Scouting director Correa impressing GM, staff alike

New department head, gearing up for first Draft, prioritizes communication with team

Scouting director Correa impressing GM, staff alike

ST. LOUIS -- Just minutes after general manager John Mozeliak wrapped up a conference call to inform the scouting staff of Chris Correa's promotion, the new director of scouting picked up his own phone and went to work.

For the next two days, Correa made 23 calls, talking one-on-one to every member of his team. There was little introduction needed, as most of the scouts already knew Correa from his previous position as director of baseball development. Instead, Correa wanted to know about them.

Correa wanted to hear about what worked and what didn't, how those in the field felt about the Cardinals' scouting protocol and where they saw room for improvement. While not looking to overhaul a system that he helped mold, Correa sought feedback on how to make it better.

"[Correa] was gung-ho from day one," recalled Jeremy Schied, the department's West Coast crosschecker. "I think he immediately won guys over when they saw that he was going to listen to what we have to say. That's the way to be a leader of men."

Now, six months later, Correa is preparing to lead the organization through this summer's First-Year Player Draft, which begins on June 8. Over a three-day span, Correa will oversee the selection of 43 players, including the 23rd overall pick.

Perhaps it seems a surprising perch for Correa, who, less than a decade ago, was on the academia track as a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan. But while pursuing an advanced degree in psychology, he learned the Cards were seeking someone to gather and organize data.

Correa took the part-time position, then later moved into a full-time role, forgoing the completion of his Ph.D. to give the baseball industry a chance.

"For somebody with my background, not having had a lot of playing experience, when I was in school, I didn't really recognize it as a possibility," Correa said. "Obviously, I had always followed the sport very closely, especially from the analytical side. But once I realized that with a team like the Cardinals, that there may be a way for me to help, I thought that sounded like a really interesting challenge."

From there, the climb was swift. After three years as a quantitative analyst in the nascent baseball development group, Correa took on a leadership role within the department. He helped develop analytical models that the Cards used to guide both Draft and player personnel decisions.

This wasn't a position confined to a cubicle, however. In the years preceding his promotion to scouting director, Correa spent his nights nestled in the scout seating section of Busch Stadium. He preferred to watch the games among the talent evaluators instead of in the general manager's suite. There, he could observe through a different lens.

Correa's seating choice, as it turned out, led to his next career opportunity. Mozeliak, prioritizing an in-house hire, needed little time to identify Correa as the right man to replace outgoing scouting director Dan Kantrovitz, who left for an assistant GM position in Oakland in November.

"I think had [Correa] not done that, he might not have been the right person for this job," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, scouting is part art, part science, and to some level, he understood the analytical side of it. But he was also someone who was willing to ask about and try to learn the scouting side. For someone to embrace both, that makes an impression."

That impression extends to the scouts.

"I think you look from the outside and people can say, 'This is a guy who was running an analytics department. How can he run the scouting department?" Schied said. "But he's done everything he could to become a good evaluator for himself. I think from our perspective on the inside, we look at him like he is one of us."

"The comfort level that Chris had in knowing us and we had in knowing Chris was important," added northeast crosschecker Brian Hopkins. "He's convicted in what he thinks, but also respects the scouts. There is great communication between all of us."

Correa hasn't shied away from the grind, either. He estimates that he's been on the road 80 days over the last three months, with much of that time spent in the field, riding along and talking with his area scouts as they observe talent.

"We were all familiar with Chris and knew him and he knew our system, so that helped," said area scout Aaron Looper. "But it isn't like our system is standstill. We're still progressing. We are improving our system with how we do things, and I think that's a credit to him."

Most of those tweaks have been to make the evaluation model more efficient. Aside from adding one scout, Correa did not make immediate changes to the structure of the department. He wants to see how this Draft season goes before considering additional alterations.

Correa will gather his team together in St. Louis a week from now to begin final Draft preparations. There, they'll debate the talent they've all seen and order players by preference. It's a process that Correa has sat in on in the past, but now one he'll run. He seems to be ready to do so.

"He's on top of everything," said Mike Roberts, a member of the Cardinals' scouting team for almost 40 years. "We're every bit as good as where we were last year, if not better."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.