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Rethinking Minor League Baseball

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Two interesting articles came out this week:

Do We Even Need Minor League Baseball? - the title is a bit sensationalized but has a good critique of how the Minor League system overall works. Good examples of how players improve nowadays. Walker Buehler's quotes were interesting.

Maybe You Just Like Watching Baseball Games - is a funny response. Brings up some good points about attendance, game enjoyment, development, etc. 

What's your take on the issue? Any sweeping changes you would make?

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Fascinating.    Of course, the two articles are talking past each other.   The first is positing that major league teams could develop players just as well or better without having so many layers of minor league teams and so many “supporting” players who will never play Major League Baseball.    The second is not really disputing that point; it’s arguing that minor league baseball is enjoyed by fans who like going to relatively high level baseball games regardless of whether that set-up is the most efficient way to develop major league players.    So both articles can be right, and probably are.    

I’ll say this: there’s no one size fits all for player development.    Some players need very little time and benefit from constantly being challenged.    Others take longer and need time and space to develop their skills.    A team probably could cut 50% of its farm system and personnel and still yield 80% of the major league talent that’s yielded today, but the 20% would never get discovered.

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One thing that neither article mentions is that until the end of the 90s most players drafted did not play in college.  Now they do, older and more developed.

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2 hours ago, VaBird1 said:

One thing that neither article mentions is that until the end of the 90s most players drafted did not play in college.  Now they do, older and more developed.

I did a little mini-test of the first five rounds of the draft to see what percentage of picks were from college:

1980 - 45%

1990 - 41%

2000 - 43%

2010 - 53%

2019 - 68%

Seems like the big uptick has really been since 2000.    Of course, the top 5 rounds may not be representative of what’s gone on in the whole draft, but a figure a large percentage of the value comes from the top 5 rounds.     

On the other side of the coin, you’ve got 25-30% of the players coming from Latin America.   Not sure that was the case 40 years ago.    

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26 minutes ago, Frobby said:

I did a little mini-test of the first five rounds of the draft to see what percentage of picks were from college:

1980 - 45%

1990 - 41%

2000 - 43%

2010 - 53%

2019 - 68%

Seems like the big uptick has really been since 2000.    Of course, the top 5 rounds may not be representative of what’s gone on in the whole draft, but a figure a large percentage of the value comes from the top 5 rounds.     

On the other side of the coin, you’ve got 25-30% of the players coming from Latin America.   Not sure that was the case 40 years ago.    

Was there any shift in the % of HS kids that went unsigned around the start of the uptick?

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1 minute ago, DirtyBird said:

Was there any shift in the % of HS kids that went unsigned around the start of the uptick?

I didn’t look at that.   

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I just finished Sawchik's book The MVP Machine.  It is worth reading, but his piece in the first link above is kind of an author's hand-crafted synopsis.

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@Tony-OH, that is a really provocative set of suggestions.    Very innovative.    Will need to do a deep think.   

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5 hours ago, Tony-OH said:

Really a fascinating set of article though I found the Deadspin article hard to digest a bit as the writer's style was too wordy for my liking. 

When I interviewed Elias a month or so ago (I never put the piece out for several reasons but will soon) one of the things I asked him about was adding another rookie team "like a Bluefield" due to the influx of international players they are signing. my thought was there wouldn't be enough places to play to evaluate and players might slipped through the crack. 

Elias was pretty adamant about not needing to add another team and now I know why. Without saying it word for word, I believe he agreed with the thought process that evaluations can also be done outside of games. That doesn't mean that Elias doesn't believe game play is not important, afterall he has slow promoted a few players this year, but rather that he probably feels that they can evaluate the cream of the crop and make sure they are the ones getting the game action.

I love the minor league system, but I can understand why some people think it may be time for a change in the system. Buehler is absolutely correct that most teams on average only have 3 to 4 players with true major league ability at each level. What if there was a compromise? 

What if each affiliate was allowed four minor league affiliates (Short season rookie league for players drafted that year or brought over from Dominican, Lower/Rookie -1st-2nd year players - Intermediate (2nd-3rd year player) - Advanced (3rd year and up) with 30-man active rosters and an academy? After a 4th year in the minors, a player must be signed to a major league minimum contract but would be allowed to go back to the minors for two more seasons. After six seasons, any players not on a major league 26-man roster (I would increase this to 27) would be declared a free agent. A player still could be signed to the major league minimum and placed in the affiliated advanced league if the player and team chooses after 6 years. 

I also would decrease the Rule 4 draft to 30 rounds and allow for a true independent AAA League that would allow for players who don't make major league rosters after six years of pro experience to go play for in independent AAA team. These independent AAA teams then would be compensated if one of their players are signed by a major league team. As true free agents, players would be able to play for all 30 major league teams and not be stuck in AAA for a year when they may better than  player in the majors in another organization. 

As for foreign players, I'm a big proponent of blowing up the current system and just including them in the draft when they become 17-years old. However, I could also see each team keeping a Dominican Summer League affiliate as well to give them five overall.

 

Too wordy. Could you put this into a diagram?

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Elias is the unnamed ex-Astro in the first article, right?

If I was an owner, I would invest in a complex for my minor leaguers.  Set up a dorm-like environment with a cafeteria  and let them live there year round.  If they aren’t going to get paid, provide their food and shelter so they can develop without the stress of trying to figure out how to live or eat.

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On 9/12/2019 at 12:19 PM, Tony-OH said:

 These independent AAA teams then would be compensated if one of their players are signed by a major league team. As true free agents, players would be able to play for all 30 major league teams and not be stuck in AAA for a year when they may better than  player in the majors in another organization. 

 

Not entirely sure how much you follow the Independent Leagues that are out currently, but this is what happens now.

The Atlantic League seems to be the most scouted by the MLB teams as they have the most "signed and played" over the other leagues. MLB teams will "buy" the contract from the team and give them a bit more for compensation.

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I think there are way too many minor league teams.  We still need a minor league system, but I think you could combine Low A and High A, at least, and then maybe get rid of one of the rookie league levels.  Being a huge minor league fan, there are a lot of minor league teams that don't get large fan attendance and have poor stadiums (anyone been to Hagerstown?).  It just doesn't make sense to field a team with 3 future major leaguers in a city or town that doesn't have a fan draw, other than to even out the league. 

I'd also love to see a player loan system akin to European soccer, where we could acquire another team's prospect for the season.

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I think a guy like Rutschman could step in right away and catch 80 games for us next year. But we’re a 110 loss team. 

Overall, I like how teams are thinking outside the box. It would’ve been much better the last 10 years for us to spend money in the Dominican and cut a minor league stateside team. 

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