As far as the development of amateur baseball talent goes, Puerto Rico is caught in a weird no-man’s land.
Players from Puerto Rico are subject to the Major League draft, which, kills the incentive for teams and scouts to go there and develop teenage talent like they do in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. I mean, why develop a kid if some other team can draft them? At the same time, there is not enough wealth in Puerto Rico to support the sort of talent development which now rules in the United States and Canada (i.e. expensive youth leagues). Since the imposition of the draft in Puerto Rico in 1990, the once rich vein of talent heading from there to the big leagues has all but dried up.
Major League Baseball has been working on this problem for a while now. Chucking the draft there would help solve it, of course, but that’s not happening because MLB loves the draft. They have, however, done something in conjunction with the MLBPA and announced it today:
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association today formally announced the creation of the Puerto Rico Summer League, which began play on June 3 . . . The Puerto Rico Summer League is a joint initiative that MLB and the MLBPA created to support the collective commitment of both organizations to the development of youth baseball in Puerto Rico. The newly-created league will give Puerto Rican players between the ages of 14 and 17 more opportunities to play baseball during the summer.
More chances to play means more time to develop and more opportunities to be seen by scouts. So, while this isn’t a cure-all, it’s a nice step.
Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.
As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:
That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.