Unfortunately most of the media didn’t have an opportunity to experience much of the Dodgers eighth annual Winter Development Program. Other than a press conference with skipper Don Mattingly, Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider was one of the only writers to get a glimpse at the revamped Winter Development held at Dodger Stadium this month and led by new hire Gabe Kapler.
Weisman captured some moments of the camp which he called “exciting” in writing, while a lot of what was covered during the program was kept within the circle of prospects which were invited to the special camp. The 27 invitees were the first to experience the Dodgers’ new farm director’s vision reflected in the seminars. The three-day camp also included nutrition training, on-field workouts with the Major League trainers and coaches and training in many different aspects of the game both physically and mentally.
Weisman described Kapler’s communication and led discussions as “practically evangelistic.” To inspire both on and off the field seems to be an underlying theme to Kapler’s master plan in reshaping the direction of the minor league system. The inspiration is then incorporated into more progressive approaches and ways of thinking when it comes to both the game of baseball but also baseball as a viable business.
Advanced statistics were emphasized during the Winter Development Program, and we already know that Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi use statistics as an important tool in their job. This is a avenue of learning not always offered to up and coming players, and I’m delighted to see the inclusion of advanced statistics within all levels of the organization. Even though I don’t subscribe to any certain school of thought, I do feel that there is a place for both sabermetrics and old school scouting. I’m intrigued by Kapler’s philosophies.
Weisman talked to outfielder Adam Law after the presentation, and what he took from Kapler’s discussion as a player was very interesting.
"“The biggest takeaway that I had from that session was probably what Gabe said last, about putting a good at-bat together. I’m no mathematician, and so all of the numbers (can be) hard to make sense of, but if I can put together a good at-bat, hit the ball hard, that’s when (things) will happen.”"
The Dodgers definitely could benefit from more good at-bats.
Ken Gurnick also wrote about the new vision for the Dodgers which includes an emphasis on open communication and flexibility. The new front office regime is focused on creating a culture “embracing” the new approaches. The process will aslo be constantly updated when new information is discovered and formulated.
Call to the Pen
Kapler, the new director of player development, was drafted out of the 57th round out of Moorpark Community College in my hometown. Athough Kapler didn’t attend one of the prestigious baseball universities, but he brings his experience as a player and a coach to his philosophical methods to playing the game better. He lives in Malibu, and his website is dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle.
No more Pink’s Hot Dog runs after the game for the players?
Kapler writes about the negative impact of processed foods on a player’s body. Interestingly he does not like supplements either. Eating organically and healthy is a lifestyle choice I made long ago, and I really feel that Kapler’s influence on how the Dodgers’ treat their body both physically and mentally will only have a positive outcome on the field.
While I agree so far with Kapler’s vision on player development, I’m still unsure what the lines of communication will be with the media who was excluded from most of the Winter Development Program. I look forward to learning more about Kapler’s methods, and I hope they translate to wins on the baseball diamond.