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Monday, September 09, 2019

Do we even need minor league baseball?

A year before the closing of two affiliates, in March 2016, the Astros hired Jose Fernandez to be part of their sports science department. He had worked with pro soccer teams in Europe. European soccer giants have centralized training centers focused on building skills rather than a decentralized sprawl of affiliates. ...
“On site in Barcelona, they have their whole development academy, from the little kids all the way up to the professional teams. They have one big campus. They do everything on-site. Everything is coordinated. Everyone is doing the same drills. Everyone was being measured with the same technology. That makes a ton of sense,” the ex-Astros front official said.

Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 09, 2019 at 12:03 PM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, minor leagues, soccer

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 02:10 PM (#5877793)
Interesting stuff, but I remain unconvinced. I think as long as you have 6 years of cost controlled talent, it is in your best interest to control as many players as possible who could be part of that labor pool. I see minor leaguers like how venture capitalists view tech firms. The hit rate is very, very low, but when you hit, the pay off is so, so high. Sure, only 10 percent of minor leaguers will become productive players, but you have a chance of getting a terrific player at an absurdly low price. And its not always the guys you identify in the draft, or early in the minors (see how the Astros gave up on JD Martinez). That being said, the idea of shuttling guys between their minor league teams and the facility to work on stuff is kinda interesting. Is there a limit to how many unassigned guys you can have in your organization? I know each minor league level has a roster limit, but what about guys unassigned, in "extended spring training" or whatever? Minor league roster rules have always kinda eluded me.
   2. DL from MN Posted: September 09, 2019 at 02:31 PM (#5877796)
Good luck using a player as trade bait who has never been seen outside of your training facility.
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 09, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5877799)
In Japan, NPB teams are limited to having 70 players under contract - that includes both the parent team roster, and the players for its minor league team. However, they are also allowed to have "Ikusei" (training) players who are not part of the 70-man roster, but who are limited to being able to play only in minor league games. If an Ikusei player becomes good enough to play for the NPB team, he has to be added to the 70-man roster.
   4. . Posted: September 09, 2019 at 02:55 PM (#5877805)
It's a strange question. What does "need" mean? From a consumer perspective, or player development perspective? It's hard to imagine talent development without at least some competitive games against peers.

From a consumer perspective, the market certainly looks as if it can support it, although I confess to not knowing the subsidies the various affiliates get from the parent club.
   5. base ball chick Posted: September 09, 2019 at 02:58 PM (#5877809)
um
baseball isn't soccer

throwing drills and hitting offn tees isn't going to make a ML ballplayer
   6. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:06 PM (#5877811)
Even the soccer team academies play a schedule. I think the interesting idea would be to have all the teams out of the same facility. For example the Red Sox could build out a full facility with a few parks in Worcester when they move the Pawtucket AAA team there in a couple of years. Then all your teams are in the same location, working with a coordinated oversight and geographically convenient to the parent club.

I don’t know if that would be a meaningful improvement on things from a development standpoint or a cost standpoint (which I suspect might be a big sticking point). But I think it could be an interesting design of a system.
   7. GregD Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:16 PM (#5877815)
Even the soccer team academies play a schedule. I think the interesting idea would be to have all the teams out of the same facility. For example the Red Sox could build out a full facility with a few parks in Worcester when they move the Pawtucket AAA team there in a couple of years. Then all your teams are in the same location, working with a coordinated oversight and geographically convenient to the parent club.

I don’t know if that would be a meaningful improvement on things from a development standpoint or a cost standpoint (which I suspect might be a big sticking point). But I think it could be an interesting design of a system.
I think the point of the Sun Belt facilities is to make it easy to play and practice when weather is iffy in New England and the Midwest. I could see teams extending the Gulf Coast/Arizona League rookie concept and having more teams just play Florida or Arizona schedules.

But minor league teams make money and are valuable, at least if you believe the Forbes numbers. They estimate that the 20 most valuable AAA franchises are worth an average of $37.5 million. I've seen different estimates on how many of them turn a year by year profit but many have appreciated significantly (thanks no doubt in part to city financing of stadiums.)

As long as that's the case, the minor leagues aren't going to go away.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:27 PM (#5877818)
Some of this article is a distraction: Big Data isn't going to excuse young players from actually playing baseball games. But I definitely believe the parts about how wildly inefficient the minor league system is, and what a problem it is to have top talent spread about so diffusely.

The arguments in #1 are undone by the fact that MLB is a monopoly. Teams could agree to abolish several MiLB levels, and if they did so in concert, nobody would gain or lose competitive advantage. If that were to happen, we might end up with fewer Mike Piazzas and RA Dickeys and such, but the change in talent level (and entertainment factor) in the league overall would be unnoticeable.

I won't pretend to have any idea about the different incentives at play that convince teams to field as many as 9-10 minor league teams. Obviously it's good to give lots and lots of interesting non-prospects their shots. If they all make money, well, then that's obviously a giant point in their favor. And then you have to spread the talent out diffusely, or else everyone will learn that some little short season A ball league doesn't every get any real prospects, and then interest could collapse.
   9. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:27 PM (#5877819)
Yeah like I said I’m not convinced it’s a good idea but I think if I WERE looking to reformat the way my organization was structured that would be something I would consider. Your point about the weather is one I didn’t think about and it’s a good one.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5877821)
Your point about the weather is one I didn’t think about and it’s a good one.


Build two facilities, they can move north for the summer. Like the British government in India used to do.
   11. Rusty Priske Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5877822)
While I support the minors system, I do think they have gotten too big.

How many affiliated teams does each team have? Eight?
   12. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5877823)
The article also has interesting tidbits about technology that's used in player development now. They're working on swings not just with video, but with motion sensor recording "bat speed, bat path and biomechanical data." It could be a lot easier to get a player to have an optimal launch angle than it was in the old days.

There's also this, which is admittedly a different kind of concern, but still worth noting:

Buehler thinks there’s another problem: There are too many players that aren’t MLB-quality in the minors.
“At any affiliate, there are three players who have a chance to play in the majors. The rest of the players are there so they so they can play. I don’t think that’s fair,” Buehler told FiveThirtyEight. “You are preying on their dreams.”

   13. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:47 PM (#5877827)
“At any affiliate, there are three players who have a chance to play in the majors. The rest of the players are there so they so they can play. I don’t think that’s fair,” Buehler told FiveThirtyEight. “You are preying on their dreams.”


I wonder how deluded these young players really are.
   14. Tin Angel Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:48 PM (#5877828)
Since the NFL started yesterday, thought it was interesting how a top draft pick like Kyler Murray gets thrown in as a starter from game 1. Yet 99% of MLB top picks need at least a few years in the minors before they are deemed ready to even attempt to play in the majors.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:49 PM (#5877829)

But minor league teams make money and are valuable, at least if you believe the Forbes numbers.


Yea, but most minor league teams aren't owned by the MLB team. Their profitability doesn't really affect the MLB club, doe sit? What affects them is the cost of the players they agree to let the minor league team use.

and what a problem it is to have top talent spread about so diffusely.


Is this a problem? I mean, isn't there some value in having a top prospect learn how to hit an A ball scrub before he faces the top prospects in baseball? Or facing a journeyman AAA before he hits against Justin Verlander?
   16. GregD Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:51 PM (#5877830)
Buehler thinks there’s another problem: There are too many players that aren’t MLB-quality in the minors.
“At any affiliate, there are three players who have a chance to play in the majors. The rest of the players are there so they so they can play. I don’t think that’s fair,” Buehler told FiveThirtyEight. “You are preying on their dreams.”


I don't think quote can be literally true. In the aggregate a 25-man roster has 4-5 people who will be on a major league roster (17.6 percent signed and drafted) and 2-3 who produce a net positive WAR (9.8 %).

More broadly the quote is deceptive because you don't know which 3! Of course it's easy to look back! But would it be surprising if each minor league team had 3-4 more guys (especially pitchers) who looked potentially like MLB players but had injury trouble? Another guy or two who never gained the maturity or self-discipline to make it?

And that of the 2-3 guys who did have a positive WAR some of them would have been in the filler role some of their MiLB years?

Obviously one can imagine that the process can and should be improved. But the idea that every team knows which 2-3 guys are going to be useful? That's just silly. Injuries are bad enough in the MLB that you can go broke banking on a pitching staff.

In terms of fair, I think it's moral to be realistic with people. I don't think it's unfair to tell people that the organization isn't sure of your future but if you want to keep plugging away here's your contract. (I do think MiLB should have to pay minimum wage.)
   17. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:53 PM (#5877832)
Is this a problem? I mean, isn't there some value in having a top prospect learn how to hit an A ball scrub before he faces the top prospects in baseball? Or facing a journeyman AAA before he hits against Justin Verlander?


From the article:

Some influencers of modern skill-building suggest that athletes ought to push themselves through practices like weighted-ball training — called overload training — to hasten development. To increase skill, take on more than you’re used to and the body adapts and skills improve. But how does that translate to games? In the NBA and NFL, top amateur players get thrown straight into the fray against top professionals. In baseball, top prospects spend years against lesser competition. How do you improve against inferior players?

“Major league [prospects] are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them,” the ex-Astros official said.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 03:58 PM (#5877833)
Some influencers of modern skill-building suggest that athletes ought to push themselves through practices like weighted-ball training — called overload training — to hasten development. To increase skill, take on more than you’re used to and the body adapts and skills improve. But how does that translate to games? In the NBA and NFL, top amateur players get thrown straight into the fray against top professionals. In baseball, top prospects spend years against lesser competition. How do you improve against inferior players?

“Major league [prospects] are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them,” the ex-Astros official said.


The ability to hit major league pitching has no analogue in the NBA or NFL. In those sports it's 90% athleticism. The biggest, strongest, fastest guys are usually the best.

In MLB John Kruk was better than 99.99% of world class athletes.
   19. jmurph Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:09 PM (#5877836)
The ability to hit major league pitching has no analogue in the NBA or NFL. In those sports it's 90% athleticism. The biggest, strongest, fastest guys are usually the best.

Sure but it doesn't necessarily follow that therefore the best way to train is to hit sub-MLB pitching, for years.
   20. The Good Face Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:12 PM (#5877838)
“At any affiliate, there are three players who have a chance to play in the majors. The rest of the players are there so they so they can play. I don’t think that’s fair,” Buehler told FiveThirtyEight. “You are preying on their dreams.”

I wonder how deluded these young players really are.


I've known a few minor league players who were part of the "no chance at the majors" and they were genial meatheads who didn't really have any illusions of making it to the big leagues. But they liked the lifestyle of hanging out with their bros, getting drunk, scoring hot chicks, etc., and it beat having to get a real job. Granted, this was a long time ago and maybe things have changed for minor league players.
   21. Rennie's Tenet Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:12 PM (#5877839)
I think extensive minor leagues help keep the antitrust exemption safe. It helps to have votes in Idaho and Oklahoma, instead of just major league cities.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:20 PM (#5877842)
Sure but it doesn't necessarily follow that therefore the best way to train is to hit sub-MLB pitching, for years.

How do you learn to recognized and time pitches except by seeing lots of them? Even if facing major league pitching would be better, no one's going to use their major league arms to train prospects; those guys are pitching in the majors.

The only options are for your minor leaguer batters to face your own minor league pitchers, or other teams minor league pitchers.
   23. Rally Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:22 PM (#5877843)
At the AAA level, most players are either future MLBers or have played MLB in the past. Picked a random AAA team from long enough ago to see who made it, the 2000 LV team, Padres affiliate. Of 31 pitchers on the roster, 27 played MLB. Of the 49 batters, 38 played MLB. There is double counting there as the pitchers also hit, but I’m not sorting it out, the point is made.

Some of their MLB careers might have lasted a game, but the majority at least made it up there. The odds are lower as you go deeper into the minors, having only 3 or 4 MLB guys in a rookie league team might be right.
   24. jmurph Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:23 PM (#5877844)
How do you learn to recognized and time pitches except by seeing lots of them? Even if facing major league pitching would be better, no one's going to use their major league arms to train prospects; those guys are pitching in the majors.

The argument put forth is that actual prospects "are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them." Sub-MLB talent.
   25. DL from MN Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:25 PM (#5877845)
I think extensive minor leagues help keep the antitrust exemption safe. It helps to have votes in Idaho and Oklahoma, instead of just major league cities.


It also helps to ensure nobody sets up a competing league if you already have a product that is near-MLB caliber in all of the cities that would make a competing league profitable.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:30 PM (#5877846)
How do you learn to recognized and time pitches except by seeing lots of them? Even if facing major league pitching would be better, no one's going to use their major league arms to train prospects; those guys are pitching in the majors.

The only options are for your minor leaguer batters to face your own minor league pitchers, or other teams minor league pitchers.


Yeah, but if you remove the bottom 50% of MiLB players from the pool, your top prospect would be seeing dramatically better competition.
   27. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:32 PM (#5877848)
It would be interesting if many of the teams were just indy league again. Say a team really needed a SP right now after the trade deadline, they could sift through a number of AAA-level indy league free agents rather than being stuck with whatever guy they signed back in March.
   28. KronicFatigue Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:37 PM (#5877849)
How do you learn to recognized and time pitches except by seeing lots of them? Even if facing major league pitching would be better, no one's going to use their major league arms to train prospects; those guys are pitching in the majors.

The only options are for your minor leaguer batters to face your own minor league pitchers, or other teams minor league pitchers.


At some point in the 90's, I saw a TV segment about cutting edge pitching machines that were about to come out and revolutionize batting practice b/c they could simulate major league pitching. I did not dream this and I am not a crackpot, but I haven't heard anything since.

Why does this not exist? Sure, release point etc wouldn't match, but a hitter should be able to see what it's like to see a 92 slider with bite over and over and over again. Batting practice still consists of older guys tossing 75 mph meat at the plate, yes? That doesn't seem helpful.

For minor leaguers, how much time is spent on drills once the season starts? Games seem like a waste of time/resources for a day to day if they are getting in the way of drills.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:45 PM (#5877850)
Yeah, but if you remove the bottom 50% of MiLB players from the pool, your top prospect would be seeing dramatically better competition.

The question is, does that always help, on can it hurt? If the lowest competition level is now High-A ball equivalent, will a bunch of 17-19 y.o. prospects flame out, and never develop? The other side of the balance sheet is how much faster can prospects get to the bigs? Seems like a lot of guys are coming up very young in the current system.
   30. DL from MN Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:46 PM (#5877851)
The argument put forth is that actual prospects "are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them." Sub-MLB talent.


I guess I can see this for sub-AA leagues. We could probably do away with the short season rookie leagues that aren't at the MLB spring training facilities (Pioneer League, Appalachian League, New York - Penn League, Northwest League). Double the number of AZL and GCL teams instead and run two rookie teams and an A-ball team out of the same facilities. Bring back the B, C, D classifications.

I don't see AA and AAA going away. Those are the teams that are making money. The Midwest League could easily become an "advanced A" and swap places with the Florida State League which now becomes the highest level of developmental ball. Advanced A would be some combination of the Midwest League Cal League and a merged Sally/Carolina League.

AAA - International League and Pacific Coast League
AA - Eastern, Southern and Texas Leagues
A/A+ - Midwest, Cal, Sally, Carolina
B, C, D - FSL, AZL, Dominican Summer League
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:47 PM (#5877852)

At some point in the 90's, I saw a TV segment about cutting edge pitching machines that were about to come out and revolutionize batting practice b/c they could simulate major league pitching. I did not dream this and I am not a crackpot, but I haven't heard anything since.

Why does this not exist? Sure, release point etc wouldn't match, but a hitter should be able to see what it's like to see a 92 slider with bite over and over and over again. Batting practice still consists of older guys tossing 75 mph meat at the plate, yes? That doesn't seem helpful.


I remember that too.

I would guess that reading the movement of the pitcher's arm is such a huge part of hitting high quality stuff, that the machine doesn't compare to live pitching.

Also, seeing a 92 MPH slider over and over probably doesn't help. It's seeing a 92 MPH slider when you expected a 98 MPH FB that's the hard part.
   32. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:05 PM (#5877863)
I do think they have gotten too big.

I thought there many more minor league teams not to mention independent leagues and african-american baseball leagues back in the early part of the 20th century??
   33. stevegamer Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:17 PM (#5877866)
Personally I need minor league baseball far, far more than I need 538's website.

We go to about 10 minor league games as year, some affiliated, some not. It's not just the game, but running into people you know in unexpected places, talking to random people with baseball as the bridge to conversation, and things like that.

If I want analysis of sports or politics from a website, that's easy to get.

I mean, we don't actually need baseball at all, but I doubt that would get nearly as many clicks, due to the more obvious clickbait nature of the title.

   34. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5877867)
One of the legit cool things about traveling around the US between late April to end of August is that you can be in some town that barely qualifies for street lights but maybe it has or is within driving distance of a minor league team. Which is great. You pay maybe ten bucks to watch a game that is typically not horrible with silly #### happening between innings and people are upbeat and food that is really bad for you is available as well as beer.

Why would anyone suggest making this experience go away?? WTF people?
   35. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:28 PM (#5877869)

Maybe TFA addresses this, but I also don't see anything comparable to the data generated by the minor leagues. To snapper's point, in football knowing a guy's raw physical tools gives you a lot of information about how he will ultimately perform on the field, at least at most positions. In baseball, knowing how fast a guy can run or even how hard he can throw is just a small part of the equation. Minor league stats, while still limited in terms of their predictive ability, help to bridge that gap and I don't know how you'd get those without a robust minor league schedule.
   36. Rally Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:55 PM (#5877873)
Right now teams should know more about their own minor leaguers than other team’s. But they still have good data on other team’s minor leaguers. A combination of minor league stats, scouting reports, and the Statcast and Trackman data. We can do a reasonable job evaluating minor leaguers in other systems with that info.

If every team took a complex approach, only their own team would have any idea how good they are. You’d know what your reports on the player from HS or college were, but not how they’ve advanced since then. How would you have any idea if some guy the Astros signed 4 years ago is any good? I guess you’d just have to hire some player dev guy away from them to get an answer.

The idea of team control seems ickier too. Maybe it shouldn’t, its icky enough already. But you’re telling a guy:

Sign this contract. We’ll pay you less than minimum wage for the next 6 years. You can’t quit and work for anyone else in this industry. We can cut you at any time. Nobody but our staff will see you play (or train). When we cut you, nobody will have any idea if you’re any good. And they probably won’t even bother trying to find out, because they’d rather spend their time and resources on a 19 year old instead of a 25 year old.
   37. Laser Man Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:55 PM (#5877874)
At some point in the 90's, I saw a TV segment about cutting edge pitching machines that were about to come out and revolutionize batting practice b/c they could simulate major league pitching. I did not dream this and I am not a crackpot, but I haven't heard anything since.
Companies like ProBatter have machines like this:

Pro Batter Simulator
   38. PreservedFish Posted: September 09, 2019 at 05:57 PM (#5877877)
Why would anyone suggest making this experience go away?? WTF people?


I think that part of playing Fantasy GM is being Fantasy CEO and also lately these days it's being Fantasy Silicon Valley Genius too. This old, inefficient industry is ripe to get "disrupted."

But of course you're right.
   39. bunyon Posted: September 09, 2019 at 06:06 PM (#5877878)
I'd go the other way. Each team gets 50 roster spots. Everyone else is independent. So, if an independent guy starts hitting .400 with 90 HR in Fresno, any team can make him an offer. Guy has a WHIP of 0.7 in Harrisburg on August 24? Make him an offer. If you're on the 50 man, you get the MLB minimum. Any minor league team can pay the scrubs what they're currently paid. If a guy wants to bet on himself, he can.
   40. bfan Posted: September 09, 2019 at 06:33 PM (#5877887)
If teams could train better players in a better manner and identify better players quicker through the academy type of facility, then some MLB team (Astros? Rays? Dodgers?) would be doing it now. They broke the mold of "this is how everyone does it so we will do it this way", several years ago (when franchises crossed the billion dollar mark in value, I would imagine).
   41. winnipegwhip Posted: September 09, 2019 at 06:58 PM (#5877893)
The argument put forth is that actual prospects "are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them." Sub-MLB talent.


....as opposed to playing the Orioles, Tigers, Marlins and Royals?
   42. Walt Davis Posted: September 09, 2019 at 07:04 PM (#5877894)
I thought there many more minor league teams not to mention independent leagues and african-american baseball leagues back in the early part of the 20th century??

For official Organized Baseball, the peak was shortly after WW2 with over 400 teams. That would not have included Negro League or teams outside of Organized Baseball. By 1960, it was under 100. Minor-league baseball was destroyed in the 50s and likely would have been further decimated if MLB hadn't stepped in. I think it was still considered a losing proposition until the 1990s ... no doubt aided by the substantial migration towards the south and the interstate cities.

Each team gets 50 roster spots.

We're at a point where a ML teams uses 50+ players over the course of a season. Obviously they don't HAVE to do that but I think you'll have a hard time getting a rule of only 50. Something like 100 seems perfectly feasible though.

As to the soccer model -- aren't these kids signed up around 14. It's a model closer to baseball's Dominican/Venezuelan development "model" (and I'll wager a guess that nobody gives a crap about corruption and the soccer buscones).

On the US major sports, hockey is probably the closest to MLB in terms of development models. Minor leagues, some kids signed incredibly young, college programs important but not required. For football, college is the minor leagues; that was true for basketball 95% of the time but seems completely untrue for superstars these days.

All of this said, if the recent notion that player aging curves have shifted and players peak from about 22 to 27 -- or even if that notion just catches on with the nerdy bunch -- then you need to get players through the minors ASAP and should be in the majors at 20 or even 19. A shift to two intensive training seasons at 18-19 then arriving in the majors 10 days into the age 20 season makes a lot of sense if any of that is true. That would lead to a much shorter draft and pretty much force drafted players to skip college ball -- driving down prices since kids wouldn't have credible leverage of going to college instead.

“You are preying on their dreams.”
I wonder how deluded these young players really are.

I wonder who in front offices actually cares. If they do cut back on minors support, that will be about no longer having to spend money on it, not the goodness of anybody's heart. They've been happily exploiting Latin kids, happily paying minor-leaguers sub-minimum wage, happily imposting drafts and draft slotting. Bring up these poor kids' dreams at a FO meeting and enjoy the laughter -- unless you've already established yourself as the pathetic do-gooder in which case maybe you'll just get eye rolls.

   43. winnipegwhip Posted: September 09, 2019 at 07:08 PM (#5877896)
If teams could train better players in a better manner and identify better players quicker through the academy type of facility, then some MLB team (Astros? Rays? Dodgers?) would be doing it now. They broke the mold of "this is how everyone does it so we will do it this way", several years ago (when franchises crossed the billion dollar mark in value, I would imagine).


A salient point. If teams wanted to do their own thing could they go their own route down the road once their contractual obligations with minor league teams are done? This would be the reverse of what Branch Rickey did when he created the farm system which put the Cardinals ahead of everyone else in the 1920's 1930's and 1940's. Others followed immediately (Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers) and others dragged their feet (A's Senators, Braves, Pirates and Phillies) which hurt kept them as cellar dwellers for years.
   44. winnipegwhip Posted: September 09, 2019 at 07:15 PM (#5877898)
All of this said, if the recent notion that player aging curves have shifted and players peak from about 22 to 27 -- or even if that notion just catches on with the nerdy bunch -- then you need to get players through the minors ASAP and should be in the majors at 20 or even 19. A shift to two intensive training seasons at 18-19 then arriving in the majors 10 days into the age 20 season makes a lot of sense if any of that is true. That would lead to a much shorter draft and pretty much force drafted players to skip college ball -- driving down prices since kids wouldn't have credible leverage of going to college instead.


The idea that a prospect is determined at 18 and or 19 is flawed. Baseball may be the best sport for "late bloomers". Andrew Benintendi was not considered as a serious draft prospect until his junior year out of Arkansas. He was drafted in the 31st round out of high school but it wasn't because he was like Kumar Rocker and committed to college.

In addition the college option in baseball is not available to many young athletes due to the cost therefore they head to other sports. I have always argued that if Puig grew up in the USA he would have been playing football due to his size and attributes. Baseball would have been a seasonal hobby.

   45. Bote Man Posted: September 09, 2019 at 07:22 PM (#5877901)
So, if an independent guy starts hitting .400 with 90 HR in Fresno, any team can make him an offer. Guy has a WHIP of 0.7 in Harrisburg on August 24?

The Washington Nationals appreciate your attention to the details of their minor league system. It is still on the barren side, nonetheless.

To echo Jeremy Renner in post #34, there is $$$ value in presenting minor league baseball for your enjoyment. Minor league games are famous for their promotions, which draw in crowds. Even if the minors are a break-even proposition, they provide value for the MLB team as a purgatory for future MLB players and value to their host towns as an entertainment venue throughout the season.

The fact that MiLB team valuations have been going up in recent years is proof that they are not just some dead weight to be excised from the MLB team's balance sheet.
   46. . Posted: September 09, 2019 at 07:46 PM (#5877906)
As to the soccer model -- aren't these kids signed up around 14.


Some are. Some are signed as young as 8 or 9.

On the US major sports, hockey is probably the closest to MLB in terms of development models.


But still not so close. Canadian talent is actually drafted twice; once in juniors, once by the NHL. Foreign, non-age limited leagues also feed the NHL.(*) And far more players are able to play big-league hockey the season after the draft, even if they're still 18. The reason is what snapper said; baseball is far more of a defined technical skill (as opposed to a purely athletic sport) than the other sports.

I do agree that statcast and trackman make minor league stats essentially unnecessary. If you know the launch angle and the bat speed and the exit velo on various pitches at various speeds and curvatures, you know all you need to know. From there, you know its flight path. Golf simulators, where you hit the ball into a curtain and similar data is measured and used to show its travel at the "Pebble Beach" or "Augusta" shown behind the curtain, operates on the same idea. If your path and swing speed and smash factor suck, you don't actually need to be at Pebble Beach to know the ball isn't going to fly well at Pebble Beach. Same thing for Camden Yards or Fenway Park.

(*) The best hockey players can play well at 18 against grown-ass men. The Rangers picked a guy at 2 overall who pretty much ate the Finnish major league and then the World Championship up at 18. He's all-but-certain to play full-time top 6 NHL hockey this season.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 09:07 PM (#5877918)
I do agree that statcast and trackman make minor league stats essentially unnecessary. If you know the launch angle and the bat speed and the exit velo on various pitches at various speeds and curvatures, you know all you need to know.

What!?!? You have no idea if he can hit real AA/AAA/MLB pitching.

No one has spare professional quality arms lying around to throw 1000 practice pitches to each of these guys to feed your database.
   48. . Posted: September 09, 2019 at 09:45 PM (#5877931)
No one has spare professional quality arms lying around to throw 1000 practice pitches to each of these guys to feed your database.


You can build a machine to throw a pitch at any speed with any spin rate you want. The technology isn't even complicated. That would be way cheaper and more efficient, too.

If we want to get really sabery, the only things a pitcher or hitter can truly "control" are the coordinates of the hit or pitched ball. Those coordinates are easily and cheaply measured with modern technology. You don't need a single other player to do it.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 09, 2019 at 10:17 PM (#5877936)
You can build a machine to throw a pitch at any speed with any spin rate you want. The technology isn't even complicated. That would be way cheaper and more efficient, too.

If we want to get really sabery, the only things a pitcher or hitter can truly "control" are the coordinates of the hit or pitched ball. Those coordinates are easily and cheaply measured with modern technology. You don't need a single other player to do it.


Nope. Machines can't replicate a pitcher's motion, arm angle, release point, grip, etc. Professional hitters aren't simply tracking the ball, they're tracking the whole process. A ball that just pops out of a gun isn't the same. A hitter doesn't time that in the same way. Why do you think they don't use machines for batting practice?
   50. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 10, 2019 at 01:25 AM (#5877976)

You can build a machine to throw a pitch at any speed with any spin rate you want. The technology isn't even complicated. That would be way cheaper and more efficient, too.


Don't you want to train and test your minor-league pitchers, too? Or is the proposal to have the hitters hit vs. pitching machines and the pitchers pitch vs. hitting machines?
   51. . Posted: September 10, 2019 at 06:23 AM (#5877981)
Nope. Machines can't replicate a pitcher's motion, arm angle, release point, grip, etc.


Actually they can and quite easily. You're vastly overcomplicating this and vastly underestimating the state of modern technology. If a pitcher's motion "hides" the ball well -- assuming that happens -- that can be easily simulated.
   52. Rally Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:17 AM (#5877982)
That’s an assertion with no evidence.

I’m sure you can come close to replication the nuances of a pitcher’s motion, but doubt you’d get all the way there. I think we’d end up exchanging the AAAA label for a ‘machine hitter’ label. Some guys who could hit the crap out of the best pitch simulators but still couldn’t hack real pitching.
   53. Rally Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:22 AM (#5877983)
I love the minor league experience and certainly don’t want to see it go away. But I wonder how profitable it really is. AAA teams collect revenue and pay most expenses, but they don’t pay the players, the MLB team does. I’m not sure these teams could survive on their own.
   54. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:28 AM (#5877985)
One of the legit cool things about traveling around the US between late April to end of August is that you can be in some town that barely qualifies for street lights but maybe it has or is within driving distance of a minor league team. Which is great. You pay maybe ten bucks to watch a game that is typically not horrible with silly #### happening between innings and people are upbeat and food that is really bad for you is available as well as beer.

Why would anyone suggest making this experience go away?? WTF people?
I was very glad to read this. Minor league baseball is awesome. It should stick around for its own sake, and #### MLB. It's a little tragedy that for a lot of the world MiLB only exists as a place to develop talent and warehouse reserves for MLB, and not as something valued in its own right. There's little better than spending a summer in a minor league town and going to to 30 or 40 games without breaking the bank. I hope that never disappears.
   55. PreservedFish Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:37 AM (#5877986)
We put a man on the moon! I'm sure someone could build a Jake DeGrom machine if they were serious about it.
   56. jmurph Posted: September 10, 2019 at 09:31 AM (#5878021)
Nope. Machines can't replicate a pitcher's motion, arm angle, release point, grip, etc. Professional hitters aren't simply tracking the ball, they're tracking the whole process. A ball that just pops out of a gun isn't the same. A hitter doesn't time that in the same way. Why do you think they don't use machines for batting practice?

Right, instead they use 60 year olds throwing 75.
   57. jmurph Posted: September 10, 2019 at 09:33 AM (#5878023)
If teams could train better players in a better manner and identify better players quicker through the academy type of facility, then some MLB team (Astros? Rays? Dodgers?) would be doing it now.

The actual excerpt mentions the Astros exploring ways to change things. This is really taking RTFA to the next level!
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 10, 2019 at 09:46 AM (#5878027)
Right, instead they use 60 year olds throwing 75.

Which strongly suggests teams think that's a better way to practice than facing a machine.
   59. PreservedFish Posted: September 10, 2019 at 09:52 AM (#5878030)
Guys, hitters DO practice against machines. Of course they do. The old guy throwing BP is more about making sure your swing is feeling good. It's a light warm-up. They do not need high-intensity reps before a ballgame. They're not there to work on the never-ending fight for the muscle memory that allows them to turn on and accurately hit 95mph pitches.
   60. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 10, 2019 at 10:12 AM (#5878040)
Guys, hitters DO practice against machines. Of course they do. The old guy throwing BP is more about making sure your swing is feeling good. It's a light warm-up. They do not need high-intensity reps before a ballgame. They're not there to work on the never-ending fight for the muscle memory that allows them to turn on and accurately hit 95mph pitches.

The machine could of course be set to replicate the old guy throwing 75 MPH, but as a practical matter, it's a little easier to get the old guy onto the field every day.
   61. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 10, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5878041)
Guys, hitters DO practice against machines. Of course they do.

Sure. We all know that. It's just not considered a good substitute for live pitching, it's a supplement.

When a player is coming back from injury, do they stay in the complex and hit off machines, or do they play minor league games to face live pitching?
   62. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: September 10, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5878043)
Reducing the size of the affiliated minors (which, title aside, is the real topic here - no team likely wants to get rid of the minors entirely) would not necessarily mean that those teams would go away, we could see more indy circuits.

I think you could easily argue for stripping out a layer or two of the minors - the Appalachian/Pioneer League tier being the obvious choice. (I do not want this, I'd like a billion minor league teams - eventually, there'd be so many that I could play for one of them.)

But I wonder how profitable it really is. AAA teams collect revenue and pay most expenses, but they don’t pay the players, the MLB team does. I’m not sure these teams could survive on their own.
I've been waiting to see big league teams take a harder line here (which, as I understand it, they've done).

Machines/old guys: I think the current thinking is that these serve different purposes and that both are valuable. One change we've seen is a form of batting practice where the live pitching is faster / better breaking balls / etc, which I think is great, if you have the spare labor to do it.

I think we both overstate how certain we are that a given player will or won't make it - and maybe underrate how certain that a given player will or will not make a significant difference. All this said, my take on the best development models (circa 2019) is that you'd want an expansive/large system.
   63. Jack Sommers Posted: September 10, 2019 at 10:36 AM (#5878053)
If you haven't read his book. MVP Machine yet, then this article will make a little less sense to some perhaps. It's a pretty important book. I suggest picking it up. The title of the article is unfortunate and click baity, but the article doesn't actually advocate for the elimination of the entire minor league system. It asks the questions and then answers that of course competition is still important. But the viewpoint that the minor leagues are too big, with too many players and teams being inefficient is something that is shared throughout baseball.

   64. DL from MN Posted: September 10, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5878070)
I'd like a billion minor league teams - eventually, there'd be so many that I could play for one of them.


Guess they don't have Town Ball where you live.
   65. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 10, 2019 at 11:42 AM (#5878075)
“You are preying on their dreams.”

I wonder how deluded these young players really are.


I wonder who in front offices actually cares. If they do cut back on minors support, that will be about no longer having to spend money on it, not the goodness of anybody's heart. They've been happily exploiting Latin kids, happily paying minor-leaguers sub-minimum wage, happily imposting drafts and draft slotting. Bring up these poor kids' dreams at a FO meeting and enjoy the laughter -- unless you've already established yourself as the pathetic do-gooder in which case maybe you'll just get eye rolls.


Of course no one in the front office cares. The quotation about "preying on their dreams" is from Walker Buehler.
   66. Karl from NY Posted: September 10, 2019 at 02:15 PM (#5878130)
Minor league clubs can also help market for the major ones, right? Norfolk VA was known as a pocket of Mets fandom when the Tidewater Tides were a Mets affiliate. Richmond favored the Braves thanks to the AAA team there. The Iowa Cubs have to have had an effect on big-Cubs visibility in that state. Scranton favors the Yankees. Even the Brooklyn Cyclones are there in part to help give the Mets a foothold in that borough.
   67. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: September 10, 2019 at 03:17 PM (#5878150)
Since the NFL started yesterday, thought it was interesting how a top draft pick like Kyler Murray gets thrown in as a starter from game 1.


That's kind of a new phenomenon, right, especially for QBs?
   68. Zach Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:26 PM (#5878227)
“Major league [prospects] are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them,” the ex-Astros official said.

Eh. It's not like the real prospects are hitting .600 in A ball while the scrubs are hitting .050.

Vlad Guerrero Jr was minor league player of the year last year. His lifetime minor league splits are .331/.414/.531. Those are really nice numbers, but they're not cartoony.
   69. Zach Posted: September 10, 2019 at 07:36 PM (#5878230)
Between the time you draft a player and his first day in the major leagues, he's most likely going to age three or four years, put on twenty pounds, and quite likely learn a new position or multiple new pitches.

If you want to replace the minor leagues with an early cull plus intensive coaching, you have to be able to predict who's going to come out of that four year process looking the best. Nothing in baseball history suggests that anybody knows how to do that.
   70. Zach Posted: September 10, 2019 at 08:10 PM (#5878241)
Of course, if your master plan is to tank for several seasons and rebuild with premium draft picks, maybe hitting on those late bloomers is less important.
   71. Rally Posted: September 11, 2019 at 11:31 AM (#5878398)
Cut down the number of minor leaguers and you might prevent some Max Muncy type late bloomers too.
   72. Buck Coats Posted: September 11, 2019 at 02:31 PM (#5878438)
If the Cardinals could slow Kyler Murray's free agency by not having him start for a couple years I bet they would do that, but that's not an option
   73. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 11, 2019 at 02:52 PM (#5878446)

The other thing is that the NCAA kind of serves as the minor leagues for basketball and football. And most college football teams are playing 12-14 games which is not that much shorter than the NFL season. College hoops teams are playing 35-40 games which is a little less than half the length of an NBA season, and pretty close to the NBA G League schedule of 50 games.

But NCAA baseball teams play 55-60 games which is a little over 1/3 of an MLB season or less than 1/2 of a minor league season. It's just a lot fewer reps, and you'd also expect some players to need some time in the minors to adjust to the physical demands of a full season.
   74. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:17 PM (#5878828)
If teams could train better players in a better manner and identify better players quicker through the academy type of facility, then some MLB team (Astros? Rays? Dodgers?) would be doing it now. They broke the mold of "this is how everyone does it so we will do it this way", several years ago (when franchises crossed the billion dollar mark in value, I would imagine).

I believe MLB requires teams to support a minimum of 5(?) minors teams. No team can do what's suggested on their own without a change in the majors-minors agreement. (That said, the most recent information I could find was from the 1996 agreement but I doubt things have changed radically.)

The idea that a prospect is determined at 18 and or 19 is flawed. Baseball may be the best sport for "late bloomers". Andrew Benintendi was not considered as a serious draft prospect until his junior year out of Arkansas. He was drafted in the 31st round out of high school but it wasn't because he was like Kumar Rocker and committed to college.

But the issue is what is the best way to develop a Benintendi? Who knows how good he'd be if he'd spent those college years in the minors or at a complex? But again, IF (and it's a big if) the aging curve has shifted such that prime is 22 to 27, teams won't be waiting around for the Benintendis. Undrafted guys might then still head off to college and maybe they'll develop enough to get drafted later, nothing stopping that.

I'm not arguing in favor of it, I'm just pointing out some potential justification for a new model and speculating what will happen if this development model takes over. In reality, at a minimum, I think pitchers are still taking a long time to develop and a fair number of those guys would head off to college (if the minors system is gone).

But [NHL] still not so close.

Agreed ... but still probably the closest. Some kids go the minors route; some go to college; some come from foreign lands (some very young, some older). That there is a minor league (and has been for a very long time) distinguishes the NHL from NFL and NBA. But yes, sometimes an 18-19 year-old can step right into NHL ... and there's really nothing quite like junior hockey in baseball ... so those are some differences.

The quotation about "preying on their dreams" is from Walker Buehler.

And the comment I was responding to was from Preserved Fish ... who I took as engaging in a bit of blaming the victim ... although on re-reading, perhaps he was suggesting Buehler was naive in thinking minors players are actually this naive.
   75. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:55 PM (#5878830)
And the comment I was responding to was from Preserved Fish ... who I took as engaging in a bit of blaming the victim ... although on re-reading, perhaps he was suggesting Buehler was naive in thinking minors players are actually this naive.


Neither. I was just honestly curious about how clear-eyed these non-prospects are the very long odds they face.
   76. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:06 PM (#5878831)
Between the time you draft a player and his first day in the major leagues, he's most likely going to age three or four years, put on twenty pounds, and quite likely learn a new position or multiple new pitches.

Or ... he's going to age 2 years and do the last 2 years (well 1 year and 168 service days) of that development in the majors.

This is the very question that's being asked. Is it necessary to serve that 4-year "apprenticeship" in the minors? Or _still_ necessary given current technology, training techniques, some form of year-round training, etc? If the answer to that is yes, then obviously you need to maintain the minors or sucker the NCAA into being the minors. If the answer to that is no ...

We saw here just the other day an article suggesting young players are producing at historic levels (it wasn't a great article). We've seen analysis trying to show that the aging curve (for hitters at least) has shifted substantially such that there's little development between 22 and 27 (give or take) and decline starts around 28. And of course teams have a large financial incentive to concentrate PT among younger players such that it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, sure, a radical shift from the minors system to a complex-only system looks like a pretty crazy idea. But cutting back from 5-6 minors teams per ML team to 2/3/4 seems perfectly reasonable.

If you want to replace the minor leagues with an early cull plus intensive coaching, you have to be able to predict who's going to come out of that four year process looking the best. Nothing in baseball history suggests that anybody knows how to do that.

That depends to an extent on how severely you cull. How many players make the majors when they weren't considered among their team's 50-60 best prospects on draft day?

You have no idea if he can hit real AA/AAA/MLB pitching.

But these days you rarely do -- or at least not a very reliable idea. Even a relatively late arrival like Alonso got only 300 AAA PAs. (And given it was Vegas, it's not like his performance was off the charts.) Bryant had 300 at AA and 300 at AAA. Victor Robles got 158 at AA and 181 at AAA (where he didn't hit well). Lindor had 387 and 180 ... and a 110 ISO in 1900 minors PAs.

Cut down the number of minor leaguers and you might prevent some Max Muncy type late bloomers too.

Sure ... or, in a complex, Muncy's flaws and potential are identified and developed more quickly. Or with trimmed-back teams, Muncy faces tougher competition in his first couple of years in the minors and develops more quickly. (Note, if those things aren't true then of course these ideas about a new way of doing things won't work.)

In Muncy's specific case ... I'll guess he still gets found. In this potential brave new world, I doubt there is a 41st round of the draft anymore but he still sees his chances are slim so he goes to college. So nothing changes there except that maybe, after college, nobody's willing to draft him as high as the 5th round, maybe he doesn't get drafted at all (depending on how many round). Now in Muncy's case, rightly or wrongly, the A's felt he was ready for full A ball right away. As long as they still have at least 3 minors teams per team, he still gets signed by somebody. But also a guy you start at that level (and got drafted in the 5th round) is a guy teams would still recognize has some shot so he might even make it if they've cut back to 2 teams.

As is, Muncy was in AA at 22 -- a real prospect. He had a lousy year at 23 and still got promoted to AAA and then the majors at 24. If anything, under a new system, he might get promoted earlier because (a) teams believe players develop better in the majors and (b) they believe a player's most valuable years are now 23-27 so (c) find out what they've got sooner. This suggests (d) it's more likely that guys like Daniel Descalso would be even more likely to lose their roster spot to a 23/24-year-old Max Muncy type than currently.

I will admit I don't know what would have happened to Muncy around 25-26. If the new system means that AAA is no longer "AAAA storage and last brief development stop" then he's out of a job. But they'll still need someplace to store the rest of the 40-man, the vet SP back-ups and the emergency vet back-ups ... that, if nothing else, you probably want around so you don't have to start Nico Hoerner's service time clock after your two ML SS get hurt. (Although if it's all downhill for Nico starting at age 28, who cares about service time?)

Anyway ... I don't want to sound hypocritical. The best predictor of the future is the past so it makes sense to use past examples to form expectations about future development. But the argument put forward is a mix of (a) the current system is bloated and inefficient and (b) times have changed old man. If those are true then the obvious counter-argument to "you'll never find Max Muncy at 27" is "right, because he'd be Max Muncy at 23-24." Muncy can just as easily be used as an example of the flaws of the current system as of its benefits.
   77. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 13, 2019 at 07:13 AM (#5878854)
Muncy’s development or rediscovering his swing may also have happened with his dad after he was released by the A’s, when he was out of baseball entirely. It’s possible that in a system with no minors, Muncy ends up playing in Japan or someplace like that at age 27. Honestly, that could still happen in the current US system.
   78. Sunday silence Posted: September 13, 2019 at 03:38 PM (#5878988)

But these days you rarely do -- or at least not a very reliable idea. Even a relatively late arrival like Alonso got only 300 AAA PAs. (And given it was Vegas, it's not like his performance was off the charts.) Bryant had 300 at AA and 300 at AAA. Victor Robles got 158 at AA and 181 at AAA (where he didn't hit well). Lindor had 387 and 180 ... and a 110 ISO in 1900 minors PAs.


I sort of agree w your overall point about the minor leagues but on this particular point can we explore it a little more? I mean you and CFB and probably Snapper seem to be of the opinion that a season's worth of fielding stats might be statistically meaningless. At least that is how i understand what you said re:" maybe 50 balls a year are on the cusp of an outfielder's range." (paraphrasing)

Are you now saying that 300 ABs is also void of meaning or has very little meaning? I dont get that part or in fact what your overall point there is in citing AB from a couple of MLBers.

There might be other guys with 500 AB or 1000 AB in MiLBB, would that then diminish your pt??

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