Prospect program aims to break ground for amateurs

New MLB/USA Baseball initiative intends to improve scouting process for prospects, teams

Prospect program aims to break ground for amateurs

ATLANTA -- Major League Baseball and USA Baseball celebrated the start of a potentially groundbreaking endeavor on Saturday, when the two parties coordinated and engineered the completion of the first Prospect Development Pipeline Premier Event, a joint venture aimed toward improving the scouting process for both the prospects and each of MLB's 30 teams.

"We as a staff truly believe we have a chance to change the landscape of amateur baseball," said Jules Johnson, USA Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline director. "This is just one small step in this process. We are able to get the best athletes and bring the events to them regionally, so that they don't have to incur the travel costs that typically comes along with an event like this. Being able to offer it free is something that we're not only super excited about, but we feel we have a chance to change the landscape of amateur baseball. This is a great way to get that opportunity started."

As the first PDP Premier Event unfolded at suburban Atlanta's Coolray Field on Saturday, 28 high school-aged prospects from Southeast participated in both traditional and non-traditional scouting exercises aimed toward providing teams a chance to gain both subjective and objective data that will be analyzed leading up to the MLB Draft.

HS Draft prospects impress at 1st PDP showcase

Meanwhile, the inaugural Dream Series was under way at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Spring Training home of the Angels. The Dream Series is an event designed to provide exposure and high-level development opportunities for high school pitchers and catchers and runs from Jan. 12-16. It is free for participants and was organized by Major League Baseball, USA Baseball, USA Softball, the MLB Players Association and other partners.

In Atlanta, along with taking batting practice and completing fielding drills in front of the present scouts that represented teams from throughout MLB, the prospects completed technologically advanced drills aimed toward testing their vision, bat speed, reaction skills, balance, agility, leg strength and even their brain speed. The data collected by MLB's Scouting Bureau will be inserted into a database available to each of the 30 big league teams.

"These are terrific outlets for area scouts to really get to know their players in their small regions," MLB Scouting Bureau director Bill Bavasi said. "It seems like a small difference, but it's a big difference when you are trying to separate players. A lot of clubs want more [objective data]. So, the athletic testing and athletic assessments they'll go through here are very important. That is becoming more popular with younger scouting directors. That will be a big piece, and USA Baseball has done a great job helping us with that."

Along with providing prospects a free, regionalized opportunity to participate in an invitation-only event that will observed by scouts from throughout the league, PDP is taking advantage of technological advances that have essentially leveled the scouting field by creating information that might have previously only been seen by the eyes of a top scout.

"The good scouts would just see it, it was more intuitive," Bavasi said. "Now we have more data we can bring back into the office, where we can analyze it. Whether it's the spin rate on a curveball or the exit velocity, that was just a scout in the old days saying 'that guy has real good spin on the curveball' or 'that ball really jumps off his bat.' The great part about it now is we can catalog it, and we can have a database that allows us to go back and look at players and also predict for the future as well."

There will be four more regionalized PDP Premier Events -- Houston (Jan. 21), Bradenton, Fla (Jan. 28), Southern California (Feb. 4) and Phoenix (Feb. 5). An additional 12 workouts will be held after most high school seasons have been completed, allowing both the clubs and 2018 Draft-eligible prospects nearly a full year to benefit from this new initiative.

The PDP schedule will conclude in September with the Advanced Scout Team Tournament, a 16-team championship to be held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

"As much as we feel we provided a great experience for the kids today, this is just the first one, and next week will be better and the one after that will be better," USA Baseball chief development officer Rick Riccobono said. "We're going to learn a lot as we go, and we're going to make mistakes as we go. But we're starting off at a really strong point and we'll look to build upon that."

Here is the full roster of participants:

Name, POS, Hometown, Class, Commitment
Tanner Allen, 2B/OF, Theodore, Ala., 2017, Mississippi St.
Jordan Anderson, OF, Madison, Ala., 2017, Mississippi St.
Jecorrah Arnold, 3B/OF, Athens, Ga., 2017, Lipscomb
Will Banfield, C/RHP, Lawrenceville, Ga., 2018, Vanderbilt
Ryan Bliss, SS/2B, LaGrange, Ga., 2018, Auburn
Bryce Bowen, 1B/LHP, Bowman, Ga., 2017, Clemson
Devo Brown, SS/2B, Newnan, Ga., 2017, Georgia Tech
Justin Bullock, RHP/3B, Creedmoor, N.C., 2017, North Carolina St.
Luis Campusano, C/1B, Augusta, Ga., 2017, South Carolina
Miles Christian, OF, Gambrills, Md., 2018, None
Zach Daniels, OF/SS, Stockbridge, Ga., 2017, Tennessee
Terry Fuller, OF/1B, Griffin, Ga., 2017, Chipola
Buddy Fultz, SS/2B, Johns Creek, Ga., 2017, Middle Tennessee State University
AJ Gardner, OF/RHP, Fayetteville, Ga., 2017, Alabama St.
Ward Hacklen II, OF, Irmo, S.C., 2017, Clemson
Ethan Hankins, RHP/1B, Cumming, Ga., 2018, Vanderbilt
Jacob Heatherly, LHP, Cullman, Ala., 2017, Alabama
Ian Jenkins, OF, Lawrenceville, Ga., 2017, South Carolina
Ivan Johnson, SS/2B, Atlanta, Ga., 2017, University of Georgia
Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson, Ga., 2018, Clemson
Matt Oldham, C/3B, Pittsboro, N.C., 2017, none
DJ Poteet, SS/3B, Johns Creek, Ga., 2017, Wake Forest
Baron Radcliff, OF, Norcross, Ga., 2017, Georgia Tech
Jason Rooks, OF/RHP, Marietta, Ga., 2017, Georgia Tech
Oscar Serratos, SS/RHP, Lawrenceville, Ga., 2017, Georgia Tech
Logan Simmons, SS/3B, Macon, Ga., 2018, Georgia Tech
Bubba Thompson, OF, Theodore, Ala., 2017, none
Austin Weiermiller, LHP/OF, Milton, Ga., 2017, Stanford

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.