Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’ category

MLB’s Race Problem

August 2, 2018

I read this article today by Jeff Pearlman, which captures some of the feelings I have about the recent news of Josh Hader‘s, Trea Turner‘s and Sean Newcomb‘s high school homophobic and/or racist tweets.  Baseball has become primarily a white pastime in the U.S., and the revelations about Hader, Turner and Newcomb, and now possibly Sonny Gray, certainly isn’t going to convince many Americans of color that baseball is still their game too.

Sure, all of Hader, Turner and Newcomb were young and dumb when they posted their offensive tweets, but the age thing cuts both ways.  None of the three of them is over the age of 25, so they’re part of a generation that really should know better and be more tolerant of diversity.

Pearlman claims that major league club houses are “almost without fail” segregated in racial or ethnic groups, with white players hanging out with whites, Latinos with Latinos, and Asians with Asians.  Pearlman would certainly know better than I, as I have never been inside a major league clubhouse except by virtue of television.

If baseball really is becoming a whites-only sport among young domestic players and the fan base which pays the freight, which has been reported for some time, then MLB is in trouble.  Maybe not as much trouble as football with its brain injury crisis, but big trouble nonetheless.

Growth rates among non-hispanic white Americans is slowing down toward zero, with something like 26 states now reporting more deaths than births among non-hispanic whites.  There also aren’t a whole lot of Europeans looking to immigrate to the U.S. like their once were, as most poorer Eastern Europeans would prefer to emigrate to or within the E.U.

Little or no growth in the fan base means little or no long-term growth for MLB.  I noticed yesterday that the Miami Marlins are averaging only 9,800 fans a game in attendance this year.  Miami is large metro area with plenty of wealth and with a large Latino population with ancestry mostly from countries where baseball is extremely popular.  Yet the Marlins can’t draw flies.

Some of the Marlins’ attendance problems have to do with a terrible team and a history of unpopular owners.  However, it also seems like greater Miami has decided it can take or leave major league baseball.

In that vein, MLB isn’t helping itself in terms of maximizing fan bases and revenues.  The power plays of the wealthy teams in New York and Los Angeles and the San Francisco Giants, which are preventing third teams from playing in the Inland Empire, northern New Jersey or the A’s from moving to San Jose, is just pure stupidity in the long term.  Major league teams need to be playing where the fans are and will be in the future, particularly if MLB’s national fan base isn’t expanding at the same rate as the other major American team sports.

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The 10 Best Major League Players Who Started Their Pro Careers in the Independent-A Leagues

July 31, 2018

I’ve been following the Independent-A Leagues closely the last few years, and I recently wondered who the best major league players were who started their pro careers in an Indy-A League.  I couldn’t find a decent list, so I decided I’d make one.

One of the things I learned in compiling this list is just how incredibly difficult it is to have a major league career amounting to more than a couple of brief cups of coffee for players who don’t start their professional careers in the MLB-system.  MLB hoovers up just about every player with any shot of ever having a major league career that anyone besides the players themselves would typically remember.  Only a tiny number of players gets overlooked.

That said, it is within the realm of possibility that a player can start his pro career in an Indy-A league and still amount to a successful major league player.  That’s what keeps the dream alive.

Without further ado, here’s the list of the 11 best major league players who started their pro careers in an independent-A league.  Be sure to let me know if I’ve missed anyone who should be included.

1.  J.D. Drew.  J.D. Drew is really an Independent-A league ringer.  He was drafted with the second overall pick of the 1997 Draft by the Phillies.  Before the Draft, Drew and his agent Scott Boras let if be known that Drew was demanding a $10 million signing bonus.  The Phillies called Drew’s bluff, drafted him and offered him $2.6M.

Drew wasn’t bluffing.  When the Phillies refused to come up significantly from their initial offer, Drew refused to sign.  Instead, he spent parts of two seasons thumping the ball for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League (now the American Association).

I haven’t always been a fan of Boras inspired holdouts, but it sure worked for Drew.  The Cardinals drafted Drew with the 5th overall pick in 1998 and signed him for $7 million.  Refusing to sign in 1997 did not significantly delay Drew’s career, as the Cardinals gave him a cup of coffee at the end of the 1998 season, and he was in the majors for good (except for injury rehab assignments) by 1999.

Drew would not be the last early round draft pick to elect to start his career in the Indy-A’s when he couldn’t reach an agreement with his drafting team, as you will see below.  A couple of Cuban defectors, Ariel Prieto and Eddy Oropesa, used the Indy-A Leagues as a means to boost their draft stock — one can argue whether Cuba’s Serie Nacional is an amateur or pro league, but it is effectively amateur in name only, since the players are essentially professionals who are compensated for their performance, although perhaps not in cash.

2.  Kevin Millar.  Millar is in my opinion the best undrafted, unsigned player independent-A league product in major league history.  Every year, many undrafted players are nevertheless signed by major league organizations.  As I understand it, each major league team makes a list shortly before Draft Day of the 500 or 600 players who the team believes are the best amatuer players available.  Each team’s scouts and front offices grade the nation of prospects differently, and every team has at least a few players who aren’t on any other team’s list.  If any of those players go undrafted, then the team that had the player listed will typically sign them up.

Playing for small college Lamar in Texas, Millar went undrafted and unsigned, and thus started his pro career at age 21 with the St. Paul Saints in 1993, the Northern League’s maiden season.  Millar never made an All-Star team or received an MVP vote, but he was a star on the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years.  Millar was also never allowed to join the MLB Players’ Association, because he crossed the picket line during the 1994-1995 strike.

3-5.  George Sherrill, Joe Thatcher and Kerry Ligtenberg.  A trio of relief pitchers who all pitched in between 386 and 442 major league games.  George Sherrill was the Orioles’ closer in 2008 and the first four months of 2009 before being traded to the Dodgers.  He finished his career with a 3.77 ERA, 56 saves and 320 Ks in 324.1 IP.  He started his pro career with Evansville of the Frontier League in 1999.

Joe Thatcher had a nine year career as a left-handed relief specialist.  He was effective in the role, finishing his major league career with a 3.38 ERA and striking out 270 batters in 260.2 innings pitched.  Thatcher began his pro career with River City in the Frontier League in 2004.

Kerry Ligtenberg was the Braves’ closer in 1998 before hurting his arm.  He came back from it, but never pitched as well as he did in 1998.  He finished his major league career with a 3.82 ERA and 357 Ks in 390.2 IP.  He started his pro career in the short-lived North Central and Prairie Leagues in 1994 and 1995.

6.  David Peralta.∗  David Peralta gets an asterisk because he started his professional career as an 18 year old pitcher in the Cardinals’ organization.  He pitched ineffectively for two seasons in the Rookie Appalachian League and was unceremoniously dumped.  He came back four years later as a 23 year old outfielder for the Rio Grand Valley WhiteWings of the short-lived North American Baseball League, and gradually worked his way up the majors three years later in 2014.  He’s still active and having a solid season at age 30, so he could well move up this list in the future.

7.  Aaron Crow.  Another high first round draft pick who refused to sign a contract with the Nationals, Crow made four appearances (three starts) with the Ft. Worth Cats of the American Association in 2008 and 2009 in order to prove he was still worth a high 1st round draft pick by the Royals in 2009.

Crow had four strong seasons as a set-up man in the Royals bullpen from 2011-2014 before his arm gave out.  He compiled a 3.43 career major league ERA and struct out 208 batters in 233.2 IP while recording six saves.

Crow is attempting a comeback in the Mexican League this summer at age 31.  While he is pitching effectively (2.33 ERA in 19 relief appearances so far), his peripheral numbers don’t suggest he’ll make it back to the majors in the near future.

8.  Daniel Nava.  Nava started his professional career at the advanced age of 24 with the Chico Outlaws of the long since defunct Golden Baseball League.  He hit a grand slam in his first major league game in 2010 (as I recall, the outfielder may have actually tipped the ball over the wall with the end of his glove), and he was a star for the 2013 World Champion Red Sox when he slashed .303/.385/.445 as an every day outfielder who split his time between right field and left field.

Nava has managed to play parts of seven major league seasons, and at age 35 he’s still listed as part of the Pirates’ AAA team, although he has yet to play a game this season because of injury.

9.  Jeff Zimmerman.  Zimmerman finished his three year major league career as the closer for the Rangers before injuries, including two Tommy John surgeries, ruined his career.  He started with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League in 1997.

10T.  Matt Miller and Chris Coste.  Miller was a relief pitcher who pitched in an even 100 major league games with a career 2.72 ERA with 95 Ks in 106 IP.  He was a 31 year old rookie for the Rockies in 2003, but enjoyed most of his major league success starting with the Indians in 2004.  His professional career began with Greenville of the short-lived Big South League in 1996.

Chris Coste was the Phillies’ primary back-up catcher for four seasons starting with his age 33 season in 2006.  He began his pro career in the North Central and Prairie Leagues in 1995 and then spent four seasons with his home town Fargo-Moorehead Red Hawks of the Northern League before being signed by the Indians’ organization.  The North Central and Prairie Leagues may not have lasted long, but in Coste and Kerry Ligtenberg, these leagues gave first shots to two young Minnesota ballplayers who eventually made the big time and proved they belonged there.

Other players who had more than brief major league cups of coffee who began their pro careers in the independent A leagues are Chris Colabello, Brian Tollberg, James Hoyt, Chris Jakubauskas, Scott Richmond, Brian Sweeney, Chris Martin, Trevor Richards and Bobby Hill.  Hoyt, Martin and Richards are all still active and have at least a reasonable shot at adding to their career major league numbers.

Bobby Hill was drafted in the second round in consecutive seasons and presumably started his career in the Atlantic League in 2000 because he refused to sign after the White Sox drafted him the year before.  Scott Richmond started his professional career in the Northern League in 2005 at the age of 25, which makes him the oldest rookie professional baseball player I found to eventually make the majors after starting in the Indy-A leagues (MLB organizations never or almost never sign any amateur over the age of 23).

Baltimore Orioles Trade Manny Machado for a Boatload of Dodger Prospects

July 19, 2018

There was a lot of talk about how this year was going to be a buyers’ market at the trade deadline and that clubs were not going to pay a fortune for short-term rentals and instead hold a firm line like they did last off-season with free agents.  Well, somebody was sure wrong — the Orioles got five prospects from the Dodgers for only 2.5 months of Manny Machado, and the Dodgers took on all of Manny’s remaining 2018 salary!

This move can only be seen as a huge win for the Orioles.  Manny wasn’t going to make them competitive this year, and the O’s got a whole, whole lot more than the sandwich pick they would have received by tendering Machado a qualifying offer this coming off-season.  For the Dodgers, well, they’re trying to win the World Series, and Machado certainly gives them a better chance of doing that.

The main prospect, 21 year old Cuban Yusniel Diaz, has been rumored for the last couple of days as the key piece in this deal for the O’s.  There was some talk that the Dodgers would send Logan Forsythe and the dying embers of his dog of a contract to the Orioles to balance out the money, but that this would mean that the Dodgers would have to include at least one more good prospect.  The Orioles didn’t take on Forsythe’s contract, but they still got a bunch of good prospects.

22 year old right-hander Dean Kramer has 125 Ks in 86 IP in 16 Class A+ starts and one AA start.  21 year old righty Zach Pop (great name) has a 1.04 ERA with 47 Ks in 43.1 IP while allowing only 25 hits in a season so far split between full season A ball and Class A+.  22 year old 2B/3B Rylan Bannon has a .961 OPS at Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga, although he may not be able to stick defensively at either of these positions.

The least of the prospects the O’s received is also the only one with major league experience.  26 year old Breyvic Valera‘s future major league role, if any, will almost certainly be as a jack-of-all-trades back-up guy.  There are certainly major league roster spots for Valera’s kind of player so long as they hit just enough.

One thing to be said for the Dodgers — none of Kramer, Pop or Bannon was drafted higher than the 7th round, which suggests that the Dodgers have a very deep farm system with a lot of over-achieving prospects to deal away in July.  In that sense, the trade reminds me of one of those old-school trades when MLB was dominated by the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals, and these “haves” would trade away a boatload of minor leaguers who were probably never going to be good enough to start for these teams to “have-nots” like the Orioles for the “have-not” team’s best player.

Maybe only Diaz ever amounts to much and Valera ends up as a useful major league back-up, while all of Kramer, Pop and Bannon get hurt or reach their ceiling when they hit the high minors.  Even so, the Orioles got a whole lot of talent compared to what they would have gotten holding on to Machado.  Now we have to wait and see if this trade is a one-off, or if other buyers now feel they have pay dearly to help their post-season chances.

Two More 1st Round Draft Picks Fail to Sign

July 7, 2018

Two more First Round Draft picks failed to get signed and will instead by pitching in college next year.  The Atlanta Braves failed to sign 8th overall pick Carter Stewart, and the Arizona Diamondbacks failed to sign 25th overall pick Matt McLain.  Add to those two, the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign 36th overall pick Gunnar Hogland.  For what it’s worth, all three unsigned 1st rounders and Hogland are high school right handed pitchers.

The 8th overall pick came with a $4.9807M slot value, but medical tests after Stewart was selected raised issues for the Brave, and according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, the Braves’ final offer came “a lot closer” to the 40% of the slot amount ($1.992M+) the Braves had to offer to get the 9th overall pick in 2019 than the full slot amount.

Assuming that the Braves offered something around $2.5M, Stewart should have signed, but I can at least understand why he elected to attend Mississippi State with J.T. Ginn, the Dodgers’ unsigned first round selection.  It has to be disappointing to be selected this high and not receive an offer close to the slot amount when you have the leverage of being able to elect college.

On the other hand, the D’backs are reported to have offered McLain the full $2.6364M slot amount even though none of Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN, or fangraphs had him ranked in the top 50 of this year’s prospects.  McLain should have took the money.

Hoglund is another prospect who didn’t make any of the major raters’ top 50 (fangraphs had him at 55th), but didn’t sign.  However, mlbtraderumors.com doesn’t report any rumors as to what the Pirates offered him.

The four unsigned prospects is probably a single season Draft record.  Factors that may be contributing to the failed signings is that a four scholarship at a major university is now worth $200,000+.  College players at major programs get to be campus heroes and probably receive all kinds of perqs like personal tutors.  College athletes also make all kinds of connections that can help them in business after their playing careers are over.

Another factor is that MLB teams have shown that top pitching prospects can blow out their elbow tendons and still be first round draft picks.  Brady Aiken and Jeff Hoffman are two recent prospects who were drafted in the 1st round after having Tommy John surgery.  (It’s worth noting, though, that neither Aiken or Hoffman has done much yet to justify their high draft positions.)  That makes it a lot less risky for high school pitchers to elect to go to college rather than accept a $2M+ signing bonus to start their professional careers.

Los Angeles Dodgers Fail to Sign First Round Draft Pick J.T. Ginn

July 6, 2018

J.T. Ginn is a right-handed high school pitcher who was the 30th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, which came with a $2,275,800 slot amount.  He has elected to matriculate at Mississippi State, where he can re-enter the Draft in 2020 as a 21 year old sophomore.

Without knowing what the Dodgers’ last, best bonus offer was it’s hard to know why Ginn failed to sign.  In his statement, he said that playing college baseball at Mississippi State was his “lifelong dream” but that his “ultimate goal” was to play in the major leagues.  Ginn is from Mississippi, which perhaps explains his desire to pitch for Mississippi State.

That said, if the Dodgers offered Ginn even $2.3 million, which is likely given that as a high schooler Ginn could threaten to go to college, then I think that Ginn is making a mistake.  I tend to think the odds are better that Ginn will be drafted lower in 2020 than higher than his current 30th place selection.  It’s just too easy to get hurt or have a mediocre season and have your draft stock drop.

If your ultimate goal is to be a major league pitcher, take the $2M+ and start your professional career.  You can always go to college later or in the off-season.

It’s possible the Dodgers offered Ginn as much as $2.5M or $2.6M, because the mlbtraderumors.com article I just read says that it’s believed the Dodgers have enough to give their 2nd round pick as much as $300,000 above slot, even with the loss of Ginn’s slot amount.

The loss isn’t that big a deal for the Dodgers who will get the 31st pick in next year’s draft to compensate for Ginn not signing.  Still, it’s a year deferred.  Typically, teams try to work out these issues with potential draft picks before the draft so they don’t get left high and dry on their top selections.  Apparently, the Dodgers thought they had an understanding they didn’t have, or they were hoping against hope that they’d be able to convince Ginn to sign.

Go East, Jabari Blash!

June 29, 2018

It’s definitely time for Jabari Blash to take his talents to East Asia.  He turns 29 in six days, and he’s currently playing in AAA for the Salt Lake City Bees, where his 1.237 OPS leads the Pacific Coast League by 214 basis points.  Salt Lake City has always been a great place to hit, but even so.

There’s still an outside chance that Blash could establish himself as MLB major league platoon player, but at his age it’s looking increasingly unlikely.  He’s now had exactly 300 major league plate appearances in which he’s slashed .194/.317/.320 including a 2-for-18 stint with the Angels this year.

It’s time for Blash to wake up and smell the coffee.  The talent is there, as attested by his career .918 minor league OPS in slightly more than 3,000 plate appearances, but it is time to realize that most major league teams are going to see him as a 4-A player who is just too old to give a real shot unless a couple of major league outfielders get hurt.

If I were an NPB or KBO General Manager, I’d be falling all over myself trying to convince Blash to sign a contract.  Asian teams love power, and Blash has that in spades.  Players of Blash’s proven AAA abilities tend to do very well in Asian baseball unless they just can’t adjust quickly to playing abroad.

Blash was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and attended high school there for at least some time before coming to the U.S. proper (he went to a Junior College in Miami), so he’s already had to adjust to a new culture.

The Doosan Bears needed a new foreign player after Jimmy Paredes washed out, but elected to sign 31 year old Scott Van Slyke for a reported $320,000 for the second half.  Van Slyke was the safe pick based on his more extensive MLB major league experience, but Paredes’ significant major league experience didn’t pan out this year in South Korea.

The Bears are in a pennant race, so I can see why they probably thought Van Slyke would be a safer bet to hit the ground running, but in my mind Blash’s upside would have been worth $500,000 for half a season and the likely much higher transfer fee that the Angels would likely have demanded for Blash.

Van Slyke has a lot of MLB major league experience because he has dramatic platoon splits.  4-A players with dramatic platoon splits can be valuable major league platoon players.  Asian teams, who are looking for 4-A players who can play every day are almost always better off selecting a player with small platoon splits who aren’t worth as much to MLB major league teams.

Blash has big platoon splits in a limited sample size at the major league level, but he obviously has hit right-handed pitchers well enough in the minor leagues.

My Favorite Minor League Stars 2018

June 8, 2018

Every year I like to write a post about minor league players whom few have ever of, but who have either carved out relatively successful professional careers or have simply just kept playing because of their abilities and love for the game.

Mike Loree and Josh Lowey.  Two pitchers who never reached the major leagues, but have carved out professional success because they can pitch.  Loree is currently one of the all-time foreign greats in Taiwan’s CPBL, and Lowey is arguably the top starter in the Mexican League (LMB) at this moment.

Loree is in his 6th season in the CPBL (and 7th in Asia), and he was arguably the league’s best pitcher in each of his first four full seasons in Taiwan.  This year at age 33 his 4.22 ERA is currently only 5th best in a four team circuit, but he leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, with 90 in the latter category.  The CPBL is an extreme hitters’ league, and there is still plenty of time to put himself back on top of the league’s pitchers.

Josh Lowey is in his fifth season in LMB and his ranking in the Mexican League is so similar to Mike Loree in the CPBL that it’s scary.  Lowey is also 33.  His 2.58 ERA is 6th best in a 16 team circuit.  He leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, with 79 in the latter category.  Both Loree and Lowey had shots a few years back in South Korea’s KBO, but neither made it despite showing something.

I’m hoping that Josh Lowey pitches in the CPBL next year (it’s a step up from LMB), so I can see what the two do pitching in the same league.

Cyle Hankerd and Blake Gailen.  Two more guys who have never reached the MLB majors (or come particularly close) but who can play.  Hankerd, who was once a 3rd Round draft pick out of USC, is in his fifth season in LMB.  His .949 OPS is currently 22nd best in the league.

Gailen is back in the Atlantic League this year, the best of the Indy-A’s.  His .813 OPS is currently 16th best in an eight team circuit.  Gailen sometimes gets signed mid-year to play for an MLB organization’s AA or AAA team when someone gets hurt — he had a .871 OPS in 167 plate appearances for AA Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system last year — but he’s spent most of the last seven seasons in the Atlantic League.

Gailen spent two winters playing in Mexico and part of the 2014 season playing in LMB.  However, he apparently prefers to pay for peanuts in the U.S.  For players like Hankerd and Gailen, LMB and the top four Caribbean winter leagues (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela) are the end of the line, because CPBL teams no longer sign hitters and South Korea’s KBO teams want hitters with at least a little MLB major league experience.  Both Hankerd and Gailen are also 33 this season.

Chris Roberson.  Now in his age 38 season, he’s the American King of Mexican baseball.  He’s played eight seasons in LMB and at least 13 seasons in Mexico’s even better winter league (MXPW or LMP).  His .967 OPS is currently 18th best in the 16 team LMB.

Roberson is almost certainly the best paid foreign player in Mexico, and I’d guess he makes $90,000 to $100,000 a year in both leagues combined in terms of total value of his compensation (officially, LMB’s foreign players cap at $8,000 per month in salary for a 4.5 month season, but rumors have it that the perks are huge; LMP probably pays better on a monthly basis, but it’s only a 2.5 month season).  Roberson played enough in the MLB majors back in 2006-2007 to earn an MLB pension, so it’s all good for player who managed only 72 major league plate appearances.

The beauty of LMB is that with its roughly AA level of play, players (mostly from Latin America) who have aged out of the MLB system can earn a living wage, at Mexico’s cost of living, playing into their late 30’s or even early 40’s if they are good enough and age gracefully.  Roberson is a poster boy, but there are a lot of other players about whom the same can also be said.

Karl Galinas and Isaac Pavlik.  Two Can-Am League pitchers, they are the modern day equivalent of Lefty George.  George was a marginal major leaguer who pitched nearly forever in his adopted home town of York, Pennsylvania, where he also ran a bar.

Galinas and Pavlik never reached the majors (or came close) but they have pitched for years in respectively, Quebec City and northern New Jersey.  Both are local boys, and it looks like Galinas in involved in the management of the Quebec Capitales, which may explain why he’s continued to be the team ace.

Alas, it looks like 2017 was Pavlik’s last season.  It was more than a good run with 13 seasons pitched for the New Jersey Jackels.  At age 38 now, it’s hard to justify spending 4.5 months each year pitching for a lousy $10,000.  You can’t live in New Jersey on that unless you spend your nights in a cardboard box or a beat-up vehicle.

Galinas has pitched 12 seasons for the Capitales, and at age 35 (happy birthday, Karl!), he’s still one of the league’s best pitchers in the early going.  Pavlik and Galinas the top two pitchers (in that order) in the Can-Am League in terms of career wins, losses, innings pitched and strikeouts.

To be honest, I’m not sure how the Can-Am League has lasted so long.  Attendance does not match that of either the Atlantic League or the American Association, particularly when it comes to the top teams.  What Galinas and Pavlik have accomplished is simply amazing.

Orlando Roman‘s baseball odyssey appears to have ended with four starts in Puerto Rico this past winter.  He pitched professionally for 19 seasons without ever reaching the MLB majors.  He used the CPBL as a spring board for four so-so seasons in Japan’s NPB where he pitched just well enough to earn more than $1 million.  With four years in the CPBL sandwiching his four years in Japan, plus all his winter league seasons, I’d guess Roman made close to $2 million in his professional career, which beats just about anything else he might reasonably have been doing.

It also looks like Brian “Beef” Burgamy‘s 16 year pro career concluded at the end of the 2017 season.  He compiled more than 8,000 professional plate appearances without ever playing above the AA/LMB level.

There are so many young or youngish or not-so-young players in the Atlantic League and LMB who can play but will likely never again play at a higher level than the top four winter Caribbean winter leagues or the CPBL that I can’t describe them all here.  Cuban defector Yadir Drake played so well in the first half of the 2017 LMB season that he got a shot in Japan, but he couldn’t cut it with the Nippon Ham Fighters, and he’s back in LMB this year.  It’s a big jump from the Mexican League to the major league money paid by the KBO or NPB, and few players can do it.