Crash Bag #5: Investing in Prospects

Did you know the Phillies signed Jake Arrieta this week, because they did. It means there are no questions this week about whether the Phillies should sign Jake Arrieta. Instead this week I go on a tangent about paying minor leaguers. Also look for exciting site developments next week.

@andrew_pantano: What would be the first steps to creating a fair-pay minor league system?

Before getting into logistics, I want to make a few things clear. Minor leaguers are only paid during the season so no offseason or spring training. Minor leaguers are not subject to minimum wage laws. The salaries of minor leaguers are paid by the major league club and not the minor league team. College baseball rarely give out full scholarships due to limits on number of scholarships per team.

The basic part of my argument and one I have made to employees of major league teams is that it makes no sense to make things other than playing baseball at their best a worry for your players. A prospect shouldn’t need to worry about getting proper nutrition, having a bed to sleep in, how to manage piling debt at the time they are starting families, or how they are going to work out enough in the offseason to meet organizational expectations. Teams are starting to do some things about the food, by providing food, but if a meal is not provided players are on their own, often at times of day when good food is not available. Meanwhile, players are crammed into living situations with more players than bedrooms because they have to pool their resources to be able to afford housing.

I don’t know what the right amount is, because I am not privy to cost of living adjustments for all over the country, but teams should pay minor leaguers at least a living wage over the course of the season. Enough that they can eat healthy, and have living conditions that will promote good sleep and other healthy living habits. Players should have their sole focus be about playing baseball.

Then when it comes to the offseason, if the expectation is that players are working out and improving, they should be paid for that time. If you are promoting healthy living habits during the regular season, then you should promote them during the offseason as well. It may not be a full time job, but players should get a stipend for the offseason.

So what does that cost? For the sake of round numbers let’s say that every player gets $50,000 for a full season league, and $35,000 for a short season league. It isn’t life changing major league money, but it is a solid living. So what does that cost a team? Let’s say with disabled lists, there are 30 players per full season roster and 35 per short season. Let’s say with the major league DL we have 10 players on the 40 man roster in the minors so we can subtract that off. There is the math on the Phillies teams.

Full Season: 110 players (LHV, REA, CLW, LKW) x $50,000 = $5,500,000

Shortseason: 175 players (WPT, GCLx2, DSLx2) X $35,000 = $6,125,000

That is a total of $11,625,000 which isn’t all new salary because they are paying the players some money now. Also $35,000 in the Dominican might actually be life changing money, but I am not going to go into global economics. Even if this is a $9 million increase in payroll, that is essentially Tommy Hunter. Would giving your minor leaguers pay like this give you the chance to replace Hunter with a player you developed? Almost certainly.

On a bit of a tangent, I think baseball has a real problem with how it views development and progression. For decades the solution to development was to shove a bunch of people through the gauntlet to the minors and hope that guys come out of it as good major league players. Some teams, like the Yankees, have done things like populate their system with good coaches to try and develop players at every level. Other teams have focused on training and nutrition. Teams need to focus on all of these things, as well as things like mental health, because in a sport littered with failure, helping guys overcome those issues could help turn some guys who would normally drop off into valuable baseball players. Overall, it comes down to an investment, and in a sport where teams are balking at paying for established and talented major leaguers, teams are not doing enough to actually make good baseball players.

@0nin2: Will Sixto finish the season in Clearwater or do you expect to see him in Reading at some point?

If Sanchez spends the full year in Clearwater it means he has stagnated or regressed. His fastball is good enough that he should succeed at the level without much problem. I expect to see Sanchez in Reading by the June/July time period and to the end the season in AA.

@Drewdacris: Aside from sixto, which prospect in the organization has the highest ceiling? Can an argument be made for Ortiz?

There is an argument for Ortiz, but I am going to go with the golden boy of the moment in Scott Kingery. On raw tools, Kingery might have an above average hit tool and power, to go with plus to plus plus speed and defense. There is a chance if he can improve his approach that he is going to hit like .280 with 20 home runs, 30 steals, near gold glove defense, and a solid on base percentage. He is unlikely to be Utley, but he could be a perennial All-Star and building block. This is of course requires him to hit his ceiling not just on his physical tools (especially his hit tool), but also increasing his plate discipline at least a grade, something that very few actually accomplish.

@LONG_DRIVE: thoughts on pitcher batting 8th with JP 9th? also what would your opening day lineup be assuming everyone is healthy

I actually kind of like it. Crawford’s bat is not ready, the Phillies know that, Crawford knows that. They are messing with his swing to try and get his timing to a point where he can tap into his power. Until then he is going to work counts and draw walks. I think the nominees for the final two spots in the Phillies lineup are Jorge Alfaro and Crawford. I had advocated Alfaro in the 8 hole so that Crawford’s plate discipline wasn’t wasted by pitchers pitching around him. This solves that problem.

I don’t think the pitcher in the 8 hole works for many teams because you need a 9 hole hitter who gets on base, but you also don’t want getting a lot of at bats at the top of your lineup. In that case Crawford is the perfect hitter for this. He is a good base runner who will got on base in front of the top of your lineup, and the top of the Phillies lineup should be good. With that in mind I would run out this lineup:

2B Hernandez
1B Santana
CF Herrera
LF Hoskins
RF Williams/Altherr
3B Franco
C Alfaro
P
SS Crawford

I go back and forth on Hoskins at 4th or 3rd, but I think you are going to have a lot of men on base in front of him hitting 4th. It is not a terrible lineup and one that should work pitchers.

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2 comments

  1. Wawa Mike

    March 18, 2018 07:29 AM

    Do some teams treat their players in the low minors better than others? Where do the Phillies fall in place?

  2. Tal Venada

    March 26, 2018 04:16 AM

    Matt,

    I wanted to thank you for blocking me on Twitter. When was that? Three mos. ago or six mos. ago?

    I was cleaning out some clutter and I couldn’t remember communicating with you. So, I clicked the bookmark to see that you blocked me. I never wrote to you directly that I can recall. I believe your handle was on a tweet that I replied to. Boom! You were offended that I dare infringe on your turf.

    Anyway, I don’t know and don’t care why, or know when you blocked me. But I sure am glad you did. Again, Thanks.

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