Coaching & Player Development (Photo WBUR.org)

Mets And Yanks: How Cross Pollination Can Help Player Development

Between the Mets and Yankees, the teams select eighty players in the annual June Amateur Draft. What happens after that, though, is often a shame.

Here’s a list of the 40 players the Mets selected in last year’s Amateur Draft in June. And here’s the corresponding list for the New York Yankees. If we put both files in a bottle, and five years from now a fan found the bottle washed up to shore at Jones Beach, how many names would the fan recognize, and would any of these players have made it to the big leagues?

Five years ago, the Mets selected these 40 players in the 2014 Draft. I only recognize one player from the list playing in the major leagues. He’s now the team’s centerfielder and budding superstar, Michael Conforto. The Yankees fared slightly better with their 2014 Draft, with Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Holder making it to the big club. And that’s it as near as I can tell.

It goes without saying that gazing at the future of any 17-year-old is a risky business, and that’s doubled-down on when it comes to athletes who are susceptible to injury setbacks every day they take the field.

But still, is it not a valid question to ask what happened to these 75 or so players the Mets and Yankees believed in – to the point where the teams shelled out signing bonuses of $1 million or more to a handful of the prospects? What happened – or more significantly to the point of this story – what did not happen that should have happened – that would have allowed for the advancement of more players to the teams that drafted them?

Gavin Cecchini, 1st round draft pick released by the Mets (Photo: NY Post)
Gavin Cecchini, 1st round draft pick released by the Mets (Photo: NY Post)

What happened, for instance, to Gavin Cecchini, who was just released and was drafted by the New York Mets in the 1st round (12th) of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft from Alfred M. Barbe HS (Lake Charles, LA)? Similarly, why is Chance Adams still floundering around in the Yankees organization, despite the yearly hype claiming him to be a “comer”?

The beginning of a possible answer to these questions might lie in an area wholly divorced from baseball. Successful parenting requires the feeding, nurturing, and guidance of a child from day one. We see and know the differences between good and poor parenting. Yes, in some cases, some children amount to nothing solely of their own volition, despite great efforts by parents to divert them otherwise. But by and large, we are all the product of our upbringing.

So, the question becomes, what kind of parents are the Mets and Yankees when it comes to the children they adopt every year in the Amateur Draft? Or, to express the question differently, are the Mets and Yankees providing adequate coaching for their prospects in the minor leagues?

To the extent the Mets and Yankees are trying, all of their minor leagues are fully stocked with coaches. But my question is this – are these coaches the best the Mets and Yankees have to offer? Not likely, since the best and highest paying jobs are reserved for the coaches at the big league level. Drill a little deeper, and this question arises. Who is in greater need of coaching – Aaron Judge or John Doe who was just assigned to Class A Charleston to play for the Yankees?

Chili Davis, former Yankee and now hitting instructor (Photo: Boston Herald)
Chili Davis, former Yankee and now hitting instructor (Photo: Boston Herald)

Enough foreplay. Here’s the crux of the point to help rectify this injustice. The Mets and Yankees can benefit by allowing for cross-pollination among their coaches throughout their organization(s). For instance, if we assume that Chili Davis, the Mets new hitting instructor, is the best they have – then why not spread his talents around a little bit?

Have Davis switch places with the hitting instructor at Triple-A Syracuse for a week or two, and make it a point for all of the Mets and Yankees coaches to do the same at various junctures of a season. The theory behind this is simple. Coaches, much like teachers we had in school, do not have universal success with all of their students. What works with one student fails miserably with another.

Cucumbers Cross-Pollinate. Why not coaches and ballplayers? (Photo: Oakley Originals)
Cucumbers Cross-Pollinate (Photo: Oakley Originals)

So, why shouldn’t the Mets and Yankees spread that pollen into far-reaching places where chances of a “hit” between Coach X and Player X increase exponentially? And once a hit is established, keep that relationship going with texts, video, and off-season communication between the coach and player who “hit it off.”

Oops, almost forgot. There’s that ego thing, and why would Chili Davis (example only) want to change his room at the Hyatt for one at the Holiday Inn, taking bus rides instead of a chartered plane for a week or two? Sorry, Charlie, this is a management decision, and it’s now part of your job description. Take it or leave it.

If cross-pollination can happen between a zucchini and a pumpkin, as it does in science and plant life, why can’t it work between a coach and a ballplayer? Evidently, the Mets and Yankees might do well to think outside the box in this way…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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One comment

  1. I think you raise an interesting argument. You might be interested in this podcast about investments in colleges (perhaps it even inspired your argument)– http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/06-my-little-hundred-million

    One thing I’d wonder is whether in fact the best coaches are in the majors? Aaron Boones for example didn’t work his way through the coaching ranks. He was hired because he was an agreeable person with baseball experience and openness to modern analysis. It’s quite possible the best coaches are already in the minor leagues because hiring major league coaches is more about optics than it is about finding people are under-the-radar good baseball teachers.

What do you think?

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