SF Giants’ scouting director Michael Holmes previews MLB Draft

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After the coronavirus pandemic took scouts off the road and required teams to change their pre-draft process, Major League Baseball shortened the amateur draft from 40 rounds to five last summer.

The drastic change cost hundreds of baseball players the opportunity to chase their dreams. This year, the amateur draft still isn’t “business as usual.”

MLB pushed the 2021 draft back a month as clubs will now select players from July 11-13 during the week of the All-Star Game. More young players will have the opportunity to hear their name called by a team, but the league is only holding a 20-round draft this year after MLB and the Players Association reached an agreement last year to cut the normal draft in half.

All of the unusual circumstances have forced teams and scouting departments to be creative and the Giants are no exception. With the draft approaching and scouts now traveling around the country again looking for the top talent, Giants amateur scouting director Michael Holmes spoke with Bay Area News Group Giants beat reporter Kerry Crowley about how he and his department are preparing for the July 2021 draft.

Crowley: With the draft moving from June to July and you and your scouting department able to be on the road, there are so many differences compared to the 2020 amateur draft. What has the entire process been like for you and your department?

Holmes: “It’s definitely been new to us with the date being pushed back and the mechanics of how things play out with the schedule and the calendar, it’s actually given us the opportunity to see more of some players which is probably a good thing for us considering some of our summer coverages we’re used to were altered due to the pandemic last year. It’s just been a little bit of a different way it’s played out from a timeline standpoint, but it’s been great. Our scouts have done a great job of getting out and seeing the high school players, the junior college players, the college guys, we’re busy preparing for the draft and other than that, it’s pretty much business as usual. As we get closer, it’s really exciting for our guys because that’s what we work all year for.”

Crowley: It’s a really interesting process and specifically the mechanics of seeing players, talking about your draft picks with your scouts, how many players do you like to see and how many places do you travel during the pre-draft process?

Holmes: We travel pretty much everywhere, myself, I worked for so long as a national cross-checker and I probably saw more players than I do now as the director. I’m trying to get back and see players mutliple times at this juncture of the year. Trying to get multiple looks. But it’s a group effort. We’ve got guys who are area scouts all the way up to the national level that are boots on the ground, guys out there working hard and scouring the country looking for the next best San Francisco Giants player. Our guys do an extremely good job of the way they go about it and I feel fortunate to be with such a great group and a great organization. These guys have one goal in mind and that’s to find major league baseball players that can play at Oracle Park.

Crowley: How many guys do you have on the road at a time and how frequent is the communication? Are you in touch with your scouts every day or is it something where you check in every few days?

Holmes: Our scouts at the supervisor level, the regional supervisor level, they’re constantly daily talking with the area scouts that they supervise. I’m in constant contact with our national guys, our regional guys. I do my best to touch base with our area scouts as much as possible and especially if I’m in their area, I’m with them or talking with them. I’m a big believer in communication. I believe it helps the process develop and go better. I’m always on our guys communicating to stay in touch, we let each other know where we’re at, what we’re seeing and it helps the process go well.

Crowley: You’ve had a long relationship with Farhan Zaidi dating back to your time together in the Oakland A’s organization. Now you’ve worked with Scott Harris for the second consecutive year. How beneficial is it to have that kind of a relationship with Farhan when you’re going through the process and you’re picking players who are going to be the future of the organization?

Holmes: “I think it’s really important. Trust is what makes our relationship unique. I trust him so much and I believe he trusts me. Our constant communication come draft and amateur scouting related is always built off that trust. My relationship with him goes way back. I think Giants fans are understanding how good he is at what he does and I’ve known him for a really long time. Bringing Scott over has been a huge asset to our organization as well. Getting to know and work with him and learn each other through his first year or so here. It’s one of those things, we have a trust within each other, we understand each other and that helps our communication.”

Crowley: The casual sports fan can look at the draft process in the NFL and NBA and can have better insight and a window into the sport because the drafts are made-for-TV events. The MLB Draft is still gaining in popularity, but I wonder what does your room look like on draft day, who’s involved in the decision-making process and how involved do Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris get with your decisions? 

Holmes: “I don’t think the draft room per se is a whole lot different than what you see in the other sports. We’ll have all of our cross-checkers, our special assistants, some folks from player development, our research and development, analytics department as well as our front office and ultimately we just spend a lot of time breaking down the players, talking about strengths and weaknesses and spending time trying to line the board up with the best talent. It’s an ongoing process, it’s not something that starts a week before or two weeks before, it’s almost a 365-day a year approach for us. We’re fortunate in our amateur scouting department that our front office takes a lot of interest in the amateur draft. It’s something they think is vitally important to our organization and the future of our organization, so it’s not something they poke their head in for a handful of days leading up to it. These guys are really entrenched and they’re invested in amateur scouting year-round. It really ramps up to the casual fan as we get closer to the draft, but these discussions we have are really ongoing throughout the year.”

Crowley: I think it’s important to touch on the unique circumstances we saw in 2020. There were only five rounds in the draft and you may not have had the same level of detail with certain players because you didn’t necessarily get to see them as much as you normally would like. Looking back on the process, what did you take away from it and how much pride do you have in the way things shook out for you?

Holmes: “With only five rounds, obviously our scouting year came to a screeching halt after the fourth week of the Division I college season. Then there were some high school players out there that we never got a chance to see because their season hadn’t started yet. What I take pride in from a staff and organizational perspective is our guys worked extremely hard during the entire summer of 2019, the entire fall of 2019, to see these players and to get to know these players on a personal level. Although the season was cut short, I really felt comfortable in our evaluations and where we were on how well we knew the players, their families and their backgrounds because our guys had put the work in. Our staff deserves a lot of credit, jokingly a lot of people think the draft is over and these guys go on vacation, but we literally have guys working at events and the next year’s draft the day after this year’s draft concludes. So I talk about it being a yearly process and it really is. The preparation and the work these guys put in during the summer and the fall really put us in a good spot. We feel really good about the draft class we were able to assemble. Not a huge fan of the five-round draft, obviously, as scouts we’d like to take and draft as many players as we can but under the circumstances, I thought it went extremely well.”

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