Orioles assistnat general manager for analytics Sig Mejdal talks about his rise from being a job seeker at winter meetings to a decision maker, and on the melding of his analytics and player development roles. (Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles' corridor of rooms in the league hotel at this week's baseball winter meetings weren't exactly penthouse-level heights. Yet the fact that Sig Mejdal stood in the team's suite with the title of assistant general manager is just one way to describe the lofty status he's climbed to since his first winter meetings as a hopeful job seeker in 2003.
Mejdal, the Orioles' assistant general manager for analytics, said this week that "it's impossible not to" think back about that and take stock of his climb, which led executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias to tap him as his first hire last month.
"I think in 2003, maybe there were three dozen persons like myself loitering in the lobby," said Mejdal, who was an engineer at the time. "Now, there must be at least 3,000. It's impossible not to appreciate the good fortune that has come my way, but also to empathize with the kids out there."
This week in Las Vegas has not only illustrated his rise, but illuminated a lot of what Mejdal's responsibilities will be under Elias. When Elias detailed earlier this week his reasoning for not retaining amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich and director of player development Brian Graham, he essentially said he and Mejdal were brought to the Orioles to implement their own vision in those categories.
Mejdal's main responsibility is to build an analytics staff in Baltimore, and he was vital to doing so in Houston under general manager Jeff Luhnow earlier this decade as the director of decision sciences before assuming on-field roles, first as a minor league coach and then as a roving instructor.
The way Elias has spoken of Mejdal has indicated that the latter might be just as big a reason for his role in Baltimore as the former. When Elias elaborated on the hires the Orioles need to make in the front office, he noted analytics — "We've got jobs posted on the internet right now," he said — and international scouting.
On scouting and player development, he said Monday: "We'll get the right people, and we'll get them in good time. But I'm very confident with the people we have in place right now to run those departments on a day-to-day basis."
Elias clearly views a significant part of Mejdal's role as creating a modern analytics department in an Orioles organization that didn't previously fund one to the extent required.
"I think we're going to be able to achieve kind of a competitive state much quicker because of that experience [in Houston], but also his experience gives him the perspective to have the confidence to pace out the hiring and build out of the staff in a measured way, as opposed to kind of panicking and hiring a bunch of people," Elias said. "I'm very confident in his vision for getting us where we need to get in an appropriate amount of time."
Perhaps no greater illustration of that vision will be a high-ranking executive with analytics in his title taking on such responsibilities in player development. Asked what a marriage of those two things looks like, Mejdal said, in his experience, it works well together.
"The coach is still going to be hitting fungos, and still giving all the tips, and sharing his expertise with that defender on how to field that batted ball," Mejdal said. "But we're going to be giving them additional tools, and bringing in additional technologies, and really just enabling them to be better coaches."
That his purview expands so far after Luhnow hired him to streamline the inclusion of analytics into their draft process is something Mejdal doesn’t take for granted during a week like this in Las Vegas.
"I think I have been getting surprised since Jeff Luhnow first hired me in 2005," Mejdal said. "There's been so many wonderful experiences that baseball has given me, and I'm sort of at the point that it's just beyond imaginable, and I just sort of go with it now."