Will minor league ball be changing?

Aug 11, 2019
Very interesting article by Travis Sawchuck on FiveThirtyEight on how advances in technology may lead to a reduction in farm system clubs--feedback machines outfitted with ball-, bat-, and body-tracking tech, high-speed cameras to study pitch grips and body-mechanics. Some of the ideas are influenced by professional soccer development academies. The Astros are on the forefront and the Phillies are beginning to follow (their Rookie and low A players have sensors on their bats to record bat speed, bat path, and biomechanical data). One reason is only 9.8% of drafted and signed players in recent years reach as much as 0.1 career WAR. Also, minor league attendance dropped in 2018 for the first time in 14 years.



SoSH Member
Apr 5, 2007
JJ Cooper, the executive editor of Baseball America, is in the middle of a long Twitter thread answer to this piece which is very interesting, few people as immersed in and knowledgable about minor league baseball as a whole as Cooper:

View: https://twitter.com/jjcoop36/status/1171509869670629377
I think they're talking about completely different aspects of the issue. And Cooper clearly acknowledges that. He's saying that the industry of MiLB itself is strong, and offers a product that helps generate interest in Baseball in general, so there is no real reason to change things. Sawchuck was discussing how MLB teams may be interested in changing the player development process because it could become more focused on specific player skills and short periods of intensive coaching, and how that could affect the MiLB teams. European soccer does have more concentrated coaching in one location to help skill development, with players moving between levels for practices. Sometimes 17 year olds who play on the under 18 team are training and playing practice games with the top level pro teams. And all the players have access to the same facilities. That's not true in baseball. The facilities an 19 year old in A ball uses are not going to be on the same level as MLB players use. The coaches will not be the same. And unless they're a very top and experienced prospect in spring training, they won't see or practice with the pro level players. Does that mean the soccer model is ideal? No idea. But giving better coaching and facilities to prospects, along with housing and food, just seems like a good idea. And depending on how the costs are split, that could have a major impact on the viability of minor league teams. Maybe that is what causes contraction instead of the demand waning.