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Potential international draft continues to draw splitting opinions

“I've always seen an appeal to the idea that there is a single method of entry for amateur players into Major League Baseball… Talent acquisition is the bedrock of competitive balance. If you have the right talent acquisition system, it really helps on that topic that's so crucial to the game.”
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, on his feelings about the potential of an international draft (Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

"Although it sounds nice in theory, there are challenges in every country that is feeding players into the game whereby their structure simply isn't set up the way it is here. Taking the [domestic draft system] and dropping it into a country or countries may not be the best decision to make fundamentally against the backdrop of challenges that are there."
—Executive director of the MLB Players' Association, Tony Clark, on a potential international draft. (Tim Britton, Providence Journal)

“While intuitively people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there's potentially some envy, the greater membership understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing. Anytime players can get closer to what their value is in a free market, that’s a good thing. If someone is worth $100 million, the ability to collect $100 million is a good thing. If someone is worth $100 million and they have to play for $3 million, that’s exploiting their services.”
—Red Sox reliever and member of the MLBPA’s executive board Craig Breslow, on the prospect of an international draft.

"Is that an imposition we should look to push on someone else?" Breslow asked. "At the expense of a formal entrance to professional baseball in America through an international draft, we're limiting the ability of players to negotiate true market value in a country based on the free market. That stands opposed to a number of principles."
—Breslow.

Pirates taking advantage of low strike zone

“(It's the) type of pitcher that we've typically worked to acquire, the type of catcher we've typically worked to acquire, the emphasis within our development system,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said of the philosophy. “Ground balls don't leave the ballpark. (The skill) was undervalued at one point in our minds. Now it is being valued. Receiving is being valued.”
—Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, on the organization’s emphasis on generating groundballs. (Travis Sawchik, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

“If you watch how quarterbacks throw, they can throw the ball 60 yards by doing what? Short and quick,” said Searage, mimicking a quarterback bringing the ball to an ear-level starting point. “Their strides aren't long. They are over their legs and then boom!” he said, releasing an invisible football. “They throw the crap out of it. We are trying to get the same kind of philosophy. … If you get it out and up (directly), then you will be able to get your angle.”
—Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, on wanting his pitchers to reach their highest point of release as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Pitching down is in my head. It's a thought. It's a mission.”
—Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon.

The Rest

“They haven't won for 100 years, and they should start trying to win today. Cubs fans are paying the third-highest ticket prices. They are paying for the team to win today. They don't pay to see the club do business.”
Scott Boras, on the likely looming scenario of the Cubs sending Kris Bryant down to the minor leagues to start the season. (Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports)

“I think the biggest difference in the industry from what was happening in the early 2000s to where we are today is just the value of the prospects. There was a time in the 1990s when people were moving minor-league talent to acquire major-league talent and people didn’t feel like they were giving that much up for that. I think people realize today the importance of having a strong farm system, the importance of having a pipeline of players, and therefore it’s harder to make these deals.”
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, on how the valuation of prospects have changed baseball (Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“He’s like Vladimir [Guerrero] with plate discipline. It goes beyond his power. I mean, this guy looks over a baseball. This guy’s got great decision-making ability at the plate. He’s a really interesting baseball player, man. I heard all the good things, but in this camp his impression upon me has been really strong.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, on outfielder Jorge Soler (Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

“It’s going to be, ‘Pick your spots,’ like a soft platoon. Pick your best eight every single day. Sometimes you go with the matchup or sometimes you feel like even though this guy is the same side (as the pitcher), if you feel like he can give you good at-bats, you go with it. For me it’s not a straight platoon situation. We will play it by ear.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, on how he will set his lineup this year (Michael Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“He has a rare combination of speed and explosiveness. But what you don’t see is an incredibly strong arm that is so accurate. That combination is lethal. What you see in a lot of young players are 6 or 7 arms, but then their accuracy is 3 or 4. Which is normal, par for the course. As they get older, they go from a 7-1/2 arm to about a 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 and their accuracy goes to about 6. But when you have that combination at 25 years old of crazy range, 7-plus arm, 7-plus accuracy … even Ozzie [Smith], he had 7 accuracy but he didn’t have 7 arm strength. [Gregorius] has made plays from the hole, from his back foot, throwing the ball 90 mph across the diamond from his back foot. You don’t see that. It also makes it a lot easier for your third baseman to play third base.”
—Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, on shortstop Didi Gregorius. (Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports)

“Honestly, that puts more pressure on somebody that doesn’t need that type of pressure. In the beginning of last year, it was just so much negative stuff. ‘How do you feel about this situation and that situation’ and you get so tired of talking about it. Don’t ask me! It’s not my decision and I have nothing to do with it. I just want to play, man. I just want to play baseball and be like a kid.”
—Padres outfielder Matt Kemp, on being constantly asked questions last year by the media about the Dodgers’ crowded outfield situation. (Pedro Moura, Orange County Register)

“[Big league] pitchers are just around the zone more. I feel like you have to swing a little more. You can’t go up there taking. I kind of learned last year that you can’t go up there taking. You’ve got to be ready to swing it. That’s how [Derek] Jeter got 3,000 hits. He wasn’t up there taking. That’s kind of why my approach is a little more aggressive than it used to be, which is all right. I feel like it works both ways — it cuts down on strikeouts and it may cut down on walks, but that’s okay. I’ll take [walks] when they come, like today. I feel like I didn’t really get a good pitch to hit, especially with guys on second and third, and ended up working a walk from there. I think [the more aggressive approach] just kind of just developed over last year, especially against [big league] pitchers. They’re kind of in the zone with everything. I feel like if you go up there taking, you’ll be 0-2 in the blink of an eye. It’s not something that I think about. It’s just something that’s naturally been an adjustment, the same way I always say — I feel like I just make natural adjustments.”
—Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, on being more aggressive at the big league level than he was in the minor leagues. (Alex Speier, Boston Globe)

“The spacing is different — it’s almost like when you have a basketball zone. If you have five great athletes, you can spread it out, cover a lot more than 94 feet on the basketball court. A shift with these kinds of guys’ range will look different. It’s interesting if you look at guys with little range like me, and guys with incredible range like the guys we have now, the spacing is different and from a hitter’s standpoint, it looks different. If it’s me and you, we have to be really close to each other. But if it’s our guys, it can really be spread.”

—Alex Rodriguez, on how defensive shifts can differ based on the range of the fielders involved. (Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports)

“You can be a hard-throwing guy like Nolan Ryan, but you’ve got those walks, too. This organization, we don’t want to walk guys. So I’d rather be the sinker-cutter guy. When you see power pitchers, it’s just a tougher game to stay consistent with your mechanics. The ball stays up a little bit, and you’ve got to work more to keep it down. With the sinker and cutter it’s a little less effort and easier to keep the ball down and trust your movement. You just get quicker outs.”
—Giants pitching prospect Tyler Beede, on prioritizing pitch efficiency over strikeouts. (Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle)