An Inside Look at an MLB Draft
Andrew Baggarly had an interesting article this week on the Giants’ top pitching prospect, Kyle Harrison. The Giants drafted Harrison in 2020, having seen him pitch only once in his senior season at De La Salle. But they liked what they saw.
What I like about this article is an inside look at how the MLB Draft works. Harrison had committed to pitch at UCLA. His agent, Scott Boras, made it clear he would not go pro unless he was given a signing bonus of $2.5M. But MLB now has draft slot value. Each draft pick is given a value – and the team holding that pick cannot spend over 5% more on its draft picks in a season than they have slot value to spend.
(Does that make sense? Here’s a simple example: Pretend a team has the first pick in round 1 and the first pick in round 2, and no other picks. The first pick of round 1 has a $8.5M slot value. The first pick of round 2 has a $2M slot value. That team cannot spend more than $10.5M to sign those two picks.
This article delves into why Harrison, a first round value, dropped to the third round but signed for first round value.
“They weren’t locked into that plan. If there was an obvious player who slipped to them who would require an over-slot bonus, someone they liked even better, they would’ve taken him. The draft could have unfolded in any number of ways. But in each of their first four selections, the Giants found players they liked who might give them the opportunity to save a little money from their bonus pool. They had to get lucky and hope Harrison would still be there in the third round, too.
They were, and he was.
Harrison had fielded offers from several other clubs on draft day and turned them all down. Still, a team could have bit the bullet and taken him at the back of the first round, or within the first few picks of the second round. Nobody did.
Getting him signed was more like playing Twister. The Giants had a pre-arranged deal with their preferred first-round pick, North Carolina State catcher Patrick Bailey, who signed for $400,000 below his $4.2 million slot value. Their second-rounder, San Diego State third baseman Casey Schmitt, signed for $360,000 under his $1.51 million slot value. The Giants gave back some of their savings with the first of their two supplemental second-round picks when they signed North Carolina State left-hander Nick Swiney for $1.2 million, a bonus that was $223,300 over slot. But their next supplemental-round choice, Dallas Baptist infielder Jimmy Glowenke, was a consensus overdraft who signed for just less than $600,000 and allowed them to set aside $355,600 more. Fourth-rounder R.J. Dabovich, a reliever from Arizona State that they had seen a ton while scouting former first-rounder Hunter Bishop, agreed to a $197,500 bonus that was well below the $507,400 recommendation.”
That’s pretty fascinating. Risky play by the Giants, but it seems to have paid off:
Longtime Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti lives in San Jose and watched plenty of Harrison last season. Asked for an impression, he considered the kid’s competitiveness and his durable frame. And he offered one hell of a comp.
“He’s like a left-handed Matt Cain, for me,” Righetti said.
Yeah, that’ll play. -TOB
Source: “Behind the Giants’ Risk to Draft Kyle Harrison, Now Their Best Pitching Prospect Since Madison Bumgarner,” Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic (04/18/2022)
PAL: There’s the slotting element and the strategy around that, but I also found it interesting how scouting can shift. It used to be find a pitcher that can light up the radar gun, and a team will teach him how to pitch. But with Harrison they found a kid who knew how to pitch, and they developed more velocity. The high schooler who threw 87-92 is now topping out a 97.
The mantra used to be that you couldn’t teach velocity. Now, with new technology and training methods, the velo might be easier to teach than everything else. And because the Giants ascribe so much player value to K/BB ratio, it makes sense that they would be at the forefront of a turn back to command over pure power.
“Pitchability” is what the Giants scouts and execs keep referring to it as in the story. It reminded me about a story about Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom, and other “edge cases” back in April, 2021 from Michael Baumann. They didn’t throw upper 90s in high school, so they had to learn how to pitch at an earlier age than the Gerrit Coles of the baseball world. They were taught velocity, and experts are now wondering if developing velocity in a prospect is easier than developing feel.
Joe Lacob Just Bugs Me
Joe Lacob is so weird, man. There’s the time he suggested he did bedroom things with the NBA trophy. There’s…
And then this week. After the Warriors won Game 2 in another blowout over the Nuggets, Lacob was interviewed by Tim Kawakami and I cringed at least twice.
“The building’s incredible,” Lacob said. “Everyone who comes through here thinks this place is amazing. When I get on the court, that’s what I’m thinking, ‘This place is amazing.’ We’re pretty proud of it, obviously.
Ok, Joe. Look. I know that from your seat your feet technically touch the wood floor that also makes up the court. But uh, you don’t get on the court. You are not a player.
And maybe I would have let that slide, but earlier in the interview he dropped this one:
“This is the team we paid for,” Lacob said. “We never really had the team together all year. So I’m excited to see them all play together. We never really got to see it. I think it’s exciting to see it.”
This is the team you paid for? Such an off-putting way to say that. There’s something very plantation-y about that. How about, “This is the team we were excited to see all year, and we finally got to.” No, not Joe. He’s gotta say the weirdest thing possible, every time. -TOB
Source: “Kawakami: ‘This is the Team We Paid For’ — Joe Lacob on the Warriors’ 2-0 Lead and Chase Center Playoff Debut,” Tim Kawakami, The Athletic (04/19/2022)
Kayvon Thibodeaux and the Different Ways We Compete
Every year, there is at least one NFL Draft prospect who falls because of questions about his character, or his drive, or whether he loves football, or because he’s outspoken. This year’s That Guy is Kavon Thibodeaux, an edge rusher from Oregon. This article delves into Thibodeaux – what the criticisms are, whether they’re fair, and what Thibodeaux thinks about it.
I thought the most interesting passage was this one:
There’s no Pro Football Focus metric that measures passion. In-game speed tracking can provide a glimpse of a player’s individual effort, but can’t quantify one’s internal drive. That’s where getting to personally know a player and learning what makes them tick is a crucial step for NFL teams during the draft process.
Chad Brown is the CEO and chief strategist of a software and consulting company called Profile. The company provides 20-minute behavioral assessments to players based on the DISC personality test, an exam devised to help enhance communication and team development.
Brown explained that when coaches or scouts say a player doesn’t work hard, full context needs to be considered as to why. That’s where criticism of Thibodeaux’s effort misses the mark.
Last year, the draft community praised now-Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s hours-long drives from Utah to California to train with former NFL QB John Beck; Thibodeaux at one point made daily 80-mile commutes to high school. Top 2021 prospects such as Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons faced minimal judgment for opting out of the 2020 season; despite having been considered a highly rated prospect for years, Thibodeaux played this past season, and even returned to the field for Oregon after suffering an early-season ankle injury. Before the season started, the biggest concern surrounding Thibodeaux as a prospect was his lack of secondary pass-rush moves. Worries over his inconsistent motor weren’t raised until after the season, a good portion of which he played on a bum ankle. “I’ve always looked at college as a pit stop to kind of set up my life for the future,” Thibodeaux said last June. Even still, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that his effort wasn’t lackluster.
Competitiveness doesn’t manifest itself in the same way for every prospect. “Is competitiveness what we think it is?” Brown posited. “There’s definitely [mentalities of] ‘I want to win in checkers. I want to win in video games. I just want to win all the time.’ But what about people that want to constantly learn and develop? They listen to podcasts, they constantly study film, they’re learning from mentors.
That’s a really interesting point. Generally, when we talk about hyper-competitive players, in any sport, we hear stories about guys Michael Jordan and how we won’t stop playing a game, any game, until he beats you. So, maybe someone like Peyton Manning isn’t a “killer” as we use that term in sports. But those hours he spent in the film room? That’s competitive as hell. He is working hard before the game to beat you during the game. I never really thought of that as competitive, but it is. Good read. -TOB
Source: “Kayvon Thibodeaux Is This NFL Draft’s Bad-Discourse Prospect,” Kaelen Jones, The Ringer (04/20/2022)
This is the origin story of the sports bra. While some version of it has been told before – Eva Longoria directed a 10-minute doc about it for ESPN a few years back – this is the real origin story, and that matters. As David Davis points out, “sanitized” and “simplified” stories of female empowerment are too common, and we have a tendency to fluff the real stories that feature more complicated characters and stakes. We should stop doing that.
In her illuminating new book Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World, author Danielle Friedman detailed how the inventors overcame a “seemingly endless series of challenges” in bringing the sports bra to the marketplace, including the financing, legal and patent hurdles typical for any start-up, as well as the anachronistic attitudes of the male bankers and sporting-goods store owners they dealt with.
But never once did these or other contemporary accounts address what was perhaps the most significant barrier that the entrepreneurs faced: intra-office feuding that nearly undermined their nascent business, with accusations of betrayal and backstabbing that linger to this day. By the time they sold their company in 1990, Lisa Lindahl and Hinda Miller were so fed up with each other that they didn’t speak for more than a decade.
Erasing the strife from the creation story of the Jogbra, as it was called, has sanitized and simplified the narrative. Female empowerment in the post–Title IX era has become the default storyline—why ruin a plucky underdog yarn with dollops of angst and conflict? Why portray complicated, real women and their divergent drives and opinions when you can stick to the facile script and produce what Lisa describes as a “fluffy piece” about three bosom buddies?
It’s hard to overstate the impact of the sports bra – Davis notes Runner’s World said it was the greatest invention in running…ever – and its popularity lines up perfectly with the passage of Title IX in 1972. After struggling to find a design that made sense, co-founders Lisa Lindahl and Polly Palmer Smith had that breakthrough moment, courtesy of a joking ex-husband, calling back to the first seed of the sports bra came from a joke between Lisa and Polly – we need a jockstrap for women.
A second jockstrap reference provided Polly with her lightbulb moment. Lisa’s husband was a bit of a jokester. One day, watching the women despairing over their unsolvable puzzle, Al Lindahl came down the stairs bare-chested, wearing a jockstrap stretched over his torso.
“Ladies … I present your jock-bra,” he announced to the room.
For Polly, seeing the straps pulled over Al’s shoulders, with the pouch stretched over his chest, provided the visual prompt she was missing. It was the “fateful moment when all the pieces fell into place,” she recalled.
Hinda was sent to the UVM bookstore to buy two jockstraps. Polly cut them up and made a crude prototype. The two pouches served as the cups; the waistbands became a solid rib-band that stretched around the torso; the butt straps were converted into shoulder straps that crossed at the back.
Hinda was the third co-founder, and perhaps the reason for imbalance that led to so much stress and strife in the years to come. What follows is decades of friendship colliding with landmines that come with growing a booming company. A must-read. – PAL
Source: “The Mostly Untold Story Of How The Sports Bra Conquered The World And Tore Its Inventors Apart,” David Davis, Defector (April 20, 2022)
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I ask you, who among us has not run across a playing field and tackled an opponent…-TOB
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