John Stockstill has been with the Orioles for five years. He joined the club in December of 2005 to oversee the O’s Major League and pro scouting.
He has also served as the club’s director of international scouting. Since early April of this year he has worked in his latest role with the club as director of player development.
In that role he oversees the development of players at all levels of the organization, to include overseeing the workings in the O’s minors.
Here are some questions and answers with John Stockstill.
Melewski: How are the minors doing this year?
Stockstill: “It’s in progress. Our first step was to evaluate and assess development. We need to get players ready for the big leagues. I am trying to be more hands on with the players.”
Melewski: When you say develop players, does that even occur in the big leagues, you can develop players at the Major League level also?
Stockstill: “A player needs to come to completion. Some of those players may not come to completion until they are 32 to 35 years old. Getting to the big leagues is a step along the process.
“Just because you get to the big leagues doesn’t mean you are a developed player. Development continues throughout their careers. You may be at the big leagues because the Major League club had a need and you earned the right to go.
“You have seven to nine coaches at the Major League level and you have 25 players.”
Melewski: How do those in player development and scouting get along? In past years, some said the O’s had differences in those areas.
Stockstill: “The relationship is strong, but Andy (MacPhail) has a system with several departments. When you say Joe (Jordan) it’s also who is being acquired from the pro system, the international system. There are four or five avenues of acquiring players.
“Joe and I have open communication and we get along great. But Joe is just one of the avenues of where the players come from. The communication here is good with everyone that is in the player acquiring phase.
“The relationship is vital. Scouting puts players in the system. It’s important that it all come under one umbrella, so that everyone is constantly working on the same page.
“How do you monitor, without thorough communication, in November a player’s off season work habits, without 21 geographically located scouts and without 35 geographically located player development personnel that can monitor those players. So communication is vital between the two departments, at all times.”
Melewski: How big a role does scouting director Joe Jordan play?
Stockstill: “It’s essential. It is not player development’s job to reassess the draft. It’s player development’s job to develop the players put in the system. In the end, the player will determine his future.
“Joe knows the players, so their entry level position into the system, should be directed by that group or by whoever signs the player.”
Melewski: So scouting has a say in what level a player begins play in the O’s farm system?
Stockstill: “They have absolute input. I’ll reverse the question. How would anyone in player development know where to put draft pick number 13? This is just normal procedure.
“That is over the course of years. The old saying is eventually you’ll see what the scout saw. It may take two years for that to happen.
“In today’s game, if you sign a drafted player by, let’s say July one, you only see them play for about two months. So his first year is more next year. You let them play this summer, but you don’t reassess them.
“The entry position of the player, whether he is international or from the draft lasts two, three, four years and then gets adjusted as we go.”
Melewski: How is the communication between you and your staff?
Stockstill: “It’s on a daily basis. Brian Graham as field coordinator is in communication with staff and on top of everything. Tripp Norton (as assistant director of player development) is on top of everything. The communication is several times a day.
“Brian deals with the coaches and managers. He deals with in-dugout situations. He deals with all aspects. If a player comes off the field and maybe he doesn’t have a good first step, he’ll point that out and have our coaches point that out. We are trying to get players ready to compete and win at the big league level.
“He’s done many jobs in baseball and he knows what he is doing.
“Tripp is doing many of the things that a farm director does. He is basically overseeing the minor leagues. Now I don’t want to skirt my accountability. You want to blame someone for something, blame me. But Tripp is involved with everything and wears many hats. He is involved with player movement, rosters, developing, what do we need with a certain player. He has a greatly expanded role from last year.”
Melewski: Is instruction somewhat uniform on the farm? Are the players taught the same thing in Bluefield and then later, say, Bowie?
Stockstill: “That’s an individual thing. Some people have a generic system, you can hire an expert teacher that has one way of doing it.
“There are probably 20 ways of doing everything. The fundamentals for the most part are probably 90 percent alike. You can have one infield coordinater who has a great set of skills and drills that works for the lower levels. When you get to Double-A or Triple-A, you may be refining a guy’s mental approach more than anything he is doing physically.
“There are different levels and different phases of development both mentally and physically and what does each player need to get them over the hump?
“It’s why ten percent of the players signed play in the big leagues. It’s not ability, there are a lot of players that have the ability. I can give a guy at Triple-A that is not fielding well 500 ground balls a day and that may not make him a better fielder.
“It may make a couple of guys better. But they may need someone with expertise to say, hey listen, if you just tilt your left ankle in here a little bit, that will get you a better jump and now you’ll get to that ball.
“The guy that can hit 500 ground balls may not do that guy any good. Yet, he needs work at second base. What kind of work? Is he someone that just needs a little tweaking and all a sudden we have a good player here.”
Melewski: Do some players in the minors get more attention than others from coaches, for instance, a top prospect and a player that may be a reserve on a team?
Stockstill: “You ask an interesting question, but that would be re-evaluating the draft. This is a problem for all 30 clubs. You tell me the one that is supposed to get the attention.
“Take a player joining us out of high school. That scout’s evaluation should be good for three years out of high school. We will start to alter it a little bit, but not much for three years. That guy spent three years watching the guy and knows him like the back of his hand.
“The teams that make mistakes are some guy comes in one afternoon and says ‘I didn’t see him very good that day, let’s turn him into a left fielder. That is not what you do.
“This side of the game is a long-term investment. We have some players here in 2010 that may not be ready until 2016. A few could be ready by 2011. Players will play themselves into being in and out of prospects. Every player can play himself to the big leagues.
“It is the player that determines his career. If we are allowing anything to get in the way of that player determining his career, than we are not doing our job.
“We have to give them an arena. Obviously the funnel gets smaller as you go up and the competition gets stronger.
“We want our players to earn their place on a team. What is tough for a player is when the competition phase really kicks in.”
Coming later today in this series: The O’s talk about promoting players on the farm and tomorrow, a manger’s take on the O’s farm system.