Re: Reds sign 18-year-old catcher from Czech Republic
The pitcher in question the Cubs found was RHP Alessandro Maestri, a 21 year old currently relieving down in the Northwest League (short season A). His numbers on the season:
8 G, 15.2 IP, 2-1, 2.87 ERA, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 12/5 K/BB.
His upside is that of a decent reliever, to my understanding.
After giving some thought to the subject of international scouting, I've recently come to something of a subject to get up on a pulpit about. As things stand right now in baseball, there are only a small handful of nations that regularly produce quality baseball players and that also foster a positive atmosphere for children who would be interested in playing baseball. Off the top of my head, those nations are the US, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Korea. Granted, there are players that hail from a number of other nations throughout baseball, but the majority of the Japanese and American professional leagues are made up of players from those countries.
Yet, clearly, this is not because of a lack of athletes capable of playing baseball professionally, given proper instruction. However, scouting in those areas is becoming increasingly competitive and expensive. The recent sagas involving this year's crop of players from the DR and Venezuela showcased this quite well. It's becoming much harder for smaller budget teams in those areas to snatch up these guys. Heck, it's near-impossible for MLB teams to sign kids out of Japanese high schools as it is.
So...why not expand beyond those areas? Look at what's happened to the NBA and college basketball over the past decade. Guys hailing from every continent save for Antarctica have been selected in the NBA draft in recent years and the game has benefited from that influx of talent. Some of these guys have been incredibly raw, but enough guys have been turning out well enough to justify continuing internatiobnal scouting, academies, camps, and so on.
I think baseball is on the right track with this particular academy. However, continuing to explore these avenues could be quite beneficial in the long run for a number of teams and baseball as a whole. Bud Selig wants to give the game more international appeal, so what better way than having teams set up more academies and baseball camps in places such as Ghana, Brazil, China, and so on? The competition and cost to sign these guys would probably be much easier on smaller budget teams looking to add some talent on the cheap.
Perhaps these efforts have been ongoing and I haven't heard about them. I'm willing to accept that possibility. Still, it would be rather interesting for a team to experiment with that.