Major League Baseball will be holding their first ever draft combine this summer. This idea has been brewing for a while now, and MLB has taken some steps along the way over the last few years to get to where we are today. One of the first steps was introduced a few years ago when pitcherss could voluntarily get an MRI on their arm before the draft – this only applied to the top 50 pitchers in the draft, as determined by MLB. This happened in the 2017 draft for the first time.
Things have now expanded beyond that. MLB will invite 88 of the top prep players to Cary, North Carolina and the USA Baseball National Training Complex to participate in a pre-draft combine from June 20th-28th. Like the “MRI” thing before it, this is free to the participants, and it’s also voluntary for the players.
The event will not be a combine in the sense of what we think of with the NFL or NBA draft where they have just measured workouts. There likely will be some sort of “events” that are for measurable skills, there will be games played during the combine that will, hopefully, showcase skills against other top high school players around the country.
While it’s good to have a situation where many of the top players are going to be in one spot and playing against each other to give teams more information, at least right now it seems to me that this isn’t very different than your Perfect Game showcases or tournaments – except that it’s likely to feature lesser pitching. By the time June 20th rolls around, the pitchers expected to go in the 1st-3rd rounds probably aren’t going to go out there and risk injury to pitch in a pre-draft situation, just like an overwhelming majority of them didn’t opt into the voluntary MRI program in the past – the risk isn’t worth the reward.
There, however, could be some benefit from the side of position players who are looking to get seen a few more times by the people that really matter. While it seems unlikely that many players will dramatically improve their stock in this kind of setting – teams have been watching the guys who will be here for at least the last 2-3 years, and especially with high interest during their senior season (and they’ve probably all been to more than a few national events against other top tier players), if someone can show something that can alleviate a question a team had on a guy, it could be a difference maker of sorts for the player.
The draft this year, and moving forward, will be held in July during All-Star week. This will take place about a month after it had previously been held, usually around the first week of June. The new time frame will get the draft beyond the College World Series – something that would have players participating in while the draft was happening, and even after the draft – risking player injuries after they had already been selected but before they signed. The new draft date also will lead to lesser playing time for new draft picks in their first year given that historically draft picks were on the field around mid-June if they signed quickly. Now they won’t take the field until around July 20th, leaving them about one month of time on the field instead of two to two-and-a-half (the Arizona Rookie League has fewer games than Pioneer League did, for example).