The holidays have arrived and hot stove news has come to a crawl, so here are some miscellaneous — but not insignificant — links and bits of news to check out.
MLB announces agreement to bring Cuban players to MLB
Last week MLB and the MLBPA announced an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation that “will provide Cuban baseball players with a safe and legal path to sign with a Major League Club.” Here’s the press release. Many players, including Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, defected from Cuba by being smuggled off the island by criminals, and were later threatened and shaken down for money. This new agreement helps prevent that.
“Establishing a safe, legal process for entry to our system is the most important step we can take to ending the exploitation and endangerment of Cuban players who pursue careers in Major League Baseball,” said MLBPA chief Tony Clark in a statement. “The safety and well-being of these young men remains our primary concern.”
Under the MLB-CBF agreement, players who are at least 25 years old and have played six years in Cuba must be made available to MLB teams. CBF clubs can also choose to make younger players available. When a player signs with an MLB team, the MLB team must pay his former club in Cuba a release fee that follows the same formula as Japanese players (explained here). This is, truly, great and historic news for baseball. There is now a safe and proper channel for bringing Cuban talent to MLB.
MLB may transfer in-market streaming rights to teams
This is potentially huge. According to Josh Kosman, MLB “favors a plan” in which in-market streaming rights would be transferred from the league to individual teams. The Yankees and several other teams have been pushing hard for this for years. This means that, if you live in the Yankees’ home market, you would no longer have to be a cable subscriber to watch the YES Network. You could cut the cord and subscribe to the team’s streaming service instead.
The catch here is that when MLB transfers in-market streaming rights to teams — “when” is more appropriate than “if” here because this does feel inevitable, if not now then down the road — the teams will probably turn around and sell those streaming rights to the highest bidder (Amazon, Google, Netflix, etc.). Amazon is reportedly making a big push to secure regional sports streaming rights and I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on the Yankees. So, rather than buy an in-market streaming subscription straight from the Yankees or MLB, you’d have to sign up for Amazon’s video service. We’ll see. None of this has happened yet but things are heading in this direction.
Three Yankees make top GCL prospects list
The 6-foot-5 and 204 lb. (and 18-year-old) Garcia led the GCL with ten homers in 53 games this year. He also struck out 40.6% of his plate appearances. The Baseball America scouting report gives him 70 power on the 20-80 scouting scale and, in the chat (subs. req’d), Ben Badler compared him to Domingo Santana. That’d be a nice outcome for a $500,000 international signee. Here’s part of the scouting report on Gomez:
Gomez ran his fastball up to 96 mph this season in the GCL, parking in the low-to-mid-90s. He throws with downhill angle and locates his fastball well to both sides of the plate for his age. Gomez had 10 strikeouts per nine innings in the GCL thanks in part to a tight, sharp curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s with good depth that flashes above-average to freeze hitters or gets them to chase. He showed feel for a mid-80s changeup that he’s willing to throw to both lefties and righties.
The Yankees signed the 18-year-old Gomez for a mere $50,000 two years ago and now he’s showing three pitches with good velocity and a potential swing-and-miss curveball. The Yankees seem to turn two or three of these small bonus kids into legitimate prospects each year. Domingo Acevedo ($7,500), Freicer Perez ($10,000) and Jonathan Loaisiga (not sure he even got a bonus) all fit in this group.
2019 Draft top prospects list released
With the college and high school seasons only a few weeks away, MLB.com released their first top 50 draft prospects list for 2019. Oregon State C Adley Rutschman is the consensus No. 1 player in the draft class and he’s probably the most locked in No. 1 pick this far out from the draft since Gerrit Cole in 2011. That doesn’t mean Rutschman is a lock to go first overall to the Orioles. It just means he’s the most clear cut No. 1 guy in quite some time.
The Yankees hold the 30th overall selection next year and they’ll keep that pick even if they sign a qualified free agent like Bryce Harper. Baseball America (subs. req’d) put together a super early 2019 mock draft recently and they have Rutschman going to the O’s with the top pick. Here’s who they have for the Yankees and that 30th overall selection:
3B Brett Baty (Lake Travis HS, Austin)
Why It Makes Sense: Baty will get talked about for both his prodigious strength in the lefthanded batter’s box and also the that he will be 19 and a half years old on draft day. This might not bother the Yankees as much as other teams, as New York just took high school catcher Anthony Seigler in the first round last year, who was also old for his class.
One, “Brett Baty” is an outstanding baseball name. And two, a 19-and-a-half-year-old high schooler in the first round? I can’t imagine that’s happened often. And geez, Seigler didn’t turn 19 until after the draft last year. He wasn’t that old for his class. Anyway, at this point in the draft season (i.e. it hasn’t started yet), any mock draft is almost certainly speculation more than hard “this team is on that guy” reporting. Lots can and will change between now and the draft.
As long as Damon Oppenheimer is the Yankees scouting director, the best place to start with potential draft targets is Southern California. He has an affinity for prospects who play where he grew up. One name to watch: California HS 1B/LHP Spencer Jones. Go check out the (free) MLB.com scouting report and tell me that kid doesn’t scream “future Yankees prospect.”