MLB ‘motivated’ to hold scouting combine ahead of 2021 draft; here’s what the event could look like

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Previews
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Although Major League Baseball’s amateur draft is less than six months away, the scouting schedule leading into the home stretch remains in flux. One key unresolved matter is the league’s desire to host a medical combine-like event in June, just weeks before the draft unfolds. The league has started to notify teams of potential logistics in recent weeks, according to multiple sources who spoke to CBS Sports and who are familiar with the matter. 

MLB gained the right to host a combine or combine-like event in either 2020 or 2021 last March, as part of its agreement with the MLB Players Association. (MLB also gained the power to reduce the draft in both years, with last year’s checking in at five rounds and this year’s requiring at least 20 rounds.) The sources who spoke to CBS Sports in recent days provided an outline of the league’s vision and potential adjacent plans. Here are some details:

  • A 2021 MLB Draft combine would likely be hosted in Cary, North Carolina, home of the USA Baseball National Training Complex, and would take place in June. 
  • The combine would allow for medical testing and some person-to-person interaction. 
  • It’s unclear who MLB intends to invite to the event or how many prospects would attend, but it would take place almost simultaneously with a high school tournament hosted by USA Baseball and MLB. That tournament would also be played at the training complex. College players would likely arrive a day or two after play began, one source said.

The league is said to be “motivated” to make the event happen, though it needs to resolve the incentives aspect for invited players. A source suggested that MLB could implement rules similar to those used as part of its voluntary MRI program — players who partake and “fail” their physicals have to be offered a higher percentage of the slot’s worth (in order for teams to receive a compensatory pick) than their counterparts who do not partake and who later fail their own physicals. 

Logistical issues, including the draft coinciding with the College World Series, prevented MLB from running a combine in the past. 

Under commissioner Rob Manfred’s “One Baseball” plan, the league will be taking a more active role in the scouting process. In November, MLB announced the formation of the “MLB Draft League,” a six-team summer-league format that will allow draft-eligible players to raise their stock over a 68-game season. The league had previously repurposed the Appalachian League into a wooden-bat league for collegiate freshmen and sophomores who were not yet eligible for the draft.

MLB announced last year that the draft would be moved from its typical June date to July 11, coinciding with the All-Star Game festivities that are scheduled to be hosted at Truist Park in Atlanta. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates will select No. 1 overall for the fifth time in franchise history. Previously, they’ve used that selection on shortstop Jeff King and right-handed pitchers Kris Benson, Bryan Bullington, and Gerrit Cole. Vanderbilt right-handers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and prep shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer are considered to be in the early running for that selection, though a lot can change over six months.

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