Abundance of talent on display at Kansas City PDP event

Abundance of talent on display at Kansas City PDP event

KANSAS CITY -- Gustaf Radel's first pitch of the day was a fastball, one with enough speed that it arrived in the catcher's mitt with a resounding pop and caused the scouts in attendance to sit up in their chairs and take note. Pitching at Major League Baseball's Player Development Pipeline event on Sunday, Radel soon struck out the batter.

After giving up a single, Radel induced a double play to end what was the quickest half-inning of the afternoon's nine-inning accelerated game. After a handful of pitches, Radel, an uncommitted senior from Roosevelt High School (South Dakota) might have gained some attention.

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Radel was one of 36 players invited to participate in this edition of the PDP series, a joint venture between MLB and USA Baseball that was created for just this reason: to identify and develop top high school prospects leading up to the 2018 and 2019 Drafts. For the prospects, who came from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Iowa, the event was an opportunity to impress Major League scouts.

"I think you get more of an accurate read of where the player is, which helps you with their projection," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "When I was growing up, events like this weren't in place."

Moore, who is a member of the project's steering group, began the event by speaking to the players. He asked them to consider what their motivation for being here was. In one part of his address, Moore sectioned off 10 of the players in order to break down the small percentages of baseball players who have success.

Moore said 30 percent have the talent, but they make a mistake, 40 percent don't have the talent and 30 percent were good enough to reach their ceiling, regardless of what that is. He then delivered a similar address to the parents in attendance before departing.

"That was eye-opening," said catcher and Oklahoma commit Cayden Aldridge.

Assessments began soon after Moore left CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Before the game was played, the high schoolers completed a series of tests that measured their reaction time, speed, bat path, explosiveness, visual acuity and balance. Many of the players said they had never experienced tests of this nature at a camp before, and that these drills set the PDP apart.

Though one scout said the advanced analytics helped either confirm or deny what his eyes saw, the scouts completed their evaluations during the live game. During the game, one scout was particularly impressed by catcher Allante Hall, who smacked a triple to left-center field and showcased a strong arm.

"Allante I've seen for years, but he's gotten better at receiving," the scout said. "Obviously he's got arm strength. He's always had a good arm."

The scout also said second baseman and outfielder Cameron Chick, outfielder Brett Gonzalez, left-handed pitcher Liam Henry and infielder Austin Schultz impressed him during the game.

At one point, Schultz ran from his shortstop position to field a ball headed up the middle, spun, and, as his sunglasses fell off his hat, threw out the runner at first base. He also tested highly in the speed and reaction-time related assessments earlier in the day.

"I've always been pretty fast," said Schultz, who's committed to Wichita State. "As I've gotten older I've been able to shed some tenths of seconds off. A lot of that's in the weight room with explosive lifts. I think it's paying off."

Though today's event helped increase all of the players' exposure and allowed scouts to gauge their talent level, the evaluation period is only beginning for these prospects as they approach their junior or senior seasons.

"It sets the tone for the fall," one scout said. "A lot of these guys will go to Area Code tryouts in Oklahoma, and a couple of these guys might make the team. It's just a start, but it's good for identifying these kids and seeing where they are."

Wilson Alexander is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.