Baseball America 'Insider' Mailbag Volume 1: Seager, Scouting, The 2022 Handbook & More
When we opened up the Baseball America subscriber mailbag, we hoped to get some good questions. But you all exceeded our wildest expectations. Instead of rolling out a mailbag for one day with our answers, this has morphed into a multi-day and likely multi-week mailbag. We want to give your questions solid answers, and as such, we can only answer a few questions each day. But we’ll keep posting a few answers every day as we go through the dozens and dozens of quality queries we received.
We’ll start off the mailbag with a very practical question.
Mike from NY asks:
Q: Hi - I have a question about the Prospect Handbooks. On the website it says arriving mid-March 2022. This is obviously much later than it normally arrives (early February). I play in a fantasy league that holds a prospect draft at the beginning of March every year, and that's the primary reason I purchase that book and subscribe to BA. So two-fold question: are the print books really going to be that late (supply chain issues I presume?) and if so, will you be able to release the full top 30s with grades online well in advance of that so we can still utilize BA for our draft? Or perhaps grant early PDF access to the book files for subscribers who purchased the book early? Thanks for the consideration and understanding.
Bill from Ohio asks:
Q: With the book being delayed is there anyway to get the top-30 by org via soft copy end of Jan? Or at least the top-30 lists (without scouting reports) even? At least for subscribers? The whole point of the book in many cases is to help with fantasy drafts and those take place in Feb often. Just a thought.
A: Hi Mike and Bill. Yes, we are going to see delayed shipping for our books this year. We looked at every option we could to try to avoid that. Nothing worked. Unfortunately, it seems to be an unsolvable problem. Printers are backed up and they are also having trouble getting the supplies of paper they need for their printing jobs.
To mitigate the effects to our loyal readers (thank you), what we are going to do is offer early digital access to the Handbook to anyone who purchases it directly from Baseball America—if you buy it from us here at the Baseball America Website. So what that means is that while your print book will be arriving later than normal, you will have access to a digital version of the book (most likely through the Baseball America app) much earlier than you normally receive it. We also will be posting all of our Top 30s online by the end of January (with updates to account for any trades that happen between when we send the book to press and the day we push the Top 30s live).
We also hope to have some new features for 2022 that will assist subscribers in their preparation for fantasy drafts.
-- JJ Cooper
Glenn from 32082 asks:
Q: How long will it take for all MLB teams to get on board with providing housing for their lowest-paid minor leaguers? Will some teams refuse to yield?
A: This is no longer an issue. As we have recently reported, MLB has decreed that beginning with the 2022 season all 30 MLB teams will provide in-season housing for all minor league players other than those who are on MLB contracts or are making $20,000 a month or more in salary. Since that is only a very small group of minor league veterans, this means that almost every minor league player will be living in in-season housing provided by the MLB team.
The parameters of the MLB decree are quite broad. An important aspect of this is the requirement that MiLB players will not have to sign leases. There were rumors that this could be a stipend/reimbursement situation, but MLB went one step further, which is good for the players.
With players moving up and down during the season because of regular in-season player movement, having MLB teams handle any arrangements as far as leases/utilities removes another massive issue for MiLB players. Now they do not have to worry that they are on the hook for unpaid rent/damages or unpaid utilities at an apartment that they haven’t lived in for months, but which they had to sublet when they were promoted.
There are some questions that do remain, like what does this mean for married players and how long does a player have to vacate his room if he is released, but for the majority of players, this is simply good news without many caveats.
-- JJ Cooper
Michael from Raleigh asks:
A: Hi Michael. It’s safe to say the Austin Beck pick was a big swing and a miss, but following that pick with the drafting of Kyler Murray at 9th overall the following year was a far bigger mistake, in my opinion. Beck’s five-tool potential was alluring, as was his ability to play a true center field, and his skill set gave him the potential to be an all-star if he developed. But I don’t understand why the A’s then drafted another toolsy, high-risk outfielder the following year, especially one who had made it pretty clear he wanted to pursue football. We had Murray as the No. 77 player in the 2018 draft class, nowhere close to where he ended up as the 9th pick. To make matters worse, the A’s passed on a safe arm (Logan Gilbert) and a proven college bat (Trevor Larnach). The Beck decision by itself would be much easier to swallow if it hadn’t been followed by a far greater miss. But there’s good news. The A’s look like they’ve hit on their last two first-rounders, with Tyler Soderstrom already a Top 100 Prospect and Max Muncy providing immense upside in the middle infield.
A: I would add that in Murray’s case, it wasn’t a sure bet that he was going to be a pro football player when the A’s drafted him—he hadn’t had his breakout Heisman year with Oklahoma yet and he’d largely been a backup QB for Baker Mayfield at the time the A’s selected him. But it was always a risk, which played a significant part in where we ranked him in our draft rankings. Adding significantly to the risk was the fact that under the current MLB draft system, the A’s couldn’t draft a backup plan to spend money on if Murray opted for football. Before 2012, the way to draft a two-way player like Murray would have been to add a prep arm/bat who was expected to be a very expensive and difficult signing and shift the money to him as a late-round pick if the football player opted not to play baseball. The money could even be shifted into next year’s draft if the team’s budgeting allowed for that. Nowadays, there isn’t that flexibility because teams are strictly limited in what they can spend.
As for Beck, I think the cautionary tale there is that the summer showcase circuit has done a lot to reduce the risk in drafting high school hitters. After all, most first round hitters now spend the summer facing top-notch arms. That provides ample opportunity to see how they hit against velocity, how they recognize spin and how they can grind out at-bats. Beck missed that because of a knee injury. Maybe his struggles as a pro would have been more apparent if he had gotten 100 at-bats against top pitchers the summer before his senior year of high school.
-- J.J. Cooper
As The End Of An Era Nears, Dodgers Find Ways To Keep It Going A Little Longer
Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager and Chris Taylor are all free agents after the season.
Q: For a good while, it seemed like a pitcher’s build was a starting point for MLB organizations. As a reader of a lot of content, everyone wanted the 6-foot 6 guy, because of downward plane. I once had the pleasure of chatting back and forth with Geoff Pontes on Twitter, about how Jack Leiter’s low arm slot creates a deceptive angle in which the ball crosses the plate. This isn’t necessarily about Leiter, he’s only one example, but with more talk about vertical attack angle, tunneling, extension, etc… has there been a dramatic shift in scouting philosophy? And with relievers being counted on more heavily than ever, wouldn’t it make sense to look harder at pitchers who aren’t Alek Manoah & Nate Pearson like? Thanks, all!
A: Hi Jason, thanks for the question! There’s no straightforward answer. The true answer is, it depends. Having spent the summer in the scouting sections of the Cape Cod League I can say there are certain teams more receptive to low-release, hard-throwing righthanders with efficient fastballs (i.e. Jack Leiter).
That said, more often than not those types fit best in the pen. However, some teams are more receptive to them as long-term starter prospects. That certainly doesn’t mean we should avoid a Manoah or a Pearson. The former has a 70 breaking ball and a mid-90s fastball that he commands well. As you saw with his 2021 success, that works.
The real development is teams understanding why certain profiles work and how to accentuate their players' positive attributes to guide them toward the best version of that profile. I believe we’ve learned in recent years why certain pitchers have success while others don’t. So while I think scouting departments are evolving, I think certain teams put more weight into certain characteristics.
-- Geoff Pontes
Pat Templeton from Winchester, VA asks:
Doesn't it make sense for the Dodgers to re-sign Seager to play shortstop with Lux as second base? This leaves them the opportunity to deal Trea Turner at a great value with a full season to play.
Corey Seager is a tremendous player, but it’s very, very difficult to commit $200-plus million to a player who has held up over a full, 162-game season only once in his last four years. His frequent injuries and declining defensive ability don’t portend him aging well. Especially with Walker Buehler and Julio Urias needing to be paid in the coming years and so many holes to fill on the pitching staff, the Dodgers are better off investing both their short-term and long-term payroll space toward pitchers.
-- Kyle Glaser
I would add to this that Turner is a more versatile, durable and valuable player. The reason to acquire Turner in the deal in July was to make the Dodgers a better team down the stretch in 2021, but also to give them a viable Seager replacement in 2022. Over the past four years, Turner has hit .302/.361/.492 in 491 games. Seager has hit .288/.359/.506 but has played in only 307 games. Turner is a better defensive shortstop and much better on the bases while providing similar offensive production.
-- J.J. Cooper