Months (and months and months) of hard work by the scouting team of the St. Louis Cardinals will finally come to fruition June 8th through June 10th. These are the dates of the 2015 MLB Draft, and the organization will make five selections prior to the fourth round: #23, #39 (competitive balance round A), #66, #100, and #105 (supplemental pick for not signing Trevor Megill, the #104 pick from 2014). With Dan Kantrovitz leaving to become the assistant general manager of the Oakland Athletics over the offseason, the Cardinals wisely hired from within by promoting Chris Correa, who most previously served as the organization's director of baseball development.
Thus, while Correa has played an invaluable role in talent evaluation in previous years, 2015 will be the first in which he'll be in charge of the team's selections in the MLB Draft. Because of Correa's previous experience with the club, I am not worried about the possibility of the team taking a step back in the 2015 draft. Plus, upon Correa's hiring last December, Mozeliak stated that he is "excited to see [Correa] lead [the organization's] scouting department" (and as we all should be well aware of by now, #MoKnows).
In case you have somehow missed them every Wednesday, you can find each one of the red baron's draft previews here. With the sheer number of players he has analyzed (with even more to come), there is a realistic chance the Cardinals end up drafting one of them, so I recommend checking them out in your free time. Despite the draft being less than one month away, Correa graciously took time out of his very busy schedule to answer questions from the Viva El Birdos community, and you will find them below:
Viva El Birdos: How are draft-day conflicts resolved? What if you, Mozeliak, and a scout all disagree on who to take with an early-round draft pick?
Chris Correa: I’ll invite dozens of experts to the draft room and everyone has their own experience and perspective regarding each prospect, so I expect and encourage disagreement and debate. I want a participative process where everyone involved has a voice and is able to express their opinion honestly, but also understands their voice is one part of a larger process to converge on an optimal decision for the Cardinals. That kind of environment is ultimately going to help me make the best selections.
VEB: What are the most common areas of a player’s strengths/weaknesses that are most likely to have differing opinions within the organization leading up to the draft?
CC: The bat. Different scouts will observe a hitter facing different kinds of pitching, and each scout may come away with different insights about a hitter’s abilities. It’s our responsibility to come together as a group, share our observations, and collectively construct a judgment about a hitter’s future.
VEB: Is the pool of scouts used by the Cardinals expanding, decreasing, or about the same?
CC: Our overall pool of scouts typically increases slightly each year. Our ownership group is generous in providing resources we need to ensure deep scouting coverage.
VEB: What new/recent regions are the Cardinals emphasizing for scouting (within the US or internationally)?
CC: Internationally, the Cardinals have some talented people working hard to broaden coverage and developing a better understanding of diverse international markets, including East Asia.
VEB: How much of the organization's draft strategy is dependent on needs at the big-league level?
CC: It’s not a significant factor. Where we pick in the draft, nearly all the players available to us will require several years of development at the minor league level. Mo, Mike Girsch, and our ownership group are always working to better understand the major league club’s three- to five-year outlook, but we know a lot can change between now and 2020.
VEB: Does the Cardinals average draft position (i.e. later in the first round) make your job more difficult?
CC: It’s true that many talented players are selected early in the first round, but I would never call my job difficult. I’m surrounded by many outstanding scouts who thrive on the challenge of picking late in every round. And we’re fortunate that whoever we pick is going to be under the care of Gary LaRocque and our talented coaches in player development.
VEB: In some past years, it has seemed that the Cards have targeted one skill set in a draft—such as speed, left-handed pitching, or middle-infielders. Is this happenstance, or does the team try to improve the organization by drafting a lot of a given skill (hoping some work out)?
CC: It’s usually happenstance. I’ve heard about themes or trends in our past draft classes, but it’s just another example of pattern-seeking that permeates many baseball narratives. I know we sometimes seem to draft heavily from a specific group of player types, but think about it: If we’re trying to select the best player available for each of our first five picks, it would be very improbable that the best players happen to be a perfectly balanced group of one right-handed pitcher, one left-handed pitcher, one outfielder, one middle infielder, and one catcher.
I look forward to seeing what Correa and the Cardinals end up doing with their first five picks. Obviously, it would be fun to have a better pick in the first round, but who am I to complain about the success of the big-league club? Also, I look forward to the drafting of a middle-to-late round pick that will eventually develop into an MLB contributor like Albert Pujols (13th round), Trevor Rosenthal (21st round), Matt Adams (23rd round), or Kevin Siegrist (41st round). Special thanks to Correa for answering these questions for VEB. I believe I can speak for the community as a whole in saying how much we look forward to hearing from those directly involved with the organization we cover on a daily basis. I am aiming for the opportunity to ask Correa a few questions after the draft is complete as well.