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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Q&A with Mike Radcliff

Twins Director of Scouting

Good morning! Today I am excited and happy to bring another Q&A to you. In the past, I have done Q&As with bloggers and with several minor leaguers. Today, Mike Radcliff is the subject of the Q&A. Diehard Twins fans know that Radcliff is the Twins Scouting Director. He is in charge of the Twins drafts. He is in charge of all of the Twins scouts around the country and around the world. He works with Jim Rantz to determine which minor leaguers get promoted. He works with the coaching staffs of each of the Twins affiliates and gets reports on players in those leagues. He organizes it all.

It is really a tremendous responsibility. In 2006, Baseball America ranked him as the #1 scouting director. It is an award voted on by his peers. The Twins organization has been voted as tops in baseball twice in the last few years. Terry Ryan has been named Executive of the Year a few times. But it really is more than just Ryan. It is newly-named Twins Hall of Famer Jim Rantz. It is Mike Radcliff. It is all of the scouts, and all of the coaches and all of the players. It is truly a team effort.

If you would like to see a list of the other Q&As I have had, please be sure to check out a page I created with all of my Q&As. Today, we really need to thank Mike Radcliff for taking the time to answer several questions for us! I really hope that you all enjoy the Q&A. If you have any comments for me or Mr. Radcliff, please e-mail me, and I will try to answer your questions or forward them on to him and see if we can get you an answer. Better yet, leave Comments below.

Let the Questions Begin!

SethSpeaks: Growing up, who was your favorite team, and who were some of your favorite players to follow?

Mike Radcliff: Growing up my family followed the Cardinals. We would make an annual summer trip to St Louis to watch a couple of games. We listened to Harry Carey and Jack Buck religiously. When the Royals came to Kansas City—where I have always lived—we gradually became Royals fans. Everybody’s favorite player in KC was George Brett.

SethSpeaks: Tell us a little about your playing days? (what positions did you play? to what level did you play?) What would the scouting report on you have been?

Mike Radcliff: I was always an infielder—ss or 2b. I guess I was the epitome of a good field/ no hit type of player. I was small, had no power, and wasn’t much of a runner. I was a scrapper, not very talented. Usually the captain and the leader but not the marquee player on any team I played on.

SethSpeaks: Did you play pro ball, or get drafted?

Mike Radcliff: I was just good enough to play three years of hs and compete on some good amateur summer teams. We won the Babe Ruth national championship in Mattoon, IL in 1974 and finished third in Seattle, WA in 1975. I did not play in college or pro ball.

SethSpeaks: How did you get your start in scouting?

Mike Radcliff: One of my best friend’s dad worked as a scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau. In 1982 one of their scouts passéd away and I was offered his position. I worked all around the Midwest for the Bureau for five years.

SethSpeaks:  Can you paint a picture of what the Draft "War Room" looks like on the two days of the draft?

Mike Radcliff: In today’s world, I’m not fond of the “war room” terminology that many people use—we certainly are not making like-and-death decisions. The draft is the most important event of the year for many organizations—and our room reflects that. For those participating in the room there is intense focus, much stress, and animated discussion. The year long efforts culminating in our meeting also is reflected in the room—reams of data, statistical analysis, charts, easels, boards with names and positions—all strewn along the walls, tables, and floors. Computers are humming, phones are ringing—it is a hub of frenetic activity leading up to the selection days.

SethSpeaks: As I see it, the Twins draft the best available player for at least the first 8-12 rounds, regardless of position. At that point it seems that you will draft a little more based on position need and depth. Is that accurate or fair, or is it too simplistic?

Mike Radcliff: That is simplistic but quite accurate as a general approach to the draft under the direction and philosophy of our boss, Terry Ryan. In the end, we attempt to select and sign the players we have the most confidence and conviction in from our staff and their efforts to learn about each prospect. Our analysis of their tools and makeup comprises the bulk of our decision-making.

SethSpeaks: Between 2004 and 2005, you drafted college pitchers Glen Perkins, Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey in the first two rounds of those drafts. Perkins and Garza got to the Twins in 2006. If in any other organization, Slowey might have already seen big league time. Garza and Slowey are known for character. Garza and Perkins are known for 'stuff.' Slowey is a control pitcher like no other. Three very different types of pitchers. Their scouting reports must be very different. Yet all have been very successful. What did you see in each that gave you such high opinion of the three?

Mike Radcliff: These are three players that all teams had interest in; we are fortunate to have selected them. All were successful college performers and all have their own unique combination of tools and makeup. Garza has four good pitches and is very determined. Perkins has a very good fb, improving complementary pitches and is very confident. Slowey has a feel, savvy, and presence well beyond his years. We hope all three can be productive contributors to the Twins’ rotation for many years. 

SethSpeaks: Chris Parmalee is said to have a sweet swing. In his short pro debut last year he showed great power and a great batter's eye. What was it about him that made him your top pick over others available, and what can Twins fans expect from him?

Mike Radcliff: As a scouting staff, we had great conviction in his projectability to be a future middle of the order offensive performer. It was an objective last year to try to add the best batting prospects we could get with some of our early draft picks. Chris is very focused on his career—he has great desire. We believe he can be a great contributor to the big league lineup in 3-5 years.

SethSpeaks: Joe Benson did a lot of catching in his high school career. You drafted him and he was immediately moved to CF. He's clearly a great athlete with a lot of potential, but there must have been something to tell you that he would be able to transition to the outfield?

Mike Radcliff: Joe caught most of the time on his hs team, but he played some games in cf also. Our scout, Billy Milos watched him play of in the summer before and was convinced that was where his tools were best suited.

SethSpeaks I would ask how Whit Robbins fell to the fourth round... but even more amazing, how did Danny Valencia fall to the 19th round?

Mike Radcliff: Every year there are some unexplainable draft situations. We are very fortunate to be able to add a player of Danny’s abilities in such a late round. Our scouts Hector Otero and Tim O’Neil deserve credit for staying with their convictions in Danny’s talents and eventual desire to sign a professional contract.

SethSpeaks: You stole Jeff Manship in the 14th round out of Notre Dame. He obviously fell in the draft because of the Tommy John surgery. He did very well in his debut. Is he at 100% or can he continue to get better and better?

Mike Radcliff: Our scouts Billy Milos and Mike Ruth deserve the credit for securing the services of Jeff Manship. Most teams were not aware of Jeff’s desire to begin his pro career. We did a thorough job of analyzing his prior injury and were convinced that he was ready to hold up under the rigors of the pro schedule. I think he could be a very fast mover through our minor league system and could be major league contributor quicker than most from this draft class.

SethSpeaks: Jared Mitchell was a 1st round talent who everyone knew was going to play football at Louisiana State. You took him in the 10th round. Was there any shot at signing him, or was that an attempt to make sure that one of the big market teams didn't take him after the 10th round and offer him insane amounts of money?

Mike Radcliff: We did a lot of work on Jared Mitchell and had sincere interest in signing him. Our efforts came closer than most people know. In the end, it was a tough decision for Jared—he definitely wants to be a major league baseball player. We wish him well at LSU, and we will be following his athletic career.

SethSpeaks: You took Mark Dolenc out of Minnesota-Mankato in the 15th round. Since this is a Twins site and a Minnesota site, I'm sure Twins fans would like to know a little more about the type of player that Dolenc might be.

Mike Radcliff: Mark is a physically talented athlete. He has tools to become a good corner outfielder and strength to become a run-producing bat. Mark concentrated on his pitching until the past few years; we hope he can make the adjustments to be a good position player prospect over the next few years in our system.

SethSpeaks: And then after the 50 rounds of the draft, you signed Dan Leatherman, a righty from West Virginia, and all he did was dominate three levels of minor league ball. Is that a case of a college senior dominating the younger rookie league ball and Low-A ball hitters, or does he have the kind of stuff that could move him up the system quickly?

Mike Radcliff: Dan deserves credit for handling his first year of pro ball with poise; he threw strikes and competed to earn his promotions. Jim Rantz and Mark Wilson, who ran the tryout camp where Dan was recognized and signed, also deserve kudos for evaluating Dan’s strengths and offering him an opportunity. Another example of an unexplainable draft situation; Dan should have been drafted—he has abilities to become a prospect. He already features an effective fb and a good ch.

SethSpeaks: In 2005, after Garza and Slowey, you used your two third round picks on Brian Duensing and Ryan Mullins, two more college pitchers. Duensing jumped three levels this season while Mullins continued to struggle at Beloit. Does that surprise you at all?

Mike Radcliff: Not really. Duensing was the higher rated prospect before his injury and he appears to be fully recovered now. He has a better fb than Mullins and that is a more important factor in pro ball vs college. We believe Mullins can be an effective finesse pitcher—but he may not have the future innings potential as a starter that Duensing can have.

SethSpeaks: Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson both missed about half of the 2006 season with injury. Is there a chance that both could remain at Beloit to start the season?

Mike Radcliff: Their health in spring training will dictate. Both have impressive makeup and feel for the game compared to their experience. The key is spreading out all of the middle infielders between Beloit, Ft Myers, and New Britain so that they all get maximum playing time. Sometimes it does not work out perfectly and players have to repeat or move up when they might not be totally suited. You try not to have a glut on one team so guys are not getting on the field. Jim and his staff have always done a good job of recognizing what is best for development combined with winning. It can be a difficult decision.

SethSpeaks: Erik Lis had a monster offensive season last year at Beloit until he got hurt. Why wasn't he promoted to Ft. Myers?

Mike Radcliff: There are always many factors in mid-season promotions. The reality is Brock Peterson was not ready to move to New Britain and Erik still needs to improve his defense. It was best in both cases and for the teams to keep those players where they were developing and succeeding.

SethSpeaks: Speaking of Ft. Myers and 1B, you have to be impressed with a blogger who has two questions about your 49th round draft pick in 2002! First, when he (Brock Peterson) was drafted out of high school in the 49th round, did you have any idea that he would do as well as he has?

Mike Radcliff: Our scout Bill Lohr had great confidence in Brock Peterson. He knew him well because he had been watching him since he was a sophomore in his hometown. When Bill convinced Brock and his family that signing a pro contract was a viable option, we were very excited to bring him into the organization. Bill had much conviction in Brock’s projectability as a hitter. The patience and coaching from our development staff has paid off and now Brock is a legitimate offensive prospect in our system.

SethSpeaks: Secondly, I thought Brock Peterson had a solid 2005 season at Ft. Myers and would be ready to move up to New Britain. I was surprised when he was sent back to Ft. Myers. But clearly he took it as a challenge and he had an excellent 2006 season and now is likely fully ready to move up to New Britain. Do you work with Jim Rantz on those types of roster decisions?

Mike Radcliff: I see all of our affiliates and scout all of our players every year. Jim and his staff do a fine job of incorporating all of the evaluations and opinions in setting up their teams and making the adjustments as the season progresses.

SethSpeaks: Trevor Plouffe has not hit well in the first half of season's the last two years, but then he has come on in the second halfs. I am wondering if another half-season at Ft. Myers might be beneficial to him.

Mike Radcliff: There has been much talk and discussion on where Trevor should begin the year in 2007. I believe it will depend on where all of the other middle infield prospects need to begin—Casilla, Kelly, Thompson, and others. Trevor has the makeup to handle 2A; eventually he needs to have a full season of success. He is a young player for his level of experience—we won’t rush him or put him in a position where he is overmatched.

SethSpeaks: Another guy that I was shocked did not move up in 2006 was Doug Deeds. I have frequently looked at his college stats side by side with his teammate at Ohio State Nick Swisher. Deeds numbers were every bit as good, if not better. Both are OF/1B types. Neither has speed. But Swisher was a clear 1st round pick and you got Deeds in the 9th round. How can something like that be explained? Simply Swisher's dad being a former big leaguer?

Mike Radcliff: Their results have been similar but their makeups and skill sets are quite different. Nick Swisher has shown that he can handle the adversities that the pro game can dish out—he has instincts, feel, strength, focus that Doug is still developing. Doug can be a ML player—his bat has a chance to be productive in some role.

SethSpeaks: Matt Moses/David Winfree - Lefty/Righty, both questionable with the glove. Compare and contrast.

Mike Radcliff: Both are slightly better defenders than their reputations; Matt is finally committed to working harder on his defense. David has better skills for defense but he was always a catcher until he signed. Neither will be gold glove but we think both can be adequate in time. They are very different hitters; Winfree is more patient and has more raw power. Moses has a faster bat but is more streaky—he is very aggressive and needs to show more discipline. It will be interesting to see them in the same lineup—which could happen in 2007 in New Britain.

SethSpeaks: Denard Span/Trent Oeltjen - Lefty/Lefty, speedy guys. Compare and contrast.

Mike Radcliff: Nobody is as fast as Span in our system—he is at least two steps faster than Oeltjen. Trent has a purer swing but his bat does not look to profile at the top of a ML lineup. Trent also lacks the skills and instincts to play ML cf. Denard is not as smooth with his swing but is more physical with the bat—he can slash the ball to both sides of the field. Denard must improve his defensive and base-running instincts, but his speed has the potential to impact the game on defense and at the top of the order. Denard has a higher ceiling to his potential but still has many adjustments to make.

SethSpeaks: You have to be proud of the international scouting in Venezuela with the success of so many including Yohan Pino and Oswaldo Sosa. We know of the baseball hotbed there. You must be equally proud of the scouting that brought Alexander Smit to the Twins organization from Holland. Clearly international scouting is now crucial to the Twins and all teams, but finding hidden gems is difficult. Are there any untapped areas that the Twins are looking at?

Mike Radcliff: The untapped market many teams are looking at is China. With the next Olympic Games in Beijing, the development of the game is going to progress rapidly in that country. We are establishing ourselves now in preparation for a future plethora of talent in China.

SethSpeaks: What gives you the best feeling as a baseball scouting director? Finding an All-Star, being right about some overlooked kid, getting to know and meet so many baseball people at so many levels, or something else?

Mike Radcliff: It is very gratifying to see our staff recognized as one of the best evaluating teams in the game. The impact our scouts have had in the draft, in trades, in the international market, and in other player acquisition venues have helped make the Twins the competitive ML team we have become. We have many hard-working and dedicated people and it is a privilege to be associated with all of them.

Mike, thank you so much for taking some of your time to answer these questions for me and the readers of this site. Obviously we hope you have had a terrific offseason and enjoy the rest of it. Best wishes for a strong 2007 campaign!


Do you have any thoughts or questions for Mike Radcliff or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a question or comment below.


If you would like to read any previous Q&A's, I have set up a new page that contains the links to all of them. Click here to see who all has done a Q&A with SethSpeaks.



That is it for today. By the way, if you have any ideas for the site, people to try to get Q&As from, article concepts or more, please leave some Comments or send me an e-mail. I would appreciate your help. Have a terrific day!





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