Must-Click Link: Scouting 14-year-olds in Latin America

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Ben Badler has an eye-opening report for Baseball America about how teams are scouting and committing to international prospects. Sometimes kids as young as 12 or 13-years-old, with 14-year-olds becoming the norm:

In Latin America, this sight is not unusual. The system now in place with Major League Baseball drives teams to aggressively scout 14-year-old boys, with trainers and agents looking for the next great 12-year-old. Want to sign one of the top 16-year-old players for this year? You’re probably too late. The aggressive nature of international scouting, combined with MLB’s bonus pool system, gives players incentive to reach agreements with teams earlier than ever. The 2014-15 international signing period begins on July 2, but for some teams, it’s already over, and has been for several months. The race is on to sign the top players for 2015.

Competition for talent is one driver, but another driver is the caps on bonuses to international players imposed in the last collective bargaining agreement. With only so much to spend — and with every team given the same amount to spend — the race is on to lock up more players at younger ages for cheaper amounts lest they have to pay way more when the player approaches 16, blowing their budgets. Or, to find out as international signing day comes closer, that no legitimate players are left, leaving them with unused bonus money.

The logistics of it all aside, it seems so unseemly. This exchange captures it for me:

They both look young—too young to be July 2 players for this year. One wears a Nationals shirt and carries a Phillies equipment bag. He looks like he belongs in Little League. He has the mechanics of a child and the arm strength to match.

“He looks like he could be a guy,” said an agent, using the industry nomenclature for a legitimate prospect.

No, he’s a kid. And baseball is treating kids like meat.

It’s a must-read.

Video: Ramon Torres hits little league home run in first at-bat of season

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
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The Royals recalled infielder Ramon Torres from Triple-A Omaha on Saturday. He didn’t get into a game until starting Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, batting ninth.

In the top of the second inning, facing Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Torres laced a single up the middle. Center fielder Delino DeShields charged in on it, attempting to keep Ryan Goins at second base, but the ball went right past his glove, through his legs, and nearly trickled all the way to the warning track. Goins scored easily and Torres was waved home, too. He managed to narrowly beat the throw, touching home plate with his left hand on a head-first slide.

The play was officially scored a single and a three-base error. Torres wasn’t credited with an RBI on the play. But at least the Royals got two runs out of it.