Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Chris Paddack, Brandon Woodruff, Elniery Garcia, and Luis Alexander Basabe.
Prospect of the Day: Chris Paddack, RHP, San Diego Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.
Paddack’s walk was his third of the season, and the nine strikeouts give him a K:BB ratio of 21-to-1. That is Kershaw-esque, my friends. Acquired in the Fernando Rodney deal, Paddack has a filthy change that flashes plus-plus, and it plays up because of his above-average fastball and his ability to throw those pitches for strikes (obviously). He’ll need to improve the curveball, but if it can become an average pitch, he’s a no. 3 starter.
Others of Note:
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Scott Blewett, Sal Romano, Stephen Gonsalves, and Cornelius Randolph.
Prospect of the Day: Scott Blewett, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Low-A Lexington): 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
Blewett struck out seven in his first three innings of work, before “slowing” to the statline you see above. A second-round pick out of New York in 2014, Blewett has struggled to show a lick of consistency as a professional, but when you see him on days like yesterday, there’s a lot to like. The fastball is plus, the curveball isn’t far from that vicinity, and he’ll mix in a fringe-average change for good measure. There’s a long way to go, but the Royals have no reason to panic about this talented righty just yet.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Kolby Allard, D.J. Stewart, Max Pentecost, and Miguelangel Sierra.
Prospect of the Day: Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Short-Season Danville): 6 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K.
The Braves were aggressive in assigning Allard to full-season ball after his return from two back surgeries, but he’s looked much more comfortable in four starts since jumping back down to short-season. The fastball sat 92-93 out of the gate in this one, and he whiffed the side to start his night.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including a slew of Rockies led by Brendan Rodgers, plus Jesse Winker, Chance Adams, and more.
Prospect of the Weekend:
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies (Low-A Asheville): 5-for-8, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 K.
That’s a pretty good doubleheader for Mr. Rodgers. He’s actually seen his numbers drop down over the past couple of weeks, but I think you/I/the Rockies will take a .867 OPS from a shortstop in his first professional season. There are safer shortstop prospects, but in terms of just upside, I’m not sure there’s a better one than Brendan Rodgers.
The Situation: The Pirates sit on the periphery of the playoff picture and 8.5 games out of the division but might be smelling fresh hope, as the Cubs stumble (a relative term, here). In recent days they’ve turned to Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and now to Bell to jump-start their rotation and lineup.
Practice, practice, practice really might get you to Carnegie Hall, but probably not. What then?
While it’s rightly fallen out of the zeitgeist after this week’s traumatic and violent events, it was just last week that Major League Baseball attempted an end-around on the salary question for minor league players. Baseball Prospectus’ excellent Kate Morrison did a thorough savaging of MLB’s press release supporting the “Save America’s Pastime Act” and Samuel Mann has worked up a comprehensive account of the legal ramifications of the death of said bill, so I’m going to let those two articles deservedly do the heavy lifting on the topic in general. What I want to focus on in particular is one specific logical turn in the release that caused much of the anger we saw on Twitter and elsewhere, namely the designation of minor-league baseball player as “not a career, but a seasonal apprenticeship.” Essentially, I want to delve into the rhetorical and theoretical magic that allows MLB to transform 7,500 professional baseball players into 7,500 interns.
As Morrison notes in her piece and as I’ll echo off the top, this transformation is magic not in the “witchcraft and wizardry” sense, but in the “smoke and mirrors” sense. Seasonal apprenticeships rarely last 6-14 years, Morrison reminds us, and the rhetoric all over the MLB and MiLB websites is such that we’re encouraged to see these players as professionals, not amateur talent. And yet, there’s a bit of a semiotic dilemma for us now that MLB—essentially God in this scenario, thanks to some very generous antitrust loopholes—has spoken and redefined its employees. Make whatever argument you’d like about what players should be called or paid, ultimately MLB has a far bigger say here, so the rhetorical move is simply a blunt force object: We say they’re seasonal apprentices, so that’s what they are.
But what are the theoretical underpinnings that license the force of this shift? Why are professionals so much different than seasonal apprentices or interns? Ostensibly, shouldn’t an apprentice or an intern be aiming to get the same job as a professional? Isn’t the former just a step on the path to the latter as opposed to two entirely separate categories? Well, yes and no.
In order to understand how baseball can have it both ways—how MLB can have a hold on its minor-league employees as if they were full-time workers while also designating them as a much less fully employed category—we need to delve a bit into the concept of human capital. Human capital, which has had a bit of a brand resurgence thanks to Deray McKesson’s appointment as Interim Chief Human Capital Officer of Baltimore City Schools, is the idea that self-improvement is the great equalizer under capitalism. And it’s essentially been the prime mover of modern capitalism from at least 1978 to the present. Coined by University of Chicago economist Gary Becker, human capital reimagines the “means of production” so important for Adam Smith and Karl Marx’s conception of capital accumulation as part of an internal drive to self-improvement. So, one need not seize the means of production because—to paraphrase any number of famous moments in shlocky cinema—the means of production were inside you the whole time. Which also means that the product is, well, you.
Think about it this way: Within you is a bit of a factory, and that factory builds you a job. The bits of the factory that work to build you that job are all limited by what you’re given at birth. Maybe you’re smart but not very athletic. Maybe you’re smart and athletic, but you have a tough time relating to other people. Maybe you’re a totally balanced person with no real “standout” biological skill. You get the idea. From there, you build on this foundation by going to school, learning a trade, starting a hobby, writing a book—whatever you think will improve you as a person. And as you improve yourself immanently as person, you are also improving your hireability on the market, since the market wants people who have certain skills, qualities, and abilities. Essentially, your factory puts out what it gets in, and as you issue more effort toward building your human capital, the more profit it will realize for you.
Well, it’s a nice story anyway. Unfortunately, as many people—your fair author included—will tell you, merely improving yourself doesn’t always open up employment opportunities. Sometimes your PhD or your new skill or your ability to hit or throw a ball extremely hard gets you nothing in a highly competitive marketplace. None of this stops human capital from being a powerful ideological tool to convince people that outside education and self-improvement are more efficacious than a good union or worker protections, and I don’t totally blame people who buy into it. It’s very seductive to think that life is like a Super Nintendo RPG, where you can level up through hard, repetitive work until you get the best possible job you can. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours-to-expertise theories are so popular, and why our schools insist children “learn” critical thinking, as if it’s a rubric point to check off. We want to live in a world where our best efforts yield consistent material results.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rafael Devers, Hunter Dozier, Carson Fulmer, and Jose De Leon.
Prospect of the Day: Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem): 4-for-8, 2 R, 3 2B, 3 K.
Most of the damage done by Devers was in game one of the doubleheader, as he went 3-for-4 with three doubles. You might look at his statline and say he’s struggled in 2016. That’d only be a half-truth. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but Devers’ offensive talent competes with anyone’s, and there have been plenty of games like this that suggest he’ll be just fine, especially when you keep in mind that he’s still only 19 years old. He’s going to be very, very good.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Dawel Lugo, Yohander Mendez, Ryan McMahon, and Matt Strahm.
Prospect of the Day:
Dawel Lugo, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia): 4-5, 3 R, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI.
Yanno, I was supposed to go to this game before life interfered, and dag nabbit, I still haven’t seen a cycle in the flesh. Leyba continues to evolve for the better offensively, from a hitter who looked like he was waiting for a late bus in the box to one who takes some pitches and lets his natural hand-eye coordination produce line-drive contact.
The introduction last week of a bill to exempt minor leaguers from overtime and minimum-wage standards didn't come out of nowhere. A look at what's at stake in Senne v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball this week.
With its co-sponsor no longer in support, it is safe to assume the bill is dead. But given that this proposed legislation was largely a response to a series of lawsuits against MLB under federal law, it is worthwhile to examine the litigation challenging MLB’s wage practices.
While Senne v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball is the most significant pending litigation, it is not the only one challenging Minor League Baseball’s (“MiLB”) wage practices. [Note that MLB and MiLB are used interchangeably here because individual teams select, employ and release minor-league players with no input from MiLB affiliates]. In Miranda v. Selig, former minor-league players challenged the MiLB compensation system on the basis of federal antitrust law, alleging MLB and its 30 organizations unlawfully collude to artificially restrain player movement and depress minor-league salaries through the use of the minor-league version of the reserve clause, which provides the organization up to seven minor-league seasons of control before the player would become a minor-league free agent. The origin, wisdom and consequences of MLB’s vaunted antitrust exemption have been covered in great depth, but it has continued to be fairly effective in defeating suits like this one. Consistent with the exemption, a federal district court in California granted MLB’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the antitrust exemption precluded any challenge to the MiLB reserve clause on antitrust grounds. The Miranda plaintiffs have appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is awaiting oral argument before an appellate panel. Barring a surprise reversal from the Ninth Circuit that directly contradicts both Supreme Court precedent and its own decision in the City of San Jose/A’s relocation case, MLB should be safe from antitrust scrutiny on this issue.
Enter the Plaintiffs in Senne, who challenged the same underlying conduct but avoided the antitrust exemption. Led in part by former minor leaguer turned attorney (and Effectively Wild guest) Garrett Broshuis, the purported plaintiff class of minor leaguers alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and a series of similar state laws concerning minimum wage and overtime pay. Having mostly survived motions to dismiss and a motion to transfer the case to Florida (eight teams were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds), the Plaintiffs successfully moved for preliminary class certification under the FLSA.
FLSA representative actions like this one differ from other federal class actions; in fact, courts generally refer to them as “collective actions” in order to distinguish the more widely used federal standard. Under the process laid out in the FLSA, an employee may bring a lawsuit on behalf of “similarly situated” employees, a less stringent standard than required by the federal class standard. This more lenient standard is intended to be more favorable to the employee, at least at the initial stages of a case. If granted, preliminary certification allows the plaintiffs to provide notice to other potential members of the collective action. Those potential members then must “opt in” by filing written consent to benefit from a judgment in the litigation. Once discovery is completed and the facts are before the court, defendants are permitted to ask the court to decertify the proposed action whereby the court will decide whether to permit the claims to be tried as a collective action.
The court granted preliminary certification of the collective on October 20, 2015. The court found that Plaintiffs succeeded in identifying uniform policies and provisions described in the Uniform Player Contract in connection with the alleged violations, including no pay for offseason work, fixed pay without regard to whether players worked more than 40 hours in season, and fixed wages in-season without regard to number of hours worked for minimum-wage purposes. Notably, the court did not reject any of MLB’s principal defenses, including that the FLSA either does not apply to minor leaguers or, even if it does apply, minor leaguers meet criteria for certain statutory exemptions for seasonal and entertainment employees or creative professionals. Instead, the court simply disagreed with MLB on whether the Plaintiffs are similarly situated to other minor league players based on their allegations. Thus, this was not a determination of whether MLB has violated the law, but rather simply that the Plaintiffs met their threshold showing.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the holiday weekend, including Dominic Smith, Ricardo Sanchez, Domingo Acevedo, and the recently promoted Bubba Starling.
Prospect of the Weekend:
Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton): 4-for-6, 3 R, 2 HR, BB, K. As many of you know, I am a fan of one Dominic David Rene Smith. As many of you also know, Mr. Smith has not exactly produced the kind of stats that you expect to see from a first-division first baseman. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I love the swing, and he’s certainly shown enough flashes of brilliance—particularly in the AFL last fall—to suggest he’ll be a middle-of-the-order guy in the coming years. It’s taken a little longer than I thought it would, but he’s still just 21 years old, and I’m still (pretty) sure he’s going to reach that level.