MLB’s approach to the minor leagues is ripe for change in part because of how much data can be collected off the field these days. Independent hitting instructor Doug Latta tells his clients that they “don’t need much space to get better,” as improving via reps, video analysis and ball-tracking tech lessens the need for a player to play in regulation games. Latta worked with Marlon Byrd, Justin Turner and Hunter Pence in various storage-like facilities just before they changed their approach at the plate and improved their performance. Cody Bellinger was already a good major league player but became great this season after he changed his swing in similar modest spaces last winter. While batting cages have existed since Rickey invented them, they’ve never been the feedback machines they are today when outfitted with ball-, bat- and body-tracking tech.

On the pitching side, it’s perhaps even easier to gain skills. Adam Ottavino designed a new cutter last winter in a vacant Manhattan storefront that he outfitted with baseball’s cutting-edge tech. The Los Angeles Dodgers held several low-value minor league pitchers back from minor league games in 2016, giving them something of an extended spring training at their complex to see if they could improve throwing velocity. Dodgers pitchers Corey Copping and Andrew Istler learned how to throw harder and subsequently became trade chips last summer.

Source: Travis Sawchik, FiveThirtyEight

3 comments on “Do We Even Need Minor League Baseball?

  • Brian Joura

    The Mets have 2 DSL teams, 3 short-season league teams and 2 A-ball league teams. While it’s fun to have all of those games to track, it’s also hard to believe they couldn’t eliminate 2-3 of those without much problem.

    They actually did get rid of one of the short-season league teams a few years ago but quickly brought it back.

  • David Groveman

    The system works without pulling profit from the franchises. Having this plethora of teams allows teams to sort their players to leagues where they can test a prospect’s quality against a multitude of variables.

    AAA, AA, A+ and A are all needed in my opinion.

    You can get rid of one of the stateside Rookie leagues but having a League geared towards college draftees and highschool draftees seems like an important step.

    You could also potentially get rid of the international rookie leagues but only if you fix the draft to include international players.

  • Chris F

    Most people dont have the stamina to play a major league season. Part of this is taking children and letting them acquire the skills and physicality to survive an MLB season, and the speed. Baseball also requires a lot of repetition to do well. Even then, we have endless bone headed base running, cant call a fly ball, throwing to the wrong base or missing cutoffs. All this improves through the minors. Also, pitchers vastly improve from age 16 to age 22 and beyond. I think you need to bring along hitting with the pitching. So say you draft a college junior and toss them into the Show, most will simply melt because pure athleticism is not enough. The last thing this sport needs is to eject a giant pile of kids from employment, shut down small cities from seeing minor league pro ball, not to mention the jobs that go along from all the stadiums to local businesses.

    Lastly, I think having a robust minor league slate opens the door to discovering that 500th draft pick who turns into a hall of famer.

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