According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, 12 major-league organizations field two teams at the Dominican Summer League level of the minor leagues. Out of the 13 teams that signed the most international amateur free agents in 2015, 10 of them have two DSL rosters to fill. The Padres, however, only field one team, and they signed 38 international amateurs last year, seventh-most in the league.
There are at least a few obvious benefits to a two-team approach.
- It allows for more players. The Yankees signed a staggering 57 international players in 2015, but they have two 38-man rosters to fill, making it logistically possible. They also have two Gulf Coast League teams and a total of 10 minor-league affiliates. Signing a bunch of players for $10,000-or-under bonuses may not qualify as the most exciting foreign approach, but as Badler notes, considering the age when these players are signed (usually 16 or 17), there’s a lot of room for growth—and a lot of room for evaluative missteps. In other words, not surprisingly, it’s really hard to peg the expected career path of a 16-year-old kid who doesn’t have much of a performance track-record and who hasn’t even finished physically growing yet. Sometimes quantity beats quality, and having more teams in the pipeline makes that an easier strategy to pull off.
- It allows for more patience. Consider the logjam that can develop when you keep signing hordes of young players but only have one team on which to place them. You’re forced to either move a player up to a different level (the rookie-league AZL Padres or Low-A Tri-City, for example), which could cause other players to be moved up prematurely, or cut bait, which probably isn’t desirable given the volatile nature of the under-20-year-old baseball player. Theoretically there are other ways to stash a player, but if a team wants that guy to get professional experience, there are only so many opportunities. And if a 17- or 18-year-old prospect displays even the slightest hints of a big-league future, they’re probably worth keeping around for a longer look.
- A competitive advantage. For whatever reason, the entire NL West is light on minor-league affiliates. None of the five teams have an extra DSL squad, and only the Diamondbacks have eight satellite teams in their entire system (the rest have seven). If the Padres added another DSL team, they’d get a leg up on teams like the Dodgers and Giants, and any potential advantage—particularly one in player development—is one that should be snatched up pronto.