Geaney takes over as director of Padres’ minor league development

With A.J. Preller assuming control of baseball operations in San Diego it was natural that there would be other changes up and down the system as Preller attempts to implement a new way of doing business.

One of the new faces is Sam Geaney, who is going to take over for Randy Smith as the Padres’ director of minor league development with Smith reassigned as senior advisor to baseball operations.

At only 29-years-old, Geaney fits the mold as "new hire" in ways other than simply his age and position. While attending the University of California at Berkeley in 2003 and 2004, he started his own scouting based website on the High-A Cal League.

Using his own money for travel, he put together scouting profiles that led him to get to know many scouts and other front office personnel. These relationships and the website got him an internship in Oakland which eventually led to a full-time scouting position with the A’s in 2007.

Once there, as chronicled in a Baseball America article a few years ago, Geaney rose quickly, being named scouting coordinator in 2009 and in 2012 coordinator of international scouting; his last position before he accepted his current job with the Padres.

We caught up with Sam to see how his first few days were going at his new job.

MadFriars: What have your first days been like?

Sam Geaney: I’ve been wrapping up some things from my previous position with the A’s. Other than that it’s mainly been getting some familiarity with the players and staff that we have here and starting to focus on getting some of our openings filled.

MadFriars: What was the first thing you learned on player evaluation when you got hired by the A’s?

Sam Geaney: As for what surprised me when I got to the A’s was how willing everyone was to help me out. Really I can’t say enough about how much guys in the Oakland organization who had been in the game longer than I was alive went out of their way to be very patient with me and explain how they did their jobs.

MadFriars: I’m not sure in recent years that the development team and the scouting department have always been on the same page. How important do you think it is for both departments to be on the same page? As coordinator for international scouting for the A’s how much interaction did you have with Keith Lieppman – the A’s director of player development?

Sam Geaney: Again I am just speaking on my time with the A’s but Keith is and has been just a tremendous influence on both my baseball career and in my life. Eric Kubota, who was my boss, also helped me out so much too.

What I observed from them was they had a very close relationship and there was a lot of interaction between both staffs. Being involved on the international side I spent a significant amount of time around our developmental complex in Arizona helping to integrate the guys we signed from Latin America into our stateside program.

So based on my background with the A’s, it’s very much a collaborative project.

MadFriars: Now the minor league season is over, how do you begin the evaluation process of what the Padres’ do have in the minor leagues?

Sam Geaney: It’s going to be a kind of a mix of going over reports, seeing a few Fall League games – and there are some guys that I have some experience with – and ultimately just sitting down and talking with the staff members that have seen these players on a daily basis.

MadFriars: You are going to be hiring quite a few people. What are some of the general things that you are looking for?

Sam Geaney: To me it all starts with a passion for the game and caring about the players. In Oakland we always had a good amount of emphasis on some of the "softer" skills – the parts that are away from the field. A lot of care was taken in how we communicate with players and ensuring that they are hearing the same thing throughout the system.

Right now much of the discussion that is going on now is putting in place how we want this organization to look like from top to bottom.

MadFriars: Until the recent ascension of Rymer Liriano and Frank Garces to the major leagues, the Padres have really struggled in developing Latin American talent. As the director of player development, what are some the things that you are going to do to make sure the 16 and 17-year-olds from Latin America can be as successful as possible?

Sam Geaney: When I was with the A’s that was a pretty big topic of discussion and debate. It ranged from the time to bring them over, promotion schedules and how our facilities overseas should be run. It was really a very multi-faceted discussion.

You want everyone to move fast through the system but at the same time promotions aren’t always based on baseball. This could be a pretty long answer but the best way to look at it is each development of a player coming into a new culture at a very young age has to be unique to the individual.

MadFriars:There are quite a few different theories on development that run the gamut from what types of players to draft to when to promote someone. One of the more interesting ones, particularly with San Diego’s well-documented problems with pitchers suffering arm injuries, is the length of time that Tampa takes to develop young pitching; with very strict limits on innings and promotions. Where do you, in general, fall on that spectrum?

Sam Geaney: Well if I knew the answer to that I would have a good amount of money [laughs]. Seriously, it is a very important decision and the background that I come from was very conservative and regimented pitching system. I know that is not a great answer but to really respond correctly you need much more information on the system that you are going to implement that type of program than I have now after three days. I will say this that we are getting closer to understanding more about how to really protect young arms but everyone in the industry still has a long way to go.

MadFriars: Finally, how will your background in international scouting help you with your new job in development?

Sam Geaney:  My last three years in international development I think really helped me with the development aspect side of the job because so much of the international side is dealing with very young players.

When you sign someone that is teenager and you start to see what helps these players make progress to move up the ladder it really is an amazing experience.  You learn that there is so much more to the process than just drafting or signing a player.