I was fortunate enough to sit in on a Q&A session with John Mozeliak and Team President Bill DeWitt III. When it was my turn to ask a question, there was only one thing I wanted more information on and that was the Cardinals’ international scouting department.
One of the biggest head-scratching moves of the off-season was the signing of Miles Mikolas. The move seemingly came from out of nowhere for the fan, but not for the Cardinals’ international scouting department. The St. Louis Cardinals committed $15.5 million to a player who never experienced success at the major league level. That’s not usually a recipe for success, but Mozeliak knew what he was doing.
After a couple of rough starts to the season, Mikolas has been very good out of the gate to start 2018. I have been intrigued ever since the signing happened. After a small sample size, Mikolas is proving the doubters wrong. That’s why I had to ask the question when I had a chance.
The “Cheshire Cat”
I wanted to know why the Cardinals were so confident about their decision and what made them go after a guy like Mikolas. So I asked Bill DeWitt III personally. The question is asked at the 22:54 mark in the clip.
What I thought was great was when Mr. DeWitt said that Mo and Girsch had a “Cheshire Cat” look when they said they thought they found a guy. They trusted their analytics and international scouting. What those two departments gave the front office was the confidence to pull the trigger on one of the savviest moves of the offseason.
To take the comparison that Bill DeWitt III offered up, let’s look at Mikolas and Jake Arrieta so far this year.
Just on the surface, these two pitchers look very similar with the exception of Arrieta’s ERA. Dive deeper though and they start to look even closer than that.
Arrieta’s xFIP sits at 3.76 and he’s walking batters at a rate of 2.92 BB/9. Mikolas, on the other hand, sports a 3.22 xFIP and 0.69 BB/9. Arrieta doesn’t give up as many home runs. On the other hand, Mikolas doesn’t walk batters. So like Mr. DeWitt said, Mikolas might not be Arrieta, but he’s darn close. In fact, the early peripherals tell me that Mikolas might even be better.
For a closer look at Mikolas’ repertoire and his success this season, I highly suggest you check out Steven McNeil’s piece on Mikolas last week.
And that’s why Mo and Co. grinned like the Cheshire Cat. The St. Louis Cardinals have strengthened their efforts in the international market. It’s what brought players like Mikolas, Carlos Martinez, and the late Oscar Taveras. Point being, these guys know what they’re doing.
Investing in the International Market
The investment into international scouting is not a new development for the St. Louis Cardinals. They have been active in the international market before. Players like So Taguchi and Seung Hwan Oh came from the international market. Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes did as well. The international market also brought in Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra, two key pieces in the trade to bring Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis.
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According to Bill DeWitt III, Mozeliak and his staff have figured out a way to translate international player performance to expected Major League equivalents. If what we are seeing now is proof of that, then the St. Louis Cardinals have indeed begun to receive a return on their international scouting investments. In short, they have found the magic formula that will translate international success to expected Major League success.
Not every international baseball star will turn into the next Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, or Yu Darvish. Investing in the international market has inherent risks. This is not unlike investing in the stock market. The only difference here is that every investment is a seven-figure one. That’s why it is so crucial for teams to get it right and hit on the right international free agents.
With players like Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Alex Reyes, and Ozuna (by way of Alcantara and Sierra) it appears that Mozeliak’s staff has finally figured out a way to properly evaluate those investments. They have been so successful that they have now positioned this team to be very competitive for years to come.
This is just another reason why this front office deserves much more credit than many of us fans and bloggers give them. Keep up the good work Mr. Mozeliak. I cannot wait to see the next player that brings out the Cheshire Cat in you again.