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1/23/09

Shedding light to the obscured minor league I: DSL. The path to the majors

A quick look at every minor league prospect list be it from Baseball America, scouts.com, or any specialized team web site or blog or a quick look to the potential draft picks, high school or college age, seems to ignore a very important fact:

About as many first draft picks in the amateur draft (that includes players from the US and its protectorates, mainly Puerto Rico, and Canada) made the all star game as players who were signed as free agents in a young age from Latin American countries.

Let’s follow the path of an American high school phenom for a year who is drafted by a professional baseball team: He will most likely end up playing for the Gulf Coast League (GCL) in Florida or the Arizona league, depending on where the team that signed him plays its spring training games. Then depending on performance he will repeat another year at that level or move to the full season rookie leagues (Appalachian or Pioneer) or short season A league (New York/Penn league, Northwest league) depending on the affiliation of the team that singed him. Highly ranked prospects get major league contracts paying them about a million dollars a year for 5-6 years and a hefty sign on bonus, regardless the level a player is starting his professional career.

What is the path of a phenom from the Latin American countries? Usually signed at 15-16 years old, by a scout who scouts neighborhood street games and sees a kid who in his mind has some potential. The kid gets a $5-6,000 check at the best case (which almost always goes back to the family to take care of family bills and siblings and whatnot) and then is enrolled into a team’s “Academy”. There he receives education in English as well as in baseball. Depending on the time of year he signed the contract and his skills, the next year he might play in the Dominical Summer League. The DSL is the league that offers the highest level of competition for newly crowned Latin American professionals (btw, I still have a hard time trying to get figures on their salaries these days or their per diems, if some reader knows more about that, please contact me or comment on this post.)

Next step? If some satisfies the scouts there and/or plays a position that fits his team’s needs, during the offseason applications for passports, visas and other requirements are made so next year that player would enter the US (supposed armed with all the English and the cultural knowledge he learned in the ‘academy’) and join the GCL or the Arizona league and meet and play with his newly drafted professional colleagues…

(to be continued)

Remember the off-season contest is still on. Go to the link and give me your thoughts. 2 people did already. If 2 more do, you are all guaranteed to win a copy of one of the best minor league publications for the Twins, the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook - 2009, by Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net a major authority in the Twins' blogosphere, personally autographed by Seth himself.

1/22/09

Rumors, rumors and a break in the inactivity with some theoretical stuff

There have been several rumors these days linking the Twins to reliever free agents Russ Springer and Eric Gagne (unlike the former Twin Greg Gagne he kept the French pronunciation, as in the Minnesota pro-wrestler family; see: Gagne, Verne et. al.) and Joe Crede (and even Dan Uggla, to my delight). I am not really going to propagate those rumors or discuss them until (or if) someone is actually signed, when I will do an analysis of the signing.

Here is today's subject:

What should be the optimal balance of pitching and position players in a 25-man roster for the Twins to improve?

Last season, the Twins went with a 12 man pitching staff (for a while 13). I think that this worked to their disadvantage. Here is my train of thought:

I think that the ideal bullpen should be six. Here is my reasoning:

Assume 1460 innings pitched by the whole Twins' staff (the amount the Twins pitchers pitched in 2008)

If every starter pitches 6.3 innings, 4 will pitch 33 games and the fifth 30. Starters will take care of 1021 innings this way.

The pen would be responsible for 439 innings. Nathan averaged 70 innings in each of his years with the Twins. So the remaining 5 pitchers will be responsible for 369 innings. If the long man gets 90 innings (a reasonable average for mop up pitching) the remaining 4 would be responsible for 279 innings or 69.7 innings per pitcher which is very doable.

What would this require?

a. other than the mop up man, 4 good relievers that can get opposing hitters out no matter whether they are lefties or righties.

and

b. Gardy to quit bringing up pitchers just for one batter. This wastes pitchers.

How doable is it?

Let's assume than Nathan is the closer and Humber the long man.

Opponents OPS:

(the MLB average for relievers is .726)

Bonser RHB: .715 (fine) LHB .866 (not good)
Breslow RHB: .563 (great) LHB .462 (great)
Crain RHB .755 (so so) LHB .719 (fine)
Mijares (small sample warning) RHB .150 (super), LHB .286 (super)
Guerrier RHB .802 (not good) LHB .801 (not good)

Remember, only 4 of these 5 will be in. If Guerrier is out and another good reliever comes in (or if Guerrier resurrects himself) relegating Bonser to the long man position and Humber out, it is very doable.

just for fun,

Springer's numbers: RHB .456 (super) LHB .848 (ouch).
(no, folks, he ain't the one)

The flexibility that an extra position player will provide, esp. with the infield questions is probably better than the luxury of using pitchers just for one batter.

Still don't believe me?

Here are some more data from last season:

Team OPS in the 8th inning: .697, in the 9th .708 and in extra innings .668 (not good; Twins' overall OPS .748, AL overall OPS .756).

Twins' Team OPS for PH .803

I think that this little piece of data makes the case for an extra person on the bench as a PH in late innings stronger.

what do you think?


Remember the off-season contest is still on. Go to the link and give me your thoughts. 2 people did already. If 2 more do, you are all guaranteed to win a copy of one of the best minor league publications for the Twins, the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook - 2009, by Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net a major authority in the Twins' blogosphere, personally autographed by Seth himself.

So just do it, as the Nike marketers once said