Guest article by David Chase of Brock for Broglio.
1. Skill Set
With more teams holding 12 pitchers instead of the traditional 11, those last 21-25 spots are increasingly vital. Specialists, who excel in one area (e.g., vs. LHP/RHP, defense, or speed) are more valuable than a player who might be just-ok in all aspects of the game.
Players with good minor league track records, (pre age 26) will usually receive a “longer look” than veterans on the wrong side of the age curve. The prospective upside, and the value of cost-control, far outweighs the risk of underperformance; especially for teams with little chance at competing. Apparently, Sabean hasn’t gotten the memo yet.
3. Track Record
Often, fans overreact to down years. Most batting statistics don’t become reliable until 500 plate appearances. If a players on the right side of the age curve, and is relatively healthy, down years are usually only a product of luck. Don’t be surprised when your front office continues to give a player opportunity, at the expense of a utility player, who might’ve excelled in said players absence.
4. Observational Analysis
It’s not always about the statistics. Some players have talent that hasn’t materialized into production. Teams will continue to give raw athletes–whose tools rate well on their scout’s 20-80 scales–chances to succeed. The best organizations are those that are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of both evaluation methodologies, and integrate them seamlessly.
5. Service Time
Miguel Cabrera is likely to break the $200MM barrier; he earned a major league contract as soon as he deserved one. Other players are often not as lucky. There’s not much incentive for an organization to rush its prospects through the minor leagues. Being held down one additional year too many, can literally cost a player several guaranteed years and many millions.
6. Organizations Direction
It’s important for organizations to take a frank stance on whether or not they believe they can compete. Being lukewarm is far too costly. Opportunity is valuable; wasting it on expensive veterans that have no future is counterproductive. Successful minor leaguers–who’ve been neglected of opportunity–become valuable assets to teams not presently competing.
7. Risk Management
Developing major league prospects is a risky proposition; especially when those prospects can be traded for proven commodity. This ties in with #6; an average market team—that can compete–is wise to shed itself of its prospects and their inherit risk. Prospects have far more value to a team in a rebuilding cycle, which have no choice but to carry the burden of that risk.
8. It’s Not Always the GM
Sometimes a GM is merely a public figure for a decision they have no control over, or influence on. I read an article about a general manager who consistently refused to speak to a player’s agent out of lack of interest. The ambitious agent contacted the owner directly, and a deal was struck without the GMs consent. I wouldn’t be surprised if these types of scenarios are prevalent.
The pressure of instant success–from the group cutting the checks–can also influence the GM’s better judgment, and as a by-product; suppress the long term viability of the franchise.
9. Intangibles Matter
In an age where there’s seemingly less of a market for unquantifiable skill sets, devoted ballplayers, club house leaders, and hard workers still find themselves on 25 man rosters. Next time you wonder why Nick Punto is still employed; think of the intangibles he might bring to the table. Mike Sweeney is on the verge of a major league contract for no other reason.