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Report: Ryan Flaherty nearing major-league deal with Braves

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Free agent infielder Ryan Flaherty is close to signing a deal with the Braves, according to a report from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Flaherty exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Phillies last week after it became clear that he wouldn’t break camp with the club. Any potential deal with the Braves has yet to be confirmed.

Flaherty, 31, finished off a six-year run with the Orioles in 2017. Thanks to a bout of right shoulder tendonitis, he was limited to just 23 games and delivered a .211/.302/.237 batting line and one extra-base hit across 43 plate appearances. While he’s never looked particularly fearsome at the plate during regular season play, he raked during spring training, slashing .351/.390/.514 with a single home run and a .904 OPS in his first 18 games.

Of course, the Braves didn’t pursue Flaherty for his bat. The veteran infielder grades well on defense and has proven his versatility around the horn, making it likely that he’d net a part-time role behind second baseman Ozzie Albies, third baseman Rio Ruiz (filling in for an injured John Camargo) and shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.