Tag Archive > Max Kepler

Scouting Comments on Urbanus, Others

» 02 December 2010 » In international baseball, mlb prospects » 1 Comment

The news that Texas signed Dutch infielder Nick Urbanus caught my eye — Rogier van Zon told me ab out him back in 2009 when I interviewed him about Dutch baseball.

I wanted to learn more about Urbanus, so I asked an international scout about his game.

Nicky is a third-generation ballplayer. His father and grandfather are Dutch greats and he has it in his blood. He is a shortstop with very good instincts and plus makeup. Defensively he’ll be a very good middle infielder. Maybe he’ll be forced to second base for his arm, but I’d give him every chance to stick at short. He’s got very good hands and feet. He’s also a good athlete with a line drive swing to all fields. Lacks some power, but will hit his share of doubles and squares most pitches off. Seeing him handle US pitchers is going to be interesting and I really like his chances.

While I was at it, I also asked about Max Kepler, who signed with the Twins last year and made his US debut in the Gulf Coast League this year:

Kepler is an outstanding athlete with a fantastic frame. I think he’ll be a RF long term, but he has the chance to be a true 5-tool player. With him they’ll need patience, but he oozes with tools and only needs time to put things together.

Since we had gone that far, I asked who the other top European prospects currently active in the minors are:

Well, I’d have to say (Alex) Liddi and Kepler. Kepler has the best ceiling, while Liddi is obviously much closer and accomplished. I also like a few sleepers on the Twins: (Tom) Stuifbergen, (Matej) Hejma, (Andrei) Lobanov. Kai Gronauer is also an advanced defensive catcher who has to improve offensively. But several teams are working well in Europe right now and they’re catching up. It just happens that Mariners (they also signed (Greg) Halman before Liddi) and Twins were among the pioneers in European scouting and have had a strong presence for years.

Interestingly, Gronauer’s name came up in Jan Benner’s 2009 guest piece on German baseball.

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Time to End the Draft System?

» 19 July 2009 » In international baseball » 18 Comments

This is mostly about the MLB draft,  but applies to the NPB draft to some extent as well.

Consider the following events:

  • In 2001, the Minnesota Twins draft the relatively unknown Joe Mauer over Mark Prior, 2001’s Stephen Strasburg, for a combination of baseball and signability reasons. This turned out to the be right choice.
  • 2005, Luke Hochevar refuses to sign with the LA Dodgers after a series of blunders. The following year, Hochevar is drafted first overall by the Royals. This too is seen as a signability move.
  • In 2006, the Chicago Cubs sign Jeff Samardzjia for first-round money despite having drafted him in the fifth round.
  • In July 2008, the Oakland A’s signed Michel Ynoa to a $4m+ deal, which would have put him in the top ten largest bonuses had he been drafted. The A’s gave their first round draft pick, Jemile Weeks, a $1.9m bonus.
  • In November 2008, Junichi Tazawa avoids his country’s draft and signs with the Boston Red Sox for $3m. The most he could have gotten from the NPB draft would have been a $1m bonus and $150k salary. In retaliation,  NPB brass installs an exile rule. In theory American-born players could take the opposite route.
  • in July 2009, the Twins shell out $800k to sign 16 year-old German prospect Max Kepler.
  • Aside from those specific examples, there are obviously hundreds of international prospects who have signed with the MLB team of their choice, and a rather smaller number of international free agents who have signed with teams in Japan. Meanwhile, amateur players who are educated in the US or Japan are bound to the draft entry rules of their respective domestic leagues.

The MLB draft was established in the sixties with the intent of more evenly distributing the available amateur talent among the MLB teams. I think it basically works, though it’s been proven that teams, players, and agents can game it a bit when they want to. It’s also important to remember that the draft was established in a time when there was far less international talent in major league baseball than there is today. Nearly 30% of the players at the MLB level were born outside the US, and nearly half of minor leaguers were as well. This year we’ve seen a lot more hype around the international signing period as well. It doesn’t quite match the draft but it’s gaining ground, and the signings of Tazawa and Kepler indicate a diversification of the talent pool.

So we have a system that’s moderately regulated for domestic players, and completely unregulated for international players. Should national players not have the same rights to choose their employers as international players?

What I’d propose is a regulated amateur free agent system, in which the draft is discarded entirely. Every amateur player who meets the entry criteria (age, education, whatever) would be allowed to negotiate and sign with any team, regardless of national origin. The single regulation I’d put in place would be a spending cap and a spending floor, based on league revenues. This would be to keep the Yankees from outspending everyone, and the Marlins from going cheap. There could also be a maximum and minimum number of players signed, to keep teams from giving their entire budget to one player. Beyond that, teams would be free to compete with each other on the basis being well-run operations. Essentially, the system would give the players the freedom to choose where they work and the teams the freedom to allocate their budgets as they see fit, while taking money out of the equation to a certain extent.


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