Major League Baseball announced Monday that they will hold the first ever MLB Draft Combine from June 20 to June 28 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. Players eligible for this summer’s draft will be invited to meet with teams and receive medical and performance-related evaluations.
MLB has long envied the NFL and NBA with their ability to bring amateur players to one location and run them through a series of tests and showcases in order to get a better handle on which players to draft. Before 2021, however, it was not possible for MLB to set up such a combine because the MLB draft took place while the NCAA Baseball season was still going on — and just after most high school seasons ended. With the draft moved back to July in 2021, MLB now has almost a month from the end of the amateur baseball season to hold a draft combine.
According to MLB’s press release, teams will invite draft-eligible players to attend the combine where they will “have the opportunity to participate in a series of medical & performance assessments as well as educational programming designed to prepare them for a career in professional baseball.” Participation in the combine is voluntary and free for the invited players to participate. The players expected to be chosen in the first half of the first round will probably forgo the combine, but most of the rest will probably jump at the chance to improve their draft stock.
The four areas where the players will be given an evaluation are Athletic Assessment, Sport Vision Screening, Swing Analysis and Ball Flight Analysis. (That last one is things like spin rate for pitchers and launch angle for hitters.)
During this week, 88 draft-eligible high school players will be selected to play in an eight-game Player Development Pipeline (PDP) “showcase” tournament. Then from July 22 to August 1, a second showcase PDP League will feature 96 high school players eligible for the 2022 draft.
While MLB will never be able to take the guesswork out of the draft, events like this MLB Draft Combine will certainly give teams more information to better be able to make their picks. For players, the benefits are more mixed, but it certainly opens the possibility of leveling the playing field a little for players from non-traditional college baseball powers or for high school players from outside of the traditional baseball hot spots like California, Texas and the Southeast.