Monday, January 19, 2009

Why I Like the GCL Team

It's old news that the Rays added a new affiliate, a Gulf Coast League rookie team, but it's sort of flown under the radar. So anyway, and I'm sure the Rays reasoning was something along these lines, here's why I like the addition:

1. The Rays have obviously made an effort to be more active overseas. They've scouted talent in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venzuela, and probably some other places I'm forgetting(plus they're building an academy in Brazil). Often times, even with talented players, making the jump from Academy ball(or even DSL/VSL ball) to the Appalachian League is tough, even ignoring the fact they're adjusting to a new country and culture. The GCL team will serve as an easier introduction into stateside baseball, not to mention the additional playing time that comes with it.

2. Along those lines, adding a new team simply means there are more innings to be played and pitched. The Rays have drafted a ton of pitchers the past two seasons, and there just simply weren't enough innings to go around in Princeton. Consider Shawn Smith(2008 9th round pick), Bradley Furdal(2008 11th round pick) and Trevor Shull(2008 19th round pick). The three combined for just 21 games at Princeton, and only three starts. Now, part of this is not wanting to overwork pitchers considering they've pitched a full high school season in the spring, but that number seems a little bit low to me. Had the Rays had a GCL team in 2008, Shull would definitely have gone there, and there's a good chance Smith and Furdal would have, too. And if the Rays have a surplus at another position(ie, they draft a bunch of infielders), then the GCL team could be used to alleviate that logjam too.

3. It seems to me, and I don't have hard evidence to back this up, that by adding a GCL team, players will simply get more chances to prove themselves. Again consider Trevor Shull. In his limited work(just 8 innings), he allowed 11 runs and walked 7 guys. Now let's say that no GCL team was being added. What would his outlook for 2009 be? Well, he'd obviously be back in Princeton, but so (probably) will be Furdal, Smith, Jason McEachern, perhaps a pitcher or two from a Latin American academy, plus the set of 2009 draftees. How many innings would Shull really see? My guess is not many, if he does, then someone else isn't getting very many. With a Gulf Coast League team, though, the Rays can send the less advanced 2009 draftees there, so Shull will likely get a better look at Princeton, and the 2009 kids will get a better look in the GCL. Everyone wins.

As long as there's enough talent to reasonably fill out the rosters, and you're not stuck with 22-year old retreads in Princeton, then the GCL team is a valuable asset.

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