Imagine a universe in which baseball has an ironclad, two-way reserve clause. A reserve claws, as it were. We’re not talking about the version that bound players to teams for decades before Marvin Miller and Curt Flood came along, when teams had all the power in deciding when or if a player ever had a chance to change teams. This version works both ways. Once you sign or are drafted by an organization, you are married. Forever.
In that universe, scouting and development become everything. They are essential areas now, but teams can overcome deficiencies there by opening up the vault during free agency or swinging a deft trade. But if teams aren’t allowed to make transactions, the only chance they would have to differentiate their baseball operations efforts would be in the work they put in before amateur players entered the professional ranks.
We all do this kind of fantasizing at one time or another, imagining what it would be like if your team hadn’t let a certain player go. If he finds stardom elsewhere, it stings. Legions of Red Sox fans probably scratched out prospective lineups for years that had Jeff Bagwell inserted into the No. 4 spot.
The fact is, relatively few players of distinction stay with only one organization for their entire career. But if they all did — if they were all subject to that unbreakable two-way reserve clause — we wouldn’t have as much to write about, for one thing. However, we’d also have a slam-bang way to know which teams are the best at scouting and development.
With that in mind, I’ve taken all active players in my database and moved them (virtually) back to the organization with which they originally entered professional baseball. That trade you rue (or relish)? Never happened. That heartbreaking free-agent departure? Never happened.
I chiseled projected 2020 rosters out of these organizational resets. The result is this accounting of the No-Moves Power Rankings. Using my 2020 projections, how would teams be expected to perform if they had to rely strictly on those whom they scouted, signed and drafted? In which areas would they be strong, and where would they have fallen short?
Teams are ranked by a power rating, which is simply a win projection based on the runs scored and allowed profiles of each reconstituted roster. Those profiles were generated by my projection system. Other rankings are based on each roster’s forecasted performance in the following areas: hitting — park-neutral runs scored; fielding — a team rating based on its players’ combined results in defensive runs saved, defensive win shares, UZR and Statcast’s outs above average; rotation — combined starting pitcher ERA; bullpen — combined leverage-adjusted relief pitcher ERA.
The player pool is made up of anyone active as 2020 spring training dawns, even if said player hasn’t hooked on with a team yet. Keep in mind that past value and future value don’t really come into play. Big-time prospects aren’t included unless they seem likely to play major roles in the big leagues this season. Rosters were constructed based on likely 2020 production and playing time. In several instances, I had to get a little creative with positioning in order to put together an actual lineup.
I included designated hitters for National League teams in the lineups, though that is really just a labeling choice to get another name out there. Speaking of names: There are a lot of them associated with organizations with which I had mostly or completely forgotten they were ever associated. You will probably encounter a few of those too. Hopefully, that’s the fun part. Let’s get to it.
Astros ace Justin Verlander donating paycheck during shutdown
Verlander and wife Kate Upton made the announcement Saturday in an Instagram post. The couple said it would pick an organization each week and highlight its work.
Verlander, the American League Cy Young Award winner, is among a group of major leaguers getting $4,775 a day for 60 days, a total of $286,500.
Verlander’s salary this year is $33 million, which is $177,419 a day for the 186-day season.
The payments were part of a recent agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ union on how to proceed during the stoppage.
MLB relaxes scouting restrictions ahead of draft
Major League Baseball teams can contact amateur prospects using electronic communication and gather data and video on players, but they remain barred from attending in-person activities and holding tryouts as they prepare for the 2020 draft and international signing period, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
The memo, sent to teams Friday, offered a slight relaxation of the full scouting shutdown MLB mandated in mid-March.
With the agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association ensuring there will be a draft, teams are trying to prepare as the scouting schedule has been upended by cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teams are now allowed to use phone, email, text and video meetings to contact players, advisers, coaches and trainers, according to the memo, and they can ask prospects to take assessments, such as the neurodevelopment tests that have become common in recent years.
Biographical and medical information is available to teams via the league-run Draft Prospect Link. The desire for recent data and video on a player to beef up draft models by supplementing past scouting reports has become acute for teams that recognize they’ll have less information than in recent years before the draft, which commissioner Rob Manfred can schedule as late as July 20 and may include as few as five rounds.
Teams are now allowed to seek out data and video through third parties, according to the memo, and procure the same from players and their proxies, so long as the video was taken before March 27, 2020. That rule does not apply to the 300 best amateur players as deemed by MLB, who are required to send their data and video to the league before any individual team.
Live scouting at all levels remains banned until further notice, even in the event that local governments remove mass-gathering restrictions, according to the memo. That includes tryouts and in-person visits.
MLB also asked for dual employees — such as a part-time scout who runs a local travel program — to disclose that information in the hope that transparency will prevent potential discipline for teams that run afoul of the new rules.
Sources — Trump says NFL should start on time
In a conference call with major league sports commissioners on Saturday, President Donald Trump said he believes the NFL season should start on time in September, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.
Trump also said he hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September, sources said, though it is currently unclear if medical experts find that to be a realistic timeline amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told those on the call that the leagues were the first to shut down and that they love to lead the way in starting the economy once there was an “all clear” from public health officials, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.
The NBA was the first league to suspend play on March 11.
Trump also raised the idea of the leagues working together to lobby for tax credits that used to exists for fans, such as the ability to deduct concessions and tickets from taxes, sources said. That would be a way for leagues to jumpstart fans ability to return to stadium in a difficult economy.
The call included 12 major sports commissioners and top executives, including the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, Major League Soccer, WNBA, WWE Wrestling, the PGA Tour, UFC, IndyCar, LPGA, and Breeders Cup, according to a White House pool report.
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