Talent flowing through Prospect Development Pipeline
MLB, USA Baseball initiative evolves with launch of website, upcoming summer events
By William Boor
The Prospect Development Pipeline, a collaborative effort between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball to serve elite high school players, launched in January and continues to evolve as more and more prep prospects get exposure to big league clubs.
The first five events are in the books, and the next step in helping the young players is now live. MLB.com/PDP provides insight into the program, a list of events and information on all the participants on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch. Now, not only do clubs get a chance to look at prospects at the events themselves, but via the profiles in Prospect Watch, additional insight on the players can be gleaned at any time.
The Prospect Development Pipeline consists of several free events around the country in which top high school players get direct exposure to representatives from all 30 Major League clubs. Each participant also gets a player manual with educational information and resources as well as a post-event evaluation. All evaluations are filed by the MLB Scouting Bureau and sent to all 30 clubs as an additional resource, beyond the reports written by team scouts attending the events.
There are over a dozen events planned for May-June, including scheduled stops in St. Petersburg, Fla., Seattle and Oakland, where the participants will play on big league fields.
There was no shortage of top-tier talent and stellar performances in the first five events. Of the 28 high school prospects on MLBPipeline's Top 50 Draft Prospects list, eight attended one of the first five PDP events.
17. Jacob Heatherly, LHP, Cullman (Ala.) HS
20. Hans Crouse, RHP, Dana Hills (Calif.) HS
21. Calvin Mitchell, OF, Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) HS
26. Nick Allen, SS, Francis Parker (Calif.) HS
27. Hagen Danner, C/RHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
42. Nick Pratto, 1B/LHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
43. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP/SS, Palm Desert (Calif.) HS
48. Kyle Hurt, RHP/1B, Torrey Pines (Calif.) HS*
*Did not participate
The PDP series got off to a tremendous start at the inaugural event in Atlanta. Prospects were impressed with the camps' unique features and technology, such as drills that measured the prospects' vision, bat speed, reaction skills, balance and even brain speed.
Before the workout, the 35 players in attendance got a special treat as Astros manager A.J. Hinch stopped by and gave the group a brief pep talk.
"Their worlds are going to open up to people around the game," Hinch said, "and that only comes through events like this where we're all in one place."
"It's a good way to compare yourself with other players," said Braxton Ashcraft, a junior third baseman and right-handed pitcher from Robinson, Texas. "Every kid wants to be the best prospect out there. Just to be able to come and compete in a controlled environment is fun."
Thank you @MLBPipeline for giving me the opportunity to attend today's event, I had a great time!
Ashcraft may potentially leave behind a highly successful football career, in which, as a junior, he racked up 104 receptions for 2,090 yards and 37 touchdowns, the second-highest single-season mark in Texas high school football history.
Bradenton, Fla. - Jan. 28
The Florida PDP, held at the Pirates' Spring Training home in Bradenton, began the day with drills, just like the other events. However, in the afternoon players got the opportunity for some live action, something that didn't take place at the prior events.
Each of the 16 pitchers threw one inning in an eight-inning contest that gave the kids one more chance to compete and the scouts another chance to evaluate.
"The addition of the game to this event really kind of wraps it up nicely because you get a lot of assessments in, you get a lot of development time, a lot of time on the field," said Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of minor league operations.
Unfazed by the talent and the nearly 100 scouts in attendance, Nick Pratto, the No. 42 Draft prospect, put on a show in batting practice and then concluded the day going 3-for-3 with two doubles in the scrimmage.
No. 42 Draft prospect Nick Pratto putting on a show in BP. Huntington Beach product cleared 35-foot RF wall at Lake Elsinore 4 times. pic.twitter.com/kADS24nmfO
Darren Baker, the son of Nationals manager Dusty, also participated at the Southern California event.
Baker went 0-for-3, but the 17-year-old outfielder has plenty of promise. The California commit has an athletic frame and hit .386 with an .884 OPS during his junior season at Jesuit High School (Calif.).
Phoenix, Ariz. - Feb. 5
Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer got the morning started in Mesa, Ariz. as the Arizona PDP event got underway from Sloan Park, the Cubs' Spring Training home.
"I didn't know they could measure all that stuff," right-hander Boyd Vander Kooi said. "It's kind of cool to see how baseball has progressed."