Major League Baseball is making a sweeping change to its operations in Latin America. In an email sent to front office officials on Friday, baseball's Dominican Republic point man Sandy Alderson announced that the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau will expand its operations to include Latin America.
The scouting bureau is a centralized group of player evaluators -- independent of any team -- which files scouting reports on players entering the June draft. Now the bureau will also file reports and video as well as organize showcases in Latin America, where players are amateur free agents and currently not subject to the draft. The bureau reports provide another source of information for general managers, owners and other team officials to cross-reference against the scouting reports submitted by team employees.
Several Latin American scouting directors contacted by SI.com see the expansion of MLB's scouting bureau as a step toward incorporating Latin American countries into the draft. Alderson, however, told SI.com, "I wouldn't interpret this as a step towards the draft." He described the bureau's Latin American expansion as a way "to provide clubs as well as the commissioner's office with independent evaluations," and "to simply provide more information with which clubs can make informed judgments."
Independent evaluations could have an immediate impact on preventing the sort of fraud that has plagued the Latin American market and led to several FBI investigations in recent years. Team officials have submitted overly favorable scouting reports on prospects as a means to inflate their bonuses and then pocket the money. Dominican-based buscones -- those who train, feed and house amateur prospects in exchange for a percentage of their future signing bonus -- could feel the greatest impact from organized MLB showcases. The buscones, who are independent of teams and MLB, have built their industry and made their money by privately training, showcasing and marketing their prospects, so a centralized, MLB-sponsored showcase of those players could affect their bottom line.
"I'm all for it," said one international team official who did not have the authorization of his club to speak on the record. "Anything that organizes Latin America is a positive step."
The expansion of MLB's scouting bureau marks the second significant move by Alderson since commissioner Bud Selig announced his appointment on March 8. In his first week on the job Alderson removed MLB's lead official in Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic is baseball's largest foreign talent pool and in recent years its most problematic, with a disproportionate number of prospects testing positive for performance-enhancing substances and engaging in age and identity fraud. Alderson, a former Oakland Athletics general manger, San Diego Padres CEO and MLB vice president, has been tasked with implementing changes to reduce such improprieties.