Q&A with amateur scouting director Kantrovitz

Q&A with amateur scouting director Kantrovitz

Q&A with amateur scouting director Kantrovitz
ST. LOUIS -- The turnover around the Cardinals this winter hasn't been limited to players or the coaching staff. A major change happened in the front office, as well. Dan Kantrovitz, a St. Louis native and once a Cardinals farmhand, took over as the club's amateur scouting director after Jeff Luhnow departed to be the general manager of the Houston Astros. Kantrovitz took time earlier this week to answer some questions about his background, his Draft philosophy and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role.

MLB.com: Plenty of Cardinals fans know that you're a hometown boy who has a history with the organization. Still, plenty also do not. What kinds of ties do you have both to St. Louis and to the Cardinals?

Kantrovitz: I was born and raised in St. Louis and have a lot of friends and family still in the area. After this job announcement was made public a couple weeks ago, the amount of congratulatory phone calls and supportive e-mails I received from the Cardinals community was remarkable and very much appreciated.

My first "job" with the Cardinals was actually as a volunteer intern back in high school. In exchange for sorting fan mail, they allowed me to stay in the stadium and watch all of the home games. Then, after graduating from Brown, I was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2001 MLB Draft. Even though a shoulder injury limited the time I spent playing in the Minor Leagues, it was obviously special to be part of the Cardinals organization in that capacity. After a couple stops in the business world, one as an investment banker and the other in a start-up software company, I was hired as an assistant in the scouting department. Four years later, I was the assistant scouting director in charge of college scouting.

In short, I have strong ties to both St. Louis and the Cardinals. Still, I know Cardinals fans have very high expectations and are some of the most intelligent fans in the game. And I don't expect them to cut me any slack because of past connections. There are high expectations here, and I'll do my best to exceed them.

MLB.com: What have your responsibilities been in Oakland the past few years?

Kantrovitz: Roughly halfway through the statistics program at Harvard, I started working for the A's. I helped out on analytical projects and led the international scouting operation working with some very talented people in Sam Geaney, Farhan Zaidi, Billy Owens, David Forst and Billy Beane. Ultimately, we grew the international scouting operation to cover virtually every corner of the world where there was competitive baseball. In the last three years, with a relatively small scouting staff, we signed players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Aruba, Colombia, Panama, Europe, Taiwan and Korea.

MLB.com: What made this an appealing job?

Kantrovitz: Obviously, I have ties to the city and team, but more than anything, it came down to a baseball decision and an opportunity. I've known and respected both [Bill DeWitt Jr., the team's principal owner] and [general manager John Mozeliak] for a long time and believe in their leadership and vision as well as the long term health of the Cardinals organization. I think we have the ability to compete at the Major League level on a consistent basis, and in this position, I have an opportunity to contribute to that. If you are passionate about scouting, which I am, there is no better way to contribute to a team's sustainable success than being tasked with leading the Draft.

MLB.com: How far along are you in the feeling-out process, as far as getting to know people and learning your way around the team and the department?

Kantrovitz: I don't want to underestimate the amount of work that is ahead, but at the same time, I'm pretty familiar with the personnel and system. Most importantly, I think we have a great group of scouts.

MLB.com: Mozeliak emphasized that one factor in this hire was that you are someone who will understand the culture and the process here. Is it safe to say you're not expecting any kind of radical changes just yet?

Kantrovitz: Yes, that's safe to say. We have, however, already discussed our scouting strategy as well as our Draft-related analytics, and I'd imagine both will be tweaked. But I don't think you will notice any radical changes.

MLB.com: On the flip side of that, though, surely any new manager has things he or she wants to accomplish. What are your goals for the amateur scouting department in the short and long term?

Kantrovitz: Anybody who knows me knows I am a competitive person; I don't want to get beat. In a scouting sense, that translates to our scouts getting to know the prospects better than the scouts from other MLB teams. And long term, I hope to see our drafted players contributing to a championship club for many years to come.

MLB.com: The Cardinals have a bounty of Draft picks next spring. Philosophically, how do you approach that? Does it allow for any extra risks?

Kantrovitz: The way we look at it is, there is a risk/reward profile associated with every player at every point in the Draft. If you take on more risk, then the player should have a higher upside, or ceiling, if everything works out. Philosophically, I would not be averse to taking on additional risk if our scouts present a compelling argument as to why a particular player has a realistic chance of reaching that higher upside. But just because we have quite a few early picks this year doesn't mean each pick shouldn't be as well-founded as if we just had one.

MLB.com: If it's possible to sum up in a few sentences, what general philosophies and strategies underline your view of drafting amateur players?

Kantrovitz: From a scouting standpoint, we will focus on players with a high ceiling who have a chance to make an impact in the Major Leagues. For a position player, that might be an athletic, "toolsy" player with good baseball instincts. For a pitcher, that might be a guy with a loose arm, natural delivery, command of the strike zone and some movement on his fastball. At the end of the day, we will line up the Draft board based on our projection of a player's potential future contribution.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.