The Pirates and Rays have faced criticism from fans and pundits for a lack of spending, plus they were two of the four teams cited in a grievance filed by the players’ union about the quartet’s use of revenue-sharing funds. ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield, however, argues that the Bucs and Rays didn’t boast big payrolls even when they were in contention, and the larger issue that hurt Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in 2017 was a lack of production from homegrown talent. Neither club has done a good job of drafting and developing prospects in recent years, and the lack of a strong pipeline of minor league talent is deadly for any smaller-market franchise.
Here’s more from around the baseball world…
- The hiring of new manager Alex Cora as gave the Red Sox some insight into how the Astros (Cora’s former team) used analytics to help with in-game strategy, and it made the Sox realize that they were falling behind in the advanced statistics arms race, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. Boston’s analytics department is now up to 10 full-time employees (plus interns) after some offseason hirings, and the team has drastically overhauled its advance scouting and data-gathering methodology to better get information to Cora and the coaching staff.
- Jason Heyward’s struggles since joining the Cubs have almost reached the point of historical oddity, as “this type of production drop during a player’s prime is nearly unprecedented, especially when injuries aren’t a factor,” The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma writes (subscription required). Heyward has just a .243/.315/.353 slash line over 1073 PA for Chicago, as opposed to the .268/.353/.431 he posted in 3429 PA with the Braves and Cardinals over his first six seasons. Sharma cites a few other players who went through similarly sudden early declines, and only former Dodgers and Expos outfielder/first baseman Ron Fairly was able to entirely rebound and again become a productive hitter. Still, Heyward has been working with new hitting coach Chili Davis and the Cubs are still hopeful that he can regain some of his old stroke.
- Major League Baseball recently held a showcase for some of the top international prospects who will become available when the 2018-19 international signing window opens on July 2. In a subscription-only piece, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (two links) has the breakdown of some of the pitchers who made a particular impression, with some of these young arms already linked to such teams as the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Phillies.