So late last week Greg Brown was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Who is Greg Brown, you ask? Greg Brown is the head baseball coach at Nova Southeastern University. He was also a scout for the Astros for two seasons, and is the man responsible for scouting - and signing - J.D. Martinez, out of Nova Southeastern.
AC: As a former scout for the Astros, beginning in the fall 2008, when did you first notice Martinez?
GB: In the Fall of 2006 I would come out to Nova Southeastern University to prepare for the upcoming Spring Training and would hit with the players. The first day out I saw this young lanky kid take BP and showed juice and some feel to hit. JD and I struck up a friendship and would talk hitting and about pro ball. We would talk about approach and was really impressed with his aptitude for hitting at such a young age.
AC: We know how great players can slide in the draft (Roy Oswalt and Albert Pujols come to mind). But after Martinez' year and a half in the system, why do you think he slid to the 20th Round?
GB: Having seen the past two drafts from the inside really changed my perspective on how it works. It is a living animal that is very hard to predict due to the magnitude of its reach. As an area scout I would evaluate my territory and rank them according to our process as a scouting department as laid out by Bobby Heck. It is very subjective because the toughest thing to do is to know what the player has on the inside and predict that he is going to get to his tools. I believe that I had an inside edge with JD against the competing teams due to my familiarity and the relationship that I built with him over a three year period. That is not say that other scouts did not like him or identify his talents. He was drafted out of high school and he was a three year performer at the collegiate level. I think the question with JD was if he was going to get to his tools consistently. He does not have “classic” hitting mechanics and his defensive capabilities did not always come to play. It is easy to pick apart players for their deficiencies, because they all have them. The hard part in scouting is to find those separators that will allow a player to achieve at the highest level. The bottom line for me was that he consistently put himself in position to hit, used the whole field with power, and had the ability to make adjustments when pitchers would try to double-up on him. Combine that with his makeup and I was able to put my stamp of approval on him that he could succeed as a productive Major Leaguer. I give Bobby a lot of credit for trusting in my gut on JD and knowing where we would be able to take him.
AC: It seems like, anytime we try to build him up as the next Roy Hobbs, someone talks about his defense. What were your thoughts about his defense?
GB: I had seen JD over his three years at NSU play all three outfield positions. There were times where he made plays look easy and then there were times where he struggled. The tools were that he was a better runner under way and there were days he would show you an above average arm in pregame. The tools played down in the game, but they were there. For me he was a offensive leftfielder that was going to drive in runs. As long as he continues to drive in more than he lets in, he has value. For me it is all about the bat and as long as a player is not a liability they can be a productive player.
AC: Are you surprised by his rapid promotion through the Astros' system?
GB: His rapid ascension is a credit to the professionalism he has exhibited on the field. I felt that he was a big leaguer when I signed him and that he was a prospect. However, his production has exceeded my expectations at this point in his career. A hitter's maturation usually takes time to develop because they need at-bats. His ability to adjust to professional pitching, especially coming from a Division II program, indicates that the work he put in while at Nova Southeastern University and their staff prepared him for the next level. I thought he was a top of the draft type talent and I had him stuffed. I would take every opportunity to have our cross checkers and even Bobby Heck see him when they were in town and at the end of the day, I think that Bobby knew that JD was my guy and he trusted in my evaluation. Fortunately, JD has exceeded even my thoughts, which is why I am happy to say that I might have been light.
AC: What kind of rapport, if any, do you build with the players you scout/sign? And are you still in touch with Martinez?
GB: JD and I have had many conversations during the evaluation and signing process about what will make him have a successful career. Sometimes the draft disappoints a player due to his expectations of where he should go in a given year. I believe that JD’s success is partly fueled by his intentions of proving the teams wrong that passed on him and that chip on his shoulder has served him well thus far. By not being considered a bonus baby, he knew that he was going to have to grind it out and continue to produce on a daily basis. In the end, I believe that the Astros got a better player because he is on a mission. We continue to speak throughout the season, but I feel like it is important to allow players to go out and play. He knows that I am always here for him and our bond has only grown stronger with my transition from the Astros to taking over as the new Head Coach at Nova Southeastern University. I try to keep him grounded and continue to mentor him through the relationship that we formed 4 years ago.
AC: You were named head coach at Nova Southeastern for the upcoming season - what are you most looking forward to?
GB: Leaving the Astros was a difficult decision due to my respect for the organization and the direction we were headed. In the end, becoming a head coach of such a promising program at the age of 30 was an opportunity that I could not pass up on. The ability to recruit and coach the players for me was the getting the best of both worlds. My passion for the game is rooted in developing players as ballplayers and as young men. I feel very fortunate to be taking over the NSU baseball program due to potential that it has moving forward. The resources and dedication from the university to the development of athletics provide an opportunity to build a powerhouse. Additionally, the student-athletes have a tradition of success in the classroom as well as on the field which is important to me. Being from the area, I have watched this program's growth over the last ten years under the direction of Michael Mominey and his staff and feel that he has put this program in position to be a perennial contender at the national level. Although my time with the Astros was brief, I feel that any future successes will be directly influenced by what I learned from Bobby and his staff. Scouting is the grassroots of all of baseball. I believe the same principles apply to building a program and have already implemented a system to evaluate and recruit the players that our foundation will be built upon. I feel I owe a lot to the Astros, Bobby, and David Post and am forever grateful for the opportunity.
Big thanks to Greg, and best wishes for the 2011 season. Follow the Sharks here.