One of the most rewarding experiences is finding a gem that everyone missed. People ask me all the time how I find clients, and, honestly, a lot of the time I meet these kids by accident. Call it fate, call it determination, call it whatever, but the roads taken by my clients that led them to me have often been very strange.
I have several up-and-coming prospects drafted in the 30th-plus rounds: Seth Lugo, Tyler White, Bryton Trepagnier and now Carlos Leal were all taken past the 30th. Despite all the analytics and scouting measures in use by smart organizations, guys still fall through the cracks, and its those guys I absolutely love working for. Getting in on the ground floor with kids like that is what I live for. Bob Cassevah was taken past the 30th round and played in the big leagues; Barret Browning too. It's incredible to be there for all those years, watching the guys work their way up the ladder to turn themselves finally into prospects. Don't get me wrong, I would love to sign every blue chip, 1:1 guy, but that's not realistic for any agency—much less a one-man show. But not every player starts out blue-chip or 1:1. Here are a few stories of how I found late gems totally by accident:
Seth Lugo of the Mets was taken out of Centenary College (Louisiana) in 2011, by Tommy Jackson in the 34th round. Firstly, what a great example of area scouting by Jackson. In 2012, Seth had a devastating back injury that cost him the entire year. In spring of 2013 I went to a minor-league game to watch my client John Mincone make a rehab appearance in relief. Lugo was the starter and ended up going six innings, hitting 95 and 96 a few times. He dominated. I had never heard of him at the time but I was blown away. After the game I mentioned to Mincone that I would love to sign a guy like Lugo if he spoke English (I do not speak Spanish, thus making it impossible for me to work with certain players). John laughed at me and told me Seth was from Los Angeles and he would talk to him for me. Seth was wearing his college shoes, wearing his college glove, and quite clearly did not have an agent. I invited him out for dinner at my house by the field the next day, and after a nice evening he hired me. He started the year in short season in 2013 and was moved up for an emergency start in Savannah, which was to last all of one game. Seth threw six one-run innings, struck out 10 hitters and never looked back. He had a crazy run at the end of that year, with a 2.53 ERA and 39 strikeouts and six walks in 32 innings. Then in 2014 he led the FSL in strikeouts for a reliever, and has started 2015 with another a sub-2 ERA once again. He went from a long shot to having a real chance to reach the major leagues, especially given he has to go on the 40-man this year to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. I was just the lucky guy who happened to see him throw on that hot day in 2013.
Tyler White is a third base prospect for Houston, and to put it bluntly the guy just flat-out rakes. I was representing an NDFA catcher from Nova, the D2 school that J.D. Martinez, Mike Fiers, Miles Mikolas, and Carlos Asuaje attended. I told him, totally jokingly, that if he got a stud roommate to let me know. He got to Kissimmee for extended and asked me if I would be interested in his roommate, Tyler White. On the surface it wasn't an exciting offer: senior sign, corner infielder, 33rd-round pick from Central Carolina. But I did agree to speak to Tyler on the phone because you never know when you'll miss out on something special. I am very happy I took that call. This was a kid with special makeup. He put up stupid numbers in the GCL (granted, he was old for the level) but ended up jumping three levels in '13, two levels in '14, and now is in Double-A with a .567 OBP in 30 trips.I never would have met or scouted Tyler, except that a D2 college kid I was helping as a favor spoke up.
Bryton Trepagnier went in the 41st round in 2010 out of East St. John High in Reserve, LA. 41st round—a round that doesn't exist anymore! I went to an FSL game early last year and saw him throw against St. Lucie. He was touching 96 but threw a lot more balls than strikes, but he gutted out a save and I loved it. I ran to the dugout and asked a player to grab him for me. The player was mildly annoyed I didn't ask for an autograph and told me he wouldn't get him. I had somewhere to go or else I'd have waited by the bus. But, alas, I left disappointed. I never forgot the arm and assumed with his profile that he didn't have an agent, though I wasn't sure. Fast forward to the 2014 FSL All-Star game. I had a client in the game and he had an autograph signing set up in his hotel room at 7:30 a.m.. While I was waiting in the breakfast room, a giant of a man walks in and an autograph collector asked me who it was. I instantly recognized Bryton Trepagnier, a player not even on the All-Star roster. I ran up to him and told him I saw him throw in St. Lucie and loved the way he played. I told him I was sure by now he had to have an agent with the numbers he was putting up and I was sorry I had missed my chance. To my shock he was unrepresented, and a week later I was hired. This offseason he was traded to Atlanta for former bonus baby Edward Salcedo, and now Bryton is the youngest reliever in Double-A for Atlanta. He, too, has gotten off to a good start, with a sub-3 ERA, and couldn't have picked a better year for it: he has to be on the 40-man by year's end or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft.
The last is one of the strangest stories I have been part of in 13 years. Carlos Leal was a 34th-round pick by Milwaukee last year out of D2 Delta State. Carlos was a catcher in college and immediately moved to the mound, where he put up the not-stellar 8.53 ERA in six innings. His arm strength is quite obviously stellar, though. During winter ball he and the Brewers decided to try him back at catcher, given his lack of success on the mound and the fact that everyone needs catchers. Carlos is 23 years old and skipped all the way to the MWL. As of now he is hitting .340 and leading all MWL catchers in just about everything. He has thrown out eight of 17 baserunners and has thrown close to 100 mph from behind the dish. This is the first prospect i have ever seen go from the mound to behind the dish. Carlos plays with two of my clients and just happened to ask them about me. We spoke on the phone, hit it off, and in the first week he scored a BG contract and a wonderful contract with All-Star Catchers Gear, meaning he won't have to pay for his gear ever again. For a kid who signed for $1K, it means so very much.
So there are four clients, all taken after round 30, all viable prospects. So for all you draft fans listening to the draft live, don't just tune in for the early kids. It's amazing to me that kids slip through the cracks like this, but kudos to the ball clubs for finding them at all. It is a testament to their scouts' hard work and their coaches' ability to develop. It especially speaks volumes about the kids' characters most of all. It is beyond challenging being selected so late, and for these four young men to turn themselves into prospects is truly a sight for me to behold. None of the four are in the major leagues but all four have a real shot to get there; if I didn't believe it I wouldn't be working for them. I will also have an amazing draft story once June rolls around that falls in line with this theme, and I can't wait to tell it. Res Ipsa Loquitor J
Thanks to @maas_Haas on twitter for the great idea for the story. #crowdsourcing