What was Step 1 for the Diamondbacks’ newest farm director?

Mar 3, 2024, 7:47 PM | Updated: Mar 4, 2024, 12:21 am

Arizona Diamondbacks...

Arizona Diamondbacks players stand for the national anthem prior to a spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE — The Arizona Diamondbacks underwent a significant leadership change in player development this offseason, replacing Josh Barfield with Shaun Larkin as farm director.

Larkin spent the previous eight years with the Los Angeles Dodgers in various roles, most recently as a field coordinator, and never had a specific goal to take over as farm director. But approximately six months ago, the Diamondbacks asked their division counterparts to interview Larkin for the opening after Barfield took a job as the Chicago White Sox’s assistant general manager.

So what came first for Larkin with nearly 200 players and a new staff to handle?

“Getting our arms wrapped around who the Diamondbacks are, what their value systems are, what they do well, what areas the department wanted to get better at,” Larkin told Arizona Sports. “Operation A was getting to know our people, whether it’s medical staff, coordinator groups, managers, affiliate staff, my support staff, and getting my arms wrapped around the whole operation in terms of people who actually drive this thing day to day.

“What were the holes that needed to be filled in terms of hiring? Get our staff in order and making sure everyone felt and understood I was becoming part of the team. … fill in the cracks where there may have been some but also making sure I was a part of what was already established, the culture, the processes and adding value where I could but also knowing when to follow in some areas.”

Larkin spent the first three or four months gauging the dynamics of the organization before taking a deep dive into the players. Instructional camp for minor leaguers in January was an introduction, and spring training an opportunity to get more face time.

Arizona assistant director of player development Chris Slivka has been with the organization since 2016, bringing some continuity to Larkin’s side.

The Diamondbacks developed much of their World Series-bound roster from 2023, including draft picks Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Brandon Pfaadt and Kevin Ginkel along with international signee Geraldo Perdomo.

Recent top draft picks Jordan Lawlar, Druw Jones and Tommy Troy headline Arizona’s prospects pool. Yu-Min Lin is considered the top arm in the system after reaching Double-A Amarillo last year. Former top prospect Kristian Robinson returned to playing minor league ball last season for the first time since 2019 due to off-the-field visa troubles.

“All the data is out, so you have a snapshot of their career based on numerical value,” Larkin said. “You have an idea of where players were. You start to get with the staff and they paint the picture a little bit better for you. And then establishing plans for where we’re going.

“So where were they? Where are we now currently? And then where do we want to go with 165 of them? 175 of them? It is step by step. … You do the homework on the computer side, on the data side and you start matching that up with in person. You observe and you watch and you have conversations and the picture becomes a lot more clear. It’s not just numbers, we’re in a people business. So putting all the elements together, that takes time.”

Larkin had some familiarly with Diamondbacks leaders when he took the job.

He played under D-backs manager Torey Lovullo as a minor leaguer in Cleveland’s system during the early-to-mid 2000s, while Arizona general manager Mike Hazen was with the organization in scouting and player development.

“Torey and I had a relationship with him back as a player in Cleveland, so we knew all about him as a person,” Hazen said at the start of camp. “The energy is incredible. Certainly, we’ve lost an incredible employee who went to a great promotion. Josh did a great job. … And now he’s moving up in his career, which is what we want for people who are here. So (Larkin is) filling some big shoes but he’s got an energy about him and a smarts. He worked for what I believe to be probably the best run organization in baseball and so those are all intriguing things for us. He’s hit the ground running.”

Lovullo called him a grinder player whom he managed at three affiliates. Larkin was also managed by Tim Bogar, whom was hired by Arizona to manage Double-A Amarillo this season.

Larkin said it takes feel to understand when to be firm with his philosophies and when to acquiesce to proven operations in the building.

“It’s all about involving people around me,” Larkin said. “It’s not just my ideas, my way or anything like that. Making sure our people feel involved and part of the process, feel connected to what’s happening here is where you get the most value out of everybody.”

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What was Step 1 for the Diamondbacks’ newest farm director?