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MLB pushes the development envelope with new prep league

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Here’s a new way for talent to be discovered and developed.

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

When I was starting to follow baseball in the 1970s baseball development was very haphazard. The Dodgers were really good at talent development. Some other teams had pockets of success. Other than that, it seemed a bit random. Pro and college baseball are treating developing baseball talent now as the cottage industry it should be. MLB committing to a prep development league is a step in that continued direction:

The PDP League will be a three-week, invite-only event held from mid-June through early July at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The event’s focus is as a development opportunity for 80 of the top high school players in the country and will feature competitive play, practice sessions, evaluations and individualized development programs for every player, including various classroom settings that will include information on leadership development, diversity training, social media training and nutrition, among other topics.

Baseball becomes a better vehicle for entertainment when more players are being deftly trained to get better. Part of this involves the better players participating against similar talents. The noted league isn’t only for competition, but also for participant education. As it falls after the June Draft, scouts will be strongly encouraged to stop by and assess what’s next. As it’s largely an exhibition environment, pitch counts figure to be tightly monitored.

All aspects of baseball seem to be pushing toward greater exposure and more development. Colleges are contemplating adding a third paid assistant coach. MLB sides now have two hitting coaches, and minor league affiliates can have three assistants, as well. Various sites are having prep tournaments while school is in session. Players cut to southern climates in October and November to show their skills against quality opposition. Pro and college scouts observe with interest. This wasn’t an option in the seventies.

It’s getting more difficult, with events such as this soon to be debuted, for teams to have horrible pipelines. Executives and scouts get ample looks at prospective talent. It seems obvious that removing the stigma of “absolute guesswork” from the draft is a priority for all 30 teams.

Events that make the game better in the future should be lauded. This seems to be one of those. Developing baseball skills makes the game better in the future. This new wrinkle should make MLB a better product in the future.