We need to draft better and do a better job of identifying and signing LA prospects. We seem to do far better identifying, signing, and developing pitchers than we do hitters -- yet we've devoted an outsized fraction of our bonus resources to position players. I'll prefix this remark by saying that the present administration seems to have done a better job with the past two #1 draft picks, but over the past decade, we've seemed to not know what to look for, whip sawing back in forth between drooling over very incomplete on non-baseball players who were either athletic types who ran well or guys with batting practice power an no other visible tools. In both cases 'they'll pick up that hit tool and learn to actually play defense' seemed to be the mantra. From Burrell to Utley to Bohm and Stott, our position player successes with the #1 have been when we ignored the H.S. kids and their tempting ceiling. When we went for H.S. kids with a very narrow range of tools, we had fiascos. The same in LA: early exit from baseball for Encarnacion and his #1 million bonus and looking a bit iffy (but still reasonable chance) for Jhailyn Ortiz and his $4 million bonus. During that time, how much bonus money did we spend on LA pitchers. Secret sauces are tough to keep secret, so expecting to continue to get by depending on Sal magically finding low-bonus, developable arms is going to lose value.
If I were Middleton or MacPhail, I'd insist upon two things going forward: 1) stick with college kids if you are drafting a position player at #1 and 2) spend a higher percentage of bonus money on pitchers. Yes, H.S. players like Harper have slipped down later in first round and Rollins was a 2nd rounder, but you have to focus where your scouting and development talents lie. Sal has shown 'the touch' for finding gem-in-the-rough' pitching talent and he found Ruiz. He continues to find interesting, lower cost catching talent. He has shown himself and his scouts to be less than average talent at identifying other plus position players at positions other than catcher. Ortiz will likely make it to MLB in some capacity, but his bonus was way above anything sensible. We have another interesting young SS and a couple young OFs in the low minors, so perhaps there is hope. SS Garcia was a large bonus. The OFs were not.
One might argue 'what does it matter about doing poorly on the big bonus guys, if we find cheap gems elsewhere?' Well, the problem is that well-run organizations do both and to be a top team you must do both. The big-$ bonuses are supposed to yield your future stars. If you get those signings wrong, it will be extremely difficult to build and maintain a strong organization. The Braves are a well-run, strong organization (of course they have been willing to cheat to succeed, as well, as have the Dodgers.)