'What's innovative is not to chase the shiniest thing and worship it.'
Recently, the prospect team here at Baseball Prospectus ranked the Dodgers the top farm system in baseball on the strength of the league's finest combination of high-end talent at the top and depth throughout. In my 2016 team preview a few weeks back, I talked at some length about the front office and scouting department overhauls—and the funding structure behind them—that paved the way for this transformation. Current Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler was part of the wave of front office hires by the organization in 2014, and I sat down to talk with him about how he views his role and how the organization is going to go about turning its giant minor-league collection of tools into big-league talent that will help the club win games.
The Astros pitching coach talks about tutoring in Europe, translating Ground Control printouts to the dugout, and why he believes objective is better than subjective.
The story of how Brent Strom came to be the pitching coach for the Houston Astros begins with a cartoonist for the New Yorker named Mike Witte. Witte had played high school ball with some of the St. Louis Cardinals owners, and as an adult studied the pitching motion until he was qualified to serve as a consultant to major-league teams on pitching deliveries. During Jeff Luhnow’s first year as farm director in St. Louis, Witte told Luhnow that of all the pitching coaches he had observed, Brent Strom had the best feel for the principles Witte was discovering in his research.
An interview about extensions with the man who pioneered them.
Last month, I wrote about what looked like a coming contract crisis for the Atlanta Braves’ young core, wondering when the Braves would approach their young players about long-term deals and speculating that Atlanta’s hiring of senior advisor John Hart—who pioneered the concept of contract extensions for young players while serving as the Indians’ general manager in the 1990s—might portend an extension spree. None of this was news to Braves president John Schuerholz and GM Frank Wren, who had already been laying the groundwork for contract talks with their young stars. Since then, we’ve seen Atlanta swiftly defuse any fears that they would be priced out of their own players, buying out Jason Heyward’s remaining arbitration years and signing Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons to extensions of various lengths. (Links to Transaction Analysis: Freeman; Teheran and Kimbrel; Simmons.)
Baseball lifer and longtime scout Donald Pries enters the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Early in his career as a scout, he once threw batting practice to a high school phenom named Boog Powell. Later on he signed future All-Star outfielder Joe Rudi to his first contract during five years of scouting for penny-pinching Athletics owner Charlie Finley. He recommended highly that the Orioles draft a Los Angeles “high school catcher who couldn’t catch” who turned into Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. He played an indirect part in movie history by releasing Ron Shelton from the Orioles system, freeing the minor league second baseman to turn his energies into film-making that ultimately resulted in the classic Bull Durham. His work as a founding father of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and the first director of MLB’s Scout School has drawn universal praise. His youngest son Jeffrey was a no. 1 draft pick of the Yankees out of UCLA in 1984 (though a torn rotator cuff prematurely ended his career).
A video walkthrough of framing technique with two talented receivers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a feature on framing for Grantland. I also spoke to Pirates catcher Russell Martin and Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan for a pair of Q&A companion pieces in which I showed the two catchers GIFs of borderline pitches that they'd caught over the past few years, and they explained their strategy for getting extra strikes. Martin's is here, and Hanigan's is here. The conversations ran so long that much of the text was left on the editing room floor. Rather than let it remain unread, I've collected the best previously unpublished excerpts below, omitting any material that appeared at Grantland.
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Catching instructors and coordinators comment on the importance of receiving skills.
While working on a feature on catcher framing for Grantland, I spoke to many catching instructors and coordinators about what makes a good receiver, what receiving skills are worth, and to what extent they can be improved. Many of their most interesting insights didn't make it into that story, so I've collected them here.
An expert on biomechanics and a team source talk about their approaches to evaluating and managing pitcher workloads.
For today's article on impervious and not-so-impervious pitchers, I got my David Laurila on, speaking to Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute—whose name is almost always followed by the phrase, "the world's foremost authority on biomechanics"—and to a scouting executive from a major-league club (affectionately and frequently referred to in the article as "the executive"). Both had a lot to say, and not everything they said fit into the article. One of the things I failed to fit in was their extended perspectives on pitcher workloads and the efficacy of innings limits, so I'm rectifying that by posting both takes here. Dr. Fleisig comes first, followed by the team official.
The Red Sox' third baseman discusses hitting, Moneyball, and pitch recognition in the final installment of Prospectus Q&A.
Famously dubbed “The Greek God of Walks” in Moneyball, Kevin Youkilis is now eight years into a big-league career that has been every bit as successful as Michael Lewis’ 2003 classic. Youkilis has helped lead the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles, earning an equal number of All-Star berths while hitting .292/.394/.496. Popular with the Boston fan base and sabermetric set alike, “Youk” is a bearded on-base machine with home-run power and an approach that deftly blends dirt dog and stat nerd.
Visiting a historic ballpark, playing the Monster, and facing a knuckler is a difficult task, but the Twins' young outfielder helped his team on the ride to victory.
Ben Revere had never been to Fenway Park before Friday night, and he was still cherishing the moment the following day. The rookie outfielder started in left field for the Twins, and with Tim Wakefield on the mound he singled in his first at-bat and went on to score on a balk. It was a memorable game for the youngster, but simply playing in the historic venue was enough to have him smiling ear-to-ear when he recounted the experience the following morning.
The Angels' first baseman shares his thoughts on quotes about the game, hitting, and his own abilities.
Mark Trumbo is a thinking-man’s power hitter. The Angels’ first baseman went deep 36 times in Triple-A last season, and this week he homered in consecutive games—his fifth and sixth of the 2011 campaign—at Fenway Park. He also sat down to share some wisdom, offering his interpretations of a dozen quotes, primarily on the subject of hitting.
The Twins' closer discusses the use of video, making mechanical corrections, and what plays into success.
Matt Capps is closing in Minnesota, and he’s doing so with a more advanced approach than he brought to the mound when he first broke into the big leagues with the Pirates in 2005. The 27-year-old right-hander has always been a hard thrower, but more recently he has become a better student of the game, utilizing video to gain a better understanding of his mechanics. Capps, who logged 42 saves last season between stints with the Nationals and Twins, sat down with Baseball Prospectus in spring training.
The Blue Jays' GM discusses his organizational philosophy, his love of scouting and how it plays a role in his work, and competing in the AL East.
He’s too humble to admit it, but Alex Anthopoulos has done an outstanding job since replacing J.P. Ricciardi as the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in October 2009. He has orchestrated high-impact trades, most notably deals involving Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells, as well as prudent, if not as newsworthy, free-agent signings. Just as importantly, he has been placing a huge emphasis on scouting and player development, which should come as no surprise given his background as a scouting coordinator. A 33-year-old native of Montreal, Anthopoulos has an economics degree from McMaster University.