While it’s always exciting to watch young amateur players fulfill their dreams by getting drafted by a Major League team and embarking on a professional career, the people responsible for making that happen — the scouts — often go overlooked and underappreciated.
It wouldn’t be practical to name every scout responsible for keeping the game of baseball moving. But with the 2021 Draft just a few days away, we thought we could at least shine a light on the people responsible for overseeing the Draft for each organization, the scouting directors.
Blue Jays: Shane Farrell
Farrell’s roots in baseball go deep. His father, John, won a World Series as Red Sox manager in 2013 and actually managed Toronto’s Major League team in 2011 and 2012, and he has three brothers who played in the sport or are working in a front office. Farrell himself worked as a scout and West Coast crosschecker for the Cubs before taking over the scouting director role with Toronto in January 2020.
Orioles: Brad Ciolek
Ciolek, in his 10th season with the Orioles, is technically the supervisor of domestic scouting operations, a role he has had for three seasons. He’d served previously with the organization as a scouting administrator (2013-16) and assistant director of scouting (2017-19). Working closely with general manager Mike Elias, the 35-year old helped oversee Drafts that included taking Adley Rutschman No. 1 overall in 2019 and Heston Kjerstad a year ago and was involved in the process in selecting Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall, their top two pitching prospects.
Rays: Rob Metzler
Now in his 14th season in the Rays system, Metzler spent four seasons as Tampa Bay’s assistant director of amateur scouting before rising to the director role ahead of the 2016 Draft. (He received another role bump to senior director prior to 2020.) Some of the club’s picks since then include Top 100 prospects Brendan McKay, Matthew Liberatore and Shane McClanahan as well as notable Minor Leaguers Josh Lowe, Greg Jones and JJ Goss.
Red Sox: Paul Toboni
A former infielder at California who got an MBA at Notre Dame, Toboni joined the Red Sox as a baseball operations intern in 2015 and spent a year as an area scout and three as assistant scouting director before getting promoted in September 2019. The 31-year-old’s first Draft featured 2020’s biggest surprise (second baseman Nick Yorke) and some bonus pool shuffling to fit in an over-slot third-rounder (third baseman Blaze Jordan).
Yankees: Damon Oppenheimer
Oppenheimer, 58, was a catcher at Southern California and played briefly in the Brewers system after getting drafted in the 18th round in 1985. He began scouting as a part-timer for the Padres while in college and began working full-time for them in 1988 until joining the Yankees as a Midwest crosschecker in 1993. After going to the Rangers as a national crosschecker in 1995, he returned to New York in the same role the following year, served as director of player personnel from 2000-02 and has run the team’s Drafts since 2005. A 2018 Scout of the Year honoree, his picks have included Brett Gardner (third round, 2005), Ian Kennedy (first, 2006) and Aaron Judge (first, 2013).
A 25th-round pick by the Dodgers in 1998 out of UMass-Amherst, the 45-year-old Barnsby pitched two seasons in the Minors and joined the Indians as an advance scout in 2000. He progressed from area scout to crosschecker to assistant scouting director before becoming scouting director in December 2017. He has used each of his four first-round picks on prepsters: catcher Bo Naylor and right-hander Ethan Hankins (2018), righty Daniel Espino (2019) and shortstop Cole Tucker (2020).
Royals: Lonnie Goldberg
Now officially Kansas City’s assistant general manager of amateur scouting, Goldberg has held several roles in his 14 seasons with the Royals, including director of scouting and director of baseball operations. The 1993 27th-rounder actually played for fellow Royals executives Dayton Moore and J.J. Picollo during his college days at George Mason and spent time in the Rangers and Rockies systems as an infielder.
Tigers: Scott Pleis
Pleis, who had scouting experience from the Cubs and Yankees organizations, has worked as Detroit’s director of amateur scouting for 11 seasons now, and his work has never been more important than in recent years. The Tigers had the No. 1 overall selection in 2018 (Casey Mize) and 2020 (Spencer Torkelson), and Pleis was also responsible for taking current and former Top 100 prospects Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Riley Greene. The No. 3 pick on Sunday will represent the Tigers’ fifth top-10 pick in the last six Drafts.
Twins: Sean Johnson
Johnson, 45, has been with the Twins since he was hired as an area scout in 2002 after catching at Wichita State and working in baseball operations for the school. He became a West Coast crosschecker in 2007 and is now in his fifth season as the scouting director. His first year in that chair was when the Twins took Royce Lewis No. 1 overall in 2017, while Brent Rooker (’17), Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers (’18) have already impacted the big leagues.
White Sox: Mike Shirley
Shirley, 51, was drafted as a Southwestern Michigan CC outfielder in the 45th round by the Indians in 1989 and played two years in the Minors and three with independent clubs. He broke into scouting with the Twins as an associate in 2000 before joining the White Sox the next year and working his way from part-time to full-time area scout to crosschecker to assistant scouting director before getting named scouting director in September 2019. His first two first-rounders (Andrew Vaughn, Garrett Crochet) already are in Chicago and he signed former big leaguer and current White Sox farm director Chris Getz as an area scout.
Angels: Matt Swanson
This is season number five for Swanson as the Angels’ director, overseeing Drafts headlined by Jo Adell and 2021 Futures Gamer Reid Detmers in the first round, after spending three years as the Cardinals’ Midwest crosschecker and five years as their area scout in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. In that time, the 38-year-old signed Stephen Piscotty, Marco Gonzales, Kolten Wong and Kyle Barraclough, among others. Drafted in the 13th round of the 2005 Draft by the Pirates out of California, the right-handed pitcher spent three seasons in their farm system.
Astros: Kris Gross
A right-handed pitcher at New Mexico, the 40-year-old Gross signed with the Cubs as a nondrafted free agent in 2003 and spent three years in the Minors. He worked at STATS LLC for four years before joining the Cardinals as a scout in 2009, moving to the Astros as a crosschecker in 2012 and becoming scouting director in November 2018. In two years running Drafts, he has spent his top picks on a college catcher (Korey Lee, first round, 2019) and a prep righty (Alex Santos, supplemental second round, 2020).
A’s: Eric Kubota
The 56-year-old Kubota is now in his 37th season with the A’s and his 20th season running the Draft for the organization, beginning with what is now known as the “Moneyball” Draft in 2002. He’s drafted dozens of big leaguers, including current A’s Matt Olson (2012), Chad Pinder (2013), Matt Chapman (2014), Sean Murphy (2016) and A.J. Puk (2016). He began in the media relations department with the A’s in 1984 before moving to baseball operations in 1989 and has served as assistant director of scouting and the organization’s Pacific Rim coordinator in the past.
Mariners: Scott Hunter
A fifth-round pick of the Dodgers out of the Philadelphia high school ranks in 1993, Hunter, 45, spent nine years in the Minor Leagues playing for five different organizations. From there he worked as a coach or scout for 10 seasons with the Mets before joining the Mariners as an international crosschecker, helping to sign top prospects like Julio Rodríguez and Juan Then. His initial first-round pick as scouting director was Evan White in 2017 while 2018 first-rounder Logan Gilbert has already joined him in Seattle.
Rangers: Kip Fagg
Fagg, 57, has scouted for the Rangers since 1992 and helmed their Drafts since 2010. His selections include Kyle Hendricks (eighth round, 2011), Joey Gallo (supplemental first, 2012) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (fourth, 2013). Before getting into scouting, he pitched at Washington State and coached at Lassen (Calif.) CC and Long Beach State.
Braves: Dana Brown
A teammate of Craig Biggio, Mo Vaughn, John Valentin and Kevin Morton at Seton Hall, the 54-year-old Brown played three years in the Minors with the Phillies and coached two more with the organization before beginning his scouting career. After eight years with the Pirates as both an area scout and East Coast crosschecker, he served as the Expos/Nationals scouting director for eight years, overseeing Drafts that produced more than 40 big leaguers, headlined by Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Ryan Zimmerman in 2005. He spent nine seasons as a special assistant to the GM in Toronto before taking over the amateur scouting department in Atlanta in January 2019.
Marlins: D.J. Svihlik
The 1998 Big Ten Conference player of the year as an Illinois second baseman, Svihlik played briefly in the Yankees system before becoming a coach for a season and then moving into scouting. He spent a year as the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt before joining the Marlins in November 2017 and becoming their scouting director after the 2018 Draft. The 43-year-old Svihlik had top-five picks in his first two Drafts and spent them on outfielder J.J. Bleday (No. 4 overall, 2019), whom he coached at Vanderbilt, and right-hander Max Meyer (No. 3, 2020).
Mets: Tommy Tanous
Following scouting stints with the Brewers, Rangers and Blue Jays, Tanous has been at the helm of the Mets’ Draft room since the 2012 process. Every first-rounder taken by the club since then has seen the Majors (yes, including 2018 sixth overall pick Jarred Kelenic) with the only two exceptions being current prospects Brett Baty and Pete Crow-Armstrong, both of which have considerable ceilings. Michael Conforto (2014) has been the most successful of that bunch to this point.
Nationals: Kris Kline
Kline has worked in the organization since the Expos days, first joining as a special assignment scout in the fall of 2006 before climbing to crosschecker, director of scouting and his current position of assistant GM/vice president of scouting operations. In that time, he was part of the big decisions to take Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper at No. 1 overall as well as notable Major Leaguers Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning in the first round. The Nats have taken pitchers with their first picks in each of the last four Drafts and will go 11th overall this weekend.
Phillies: Brian Barber
This will be Barber’s second Draft as the Phillies’ scouting director, having been hired in October 2019. The 48-year old spent 18 years with the Yankees as an area scout, East Coast crosschecker and national crosschecker. He spent parts of four years in the big leagues, and nine in the Minors, after being a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 1991. In his first Draft with the Phillies, he was able to select the top high school arm in the class in Mick Abel in the first round, while also getting toolsy Arkansas product Casey Martin in the third, helping to offset the lack of a second-round pick.
Brewers: Tod Johnson
Johnson oversees both the amateur and pro side as Milwaukee’s vice president of domestic scouting but will be laser-focused on the Draft leading up to Sunday. A former player at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the 48-year-old has a technical background with stints at Microsoft and Hewlett Packard before moving into an application development role with the Brewers in 2007. (He has also had a short stay with the Padres.) He became a scout in 2011 and has worked in that department since, jumping to his current role in September 2016. Top Brewers prospects Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang and Ethan Small were all selected under Johnson’s tenure.
Cardinals: Randy Flores
Flores is probably best remembered around St. Louis as a member of the World Series-winning Cardinals club in 2006. In all, the left-hander pitched eight Major League seasons with the Cards, Rockies, Twins and Rangers, finishing with 350 career appearances after his final season in 2010. Following a brief turn as USC pitching coach, Flores became St. Louis’ scouting director in August 2015 and has brought Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker to the club’s system.
Cubs: Dan Kantrovitz
An all-Ivy League shortstop at Brown, Kantrovitz went in the 25th round of the 2001 Draft to the Cardinals and played one pro game before a shoulder injury ended his playing career. He worked in investment banking before returning to the Cardinals as a scouting coordinator in 2004, then left to get a master’s degree in statistics from Harvard. The 42-year-old Kantrovitz got back into baseball as an analyst and international scouting coordinator with the Athletics in 2009, went to the Cardinals as scouting director in 2012, rejoined the A’s as an assistant GM in 2014 and became Cubs vice president of scouting in November 2019. His three Drafts in St. Louis produced 17 big leaguers — including college first-rounders Michael Wacha (2012), Marco Gonzales (2013) and Jack Flaherty (2014) — and his initial effort in Chicago began with prep shortstop Ed Howard.
Pirates: Joe Dellicarri
Dellicarri, 54, is celebrating one decade as the Pirates’ scouting director and he’s in year 16 with the organization, spending the previous five as the assistant director. In that capacity, he’s overseen Drafts that brought current Pirates like Ke’Bryan Hayes and Kevin Newman into the fold and he was the assistant director the last time the Pirates picked No. 1 overall, when they selected Gerrit Cole in 2011, part of a Draft that also included Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow. He also gets credit for drafting former All-Star Austin Meadows and 2021 Futures Gamer Shane Baz, both with the Rays. A product of Penn, Dellicarri spent seven seasons playing Minor League ball before coaching for a year and then starting his scouting path in 1996, working as an area scout and regional crosschecker for the Mets before becoming the Pirates East Coast crosschecker in 2006.
Reds: Brad Meador
Before joining the Reds in 2009, Meador was the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Cincinnati baseball program, responsible for making Kevin Youkilis and Josh Harrison Bearcats. He began as an area scout and then spent two years as the Reds’ Midwest crosschecker, getting credit for signing Nick Senzel. Now in his 12th season with the organization, this is third as the scouting director, taking 2021 Futures Gamer Nick Lodolo as his first first-round pick, followed by Austin Hendrick a year ago.
D-backs: Deric Ladnier
Ladnier first worked as a scouting director for the Royals in the 2000s and helped Kansas City put together their contending teams of the last decade by drafting Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Greg Holland, Billy Butler and Danny Duffy among others. He had a stint with the Nationals before joining the D-backs in December 2014, just before the organization selected Dansby Swanson first overall the following June. Ladnier — an Ole Miss alum with seven seasons of playing experience in the Minors — will help Arizona pick sixth this year, the organization’s highest selection since Swanson.
Dodgers: Billy Gasparino
Gasparino, 44, was an infielder at Georgia and Oklahoma State who played a season in the Rockies system after signing as a 17th-rounder in 1999. He worked as a financial advisor before taking an internship with the Indians in 2003 and becoming an area scout with the Blue Jays in 2004. He rose to national crosschecker, took the same position with the Padres in 2010, was promoted to scouting director in San Diego in September 2012 and accepted the same role with the Dodgers in November 2014. He has run Drafts for the last nine years and selected such first-rounders as Trea Turner (2014), Walker Buehler (2015), Gavin Lux (2016) and Will Smith (2016).
Giants: Michael Holmes
Holmes was drafted twice as a Wake Forest right-hander, turning down the White Sox in 1996’s 23rd round before signing with the Athletics as an 18th-rounder the following June, and pitched four seasons in the Minors before rejoining the Demon Deacons as a pitching coach. Hired by the A’s as an area scout in 2004, he became a crosschecker in 2006 and assistant scouting director in 2009 before moving to the Giants as scouting director in December 2018. The 45-year-old’s two Drafts with San Francisco have featured a college first-rounders (outfielder Hunter Bishop, catcher Patrick Bailey), below-slot signings with the top two picks and multiple over-slot deals afterward.
Padres: Mark Conner
Conner worked as a college pitching coach at both the University of South Carolina Aiken and Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College before jumping into amateur scouting with the Padres in 2010. He climbed the ladder to northeast regional supervisor before the 2014 season and one year later moved to his current spot as scouting director. Conner has helped San Diego take current Top 100 prospects MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Xavier Edwards (since traded to the Rays) and Robert Hassell III in the early rounds since he took over.
Rockies: Bill Schmidt
The 61-year-old Schmidt has more than three decades of scouting experience on his resume, starting with the Reds back in 1982, heading to the MLB Scouting Bureau in 1987 and joining the Yankees staff in 1988. After four years as a national crosschecker with the Indians, he joined the Rockies to head the scouting department in October 1999. He’s been doing it since, becoming a vice president in 2007 and now overseeing the Draft while also serving as interim general manager. He received the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation in January 2019 and followed that up by being named West Coast Scout of the year at the Baseball Winter Meetings that December. His list of big leaguers is too long to name, but is topped by Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon.