It goes without saying that the international market offers an increasingly important route for organizations to acquire fresh talent. With bonus rules overlaying an already complicated array of interests, and loads of new players entering the picture from Cuba, it’s a situation that is ripe for gamesmanship, as Ben Badler of Baseball America explains. Teams have numerous avenues for shifting bonuses between amateur players, many of whom are largely controlled by handlers who have varied and obscure arrangements with multiple youngsters. That situation creates a complex and sub-optimal set of incentives, per Badler, with “package” arrangements often utilized to get around limitations on spending on a single player. The post qualifies as essential reading in this area of the transactional game.
Here are a few more notable pieces worth a look:
- Badler also mines the minor league ranks for prospects who have set themselves up for quick promotions. Rangers infielder Andy Ibanez has looked like a strong international investment and is in line to move up from the low A level; highly-touted Red Sox youngsters Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada seem ready for Double-A; and the Phillies have several players clamoring for a step up the ladder, including top prospect J.P. Crawford.
- Baseball analytics departments have expanded greatly in recent years, as Ben Lindbergh and Rob Arthur examine at FiveThirtyEight.com. By their tabulations, the number of quantitative-oriented, full-time employees of major league teams has risen from 44 in 2009 all the way to 156 at present. Clubs that moved quickly to build out their teams of analysts have benefited greatly for a relatively meager investment, the study finds. As big-market clubs have increasingly followed their lower-budget competitors, there has been increasing competition for established and entry-level staffers. Interestingly, though, that hasn’t resulted in a reduction in scouting departments; Lindbergh and Arthur write that any downsizing at the professional level “has been more than offset by increased amateur and international coverage.” Unfortunately, women continue to be drastically underrepresented in the analytics and scouting ranks. You’ll certainly want to give this fascinating piece a full read to appreciate it.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today looks at the current state of PEDs in baseball, asking whether players who test positive are merely those who choose the wrong people to set their drug regimens. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also recently addressed the subject, with several prominent players telling him that the use of illicit substances remains a major problem in the game. Improving the current league efforts to stamp out the problem may be less a matter of tweaking the already-significant penalties than it is one of somehow getting ahead of those who are figuring ways around testing. “If there was a type of testing that guaranteed every person that used PEDs would be caught, I would be all for it,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw tells Rosenthal. “I don’t think the problem is the length of the suspension, but more the improbability of being caught.”
- As the Phillies’ new front office reshapes the organization’s approach to analytics, it is seeking to manage the volume of information in a way that optimizes its function, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “That information can be overwhelming,” says GM Matt Klentak. “There is so much information. The key for our front office and coaching staff and, ultimately, our players is that we’re isolating the information that helps players and coaches in the moment without locking them up.”