Major League Baseball sent clubs a memo today with some rule clarifications, most of them having to do with the new pitch clock. Spring training has offered a peek into the clock's assorted demands—on radio broadcasters to be succinct, on umpires to be extra mindful, and now, on bat boys and bat girls to hurry the hell up. Here's one bit of the memo, as summarized by Anthony Castrovince at MLB.com:
Clubs are expected to have bat boys/girls in each dugout who can quickly assist players and umpires to comply with the pace of game procedures by retrieving bats and other equipment, supplying the umpire with new baseballs, etc. The bat boys/girls must meet with the visiting club before each series to discuss the preferences of the visiting players. MLB will monitor the performance of bat boys/girls during the season to ensure compliance.
ESPN's Jeff Passan, in his own report on today's memo, said bat kids' "ability to quickly retrieve equipment will help efforts to speed up the game, according to the memo" and that the league "could ask teams to replace them if their performance is considered substandard."
While these rule changes put a premium on agility at the bat boy and bat girl position, scouts aren't likely to change their methods of evaluation much. They'll still want to see efficient, repeatable bat delivery and smooth retrieval actions. Bat boys and bat girls with 30-grade speed need not fret. So long as they make solid jumps and reads on bat flips and take direct routes to broken bat shards, they should be able to stick in the dugout. The elite bat kids know this is a mental game as much as it is physical, and they'll adjust their positioning in response to visiting batters' glove-flinging tendencies. All I ask is that MLB Advanced Media make these performance metrics available on Baseball Savant so I can identify some breakout candidates for next season. Don't get too excited about the kid at Kauffman Stadium: He averaged 5.8 baseballs carried per trip to the home plate umpire last season, but his xBCPTTTHU suggests he was outperforming the underlying numbers, and regression this year is almost certain.