This is essentially a must-click link, though I offer it with the caveat that it is an ESPN Insider piece, so many of you won’t be able to click it. My antipathy toward paywalls aside — and notwithstanding the fact that ESPN’s fortunes do not benefit me whatsoever — I believe that Insider subscription is worth it simply for the Keith Law and Buster Olney content. Law is always great, and Olney — even when I disagree with him — is so thorough and provides so many links to stuff I may not have seen, that he’s worth it too. So if you have the means, you should consider a subscription. Yes, you can throw the magazine away when it comes.
OK, sales pitch aside, Law has a piece up today about the rise of baseball in Europe. Mostly the challenges, actually, as there are all kinds of barriers making it harder for baseball to gain a foothold in Europe like it has in Asia and Latin America. But they are barriers that are slowly being worn down and one day we may start to see a steady flow of baseball players coming from Italy the Netherlands and countries where baseball is even less entrenched now. Law explains the challenges that have to be overcome in order to make that happen.
The biggest takeaway from the article for me is how much more labor intensive it seems to develop baseball talent than, say, basketball or soccer talent. In those sports athleticism can cover for an awful lot of rawness and lack of refinement early on. In baseball — as Law says — athleticism is necessary but not sufficient.
Anyway, a good read for anyone who wonders about where the stars of tomorrow might get their start.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.