Yesterday saw something happen that could alter how the Major League Baseball draft rules are set up moving forward. Carter Stewart, the 2018 Major League Baseball drafts #8 overall selection, has signed a 6-year contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan. The deal is worth more than $7M according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

There’s a lot of stuff to get to here. First is the fact that Major League Baseball is losing talent to Japan and that probably isn’t what they want to be happening. But the reason why it is happening, is a bit of a mess. Carter Stewart was drafted and unsigned last year. He went 8th overall to the Braves, who offered him 40% of the slot value after there were medical concerns over his wrist. Rather than accept that, Stewart enrolled in junior college at Eastern Florida State so he could be draft eligible again this year.

His stuff took a step back this year, and there were still concerns about his wrist. Depending on where you look, he’s being rated as somewhere between the 30th and 60th best prospect in this draft. That’s still a 1st/2nd round caliber pick, so it’s not nothing. But rather than the $5M bonus slot at #8 last year (he was offered $2M by the Braves – the minimum they could offer him while still getting the pick this year if he chose not to sign), he’s looking at something more like $800,000-$2,000,000 depending on where he would go in that range.

Let’s now look at how things go with his current deal. He is under contract with the Hawks through his age 25 season. He’ll make “more than $7M”, though let’s assume it is going to be less than $8M. It’s going to be very tough for him to match that through his age 25 season playing stateside. At best, he’d spend the next two seasons in the minor leagues. Making less than $10,000 a year. Then he’d be making the league minimum, less than $800,000 per year for the first three years of his big league time. And then he’d be 25. At that point he’d had made, in this best case scenario, less than $5M, including his signing bonus from this years draft. And of course he’d still be under team control, going to the arbitration process for three years to follow.

But by signing this deal to play in Japan, he’ll be getting $7M+, and then he will become a free agent at 25 and be eligible to sign with a Major League Baseball team for whatever they are willing to pay him. With teams playing service time games, and now also seemingly being unwilling to pay players who are going to be 30 or older, becoming a free agent in your mid-20’s seems to be the only way to get paid and this could certainly be the way to do it.

When you couple this move, along with the loss of Kyler Murray to the NFL, many are speculating that it’s going to lead to Major League Baseball is going to have to add more to the draft bonus pools to try and keep more players from going this route. Going to Japan, or at least threatening the idea isn’t something that many players will be able to do. But there probably will be 5-10 a year who could try to use it as leverage, much like a high school draft pick tries to use the option of going to college as leverage to get more money.

Brian O’Grady homers twice for Louisville

The Triple-A leagues are seeing unprecedented home run totals in 2019. The switch to the Major League Baseball is leaving pitchers in both the International and Pacific Coast Leagues hating everything about their lives, mostly. The Major League Baseball is juiced, or plays like it is. There are some differences between it and the old (or current minor league baseball that’s used at the other levels of the minors).

Some guys have taken advantage of the new baseball. Brian O’Grady broke out in 2018. It started in Pensacola last season, and carried into Louisville in the second half. From the start of June through the end of last season, O’Grady hit .305/.372/.559 in 71 games played between Double-A and Triple-A. This season, he’s carried that forward, and with some possible help from the new baseball, he’s taken it to an entirely different level.

Louisville played a morning game, kicking things off at 11am. The game was over quickly, but not before Brian O’Grady hit two home runs. That leaves his line through 34 games played for the Bats this season at .320/.407/.672 with 10 doubles and 11 home runs. Dating back to June 1st of last year he’s hitting .310/.382/.599 with 16 steals.

Reds transaction madness

There has been a whole lot of roster movement in the last 24 hours on the farm. Let’s break down what’s happened so far:

  • Alex Powers promoted from Chattanooga to Louisville.
  • Alberti Chavez promoted from Chattanooga to Louisville.
  • Wendoyln Bautista promoted from Daytona to Chattanooga.
  • Carlos Machorro promoted from Dayton to Daytona.
  • Michael Byrne placed on the 7-day injured list in Daytona.
  • Moises Nova promoted from “Billings” to Dayton.
  • Dylan Harris promoted from “Billings” to Dayton.
  • Andrew McDonald promoted from extended spring training to Dayton.
  • Alexis Diaz placed on the 7-day injured list in Dayton.

There are other moves coming, but they aren’t official yet.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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21 Responses

  1. wutinthehail

    I was going to save this comment/question for a minor league ask me thread but I’ll just go ahead and ask or state my position here.

    Major league baseball, in my opinion, has a huge problem with the wasting of peak physical years of young talent in the minor leagues. In the NFL and NBA, players are considered ‘grizzled’ vets at the age when most players in baseball make it to the major leagues. I get that there are some differences that need to be accounted for as far as being able to see the field/court in the NFL and NBA as opposed to getting AB’s in the early parts of a player’s career but it does not change my perception that the peak physical years are wasted in the minor leagues.

    What’s the fix? Nick Senzel could have been on the MLB roster when he got drafted. He did not get appreciably better in the few at bats spaced over the couple of years in the minor leagues. There seems to be a feeling of amazement when a player contributes at the age of 22 in the MLB where they are regular contributors in other leagues.

    So a player as been toiling in the the minors until the age of 25, 26 or 27 before he gets to the majors. He now has anywhere from seven to five years to make hay at which point he will be making league minimum or whatever is decided in the arbitration process after which he will be too old to get a lucrative free agent contract.

    It seems to me that MLB front offices have a process that they will not budge from. Why not take college players that were drafted in the higher rounds and start them at AAA. If they don’t preform, drop them down as needed. Let them find their level going down the ladder than wasting time working their way up the ladder.

    Going to Japan, Korea, or some other league that is willing to pay seems like the obvious option until major league baseball teams can figure out how to get these guys paid what they deserve at the time they deserve it.

    • Doug Gray

      Most players aren’t ready to go to Low-A out of the draft and succeed, much less AAA. The gap between the best college baseball team on the planet, and the Dayton Dragons, is enormous.

      • wutinthehail

        Trust me I get that and that’s not the point. It’s that the top lever college players are probably better than the talent at lower level minor leagues.

        It’s the same in other sports. The difference between the best college basketball and football teams and their professional counterparts is way way bigger than your example but player still jump right into the professional leagues.

    • Oldtimer

      The very best Reds players spent 1-2-3 years in MiLB before coming to the Reds.

      Frank Robinson spent 3 (1953-54-55). Vada Pinson spent 2 (1957-58). Pete Rose spent 3 (1960-61-62). Gary Nolan spent 1 (1966). Don Gullett spent 1 (1969). A few examples.

      The very best Reds prospects should spend 2-3 years in MiLB.

      • Colorado Red

        Mike Leake spent 0 time in the minors.

      • wutinthehail

        You pretty much made my point for me. Using the five players above, their rookie seasons combines for a WAR of 19.4 or an average of 3.88. Don Gullet was the lowest at 0.9 but he was mostly a reliever at that point posting a WAR of 0.9 on just 77 innings.

        If you take Don Gulllett out the average goes up to 4.6. If you take his second year when they turned him into a starter the average WAR is 4.22.

        No matter how you parse the data, it’s pretty clear, given how effective they were in the first full year, the payers you mention were more than ready to play major league baseball by the time they reached the team. They didn’t become great players during their off-season before their rookie year. They were great MLB players before they got to the major leagues but they had to bide their time, paying their dues in the minor leagues. All of the players mentioned probably spent at least one too many years in the minor leagues – possibly more.

      • Oldtimer

        Barry Larkin is the best (recent) case. Drafted in 1985. Up to Reds in 1986.

        The very best players are ready sooner than most.

    • Wes

      80-90% of minor league players will never be good enough to play major league ball. 10-20% aren’t ready yet. But when they are- they’ll get the call. If Robles Soto Or Acuna were in reds system- they would still be in majors. Just like peraza playing at like 20/21. Same for Griffey Jr. With senzel- I agree he could have fast tracked but injuries held him back.

  2. RobL

    Unlike Murray, which had extreme circumstances, this could have real effects on MLB. For any talented high school pitcher that doesn’t want to go to college, this could be an attractive alternative. The only limit is that Japan limits the teams to 4 foreign players per team. But there is no doubt that players win big financially by going to Japan to start their careers. And how does that sound? The biggest league in the world can’t compete with a smaller league financially for young players?

    The only thing stopping players from going to Japan is a reluctance to experience a new culture. I am sure some would stay away, but each year MLB could lose a handful of talent. They better keep the Dominican Republic locked down.

  3. Doc

    Wake me when Japanese or Dominican league baseball supersedes MLB as the pinnacle of the sport. Until then, if a few guys go to Japan, more power to them. MLB will not miss them.

    • RobL

      And this response is why I don’t know if MLB will be proactive. Let’s face it, the majority of fans don’t care about the draft, because they won’t see them for at least a couple years if at all. They know who’s on the 25 and have trouble keeping up with the transactions of Cody Reed shuffling between Cincy and Louisville.

      But make no mistake, Carter Stewart is exactly the type of player the Reds look at in the second round. The Reds love sure things high in the first round, but gamble on upside in the second. Just last year, Stewart was a top 10 pick. This year his stuff has backed up, but the talent is still there. I could see the Reds spending 2 million on that package. Hell, they gave that to Lyon Richardson with almost no track record at all. Granted, they could have pulled him off their board because of his wrist questions, but he could have been in their sights.

      The Reds will spend their money on somebody. Now, they just have one less talented option to choose from. And honestly, he might have been the most talented option in the second round.

      But who cares, if the player isn’t in America as a professional, then he doesn’t exist. Right?

    • wutinthehail

      That’s not the point of the issue. The issue is young players going to a league outside the US and actually getting paid for their talent. Then, after their contract expires, they make themselves available for MLB free agency circumventing the draft which will only hurt teams like the Reds who rely on the draft for their talent. If top talent uses this process it’s bad news for the Reds. I don’t know if this is going to be a trend (kind of doubt it) but the Reds need to have their eyes on it and see where it goes.

  4. cinvenfan

    I think there’s a bit of an overreaction about Stewart. As the article says, he was an unsigned draft pick (8th overall) with medical concerns who went back to a small school, took a step back and it’s now out of the first round talent pool according to scouts. So, he got a japanese team to bet on him. Good for him, because no MLB team was even to come close to that kind of money.

    • RobL

      Everything you said is true, but that is the point. No MLB team would match that because the system in place doesn’t allow it. He would have to be a top 3 pick just to match the money. But then he still wouldn’t get to be a free agent until he us 27 or 28. By going to Japan, he gets to hit free agency when he is hitting his peak instead of in the middle of it.

      Under the current system. Wages are suppressed so much that going to another country is a better economic opportunity. Sounds like the American Dream to me.

      If amateurs were all free agents, I am sure he would have no trouble getting paid that money by a few MLB teams.

      And maybe Jackson Rutledge says, hey that sounds good to me. It’s more money and closer to free agency. Now you’re talking about top 15 guys who may go this route.

      • cinvenfan

        You are also bringing up some valid points. But…in Japan you pay higher taxes than in America and living there is also way more expensive, so there goes a big part of the money. The cultural novelty also goes on for so much until homesick, family, friends and other personal issues become important.

        Besides, pitching in Japan has proven to be way different than in the US. Look at how many great japanese pitchers haven’t been able to have success or just get hurt because they are not used to pitch every 4 days on a 162-games schedule. In fact truth is, that for so much fanfare, Japan only has Ichiro and less than half season of Ohtani to show for at MLB, not much more (Nomo and others are just meh). Even a guy returning like Mikolas is just coming back to earth after one season.

        Asia is a good market for guys like Stewart and others who need to raise their stock back up and get good money in the process. MLB, with all its flaws is still save and well.

  5. Jasonp

    I read another article on this and it mentioned that the league he is going to is somewhere between AAA and MLB. Or maybe what people refer to as AAAA players. People who can handle AAA but not MLB.

    If he is going there at 19 years old how many years will it take him to do well in that league. I think that is the risk. If he doesn’t do well over the next 4 years how much interest will people have in him after his 6th year.

    The team in the US who draft someone high always seems to give those players that extra chance. I am not sure if he would get that extra chance here if he hasn’t been in someones system for years.

    There have been a decent amount of pitchers now that have done well coming over here from Japan but those players were all very experienced pitchers who had dominated in Japan leagues for years.

    I don’t know if he is going to be as sought after as other players from Japan unless he just dominates for 4+ years there. Here there are a lot of good pitchers who don’t get good in the MLB until they are in their late 20’s.

  6. SteveO

    Did they mistakenly use the MLB baseball in the Chattanooga game? Okey hit 3 HRs! Lol

  7. Wes

    Kid will hate it in Japan. Making 7 million in Japan is WAY less money than 7 million in Daytona. There will be no trend of this due to language and culture barrier. I feel bad for him- Scott Boras is the problem!

    Scott boras should get ran out of MLB. He’s cost players 10s of millions (if not 100s) just over the past few seasons with holdouts and rejections of qualifying offers. He’s out of touch due to the fact he thinks he’s some sort of god. More like a monster…..

    Doug, there’s no comparing to Murray here. One is an apple other an orange. If u wanna take aim at getting players more money- take aim at Boras and the downside of signing with him.

  8. AirborneJayJay

    Reds have RHP Alek Manoah as their top target. Big 12 pitcher of the year over Lodolo. Today he pitched 8.0 innings vs. highly ranked Texas Tech and won 5-1. Gave up 4 hits and 1 run, 10 K and a couple of walks. He is finishing the season on a strong note. Manoah could rise quickly through Reds system. Manoah was impressive today.

    • RojoBenjy

      What’s your source that he’s now their top target? I like him, too.