The response to my Cito Culver post earlier this week put an interesting question in my head. Here are the comments:
Richard Deegan: It’s about having people on the ground and getting into all corners, especially “home” (well, at least NY) turf. That’s how the Cards got The Man, while the Pirates dozed.
Tripp: I think the Braves are also real good at plucking players out of the Georgia area.
The Yankees certainly seemed to believe that they had a better read on Culver, who was projected as a second roundish pick, than other teams. He is from upstate New York, a cold-weather area without a whole lot of showcases and scouts. Culver’s proximity to Yankee HQ meant that the team could get a lot of good looks at him, while most other teams may only have looked at him once or twice. So, the Yankees were better informed (thanks in part to their large scouting investment) on draft day.
As Tripp points out, this isn’t unique to the Yankees. Lots of teams scout their backyard especially hard, because its cheaper and allows the top brass to get in on the game. Notably, the Braves do a great job of finding talent from Georgia. Look no further than Jason Heyward, whom the Braves drafted ahead of some higher-rated high school hitters in 2007. They also went local (if you count North Florida, southern North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee) in the top rounds of 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts. They mostly pick from their home court.
The difference between the Yankees and Braves is that the Yankees’ home court is not a baseball talent hotbed. The warm-weather South is loaded with draft talent, while most of the New York area is not.
So, my question for everyone is: who has the advantage, the Yankees or the Braves? I don’t know the right answer. I’m curious to hear the discussion.
The Braves get to see more players up close and personal. They form better relationships with local college and prep programs. Their top brass regularly gets to go out and see potential draftees up close, instead of relying on cross-checkers to report back.
But, I think the Yankees actually have a better home-field advantage. Every team is going to have a concentrated network of scouts making frequent visits to showcases and top schools in the South. The good players are pretty well known to all, and there are few secrets. Getting a better look at a player might provide them a little bit more information, but their marginal advantage over other teams is significantly less, even if their volume is much greater. Up in New York, on the other hand, there are true diamonds to be found in the rough. There’s a good chance that the Braves didn’t even bother to send a scout to watch Cito Culver play, much less follow up with multiple visits, or send a cross checker out. For a highly-touted Northern player like Rick Porcello they would make the trip, but probably not as much for an under-the-radar high schooler like Cito Culver.
But that’s just a theory. What do you guys think?