as worrying about when there are inconsistencies between the evaluation of a scout and what the numbers tell them. It tells me that the A's are going with a data-rich approach: rather than being married to one particular way of evaluation, it's more about getting as many data points as possible.
When it comes to Nakajima, though, while he seems to genuinely believe that Nakajima can play SS, that's the part where there are the most questions. (In later parts, you'll see what Gallego has to say about this).
Some more thoughts:
- Naturally, the A's don't really care about the so-called Verducci effect. They seem to want to do direct comps, rather than lumping everyone into a catch-all group. It seems more like an on-the-fly workload management strategy, which, for a pitcher, makes the most sense.
- Not that it should have been, but that Beane seemed to be the driving force behind the Jaso trade was surprising to me. The A's wanted Jaso, worked on Jack Z for awhile to find out what he wanted, knew that Cole was something that would get Rizzo talking (and he wouldn't mind dumping Morse), and then put together all the pieces. I found it mildly amusing that Rizzo knew the A's would never want Morse. As if to say that the A's and Nationals know that Morse isn't really valuable, but the Mariners don't and so they'll take him.
- No surprises in terms of drafting or strategy. I wonder, though, if the A's had a top flight talent coming down to them, if they would consider overpaying? When the next Bryce Harper shows up, it could ultimately be that player's strategy to hold out for the team who is willing to go overslot and sign him to a big deal. Now, hopefully, the A's remain good enough so that they aren't picking so high. But, I do wonder how much the A's will play by the rules when push comes to shove.
Again, thanks to Adam Loberstein in the A's Media Relations department for getting us all together. It was great meeting Nico, Alex, Bill (Athletics Farm), and the other non-AN bloggers who got to pretend to be a media members for the day. Alex and Nico will have the remaining parts of the sessions up this week.