The 2013 First-Year Player Draft begins Thursday.
"Puerto Rico is a hybrid in some ways, and clubs may have looked at it that way in the past," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American game development for MLB. "Is it domestic or is it international? We want to change that mentality and provide a platform that allows the clubs to scout and possibly increase signings. It's consistent with our essential objective to grow the game."
It's already been a memorable year in Puerto Rico.
Last June, Carlos Correa, who attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, made history as the first Puerto Rican player selected with the first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Correa and Jesmuel Valentin, who was selected by Dodgers with the 51st pick, were among the four players taken in the Draft from PRBAHS. Overall, 25 players from the island were drafted, and four additional Puerto Rican players were signed after competing in last year's inaugural showcase.
Last month, Major League Baseball and the Department of Recreation and Sports of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico joined forces to create an after-school baseball program designed to help develop high school players on the island.
In addition to the after-school program, Major League Baseball, through a partnership with the Puerto Rico Scouts Association, supervised the annual "Torneo de Excelencia," the biggest high school tournament on the island earlier this month.
"Puerto Rico has a rich baseball history and tradition, as we all know, and what we have been able to do is create a good foundation to build on," Araujo said. "I believe people are once again becoming aware of Puerto Rican baseball, and we want to do our part to get the message out that Puerto Rico is an option to find talent for the Major Leagues."
Overall, the number of Puerto Ricans in the Major Leagues has declined since the commonwealth became subject to the Draft in 1989, but there were 13 players from Puerto Rico on Opening Day 25-man rosters this season, compared to 11 players last year.
"This could ultimately lead to more Puerto Ricans in the big leagues [long term], but we also understand it will take some time," Araujo said. "Our goal is to grow the game and provide scouting opportunities for our clubs that are searching the world for talent. We want them to understand that Puerto Rico is a viable option when looking for talent in Latin America."