Most guys who wind up on a 40-man roster were high draft picks or long sought-after international free agents. Most guys who become high draft picks or international free agent signings were on scouts’ radars when they were 16 years-old or younger. These days it’s just not all that typical for a guy who is in the bigs or on the verge of it to have first been noticed when he was already out of high school.
Giants minor league reliever Jake Smith is an exception to that. And quite an exception he is. The hard-throwing prospect, who will likely pitch at Double-A and maybe Triple-A this year, played on a league for home schooled kids back in South Carolina and then played for a small college, all while never getting a sniff from scouts. He was first noticed while working on the grounds crew for the Giants’ farm team at low-A Augusta. He was mowing the grass and dragging the infield when Felipe Alou and some other Giants officials came through town and got a look at him throwing. After some work and adjustments the Giants drafted him in the 48th round and now he’s on the 40-man and could very well be in the Giants’ pen one day soon.
Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury-News has his story and it’s a great one. Go check it out.
Over the weekend a report circulated that discipline meted out to Jose Reyes, Aroldis Chapman and anyone else subject to the league’s domestic violence policy would include spring training games. Which caused a bit of a stir given that, for major league players on guaranteed contracts, being forced to sit out spring training games is a reward, not a punishment. It likewise caused some to worry that, for all of baseball’s tough talk, actual penalties under the new policy may be lighter than some may like to see.
Today Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports, however, that suspensions will not include spring games. All penalties will consist of regular season games. Which is how drug suspensions and other suspensions work.
There are rumblings that the suspensions are coming soon. As we noted recently, Chapman says he will appeal any suspension he gets. Meanwhile the Rockies are not particularly eager to have Jose Reyes in camp, which will happen in two days barring any word on punishment before then.
We recently saw an agent get arrested on human trafficking charges arising out of his smuggling players out of Cuba. As we noted, the business of getting Cuban defectors to free agency is a shady and dangerous one, made all the more risky by incentives and disincentives in place which push the players and/or their representatives to deal with criminals.
The pattern of these cases is not always the same, however. While in some cases the agent is in bed with the bad actors, in other cases the agent is a victim. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox, such is the case with Charles Hairston, who just quit as the agent for Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros, claiming that his life was threatened by the buscon who is working with Lazarito in the Dominican Republic. Lazarito was expected to have signed earlier this month, but remains on the market.
The details of the story are, as almost all of these stories of international signings, rather murky. And they cross over from the stories we’ve seen about other Cuban players into the world of buscones, whose work in the Dominican Republic is likewise controversial.
In light of stories like these, do not be at all surprised if Major League Baseball renews its push for an international draft as a means of heading off such incidents. Such a move may or may not work and Major League Baseball has ulterior financial incentives for imposing a draft on players who would now be foreign free agents, but the league will, without question, cite stories such as these in support of its case.