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What's the next New Frontier in player development?

Teams have always been searching for the next “market inefficiency.”

MLB Photos via Getty Images

Decades ago, players were largely on their own for getting better in baseball. Or, maybe they weren't. Some teams have always been better in some aspects. Those of us on the outside wave banners, and say our team's methods are good and proper.

One team that did "something that worked" was the Pirates in the sixties. They somewhat focused on minority players for a stretch, bringing Al Oliver, Dave Cash, Dock Ellis and scads more to a base that already included Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. To an extent, they encouraged “flair,” which was almost forbidden as the 1970s began. The Pirates were one of the near-dynasties in that decade.

I'm not entirely sure what Athletics owner Charlie Finley was doing in the sixties and 1970s, but his A's rode early draft success (Rick Monday and Reggie Jackson) to three straight titles, and they had boatloads of pitching. They also encouraged individuality.

As time progressed, and incrementally, international talent, coaching, body sculpting, and other aspects became important. The Yankees and Red Sox became rather useful at acquiring extra draft selections, by acquiring players with expiring contracts, until that went away. The Cubs had their recent run of success by not missing in early draft rounds. The Astros' drum beat was in part an Edgertronic revolution, explaining from a computer perspective why players are likely to succeed.

With the likelihood of teams being down to 125 or 150 players stateside below the MLB level going forward, team front offices are working in between efforts by ownership to make their job much harder. Top picks, as always, will be important. Players outside the top 15 rounds — when MLB goes back to having more than a five-round draft — will no longer be guaranteed a roster spot in the system. What will be the next New Frontier in player development? David Seifert, Director of College Scouting for @D1Baseball and @PrepBaseball, replied to my tweet on the subject and guessed the Dodgers have an idea:

By the time a player becomes a popular star, or a major prospect, it's too late to acquire him. By the time your team's player is exposed, it's too late to trade him. Regardless ofyour stance on ownership's methods to make their job easier, it will continue to do just that. Eventually, baseball will be somewhat back to what it was in 2019. The organizations that turn the cocoa beans of prospects into the best MLB players will have an edge over teams that don't. What will bring about the next brew of players, and who will execute it? Which teams from the past best did what to create wins from youngsters?