Pat Gillick inherited an organization with a minor league system rich in pitching, but short on position players. He also inherited an organization with a rich Australian pipeline that was feeding players - talented players - into the system. That pipeline came with some "issues" though since it required visas to be given to players to come to the states and perform in the system. Major League Baseball limits the number of visas that teams can give to players, so they're a pretty big asset and not something that teams can just hand out.
The Phillies' philosophy on Australia scouting is changing somewhat. They're not abandoning the continent, but they're going to shift some focus to more traditional areas. In other words, Latin America. Those players require visas too, and the Phillies are going to start looking to find talent in those areas and it will come at the expense of their Australian scouting efforts. After all, the Phillies field teams in both the Dominican Summer League and the Venezuelan Summer League and get to see those players for a couple years before they need to make a decision on them and it just so happens that the Phillies have a couple of gems that they believe will help them down the road, so don't be surprised to see a couple of visa spots opened up at a later date to bring players from the DSL and/or the VSL to the states.
Another factor that affects young players is simple; money. The Phillies did an awesome job of signing their draft picks this season and have all but three of their top 20 picks wrapped up. That costs money and to save money elsewhere, tough decisions are made. "As much as a team - any team - might like a player, it's sometimes simply whether they want to spend the money to keep them or save a little here and there," said one scout. "The same goes for visas, and perhaps, more with visas, because there is a finite number to give out."
This year's money trail - and the visa trail - converged on Tim Auty. The Australian prospect was this year's poster child for a player with talent, who got caught in the money and visa squeeze. With draft picks signing for more money than Auty was given and visas being at a premium, Auty was somewhat of an easy decision, and was released at the end of extended spring training. "When you sign a guy at a certain dollar value, players who signed below that value become sort of expendable," said the scout, who insisted on remaining anonymous. "Tim is a guy who had talent, but maybe not enough to warrant holding his visa. The tough part for a guy like him is that he may not catch on elsewhere, since he can't stay in the states once the visa is gone."
In other words, for a guy like Tim Auty, his only option is to head home and start the process all over again. Yes, he has some experience to attract other clubs scouting in Australia, but again, if they don't have the visas to give out, Auty is stuck.
To some, the money and effort that the Phillies spent on a player like Auty may seem to have been wasted. To the Phillies though, it's almost like insurance. Had the Phillies not been able to sign many of their top picks, Auty would be there as insurance. Again though, the fact that Auty was both inexpensive and held a visa made him an attractive choice to release.
There is no denying that the grooming of young prospects can be a dirty business. There is very little room for feelings or emotions. Some scouts will argue the case of a young player that they brought into the organization, but many times, it simply falls on deaf ears. Many times, those players fall by the side of the road and never get to truly know if they could have made it to the major leagues. A dirty business, indeed.