A baseball revival in Puerto Rico?

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Puerto Rico used to send scads of ballplayers into the majors. But starting in 1990 its players became subject to the major league draft, which many argue killed the incentives for teams to aggressively scout the island and for local baseball authorities to support training, the building of new facilities and the like.

This Associated Press story, however, notes that there is a revival afoot:

In the past year, Major League Baseball reported the second-highest number of signings from Puerto Rico since 2000. The U.S. territory also has seen the opening of new baseball academies and an expansion of its winter league teams … MLB plans to start tournaments and after-school programs across the island to further stimulate interest in the sport, said Kim Ng, the organization’s senior vice president for baseball operations.

Ng credits the Carlos Correa being the first pick in the draft this past year as evidence that things are looking up and credits his high draft position with reinvigorating the game in Puerto Rico.

Is it a fluke or is this the product of MLB’s investment in baseball on the island?  Or something else?  I dunno. But it’s good to see what was once a baseball hotbed starting to produce MLB-quality talent again.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.