Yesterday, they made an attempt to prove me wrong. The Yankees signed Australian pitcher Brandon Stenhouse to a six-figure deal. The right-hander is just 17-years-old.
The move took the team even farther over their 2013-14 international spending limit, which isn’t awesome, but displaying any type of commitment to garnering young talent is.
Stenhouse reportedly harbored a childhood dream of pitching for the Yankees. He impressed scouts over the last couple of years by consistently hitting speeds in the low 90s with his fastball. In addition to the large dollar amount, the Yankees also included an educational scholarship in his deal.
According to the New York Post, Yankees Australian scout John Wadsworth said, “I have been waiting for many years to see if Brandon Stenhouse had the physical and mental makeup to be considered as a possible Yankee. I am pleased to see just how far this young man has progressed and his future is exciting to us all.”
I’ll say. The plan for Stenhouse is that he’ll report to Tampa for a two-week orientation before returning to Australia to finish up high school. Then, he’ll be stateside for good, working to eventually become a great Yankee pitcher.
In addition to seeking young talent, it’s also great to see the Yankees exploring an emerging market. Australia certainly doesn’t yet have the staying power of Japan as far as developing consistent, MLB-caliber talent, but it’s certainly on the rise. In fact, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers will play their first series of the 2014 season in Sydney.
Specific historical information about the origins of baseball is spotty for all countries, U.S. included, but baseball has reportedly been around in Australia since the mid-1800s. After a failed professional league, MLB got involved in 2009 and now owns 75 percent of the Australian Baseball League (ABL). MLB pays all ABL player salaries and also started the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program in 2001 to help develop young players.
It is in MLB’s best interest to have as many outlets for player development as possible – the more streams feeding into the pipeline, the better. The Yankees have simply joined the movement by investing so largely in a young Australian talent. And frankly, I find it refreshing to see the team exploring a diverse range of possibilities.