I’ve kicked around some different ways of addressing the problem, but they all require a fairly long range time horizon. However, I realized that the minor league reports that SoSH has done can provide an interesting little Sox specific short cut. We started the reports in 2002 and thankfully the main reports are still over at the old site.
Here’s the DSL 2002 report written by BigMike:
2002 DSL season in review
Here’s the 2002 VSL report written by Cuzittt:
2002 VSL season in review
Cuzitt’s report features this fun little tidbit:
Anibal Sanchez, an 18 year old 2nd Year Right-Handed Pitcher, is perhaps the most intriguing of the pitching prospects in Venezuela (so much so, he already has a bandwagon in the Minor League Threads). He ended the season with a 5-3 record, and a 3.50 ERA. However, the reason why he is intriguing is because of his strikeout numbers... 73 in 61 IP (3rd in the league in number of strikeouts... likely first in K/IP). He ended with a 0.99 WHIP, 6.67 K/BB and a 4.52 RA.
I thought it would interesting to take a look at how this group of players from the Latin summer leagues in 2002 progressed over the next three years.
As you’ll see in a second, this would have been extremely timely a couple weeks ago, but I was sick as a dog and didn’t feel like finishing it up.
Players who have played in the States
Player 2002 2003 2004 2005 Anibal Sanchez VSL inj NYPL CAR/EL Jesus Delgado inj inj GCL/SAL SAL Harvey Garcia VSL DSL NYPL SAL Savlador Paniagua DSL GCL NYP/SAL SAL Claudio Arias DSL GCL NYP/SAL SAL Dirimo Chavez VSL DSL SAL SAL Manuel Arambarris VSL DSL VSL GCL Henry Cabrera DSL DSL DSL GCL Remos Linares VSL DSL VSL GCL Elpidio Hilario DSL GCL SAL Jose Guanchez VSL GCL GC/SAL Carlos de la Cruz DS/GCL GCL NYPL Alex Penalo DSL GCL GC/NYPL Olivo Astacio DSL DSL DS/GCL Jose Suarez VSL DSL GCL Wilson Reyes DSL NYPL
The first three players (along with Hanley Ramirez who split 2002 between the GCL and NYPL) were just traded to Florida for Beckett, Lowell and Mota. They are also the only ones to make the 40 man roster and it seems likely that they will be the only ones that will make a 40 man roster. In all likelihood, the Sox just cashed out the entire value of their 2002 Latin summer league teams.
Just a quick aside, I’m not sure it was mentioned in any of the stories about the Florida trade, but Harvey Garcia is originally signed by the Sox. As far as I can tell all of the others are original Sox. Garcia was originally signed by Florida in 2000. The scout that signed him is Miguel Garcia who came over to the Sox in 2002 with the initial wave of ex-Marlins that came with John Henry. After a couple decent years in the VSL the Marlins apparently decided he wasn’t good enough to bring to the States and they released him. Maybe there was an injury or discipline problems or something, but the Sox, presumably with a strong recommendation from Garcia, signed him in 2002. Over the last few years the Sox have been given a lot of credit for their use of free talent. Their ability to use Garcia to get Mota and close the Marlins deal is probably the least known example of that.
There are a total of 48 players on this list. Are 3 out 48 making the 40 man roster 3 years later good, average, bad? Beats me. One of the players made it all the way to AA and is probably one of the 50 best prospects in baseball. I don’t expect any of the rest to make too many Top 100 prospect lists. Is that good, average or bad? It’s impossible to say, but I bet it’s pretty good. There were roughly 1500 players in the DSL and VSL this past year. If one out 50 will become as good as Sanchez, then we would expect there to have been 30 potential Sanchezes. It’s possible, but that seems high to me.
There were another six players that were active last year in either the GCL or SAL. I don’t expect any of them to make the BA Top 30 although at one time Paniagua and Arias generated some tools based buzz. Arambarris generated a lot of SoSH excitement in his brief 2004 season in the VSL and is certainly young enough to become a good prospect, but he didn’t do much in the GCL this year. Henry Cabrera was just lost to Pittsburgh in the minor league phase of the rule 5 draft.
There are another six players that were active in the States in 2004, but subsequently left the organization. Astacio is the most prominent name. He was in the first group of international players signed by the new Sox ownership and the press release seemed to hype him above the others. He never did much for the Sox and he didn’t play at all this year while under some suspicion that we was suspended or something. He was actually traded to the Cubs for Remlinger, but it doesn’t look like he played for the Cubs either.
Wilson Reyes hit something like 22 HR in the DSL in 2002, which may have been the league record. Of course, his season was too good to be true. He was then caught lying about his age and name. Because of the age change he skipped over the GCL to play in Lowell (as Melvin Reyes) and his HR total dropped to one and that was the end of his baseball career.
In total, sixteen players have played in the States. Again, I have no idea how that compares to any kind of league average, but a 33% success rate seems reasonable enough.
Players who did not make the States
Player 2002 2003 2004 2005 Adonis Breton DSL DSL DSL Lewis Calderon DSL DSL DSL Elisandro Marrero DSL DSL Renan Ramos VSL DSL VSL Jose Sarmineto VSL VSL Felix Camilo DSL DSL Wilkins Guerrero DSL DSL Cesar Gutierrez VSL DSL Rene Jabalera DSL DSL Leonardo Moya DSL DSL Winfri Obisbo DSL DSL Arturo Almonte DSL Sergio Angula VSL Julio Blanco VSL Pedro Daza VSL Danny DeJesus DSL Mayron Isenia VSL Reymis Mola DSL Osiriz Perez DSL Manuel Robles DSL Ismael Rosario DSL Arturo Sais VSL Irving Sanchez DSL Jonathon Santana DSL Alexander Soriano DSL Antonio Tejada DSL Wilson Toribio DSL Victor Urena DSL Daneris Valdez DSL Julio Cesar Valdez DSL Fernando Veracierta DSL Argenis Zapata DSL
There are some funky names I kind of wish had made, but not much to really say about any of these players.
But the real reason I got off my butt and finished this up is because of a very interesting link I came across yesterday.
THT published an article looking at walk rates of Latin players.
Why walk off an island when you can hack your way to the MLB
The article itself is good, but I was especially interested in a link to a series of articles from the Denver Post about Latin baseball.
You know it's authentic because it's called beisbol
I definitely recommend the whole series.
In case it eventually disappears I've pulled some factual tidbits that I might eventually want to reference.
Tidbits from DenPost series:
Since third-baseman Ozzie Virgil signed with the New York Giants of the National League in 1956 from this soil, 418 Dominican players have followed him to the major leagues, more than from any other country. Nearly 30 percent of players currently in the majors are from Latin America. Nearly one out of every seven players in the majors is from the Dominican Republic.
Their presence is dominant not only in the majors, but also in the minors: Of the 2,741 foreign-born players under minor-league contracts, 1,370 are Dominican. Venezuela is second with 772.
Nate Silver had an international baseball article with some similar figures.
Twenty-eight of the 32 major-league teams - the Rockies included - have baseball operations in the Dominican. Nearly $75 million was spent last year in the country by teams and players, MLB says.
Well, there are 32 teams in the NFL. I guess Denver is football town, no? I've always wanted to know what MLB as an industry spends in Latin America. I don't think it's 75M. That sounds like one of those phony economic impact studies that baseball always releases when they want a new taxpayer funded stadium. But I guess something like that could be an upper, upper estimate.
Signing bonuses for players who reach the major-league academies were as little as $2,000 in 1979 and $3,000 in 1994 but now average $30,000. The Rockies currently host 38 players at their academy, and their highest signing bonus dispensed is $625,000. The Yankees are regarded as the biggest spenders, known to have paid more than $1 million for some players.
On average 500 or so Domincans sign each year with major-league organizations. They live in the academies, hoping to make the leap to the United States to the minors en route to the majors.
This is very important information. How many players are signed each year? How much money do teams spend signing them? If you ever want to even estimate the value of Latin programs or expected rates of return you need these numbers as baselines.
If there are 500 players signed each year than each team signs about 17 players per year. From some other things I've nosed around and found that seems about right to me.
Roughly 500 players at ~30k per player would be a total cost of 15M. A few years ago when a handful of players got 7 figure bonuses I would have that that was low, but MLB seems to have squashed the high end of that market. I think only the Mets have exceeded the 500-700k range in the last couple of years so maybe 15-20M isn't a bad estimate. Last year MLB paid out over 125M in draft signing bonuses. If 25-30% of players come from Latin America and their cost is ~15% the cost of drafted players, then there's a ton of value to be reaped in Latin America. Small and mid-market teams that close their Latin academies to save money are just plain dumb.
Gordon Edes wrote a similar series on Domincan baseball a couple years ago (probably also called "beisbol"). I tried to google it, but couldn't find it. I did find an article from last summer that dealt with steroids in the Dominican. You might recall Ortiz was quite outspoken about spanish speaking players and steroid testing. That article included this tidbit:
As the money has gotten bigger -- a total of $14 million was distributed last year to 442 Dominican prospects, Farrey reports --
That would work out to an average bonus of 32k. Both in the number of players signed and the average bonus that agrees with the Denver Post series pretty well.
What the Rockies have accomplished in the five years since their academy opened is striking. Their budget has increased from $200,000 to $1.2 million. They also have an academy in Venezuela.
There are obviously infrustructre costs in Latin America beyond signing bonuses to the players. What kind of total costs are there for teams? Colorado is considered a middle of the pack team so maybe 1.2M is a decent estimate of the MLB average. At 1.2M per team MLB would be spending 36M in the Dominican. That seems more reasonable than the 75M figure from earlier. In one of his last Globe columns Gammons reported that the Sox were spending 400k in the Dominican so the Col progression from 200k to 1.2M seems reasonable to me.
The Rockies currently employ 59 Latin American players in their system, and 39 are from the Dominican Republic. Those numbers make them competitive with their peers. In this camp there are 39 players - 38 Latin American and 29 Dominican.
Sox had 48 players in the DSL and VSL. Col has 59 in their system which includes the full organization in the states and 39 in camp. "In camp" is a little ambigues because I think there are usually unsigned players in camp as well so I'm not sure how well that 39 cmpares to the Sox 48. But it seems like 40-50 is a pretty good estimate of how many players each team has under control at their academies.
Most of the players in this Rockies academy are age 20 and younger. They live nearly year-round at the complex. They play baseball there nearly year-round. They sign three-year contracts that cover their time to make it to the minors or, often, be released.
I've never seen a reference to any kind of minor leaguer signing a 3 year contract. Standard minor league contract is for one year with teams having the right to extend it until the player hits ml free agency.
OTOH, I had been under the impression that most Latin players get two years at most in the Latin leagues, but after looking around a bit it does seem that there is a decent chunk that do play 3 years. Now whether these 3 year players ever amount to anything or they're the functional acuivalent of 25th rd filler is a separate question.