Thursday, July 14, 2005

GM's Washington Examiner Article

Jim Bowden discusses the Nationals farms system in his weekly Examiner article. He correctly asserts the weakness that is the farm system and offers a four-step plan to improve it: Step 1 - The International Market
This phase of scouting and player development was almost non-existent the last several years. However, we have already addressed this by adding Jose Rijo to our staff. After we won the World Series with Cincinnati in 1990, he always gave back to his country and community in the Dominican Republic. When there was trouble in other Latin American countries, he was one of the first on the plane to help. So many people want to pay him back. The baseball contacts he has in Latin America rank among the game's best.
He's right about MLB unacceptable neglect of the farm system while this team was in limbo. He may be overhyping Jose Rijo's impact in the DR. Will it help? Absolutely, as illustrated by the All-Star Game (Tejada, Ortiz, Ramirez, Martinez, and Pujols are a few examples of players from the DR), the DR is a mandatory recruiting spot for a MLB team. However, I don't necessarily believe baseball contacts are going to ignore other team's inquiries to pay back Jose Rijo. The bottom line will be what it always is ... dollars. If the Nationals don't pony up the dollars, they won't be getting the cream of the crop.
We've already signed more international players this season than the Expos did in the last five years combined. How? With the free-agent signings of Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman, we forfeited our second- and third-round selections in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. We took the cash set for those two draft picks and shifted it to international scouting.
It would be nice if he would actually mention a name or two. Not that I am an expert on Latin American players, but I do watch the results from the Nationals Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League teams (see links on the right side) and I'd be very interested in watching which guys Bowden believes are the premium prospects. Using the signings of Castilla and Guzman and the subsequent forfeiture of 2nd and 3rd round picks as an excuse for more money for international scouting is a bit disingenuous. Agreed, by not having to sign a 2nd and 3rd round pick, there is more money available for international scouting. But he overlooks the fact that he did not have to forefeit the picks in the first place. In my honest opinion, I do not believe the signings of Guzman and Castilla needed to be done prior to arbitration deadline. Both guys were not the cream of the free agent crop and would more than likely have been available in early December thereby saving the draft picks surrendered in their signings. Step 2 - The Instructional League
The Nationals/Expos have not fielded an instructional league club in four years. Every other team fields one. This will change with a new owner. It will improve the prospects we have and more importantly speed their ride to the big leagues. In several cases, players skipped a league after playing instructional ball.
Yet another reason the Nationals have a long way to go in re-establishing a viable Major League farm system. Dana Brown really deserves all the credit he has received in holding things together with the chewing gum and duct tape. He has done more than most would have expected given the circumstances. Step 3 - Video
Video. Believe it or not, in this advanced technological age, the Expos never had an advanced video system for players, coaches and instructors. They had a local college student, two VCRs and two televisions, one of which was black and white. Since the end of spring training, we hired a video coordinator from another organization and added a video scouting system. [It's in the Majors] We don't have these yet in the minors, but that will change.
Yet another black eye for MLB. It boggles the mind that MLB neglected this franchise in the manner it did. I'd be interested to know why video hasn't shown up in New Orleans and Harrisburg at the very least. Step 4 - Better Affiliates
In the future, as we become a winning and established franchise, we will add as many affiliates as possible within a four-hour radius of Washington. This allows our staff the best opportunity to evaluate our talent. It also allows our fans to follow our young players. It helps the rehab of players and it's less expensive to get instructors to see them -- or for the major league people to see them on a regular basis. You want the fans in Washington, Maryland and Virginia to watch the players from birth to the end.
This is where I am in complete agreement with Jim Bowden. Aside from the fact that I can roadtrip to see prospects in person, it makes it easier from an organizational perspective to have your development personnel within arm's reach. The teams that need to be relocated are New Orleans (AAA) and Savannah (Low A). Vermont (SS) cannot be immediately replaced because there are limited options short season wise with only the NY/Penn league and the Northwest League as options. The choice for a replacement for New Orleans can be best handled by (a) elevating Harrisburg to AAA and finding a replacement for the AA team or (b) signing an agreement with an existing International League team: the options there that make most sense are the Richmond Braves (Atlanta's AAA which I doubt they'll give up), the Norfolk Tides (Mets' AAA which I doubt they'll give up) or the one that I'd choose, the Charlotte Knights (White Sox AAA). Let Chicago take New Orleans and assume Charlotte as the AAA affiliate. It accomplishes two things. First, Charlotte is a heck of alot closer mileage wise (though not in the DC-MD-VA area Bowden spoke of). Second, and more important, it establishes the Nationals presence in North Carolina. The untapped market that the Nationals can capitalize on is Southern Virginia and North Carolina which is predominantly Braves-centric right now (Basil can correct me if I'm wrong). As for the replacement for Savannah, I'd aim for the West Virginia Power (Brewers) in the same South Atlantic League of which they are presently members for the same reason as selecting NC, establishing a presence in WV. It is nice to see that the Nationals are focusing more time, resources, and most important money to an area that has been neglected far too long.

1 comment:

Basil said...

Richmond will be an interesting situation. We'll know more in the next few months, so I'll be sure to relay it here and elsewhere.

The Braves' lease at The Diamond runs through '06, so the organization couldn't pack the Triple-A bags until '07 at the earliest.