Carleton: Is it really hard to scout in New England?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on June 24, 2014:

The Cape Cod League is the premier summer baseball league for college players. A good summer on The Cape might just make you a million dollars at draft time. I’m told there’s also a local professional team in the New England area that has had some recent success too, so good for them. And yet, in scouting circles, New England is seen as something of a desert wasteland. The standard explanation is that sure, there are athletes good enough to play professional baseball in New England. The problem is that players in Stars Hollow, Connecticut just don’t get the reps that they do in Georgia, because there’s a lot more baseball weather (read: time that it isn’t snowing) in the South.

The geography of where baseball players come from is a fascinating topic (and makes for a great map!) Matt Swartz recently noted that counties with warmer weather (and bigger incomes) were more likely to produce major leaguers. New England actually turns out rather well on the income distribution, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire ranking fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively, among the 50 states in median income, so it must be the cold and snow that’s holding the region back from producing MLB talent. Or is it?

Is it really that hard to scout in New England? A few weeks ago, I studied how well teams were doing when it came to properly evaluating prospects for the MLB draft. The answer was that teams weren’t doing as well as we might think. The links between signing bonuses and draft positions and basic outcomes like whether the draftee made it to the majors or produced five career WAR were actually only moderate. I choose to interpret that as “Prospecting is hard” rather than “Teams are doing a bad job.” But I got to wondering whether New England’s reputation is actually well-earned. Do teams have a harder time scouting cold climes than warmer ones? Is there something else at work here?

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Originally published: June 24, 2014. Last Updated: June 24, 2014.