We’ve looked at players that are already playing professionally, but what about high school, college and Latin American players that haven’t been drafted or signed into organizations yet? It won’t be easy there either.
Awhile back, I made a spreadsheet looking at where starting shortstops in baseball came from. I looked at the years 2006-2010, but there aren’t 150 different entries because many of those players started all or at least multiple seasons in that timespan. I sorted them by where they were taken in the draft in the following categories: Picks 1-15, picks 16-30, supplemental round (any pick after #30 that was still in the first round,) rounds 2-5, rounds 6-10, rounds 11-20 and rounds 21-50, and I also had a column for international signings because they’re not drafted.
The Phillies’ first pick in 2011 will be in the supplemental round, and if recent history continues, that won’t be the pick to get a shortstop; no starting shortstop from 2006-10 was drafted in the supplemental round. 11 starting shortstops were drafted in rounds 2-5, and three of them became All-Stars (Rollins, J.J. Hardy and Michael Young). After the 5th round, only three other shortstops were all stars at some point in their career, Jack Wilson, David Eckstein and Jason Bartlett. Obviously All-Star games aren’t a great measure to determine player value, and teams don’t need All-Stars at every position. Finding every day shortstops is hard enough, much less developing an All-Star.
A surprising thing I noticed when making this spreadsheet is the quality of Latin shortstops. 27 starting shortstops from 06-10 signed as international free agents, and nearly 41% of them have been All-Stars at some point. What’s the reason for this? Many speculate that the reason is a lack of focus on the fundamentals in America, particularly defensively. It’s been said that defensive instruction in high school and college is declining, and if players aren’t working to improve in the field, they’re not going to be capable of playing defensive demanding positions as a professional.
Whatever the reason, teams will pay a premium for the positions up the middle, so the top talent can be hard to come by. Teams will reach for those guys in the draft and probably overpay in signing bonuses to get these guys, and that makes things difficult for the Phillies for a couple reasons. The top up the middle talent will be long gone by their first pick, and anyone left will be a project or difficult to sign. The Phillies certainly love some projects in the draft, so we’ll see what happens.
It’s the same thing in the international market. Every player is a project because they can sign at age 16, younger than all draft picks, and the top talent signs for big bucks. The international market is getting more and more competitive, and it’s hard to land the best players. In the draft and internationally, the Phillies haven’t always been willing to pay top dollar for the best amateur players available. Without getting into a cheap or not debate because they clearly haven’t been on the ML roster, sometimes teams need to take a plunge and go overslot or pay a 7-figure bonus to improve the farm system.
To wrap this up and make it relevant to Rollins again, it’s become clear that there aren’t easy answers. Rollins is certainly an imperfect player, but finding quality shortstops isn’t easy to do. The Phillies are fortunate to have drafted him, developed him into the player he is because teams would love to have a shortstop with the career he’s had. Replacing him from inside the organization would be tough to do with a lack of great or ready internal options. The trade market is always difficult, and anyone drafted or signed this year is a long way away from being ready.
As frustrating as he can be, it’s certainly possible that Rollins’ Phillies career is not over.
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