Effectively Wild Episode 1007: Baseball News is Back

by Ben Lindbergh - 1/17/2017 - Comments (0)


Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about Lenny Harris and Jerry Dipoto, then celebrate the end of a long baseball news drought by discussing a few recent and imminent transactions, including the Jose Bautista signing and the Danny Duffy and Wil Myers extensions.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat - 1/17/17

by Paul Swydan - 1/17/2017 - Comments (0)

Paul Swydan:

Did you really think Jose Bautista would need to sign a one-year contract?

Yeah he’s super old (25.3% | 48 votes)
I hadn’t really thought about it (18.5% | 35 votes)
No he’s a star this whole thing is weird (28.5% | 54 votes)
Technically the options could make it longer (27.5% | 52 votes)

Total Votes: 189
Paul Swydan:

Which player w < 25% on BBHoF Tracker most deserves to be elected to the HoF?

Jeff Kent (4.9% | 11 votes)
Fred McGriff (8.5% | 19 votes)
Jorge Posada (3.6% | 8 votes)
Manny Ramirez (32.5% | 72 votes)
Gary Sheffield (8.1% | 18 votes)
Sammy Sosa (4.5% | 10 votes)
Billy Wagner (4.0% | 9 votes)
Larry Walker (33.4% | 74 votes)

Total Votes: 221
Paul Swydan:

Who was your favorite Avenger from “The Avengers” movie? (2012)

Iron Man (22.7% | 46 votes)
Captain America (6.9% | 14 votes)
The Hulk (16.8% | 34 votes)
Thor (6.4% | 13 votes)
Black Widow (8.4% | 17 votes)
Hawkeye (3.9% | 8 votes)
I didn’t see that movie (29.7% | 60 votes)
How can I choose? (4.9% | 10 votes)

Total Votes: 202
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Guest: If The Avengers were a baseball team, who would play where, what would their WAR be?

Paul Swydan: Oh my gosh, I’ve thought about writing this up before.

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Jose Bautista and Defying the Curve

by tsawchik - 1/17/2017 - Comments (14)

So Jose Bautista will not receive the six years or $150 million he was reportedly seeking a year ago. According to Ken Rosenthal, Bautista has reportedly reached an agreement on a one-year deal with a mutual option to return to Toronto. Nick Stellini has already addressed some of the implications of the deal for the Blue Jays.

Since the conclusion of the PED era, baseball appears to have returned closer to its roots. Baseball appears to be a young man’s game again. Teams are hesitant to pay for seasons in players’ 30s. Teams prize prospects and pre-arbitration seasons more than ever. Teams are well aware of age curves, and aging models suggest Bautista is probably not the next David Ortiz, as Craig Edwards wrote back in November.

Those factors — plus a down season impacted by injury, plus a market that might have overcorrected against bat-only players — all conspired to limit Bautista’s market. The FanGraphs crowd projected Bautista would sign a three-year, $65 million deal.

But was the industry too skeptical of Bautista’s future this winter? Are the Blue Jays on cusp of a landing Bautista on another bargain of a contract?

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The Jays Get Joey Bats Back

by NickS94 - 1/17/2017 - Comments (11)

A Blue Jays team without Jose Bautista feels a bit dirty. It’s theoretically possible — and, given the fact that the Blue Jays existed before Bautista donned their uniform, it’s verifiably possible, too. Yet fate seems to have conspired to reunite the bearded bringer of dingers with the Jays. Bautista is reportedly going back to Toronto after finding that his age and rejection of the qualifying offer have dampened his market far more than expected.

After at one point reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $150 million, Bautista is signing for one guaranteed season at an $18 million clip, with two options that could bring the total of the deal to $60 million. Regardless of whether or not those two years get picked up, he’s beaten the initial $17.2 million qualifying offer. Mutual options are almost never exercised, of course, but Jeff Passan did mention yesterday that Bautista is turning down bigger money to come back to the Jays.

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How Keon Broxton Looks Like the Brewers' Best Player

by Jeff Sullivan - 1/17/2017 - Comments (13)

I’ve encouraged you to believe in Keon Broxton before. In baseball-game terms, that wasn’t even very long ago. So you could accuse me here of being unoriginal, but I’ve prepared a counterargument. For one thing, it’s January, shut up. For a second thing, I bet a lot of you missed my previous summary. And for a third thing, now there’s some new information. This is a Keon Broxton article, and I’ll tell you why I think he’s already the best player on the Brewers, headed into 2017.

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Phillies Get High-Risk Michael Saunders on Low-Risk Deal

by Eno Sarris - 1/17/2017 - Comments (25)

Even on a deal as short as the one to which the Phillies and Michael Saunders agreed this week — he’ll reportedly get $9 million for one year and the club will have the option to re-up him at something like $11 to 14 million — two relevant questions emerge immediately. One: is Saunders healthy enough to believe in? And two: will the power he exhibited last year reappear in 2017?

Well, is he? And will it?

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Let's Find the Dodgers a Second Baseman

by Dave Cameron - 1/17/2017 - Comments (42)

For the better part of the off-season, the Dodgers and Twins have reportedly been trying to strike a fair deal for Brian Dozier. The Twins second baseman is a highly valuable player, but with only two years left of team control, he’s probably a better fit for a contender than a rebuilder, and right now, the Twins are still in the latter category. But, for whatever reason, the two sides seem to value Dozier differently, and as of last week, it appears that both teams have decided there isn’t a fit, at least not right now.

So, with Dozier potentially off the table, let’s see if we can find the Dodgers another second baseman.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat, Dies to Removal

by Eric Longenhagen - 1/17/2017 - Comments (13)

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning, everyone. Let me tweet a link to this thing and we’ll get started.

Eric A Longenhagen: Okay, just a heads up that my Diamond Mind draft is currently going on. If I step away for a minute it’s because I’m aggressively trying to move up.

Eric A Longenhagen: Also, Cubs prospect list is done and being edited so expect that in a day or so. Brewers are next. That system is fun.

JimLindeman15: Have you scouted Jordan Hicks, RHP in the Cardinal organization? If so, thoughts? Made two League Top 10 lists, but doesn’t crack anyone’s Cardinal Top 10-20 lists.

Eric A Longenhagen: I haven’t seen him but it’s 90-93, will show you 95 and it comes in at kind of a funky angle. Flashes above average slider. Good body, delivery is okay. He’s a solid prospect, 45 FV type of arm.

DR: How much does age of a player factor into your draft ranking? Looks like more and more HS players are 19+ at the draft. Do teams discount for age?

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John Coppolella on Atlanta's Deals with Seattle

by David Laurila - 1/17/2017 - Comments (2)

John Coppollela hasn’t been as swap-happy as Jerry Dipoto this offseason. As Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan have recently written, Seattle’s general manager has dominated the transaction log. That doesn’t mean Coppolella hasn’t been busy. The Atlanta GM has made several moves of his own, acquiring both oldsters — hello R.A., hola Bartolo — and a passel of youngsters.

Four of the prospects the Braves have brought on board came over from the Mariners. In late November, Coppolella and Dipoto swung a deal that brought 2014 first-round pick Alex Jackson to Atlanta in exchange for Max Povse and Rob Whalen. A few weeks later, left-hander Tyler Pike, a 2012 third-round pick, came to the Braves as the PTBNL in that transaction. Last week, Coppolella’s club moved Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons to Seattle, and got a pair of southpaws in return — 2016 fourth-round pick Thomas Burrows, and 20-year-old Brazilian Luiz Gohara.

Coppolella discussed the acquisitions of the four prospects, including a planned position switch for one of them, over the weekend.

Coppolella on Atlanta’s previous interest in the players: “In 2016, we had Tom Burrows’ folder in a group of folders at our draft table, so we literally had our pockets picked by Seattle. In 2014, we didn’t draft until pick No. 32, and Alex Jackson was in the mix to go No. 1 overall, so we didn’t waste time discussing him, though we had admired him for years. In 2012, I remember Dom Chiti — now our Director of Pitching – had mentioned Tyler Pike because he was from Winter Haven, where Dom lives. But as a scouting department we never followed up on the player. We are happy to have him now and, ironically, the first person he met with from the Braves was Dom. Finally, when Luiz Gohara signed in August 2012, we had a couple of reports, which were very impressive, but he had already made a deal with Seattle.”

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron on the New Bullpen

by Carson Cistulli - 1/17/2017 - Comments (1)

Episode 710
Dave Cameron is the managing editor of FanGraphs. On this edition of the program, he examines the possible value (both for team and player) of converting starting prospects like Edwin Diaz to relief; discusses the Royals’ attempts to hedge against the loss of half-a-dozen players to free agency; and speculates wildly on the number of talented younger players who’ve left the game due to fear of pitcher velocity.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 40 min play time.)

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The Cardinals and the Joneses

by tsawchik - 1/17/2017 - Comments (28)

The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated in an Arthur R. “Pop” Momand comic strip in 1913. For better than a century, the phrase has characterized the attempt by many Americans to match or exceed the assets and social status of those in close proximity to them, namely their neighbors. (Of course, now you can keep up with all the Joneses on social media.)

The Chicago Cubs have created much envy in the NL Central. They are the neighbor with the new infinity swimming pool, the shiny new luxury car parked in the three-car garage, and the remodeled kitchen complete with a $10,000 range. They had a lot of parties last summer and generally seemed quite popular.

There cannot be a greater feeling of envy toward the Cubs than in St. Louis. The Cubs are a threat to the Cardinals’ sustained excellence over the last decade, perhaps the most impressive run in the sport since the Atlanta Braves’ MLB-record 14 consecutive postseason berths in the 1990s and early 2000s.

We know the Cubs are coming off a World Series title and a 103-win regular season. The Cubs retain their core and have few weaknesses. The Cardinals won 86 games last season, missing the postseason for the first time since 2010.

With a passionate fanbase that’s unaccustomed to watching a rival neighbor accumulate such wealth, now would seem the time to act boldly and irrationally and emotionally if the Cardinals front office were ever to operate in such fashion. On the contrary, the Cardinals have been cautious, having made a total of zero 40-man roster transactions since December 12. While the Cardinals did raid the Cubs for a significant asset in Dexter Fowler, St. Louis has otherwise operated in a relatively low-key fashion this offseason.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has been asked one question over and over again this offseason, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports: has he done enough to catch the Cubs?

“I always feel like it’s sort of dangerous to simply chase your neighbors,” Mozeliak said. “That phrase — ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ — can be dangerous, right? I think the best strategy is try to build a club that you think has a chance to win your division, get to the postseason. Obviously, a lot of things have to happen along the way, and part of that’s good fortune. Part of that is playing well. You look back to last year, some of those things we just didn’t do that well.”

By taking on too much debt, by making extravagant purchases, and trading too much of tomorrow in a quest for immediate satisfaction, Keeping up With the Joneses can have dire consequences. The Cardinals, probably wisely, are apparently not willing to try and keep up with the Cubs via a dramatic and bold offseason. It’s perhaps why the Cardinals remained on the “periphery” of the Chris Sale talks, according to Jon Heyman. Moreover, baseball is crazy and unpredictable. The Cubs might suffer some serious regression in 2017.

But right now the Cubs are a heavy favorite and the Cardinals – and every other team in the division – have a significant gap to bridge.

So what to do?

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Jerry Dipoto's Trade Activity, in Context

by Jeff Sullivan - 1/16/2017 - Comments (39)

I recently took a vacation, which meant I recently missed some Mariners trades. The trades weren’t conditional upon me being somewhere else; they were conditional upon the passage of some amount of time. The Mariners subtracted from the pitching staff to add to the outfield. They then subtracted from the outfield to add to the pitching staff. Later, they subtracted from the minors to add Mallex Smith, then they subtracted from Mallex Smith to add Drew Smyly. I was asked last Friday why the latest pair of moves didn’t go down as a three-team maneuver. I don’t know, but, this way, Jerry Dipoto gets to double-add to his tally.

In general, baseball fans are mostly preoccupied with the goings-on surrounding their own favorite teams. Plain and simple, it can be hard to know much about everything else that’s taking place. Dipoto, though, is transcending that, developing an active trader reputation that fewer and fewer can ignore. It’s become a punchline, Dipoto sometimes resembling a caricature of himself. It’s tempting to compare Dipoto to a hummingbird, but as luck would have it, a hummingbird has recently taken up temporary residence outside our bedroom window. A picture:

Even a hummingbird can sometimes be seen sitting still.

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2016 Hitter Contact-Quality Report: AL Center Fielders

by Blengino - 1/16/2017 - Comments (6)

Our position-by-position look at hitter contact quality using granular exit speed and launch angle data grinds on. Last time, it was National League left fielders; this time, American League center fielders. There isn’t much doubt as to the greatness of Mike Trout, but if you wanted to sum it up in one article, this might be the one. There are other great hitters in the game, likely one or two at least fractionally better than the pride of South Jersey, but once you take positional effects into account, well… read on.

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Royals Keep Danny Duffy, Could-Be Ace

by Jeff Sullivan - 1/16/2017 - Comments (7)

It’s no secret the Royals have been facing a challenging offseason. They came in with so many critical players entering their contract years, and they’re also a lower-budget operation with a mediocre farm system. A month and a half ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Royals’ Last Ride.” Some sort of transition appeared inevitable. The Royals would need to work incredibly hard if they wanted to have a chance to win down the line, without sacrificing too much from 2017.

Now, there’s plenty to like about how the transition has gone. The overall situation is still difficult, to be sure, but the Royals got four years of Jorge Soler for one year of Wade Davis. They got four years of Nate Karns for one year of Jarrod Dyson. And now, maybe most significantly, the team has extended Danny Duffy, with a five-year deal covering four years of would-be free agency. Duffy is the best starting pitcher in the organization. He has it in him to be one of the better starting pitchers in the league.

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Finding the Next Brandon Moss

by Eno Sarris - 1/16/2017 - Comments (10)

Of course it’s true that major league teams want to find a young player to fill the shoes of an older player, all other things being equal. The younger player has more upside, and is likely to be cheaper. So of course, despite the fact that Brandon Moss has been a top-fifteen slugger over the last five years, of course teams would rather find the next Moss. It’s probably not that easy, though.

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Relocation Less Common in MLB Than NFL, Other Leagues

by Craig Edwards - 1/16/2017 - Comments (26)

In 1972, the Washington Senators packed up and moved down to Texas to become the Rangers. In the 45 years since the Senators’ departure, however, only a single other Major League Baseball franchise has relocated: the Montreal Expos (owned by MLB at the time) moved to Washington before the 2005 season and became the Nationals.

During that same 45-year period, meanwhile, the National Football League has seen the relocation of franchises on nine occasions (10 if Oakland completes their move to Las Vegas). The National Hockey League has featured nine moves of their own (including one merger); the NBA, eight.

There are quite a few reasons for MLB’s stability relative to the other leagues, including antitrust protection, willing local governments, and a little bit more patience when it comes to stadium issues. And baseball hasn’t always possessed such geographic consistency. Consider: the creation of the Rangers actually marked the end of a 20-year period that saw quite a bit of movement throughout Major League Baseball. Rarely did a move leave a city without a franchise — and for those cities left without teams, all had new teams in short order — but there was activity nonetheless. The graph below illustrates MLB’s history of relocation and expansion.

From 1903 to 1953, the league featured all the same clubs without change. In the early 50s, however, three different two-team cities lost the weaker of their clubs, as the Boston Braves, Philadelphia Athletics, and St. Louis Browns moved to towns without franchises. An even more notable exodus occurred when the Dodgers and Giants left New York for California. As populations shifted, it was only natural for baseball to move westward.

The Yankees had New York to themselves for just four seasons before MLB approved the creation of the Mets. The addition of a franchise in Houston marked the first baseball club in Texas. When Washington moved to Minnesota, the league gave the nation’s capital a new team without missing a single season. After Milwaukee moved to Atlanta, Kansas City moved to Oakland, and the brand new Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee following Bud Selig’s purchase of the team, MLB found new franchises for those cities, Seattle’s seven-year wait marking the longest.

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Travis Sawchik FanGraphs Chat - 1/16/17

by tsawchik - 1/16/2017 - Comments (6)

Travis Sawchik: Greetings, everyone. Welcome to Episode No. 2 of the Sawchik Chat…. Long way to go to catch up to EW podcast.

mtsw: Are we, savvy baseball fans, really meant to believe Jose Bautista is turning down bigger offers to return to Toronto? These “better offers” seem about as real as your middle school buddy’s Canadian girlfriend.

Travis Sawchik: Players, of course, generally take the best offer, so I doubt Bautista would take a lesser offer to remain in TOR. As Dave Cameron wrote last week, it appears the market for Bautista-types has over-corrected

Justino: What can you tell me about Trevor Clifton?

Travis Sawchik: If the Cubs begin to develop pitching, if more arms take jumps like Clifton did in ’16, then the rich get a whole lot richer. The Cubs have not developed much of their own pitching to date, one of the few weak areas

Travis Sawchik: I can also tell you it appears Clifton had his number retired:

Reigning #Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Trevor Clifton gets his No. 25 retired at Heritage.
17 Dec 2016

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2017 MLB Arbitration Visualization

by seandolinar - 1/16/2017 - Comments (5)

It’s that time of year again! This past Friday was the filing deadline for arbitration-eligible player contract offers. Once these numbers are published, I like to create a data visualization showing the difference between the team and player contract filings. (See the 2016 version here.) If you are unfamiliar with the arbitration process here’s the quick explanation from last year:

Teams and players file salary figures for one-year contracts, then an arbitration panel awards the player either with the contract offered by the team or the contract for which the player filed. More details of the arbitration process can be found here. Most players will sign a contract before numbers are exchanged or before the hearing, so only a handful of players actually go through the entire arbitration process each year.

The compiled team and player contract-filings data used in the graph can be found at MLB Trade Rumors.

Three colored dots represent a different type of signing: yellow represents a mutually-agreed contract signed to avoid arbitration, red represents the award of the team’s offer in arbitration, and blue represents the award of the player’s offer. A gray line represents the difference in player and team filings. Only players with whom teams exchanged numbers on January 13, 2017 will have grey lines. These can be filtered by clicking the “Filed” button.

The “Signed” button filters out players who have signed a contract for 2017; this will change as arbitration hearings occur. Finally, “All” includes every player represented in the graph. This year Jake Arrieta and Bryce Harper had the two largest contracts ($15.367M and $13.625M, respectively), but they both signed contracts before the filing deadline. This causes changes on the x-axis scale on the “Signed” and “All” tabs compared to the “Filed” tab, which is scaled to contracts under $10M.

The chart is sorted either by contract value or by the midpoint of the arbitration filings. The midpoint is the average of the two contracts and determines which contract the arbitrator awards based on his assessment of the relevant player’s value. The final contract value takes precedent over the midpoint since this represents the resolved value. Contract extension details will be written out over the data points. For our purposes, an extension is a multiyear deal that can’t be shown on the graph, since we are looking only single-year contracts for 2017.

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2017 ZiPS Projections - Miami Marlins

by Carson Cistulli - 1/16/2017 - Comments (7)

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Miami Marlins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Toronto / Washington.

In every season from 2011 to 2014, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (484 PA, 3.8 zWAR) produced the highest WAR total among Miami’s field players. In 2015, he produced the second-highest WAR total on the club — less due to his own shortcomings, however, and more to the .383 BABIP that allowed Dee Gordon (606, 2.1) to record a career-best offensive season. Stanton was almost unassailably the club’s top position player for a period of five years.

The 2016 campaign marked a departure for Stanton, however, from the top of the club’s leaderboard. Limited by injury to just 470 plate appearances, Statnton also produced the worst offensive season of his career. He finished sixth on the team in wins. At the same time, Christian Yelich (638 PA, 3.8) recorded his second four-win season over the last three years. Now the two receive the same win projection, is the point of these whole two paragraphs.

One note: Yelich is located at center field on the depth-chart image below, Marcell Ozuna (602, 2.5) in left — because that seems like the club’s probable alignment in 2017. The two are projected at the opposite positions, however. Generally speaking, there’s about a 10-run difference in the positional adjustment between left and center over the course of a full season. That would render Yelich (projected for +6 runs in left) about a -4 defender in center; Ozuna (projected for -3 runs in center), a +7 fielder in left.

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Could Scouting Use a Pivot to the Pacific?

by tsawchik - 1/16/2017 - Comments (21)

The signing of Eric Thames and the projections subsequently produced for him represent two of the more interesting, if lower-profile, developments of the offseason. Since Thames took his quick left-handed swing across the Pacific, he’s become one of the top sluggers in the hitter-friendly Korea Baseball Organization.

If you have 30 free minutes you can watch all 47 of his 2015 home runs thanks to YouTube:

Despite having already played in the majors, Thames is something of a mystery, a curiosity, in transitioning from a foreign professional league. If the projections are accurate, however – and his Davenport translations are pretty close to other, former international unknowns like Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Jung Ho Kang – then the Brewers have themselves a steal.

In the cases both of Cespedes and Kang, who played in foreign leagues that draw fewer scouts, analytics played a considerable role in the decision to sign them. Analytics and projections also played a significant part in the Thames signing, as Brewers GM David Stearns told David Laurila in the latter’s Sunday notes this weekend.

Kang was the first KBO hitter to make the jump directly to the majors. There were no direct comparisons. But plenty of South Korean stars had played in the Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, so the Pirates looked at their production in Japan and then studied the more sizable sample of NPB position players who have played in the majors.

Back in 2013, the A’s were also creative in projecting Cespedes, then a trailblazing Cuban defector, as detailed by Ben Reiter in Sports Illustrated.

“[Farhan] Zaidi built a model that analyzed not just the grades the scouts had given to Cespedes on the usual eight-point scale, but also the scouts themselves. Say three guys have a six power on him, three guys have seven power on him. What kind of minor leaguers or major leaguers do those guys have those grades on?”

The A’s did not miss a chance to scout Cespedes when access was available. The Pirates did send scouts over to evaluate Kang in addition to video analysis (though Kang’s off-the-field issues were apparently not discovered). Still, recent success stories of players signed from foreign pro leagues are analytics-heavy because they’ve had to be. There are few scouting resources committed to South Korea and Japan. Cuba has been difficult to scout due to political reasons.

But what are MLB clubs missing at the professional and amateur levels by not having more of a scouting presence in places like South Korea? And why are such areas not heavily staffed?

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WAR: Batters
Mike Trout9.4
Kris Bryant8.4
Mookie Betts7.8
Josh Donaldson7.6
Corey Seager7.5
WAR: Pitchers
Clayton Kershaw6.5
Noah Syndergaard6.5
Jose Fernandez6.1
Max Scherzer5.6
Johnny Cueto5.5
WPA: Batters
Mike Trout6.64
Josh Donaldson4.29
David Ortiz4.24
Joey Votto4.04
Paul Goldschmidt3.98
Jon Lester4.99
Johnny Cueto4.62
Clayton Kershaw4.57
Max Scherzer4.24
Kyle Hendricks4.23
Zach Britton6.39
Andrew Miller5.04
Sam Dyson3.73
Mark Melancon3.43
Jeremy Jeffress3.08
Fastball (mph): SP
Noah Syndergaard97.9
Nathan Eovaldi97.0
James Paxton96.8
Yordano Ventura96.1
Reynaldo Lopez95.9